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Convention Center documents up for approval at called Augusta Commission meeting

Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012 7:07 PM
Last updated Monday, Oct. 22, 2012 1:52 AM
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In a final called meeting before Nov. 6 elections, the Augusta Commission will meet Monday to reconsider approving operating agreements for the Augusta Convention Center, also known as the TEE Center, which is complete but awaits their approval.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver, who called the 10 a.m. meeting to “discuss/approve” the agreements, did not respond to an e-mail Friday requesting comment about his hopes.

Unless the mayor or mayor pro tem calls another meeting, the gathering is the final opportunity the commission will have to approve the agreements before Election Day, when several candidates seeking to postpone action on the center are on the ballot. The commission postponed its Nov. 6 meeting to Nov. 8.

Rooted in commission decisions of 2006 and 2009, when many details were discussed at length, the legal documents up for approval cover many aspects of the relationship between the city and Augusta Riverfront LLC, which runs the adjoining Marriott at the Convention Center and the new parking garage.

Augusta Riverfront, headed by retired newspaper executive Paul Simon, shares management with Morris Communications Co., owner of The Augusta Chronicle.

One document gives Augusta the right of first refusal should Augusta Riverfront consider selling certain parcels of land it owns beneath the center. Other parcels are owned by the city and Downtown Development Authority.

Another document asserts that Augusta has fulfilled the requirements of a 2009 agreement with Augusta Riverfront to build a convention center and a kitchen to serve both the center and the Marriott. Under the arrangement, the city will pay Augusta Riverfront about $84,000 annually to run the center and $44,000 annually to cater its events.

Rarely discussed during the years of debate leading up to the 2009 decision to move forward with construction was the facility's ability to sustain itself. At the request of commissioners, Simon prepared a schedule of the city's operating losses, placing them at nearly $900,000 in 2013. The report shows similar losses at Savannah's convention center and indicates Augusta would have to increase the number of conventions manyfold from the 13 scheduled next year to avoid an operating loss. The city has no designated source to cover the bulk of such a loss besides its general fund.

The city's benefits, Simon and city officials have stated repeatedly, stem from visitor spending resulting in increased sales and hotel tax collections. A Convention and Visitors Bureau schedule of the center's impact, which Simon included in the report, estimates $8.7 million in direct visitor spending from the 13 conventions and increased hotel bookings.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham, who placed the agreements on an earlier meeting agenda only to pull them because he thought six commission votes were lacking, said candidates with “better ideas” for running the 40,000-square-foot facility ought not “be so secret” with their ideas. Brigham said he doesn’t think putting management of the center out for bids, as Commissioner Bill Lockett and others have recommended, is feasible under binding commitments to Augusta Riverfront “that have already been made.”

Commissioner Joe Jackson said Friday that he believes opposition to the agreements is rooted in Augusta Riverfront's connection to The Chronicle, not in any actual deficiency in the documents.

“It's like I've said before: These aren't here to generate revenue for the city; these are here to bring people to Au­gusta to spend money,” said Jackson, who has missed recent functions because of his wife’s illness.

Voters approved building a convention center years ago, he added, and “15 years ago’s money is not today's money.”

The center and Augusta Riverfront's involvement represents companies “investing here,” rather than somewhere else, Jackson said, but now it appears members of the community want the endeavor to fail.

“There are certain people that don't want this to happen, setting it up for failure,” he said. “We're pregnant. Do you want an abortion or do you want a delivery? I want a delivery.”

“My only issue is Augusta prepared for the influx of people that come here to shop, to dine, to go to shows, and the answer is no,” he said.

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OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/21/12 - 07:54 pm
5
0
It should be simple NO vote.

So much is so wrong.

This agreement is a Multilayer, multiple year, multi-million dollar, sole source contract, written by the group delivering the services.

How can that be what is best for A-RC?

Losses are coming out of the general fund to cover the losses and they have said this right in the undated 7:07PM article.

Or, we are looking at tax increases, or New Taxes .

Besides, when was the last time our politicians did a downtown business deal, that did not cost the taxpayers 100 to 300% more than the estimate they promised, to get it approved?

Note:
To any politician with dreams of a state or nation office.
Your support of this deal it will haunt your aspirations and provide WMD Voter ammo for any future opponent.

Tullie
2930
Points
Tullie 10/22/12 - 05:23 am
6
1
Tiresome

This is scary to me:

Commissioner Joe Jackson said Friday that he believes opposition to the agreements is rooted in Augusta Riverfront's connection to The Chronicle, not in any actual deficiency in the documents.

So, Jackson does not see a problem with Simon's prepared schedule of the city's operating losses, placing them at nearly $900,000 in 2013?

It must be wonderful to sit down and figure out losses of other peoples money and you get $84,000 annually to run the center and $44,000 annually to cater its events.

