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2 conventions canceled because of center dispute

Group cites inability of parties to agree

Monday, Oct. 29, 2012 3:17 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012 1:45 AM
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The Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police has canceled two conventions scheduled at the Augusta Con­vention Center because of city officials’ inability to agree on operating details.

Commissioner Bill Lockett (right) asked why the commission negotiating the details of the Augusta Convention Center contract when the city pays a lot of money for a legal staff charged with the task.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Commissioner Bill Lockett (right) asked why the commission negotiating the details of the Augusta Convention Center contract when the city pays a lot of money for a legal staff charged with the task.

Frank Rotondo, the exec­utive director of the association, said Monday his group had to proceed with plans for a winter conference and couldn’t wait for the Augus­ta Commission and a hotel operator to reach an agreement.
The group’s annual winter training conference was to be the first event held at the convention center, also known as the TEE Center, which is nearing completion.

“The reality is that after today’s meeting, we will seek another venue,” Rotondo said. “A lot of people are expressing remorse in the way the city officials as well as the hotel officials couldn’t reach their business agreements, but ultimately they have hurt mine.”

The chiefs association had booked the new convention center for events in 2013 and 2014. About 250 delegates, police chiefs and top law enforcement officials from across the state, in addition to exhibitors, were scheduled to attend the Jan. 27-30 training conference after the group decided to move it from the Omni in Atlanta to Augusta’s new venue, he said.
Rotondo said he was also concerned by the lack of communication from city and hotel officials about any issues, which he said he had instead been following through media reports.

“I mean no disrespect to city government, or the hotel, but life has to go on,” he said. “I have an obligation to my members.”

Barry White, the president of the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau, said that the cancellations were the only ones he knew about and that 12 other events remain planned during 2013.

“I understand their position,” White said. “(The chiefs association) is roughly three months from the convention and they had to make a decision. It’s unfortunate, and I think the effects will be greater than the losses of the 2013 and 2014 conferences.”

Mayor Deke Copenhaver warned last week that canceling conventions before the center opens will “stigmatize” Augusta and create the potential for “major, long-term losses” greater than the amounts the commission has been debating with Marriott operator Augusta Riverfront LLC. He repeated the concerns Monday.

Commissioners critical of the deal said concern about losing conventions was overblown.

“I would rather risk losing a convention or two than saddling the taxpayers of Augusta with a bad deal,” Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles said.

The “deal” is a set of operating documents that skeptical commissioners say overly benefits Augusta Riverfront LLC and offers too few protections for taxpayer money. Augusta Riverfront, which has run the downtown Marriott and conference center since the facilities opened, shares management with Morris Communications Co., the owner of The Augusta Chronicle. The proposed arrangement has the city paying the company a fee to run the center and cater its events, but also shouldering all losses, estimated at nearly $1 million next year.

“All that has been thrown on us in the last five weeks,” Bowles said.

Bowles said Monday his most pressing concern was the $1.4 million kitchen, which he said Augusta Riverfront, under the proposed agreements, could use to prepare food for hotel guests. The facilities are physically connected.

“My concern now is basically why did we buy $1.4 million in kitchen equipment for the Marriott?” he said.

Commissioner Bill Lockett, among the deal’s biggest critics, called the cancellations “a smokescreen” and argued that the association’s small group could easily have gone to another venue.

The commission deleted an agenda item Monday to approve the documents because six needed votes weren’t there, and planned a workshop Wednesday to go over them again.

At the meeting, Lockett and Commissioner Alvin Mason argued that it wasn’t the commission’s place to negotiate contracts, such as those convention center documents now before the body.

“Its place is to approve contracts,” Mason said.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham, who previously voted with Bowles and other commissioners to approve the documents, said City Administrator Fred Russell and special counsel Jim Plunkett had done the negotiating.

“It’s not that the contract has failed to have been negotiated,” Brigham said. “It’s failed to have been approved.”

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Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 10/29/12 - 03:36 pm
17
2
Failed Negotiating Tactic

So, you book events before you have an operating agreement.

