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Commission fails to approve convention center operating plan

Monday, Oct. 22, 2012 12:37 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012 2:02 AM
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Management of the Au­gusta Con­vention Center remains up in the air after the Augusta Commission on Monday rejected two motions to approve a set of operating documents.

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Commissioners Joe Jackson (left) and Corey Johnson listen as Lincolnton businessman Al Gray argues against approving management contracts for the Augusta Convention Center, calling it a "blank check."  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Commissioners Joe Jackson (left) and Corey Johnson listen as Lincolnton businessman Al Gray argues against approving management contracts for the Augusta Convention Center, calling it a "blank check."

Paul Simon, the president of Augusta Riverfront LLC, asked the commission for direction afterward in light of the first convention approaching in January at the venue, also known as the TEE Center.

“This is very disappointing to see this not move forward,” he said. “I just feel badly for the city.”

Seven commissioners and the mayor attended Monday’s meeting. Speaking against the deal was Al Gray, a former Columbia Coun­ty resident who now lives in Lincolnton. Gray, who runs a construction auditing business, called the deal “the Mona Lisa of aggressive contracting.”

Simon, whose firm shares management with Morris Com­muni­cations Co., owner of The Augusta Chronicle, and City Administrator Fred Russell disagreed with several of Gray’s assertions, including a claim that the deal represented a 50-year “blank check” for the management company, to be paid from the city’s general fund.

The agreements have 15-year, not 50-year terms, Russell said, and are “controlled yearly by this commission’s input on the annual plan.”

“Every year you’ll have a bite of the apple to make things different and better,” Rus­sell said. He called the scrutiny Gray and others were giving the deal “pretty cool.”

Commissioner Matt Aitken made a motion to approve the documents, with a motion pre-written by attorneys. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Jerry Brigham.

“There is no such thing as a perfect deal,” Mayor Deke Copenhaver said, and not finalizing the operating details might create “a domino effect” if the facility gets off to an uncertain start.

Organizations are taking note of the uncertainty, said Frank Rotondo, the executive director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Po­lice, whose Jan. 27 winter training conference is scheduled to be the center’s first event.

If the 547-member organization has to find an alternative venue on short notice, “It’s not going to endear police chiefs to ever return to the area,” Rotondo said.

The group hasn’t given up or found another site, however.

“People want Augusta to work, but we want it to work on a time period that we contracted for,” he said.

Aitken, who is in a four-way race to keep his District 1 seat, said after making the motion that he had run on downtown progress and wanted to see the deal through.

“People in this community want to see the progress,” he said. “They don’t want to see bad press; they want to see us working toward the common good.”

Before the vote, Commis­sion­er Wayne Guilfoyle offered an alternative motion to enter into a one-year provisional agreement, after which the commission could re-examine the details.

Russell said after the meeting that he doubted Marriott, the brand on Augusta Riverfront’s downtown hotel and conference center, would agree to a provisional agreement.

Russell said the city has designated funding sources to cover the losses, which Simon said might surpass $900,000 in 2013. The center has booked only 13 conventions for its first year.

Deputy Finance Director Tim Schroer said the city has about $920,000 designated from the $1-a-night hotel bed tax and car rental excise taxes to use for the center’s operating expenses in 2013. An additional $460,000 is set aside from the same sources in 2014, and raising the bed tax to 7 percent could generate an additional $800,000, he said.

Commissioner Corey Johnson, who said the documents still lacked “enough language that protects the city and the citizens,” joined Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles and Guilfoyle in voting for the alternate motion, which failed 4-3.

Aitken’s motion failed 5-2, with Johnson and Guilfoyle voting against, but the commission agreed to reconsider the documents Oct. 29.

Commissioners Bill Lock­ett, Alvin Mason and J.R. Hat­ney were absent. Reached by phone, Lockett said he would have voted against both motions.

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countyman
19174
Points
countyman 10/22/12 - 01:30 pm
8
0
The one year basis sounds

The one year basis sounds like a great compromise. I have to applaud Wayne Guifoyle, and hope the rest can follow behind.

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 10/22/12 - 02:18 pm
4
0
i agree .. somewhat. Simon

i agree .. somewhat. Simon should be willing to wiggle on the price if losing the first convention is really at risk. but yeah, Way to go Guilfoyle

Riverman1
79788
Points
Riverman1 10/22/12 - 02:19 pm
6
3
Revelations

What's this NOW surfacing about the Marriott owning part of the land the TEE is on and having the ability to sell the land? This is not the old parking deck thing that was supposedly settled with the land bank...is it? The other article says if parcels of the land under the TEE are sold the city can match the price. Well, duh, if we want to keep our building we match the price, whatever it is.

With all the new costs popping up and nowhere to get the money except the general fund, what happens now? Higher taxes?

Riverman1
79788
Points
Riverman1 10/22/12 - 02:22 pm
6
3
Hurry, hurry, hurry and approve

We don't want to miss out on the tattoo festival. We built the TEE so we could have folks like these come here and spend money. It was either the TEE center or the pool room in Edgefield the tattoo group said.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/22/12 - 02:25 pm
5
0
Unless it is shot down and

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.

obkad
211
Points
obkad 10/22/12 - 02:31 pm
2
3
direction

Simon is asking this Brood of Boobs for Direction?????? Holy Crap what is he thinking!!!!!!!! These group of clowns, with the exception of Grady Smith and maybe one or two more, couldn't decide their sock selection let alone direction on how to run a center!!!!!! This is another civic center in the making...