Conservative Man
5577
Points
Conservative Man 10/22/12 - 05:31 am
5
1
Joe Jackson continues to show

Joe Jackson continues to show his lack of intelligence. How did he get elected and when is his term over?

Riverman1
84914
Points
Riverman1 10/22/12 - 07:34 am
4
2
The Way It Should Be Done

Here is the way most cities do business when granting a concession agreement to a concessionaire. The city or grantor of the valuable concession contract calls the shots....not the other way around like we have here in Augusta where the profit hotel gets their lawyers to draw up a contract that tells the city what to do....pure insanity!

http://www.laparks.org/dos/concession/rfp_pdf/woodley/exhCPro.pdf

Riverman1
84914
Points
Riverman1 10/22/12 - 07:41 am
4
2
Joe Jackson says we're pregnant.

Joe Jackson said, “We're pregnant. Do you want an abortion or do you want a delivery? I want a delivery.”

Interesting that Joe put out this analogy with his thoughts on abortion. I wonder if Joe believes in abortion after the woman has been raped?

Riverman1
84914
Points
Riverman1 10/22/12 - 07:53 am
4
2
A Done Deal!!!

Done deal. So the agenda suddenly popped up last week for an early morning meeting today and Deke is unavailable for comments. The story about the meeting shows up online in the Chronicle LATE SUNDAY. Joe Jackson has his "pregnant" comments ready to go. Jerry, who has been pushing it from the start, is ready with the "commitments have already been made." All we can do is embarrass them, now.

Riverman1
84914
Points
Riverman1 10/22/12 - 08:08 am
4
2
Joe Jackson Says Opposition is Because of Chronicle Connection

Joe Jackson said, "Commissioner Joe Jackson said Friday that he believes opposition to the agreements is rooted in Augusta Riverfront's connection to The Chronicle, not in any actual deficiency in the documents."

Joe, I don't care who owned the hotel, I'd still be ticked with the deals. You want to twist this poor business arrangement into some type of political disagreement when it's clearly NOT.

I value the Chronicle and admire the owner in many ways, but the TEE Center fiasco needs to be examined closely. What's so frustrating is many of us in the community loudly pointed out the problems early on. The comments were rampant. A few community business leaders even wrote articles in opposition.

Riverman1
84914
Points
Riverman1 10/22/12 - 08:56 am
3
3
Marketing Fee

Is the CVB still going to be given $300,000 a year to market the Marriott TEE Center?

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/22/12 - 09:01 am
4
0
Maybe it time to start

requesting a GBI or FBI review of the whole Good Ole Boy Bid system.

The vendor writing his own contract, a Downtown focused group of politicians approving multimillion dollar deals without a bid process, financial data, or a detailed review. County Areas that get no benefit, having to use General Funds to shore up a messed up deal.

This should be enough to raise an eye or 2 in the justice system.

Clemintime
195
Points
Clemintime 10/22/12 - 11:08 am
3
0
Right of First Refusal

"One document gives Augusta the right of first refusal should Augusta Riverfront consider selling certain parcels of land it owns beneath the
center."

I thought these parcels were donated to the city.

seenitB4
88128
Points
seenitB4 10/22/12 - 11:19 am
4
1
I get it now....:)

This is a case of being pregnant & not knowing it til the baby delivers.....soo all you doubters who thought it couldn't happen .....here is the proof......whatcha gonna do....kill the baby....nahhhh....no way......you are going to nursemaid & feed & clothe & send the ittybitty sweet thing to college....for at least 20 years.....& you will never know who the real daddy is....ever...:)

Riverman1
84914
Points
Riverman1 10/22/12 - 11:23 am
3
1
Clemintime, good point. So

Clemintime, good point. So NOW they can put the land under the center for sale and the city will have to match it? This could be millions more for the Marriott. Unreal.

Riverman1
84914
Points
Riverman1 10/22/12 - 11:23 am
2
0
I wonder how the meeting

I wonder how the meeting went?

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/22/12 - 11:56 am
4
0
Wayne G.

We know you were 1 of 3 voices of sanity on this agreement.

Please let us South Siders know if, and how bad we got screwed
paying for another Downtown focused project.

OPEN QUESTION
How long are we going to keep Downtown on Life support with matching taxpayer dollars and us paying the more taxes than the downtowner's to boot?

BTW: AC - With the special meeting called for last Friday, it sure took a considerable time to web it? This not like the AC to be so slow in getting important stories out to readers.

dichotomy
33508
Points
dichotomy 10/22/12 - 12:00 pm
2
0
" I wonder if Joe believes in

" I wonder if Joe believes in abortion after the woman has been raped?"

Riverman1.....I think you hit the nail on the head.

Raped is a good analogy. They spent pretty much twice what was approved. None of these sweetheart deals about paying them to operate it abd covering $1 million a year in losses were made public then. And I really was not aware that we did own all of the land it is built on. I knew this was an issue with the parking deck but not the TEE itself.