Then you threaten that these events will cancel if you don't approve an operating agreement.

Sounds like old school mob negotiating tactics.

grinder48
1982
Points
grinder48 10/29/12 - 03:44 pm
0
0
Typical augusta
Unpublished

Another black eye for augusta and the buffoons running it. I don't know why anyone would want to come here for a convention anyway. Every once in awhile, like yesterday (Sunday) afternoon, I have occasion to ride through downtown augusta and it's deserted and depressing ... why would anyone schedule a convention here?

countyman
20236
Points
countyman 10/29/12 - 03:56 pm
11
10
Sad day for Augusta! As usual

Sad day for the city of Augusta! As usual certain individuals get in the way of the majority. The taxpayers of this community approved the building, and now have to suffer the consequences. Still no deal on the table, and one convention already down the drain.

Conservative Man
5577
Points
Conservative Man 10/29/12 - 03:58 pm
13
1
Got a question....

Can ARLLC prove there were contacts signed and if so why were they signed without a management agreement in place....classic case of "counting your chickens before they hatch" is seems to me....

Maybe I could sell trips to the Super Bowl hoping I get tickets later on.....

dichotomy
33537
Points
dichotomy 10/29/12 - 03:59 pm
14
1
Seems like that ought to give

Seems like that ought to give us a little breathing room to reach an agreement more favorable to the taxPAYERS.

Are our commissioners smart enough to take advantage of it?

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 10/29/12 - 04:03 pm
11
1
@ countyman

Spoken like a true politician.

soapy_725
43686
Points
soapy_725 10/29/12 - 04:05 pm
0
1
NAAIP and NAMBLA
Unpublished

are still coming to the TEE. National Association of Impoverished Politicians will be in Augusta for weeks listening to Fred. Man Boy Love will be looking in town for weeks looking for volunteer positions.

Others who might consider River City:

The Native American Next Day Loan Association
Freezers to Eskimo Salesmen
National Association of Government Building Contractors
National Association of Asphalt Manufacturers.
National Association of Colonoscopist
Taxpayers Anonymous
American Clowns Unlimited
Nero Fiddlers, LLC
Levitating Magicians Anonymous
Demographic Studies Unlimited, LLC
General Domestic Studies, LLC
Beautify Your City with Grant Money
International Brotherhood the Homeless
International Sisterhood of Disenfranchised Amateur Golfers
Seminar "Loving Repeat Felons"
Seminar "How to Become Rich After a Career in Small Market Broadcasting"
Seminar "Soar with Eagles"
Seminar "How to Manipulate the Average Taxpayer"

augustahistorybuff
49
Points
augustahistorybuff 10/29/12 - 04:11 pm
8
1
One Word!

Ridiculous!

Tullie
2930
Points
Tullie 10/29/12 - 04:15 pm
10
0
Countyman

Yes, it is sad. The operating agreements should have been ironed out and signed before they started booking conventions. Then it would not be an issue of trying to get this signed in a hurry because we have this booked thing.

An agreement needs to be made that is not so one sided. The taxpayers might have approved the building but I don't think everyone understood the loss they are now projecting it will cost to run this joint....to the tax payer mind you, not Paul Simon and his group. They are getting paid to run the place and no loss projected at this point on their end.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 10/29/12 - 04:17 pm
13
0
"IF" a contract was

"IF" a contract was signed....

1) Who was it signed with?

2) Who had authority to represent the city in signing such a contract?

3) Who would draft a contract that allowed someone to cancel an event with no penalty?

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 10/29/12 - 04:37 pm
14
0
Analogy...

I go find a big fancy house and rent it out for Masters Week. Mind you, it's not my house, but that is beside the point.

I pressure the owner of the house to pay me or the renter is going to cancel.

I then raise a stink when the owner questions me for renting out his house without permission.

Riverman1
84925
Points
Riverman1 10/29/12 - 04:53 pm
10
4
Building Should Have Opened in May

What's the second meeting that was scheduled by this group?