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/22/12 - 02:32 pm
5
0
May be time for a Grovetown style 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

Does the situation meet the requirements to register and start a petition drive? Take your pick.

A recall 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.

Right Now a 200K for special election is looking cheap compared the 911k for several years to come.

Riverman1
79788
Points
Riverman1 10/22/12 - 02:36 pm
5
3
What's the difference in 50 years and forever?

What's the difference in 50 years and making it forever?
Answer...Not much.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/22/12 - 03:02 pm
3
0
What's the difference in 50 years and making it forever?

We'll of been dead and certain families will inherit the income forever.

countyman
19174
Points
countyman 10/22/12 - 03:20 pm
3
5
We don't want to delay the

We don't want to delay the opening any further, because the CITIZENS of Richmond County approve the building years ago... The multiple delays have already increased the cost of the building over time. I believe eleven of the thirteen scheduled events didn't come to Augusta before due to lack of available space.

I'm also positive the surrounding counties would love to have over 10k addtitional people dining, lodging, shopping, etc in their area. The sarcastic remarks behind the Tattoo event really make no sense.

The developer of the construction at 901 Broad specifically mentioned the TEE Center.. The $1.2 million development equals nine apartments and 4k sq. ft. of commercial space. I bet the developer behind the renovation of the Regency Inn hotel(Holiday Inn Express) is waiting for the TEE center to open.

SouthernYankee
6
Points
SouthernYankee 10/22/12 - 03:35 pm
4
0
Unbelieveable!

Maybe if the commissioners and the mayor had done their jobs BEFORE the TEE Center was built and read the fine print, this wouldn't be an issue. I know, they have excuse after excuse as to why it happened and it just recently came to light. Actions like this make Augusta's government look like a joke. Maybe it's time for some new and younger commission members who'll take the time to do due diligence when it comes to complex and important issues such as this.

Conservative Man
5312
Points
Conservative Man 10/22/12 - 03:36 pm
6
0
For once...

...I have to agree with countyman on this one...A one year deal as a compromise would have been a wise choice, but MY ears at the meeting said Fred Russell nearly broke his leg getting to the podium to pooh-pooh that idea by saying, " I don't think the LLC will agree to this"....

My question to you Mr. Russell...who the h@#$ are you working for? Augusta or Augusta Riverfront LLC?

What a joke of an administrator,.....

Conservative Man
5312
Points
Conservative Man 10/22/12 - 03:49 pm
3
0
secondly...

...my ears also said that Matt "deer in the headlights" Aitken continued to make snide remarks concerning the citizens activist group led by Al Gray that uncovered this mess...

He should remember that he serves at the pleasure of the very citizens whose motives he impugns..
Hopefully he will be sent packing on Nov 6th and District 1 can have a Commissioner who actually cares about the people instead of the "special interests" who got him elected in the first place....

If he had done his due diligence in the beginning instead of being a rubber stamp for those that put this deal together maybe the TEE would be up and running by now.....District 1 and in particular downtown deserve better than this disappointment being re-elected to the Commission....

dichotomy
30813
Points
dichotomy 10/22/12 - 03:47 pm
6
1
South Augusta.....they have

South Augusta.....they have stolen your money based on a misleading SPLOST referendum, spent twice as much as you authorized, made illegal back room deals which basically GIVE your $40 million dollars to a group of very wealthy, very powerful local men.

You will see NO benefit from your money and your taxes will be raised to pay for the operation and maintenance of this losing money pit of a building. The ONLY people who will benefit from this misappropriation of our money is the people who run the Marriott and own all of the surrounding downtown property. Surrounding property heck, they own the entire downtown to include most of our commissioners.

The is a criminally negligent back room deal that you have been conned into paying for with a non-full-disclosure SPLOST referendum. There HAS to be something criminal with this whole deal.

And SOUTH RICHMOND COUNTY.....YOUR representative is, of course, being totally ignored. He know we have been screwed. They all know that the southside will see ZERO benefit form this MONEY PIT. But the DOWNTOWN CROOKED CLOWNS have NO concern for you or your money. After all, YOU are only kept alive to be donors. You are just here to be bled when they need another money transfusion.

rebellious
20226
Points
rebellious 10/22/12 - 04:53 pm
6
0
Hats Off To Guilfoyle

Way to go by offering a substitute motion, Commissioner Guilfoyle, which I believe flushed out the unlikely alliance. Commissioner Jackson, who is term limited, would do well to remember that District 6 ranges all the way to Brown Road. As such, many of his constituents feel the same way about the overall negligence with our tax dollars. Plus, if the deal is so good, it would be willingly renewed after the first year by both the city and Riverfront LLC. That is why the LLC would most likely not accept a one year deal, cause th dewwill be off the rose in a year and the smell will be awful. To follow Joe Jackson's line of thought about abortion vs birthing statement slightly, let's birth the baby first, then worry about planning the first birthday party after a year.