I don't want an abortion but I think maybe we need to delay delivery for a while.....maybe as long as possible. Seems another shoe is always dropping and this thing has turned out to be an eight legged monster with lots of shoes.

I say that any commissioners involved in the beginning of this deal did not tell the public the truth and had NO legal basis for making these kinds of committments. I say this was a back room deal that is illegal and is one BIG LOSER for the taxpayers in Richmond County. It's a big LOSER for anyone who doesn't happen to own all the rest of the surrounding downtown property........and you know who DOES own all of that property.

This is a REALLY BAD DEAL folks. Their best optimistic estimate is that visitors will spend $8.7 million. What does that get us in sales tax? Not enough to pay for the losses and cost of operation. So we are losing lots of money BEFORE WE EVEN MAKE A PAYMENT on the consturtion bonds. But WHO WILL BE MAKING MONEY? You guessed it.....Augusta Riverfront LLC and all of their associates that own the surrounding property.

This "deal" is based on illegal back room promises that were not disclosed to the taxpayers at the time of the SPLOST ballot. They were not legal. They were not in writing. And our commissioners are not obligated to blindly follow the bad decisions of their predecessors. If our current commissioners agree to these illadvised illegal back room deals there should be a lawsuit. There is NOTHING in this deal that is favorable to the Richmond County taxpayers.

Stop this deal in it's tracks and bid it out......do something LEGALLY FOR ONCE. Do something FOR THE TAXPAYERS FOR ONCE instead of pandering to the same set of money men who own this town and our government.

I'D RATHER HAVE NO DEAL THAN THIS EXTREMELY BAD DEAL. I am not willing to suffer another tax increase or more loses of service in order to support Billy and Paul, et. al.

countyman
20236
Points
countyman 10/22/12 - 12:29 pm
3
0
There's a problem when

There's a problem when certain people focus on the building, and not the actual contract. It shows how the contract is basically a scapegoat for some people.

The most important thing to remember is the public wanted the facility. The groundbreaking was already postponed due to a few commissioners, and we don't need to delay the opening. The taxpayers approved the building, and because of the delays the cost of the building increased.

I don't care what local media outlet, activist, etc is against the TEE Center. None of them are more important than the actual citizens of Augusta. How does this city expect to attract the best and brightest without a convention center, performing arts center, etc?

The naysayers don't want the city to build anything new, but never offer another option. That's the reason why the Regency Mall is still vacant. Ideas are constantly shot down, and nothing is ever presented in return. The irony is the same people expect the city to have the revenue to pay for public safety, infrastructure, education, demolishing homes, landscaping, etc.

Waiting for new commissioners to be elected won't change anything. That's because the white commissioners are usually republican, and the black members democrat. The media can turn certain issues into ethnicity, and I don't expect much until we get more young people in office(30-40).

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/22/12 - 01:37 pm
1
0
Any one up to a RECALL Election?

I guess the only way to break up the good ole Boy network is a maybe a 5 or 6 seat Recall Election.

http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Laws_governing_recall_in_Georgia

The situation meets the requirements to register and start a petition drive?

Take your pick.
The legislation only requires one of the following grounds for calling a recall election:

* an act of malfeasance or misconduct while in office,
* violation of the oath of office,
* failure to perform duties prescribed by law, or
* willfully misusing, converting, or misappropriating, without authority, public property or public funds entrusted to or associated with the elective office to which the official has been elected or appointed.

The number of valid signatures required for a recall election is 15 percent of the number of persons that voted in the last preceding election for the office of incumbent being recalled.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/22/12 - 02:29 pm
0
0
Just In - River Front 6 win & the Taxpayers lose

Unless it is shot down and bid out for the best price the Meeting went bad for the Taxpayers.

Wayne G. tried to amend the 15 year contract by proposing 1 yr eval with a renewable option, IF the numbers were there really as estimated for 2013. Plus giving us a chance to see how it worked really and not foretold.

But he was shot down by the River Front 6 quickly, they wanted the agreement as written and no other way.

But until it is shot down, the South Side is on the hook for it share, for yet another Project to REBUILD Downtown doomed to fail, after the right people make some $$$$$.

BTW: My ears at the meeting said Wayne G. even expressed his deep concerns to those voting and present, that his Dist 8 people would be paying for something that they get NO benefit from at all. Which met with no notable concerns by the 6 or the mayor.

Tullie
2930
Points
Tullie 10/22/12 - 05:23 pm
1
0
So...

They want what they want and don't care what others have to pay.

Countyman the people that voted for this mess, were not told the whole story..as usual.

As you see now, things just keep coming up and out and we keep finding things out one little horrible piece at a time how we are getting stuck with paying for things at this TEE and parking deck.

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