Riverman1
79788
Points
Riverman1 10/22/12 - 06:00 pm
6
1
How Did $20 Million Vote Become THIS?

The citizens of Richmond County approved a total expenditure of $20 million for the TEE. Now it's $50 million counting the parking and we don't own all the land, yet. That's going to end up costing up lots. We experience almost a million a year in operating losses the city much pay. We pay $300 thousand a year for marketing. We bought kitchen equipment that only the Marriott can use. We pay them to manage the center and the parking deck. And of course there was the Laney Walker pay-off that was even called as much at a Commission meeting. This story of turning a vote for a $20 million building into what has happened is one of the biggest stories ever.

Riverman1
79788
Points
Riverman1 10/22/12 - 06:02 pm
5
2
"I'm also positive the

"I'm also positive the surrounding counties would love to have over 10k addtitional people dining, lodging, shopping, etc in their area. The sarcastic remarks behind the Tattoo event really make no sense."

If you add all the events announced as scheduled over the next three years you won't get 10 thousand people.

itsanotherday1
40538
Points
itsanotherday1 10/22/12 - 06:12 pm
6
0
@ OC

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

They would just get replaced with equally incompetents.

countyman
19174
Points
countyman 10/22/12 - 09:05 pm
3
2
Over 10k people will come to

Over 10k people will come to Augusta this year.

Southern Yankee. Commissioners have come and gone since the TEE Center was first approved.

dichotomy
30813
Points
dichotomy 10/22/12 - 09:04 pm
3
0
"a 5 or 6 seat Recall

"a 5 or 6 seat Recall Election"

I more inclined to a pitch fork and torch rally with a bucket of tar and a bag of feathers.

dichotomy
30813
Points
dichotomy 10/22/12 - 09:11 pm
4
1
"Over 10k people will come to

"Over 10k people will come to Augusta this year."

Could you have each one of them drop off an extra $100 at the tax office dedicated to paying the annual losses at the TEE. I'm tapped out.

countyman
19174
Points
countyman 10/22/12 - 09:32 pm
3
1
The rates at the two

The rates at the two Marriott's, Sheraton, Patridge Inn, Ramada, Doubltree, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites by Hilton, etc cost more than $100 per night.

dichotomy
30813
Points
dichotomy 10/22/12 - 09:47 pm
3
0
"cost more than $100 per

"cost more than $100 per night."

You misunderstand. I mean whatever the 10K people spend while they are here, have them drop off an EXTRA $100 before they leave to pay for the losses that the taxPAYERS here will be stuck with for the TEE. Whatever they spend, we will need an extra 10,000 x $100 = $1,000,000 taxpayer losses for the annual maintenance and operation of the TEE.

gargoyle
13749
Points
gargoyle 10/22/12 - 11:16 pm
8
0
Bottom line

Public coffers are being looted for private gain.When complaints are registered the cabal laughingly scolds that people just don't understand.Reform is much needed across the board in city Government.

Little Lamb
44030
Points
Little Lamb 10/22/12 - 11:38 pm
1
0
Options

Is no one on our commission thinking? There are so many other options we can do short term while a long-term agreement is negotiated.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 10/22/12 - 11:43 pm
4
0
Who cares what the Marriott

Who cares what the Marriott thinks?

If the Marriott wants a voice, pay for the naming rights.

Until then, buh bye.

rebellious
20226
Points
rebellious 10/23/12 - 12:41 am
6
0
Naysayers, All of you

$hame on you all for Nay saying!You must repeat after me and Deke....Yea, yea, yea, yea. Congratulations, you are healed! You are now all Yeasayers. No go forth and pay taxes!

Riverman1
79788
Points
Riverman1 10/23/12 - 04:30 am
1
1
"Over 10k people will come to

"Over 10k people will come to Augusta this year."

Of course you are not talking for TEE events. Heh.

...point to ponder
718
Points
...point to ponder 10/23/12 - 07:33 am
2
0
Very disgusting dialogue

The City's attorneys were ill prepared to represent US in this deal. From day one the "tenant" had the upper hand. It is very obvious that the tenant is the only one that knows the contents of the lease and management agreements

To still have issues at not just the 11th hour but the last minute is just plain poor management on the City's part...which ultimately is going to cost the taxpayers millions in taxes and lost revenue from having this black eye struck on the convention center. This venue was to be a new beginning for putting Augusta on the map for conventions... BUT our leaders can't even "manage" the agreement process.... This is very sad.

A short term agreement is the only answer to get the doors open and not ruin the plans of several already scheduled events.

The City needs new parties at the table to clear the air on this very lopsided agreement. The taxpayers do benefit from this fabulous convention hall but at what cost? I believe we deserve more of the pie.... And just crumbs!

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/23/12 - 07:39 am
2
0
Balance of Power

The Recall would only be a wake up call of how ticked off the taxpayers are, and many of you are right it would eventually return to power broker controlled candidates we have now.

So how about, Eliminating the Super District concept that gives down town power brokers influence into South Augusta, while diluting South Augusta taxpayers control.

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