Blaming the cancellation on slow negotiations is ridiculous. The building should have opened this past spring, but experienced delays. What would have been done if the building had actually opened when it was supposed to? An agreement should have been in place a year ago.

my.voice
4867
Points
my.voice 10/29/12 - 04:59 pm
12
2
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA: Home of the

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA: Home of the free and land of the doofuses who run this place.

Riverman1
84925
Points
Riverman1 10/29/12 - 05:05 pm
9
2
My Saturday Post Began....

"Since we have these warnings that the contract must be signed by Tuesday or the first event will go elsewhere, where are the signed contracts for events in our new TEE Center....what do they say and who are they drawn between? Who did they give the deposit to and into whose bank account was that deposit placed? "

That's how my post began Saturday. Did anyone see the contracts today and know who promised what? Looks like we better find where that deposit is so we can give it back.

Riverman1
84925
Points
Riverman1 10/29/12 - 05:09 pm
10
3
If this is going to require

If this is going to require ANOTHER $50 million Laney Walker payoff making it a $100 million, maybe we should have just built the TEE there to clean up the neighborhood at the same time. We could have saved lots.

crackertroy
540
Points
crackertroy 10/29/12 - 05:18 pm
6
0
details please
Unpublished

We need more details about why they were not able to reach an agreement. Who, specifically, is responsible for this nonsense?

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 10/29/12 - 05:29 pm
7
0
Would it be fraud if I

Would it be fraud if I pretended to represent Deke and then I went out and rented his house?

Is it then fraud for someone to pretend to represent the City and then go out and rent the TEE Center?

Has the sheriff's office been called to investigate?

augustarookie
300
Points
augustarookie 10/29/12 - 05:50 pm
6
0
dang

We could have used the extra officers around for a while.

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 10/29/12 - 06:56 pm
0
0
What a bunch of idiots we
Unpublished

What a bunch of idiots we have running this town.

dichotomy
33537
Points
dichotomy 10/29/12 - 07:31 pm
8
0
"Looks like we better find

"Looks like we better find where that deposit is so we can give it back."

Hope they didn't give it to the TAX Commissioner for safe keeping.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/29/12 - 08:46 pm
5
0
Insider Information - Questions who signed what.

Since it involves a Taxpayer owned property, it should be public information. Correct?

Because, I don't see any of the River Front 6 sharing the data with the taxpayers?

Maybe 1 of the 3 Richmond Co. Commissioners might slip the taxpayer / us a copy and the info will get posted here or The Spirit?

crackertroy
540
Points
crackertroy 10/29/12 - 09:28 pm
5
0
????
Unpublished

Okay more information was added to the article. I have to be reading it wrong though. Mind you, I have a B.A. in English from ASU. Fred Russell worked out a deal to bring 250 policemen to Augusta to spend lots of money in Augusta and rent the TEE center that has the city at a $1 MILLION and the commissioners did not approve the deal because they'd rather argue about a kitchen? That can't be right.

FAIL!

gargoyle
17600
Points
gargoyle 10/29/12 - 10:12 pm
5
0
Question?

What happened to the first convention center included in the then Radison now Marriott that the city built another kitchen after it was enlarged,and who has rights to the first parking deck. and who owns what now.I'm confused.

F4therTime
4656
Points
F4therTime 10/29/12 - 10:35 pm
8
0
SO....
Unpublished

We should pass something that is a sure money maker for Billy and his boy Paul just so a few conventions won't cancel? Even though it will cost the taxpayers an unknown amount of money. When will Deke the meek leave office? Not soon enough. Augusta politics is a joke.

Ruckus
467
Points
Ruckus 10/30/12 - 12:54 am
5
0
Project Management

It should be a requirement that our co commissioner have a back ground in Project Management (PMP). Because you can be a commissioner with no management back ground or degree. Example image us voting in a bunch of 18 - 21 year olds to run the city and the sad thing is we probaly would have more accomplished in this town. We need to stop making bad decisions and make ones that this city can truley benefit from.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/30/12 - 07:34 am
7
1
Not another Dollar for the TEE,

until we OPEN BID the services, to give the Taxpayers the best operating cost for the taxpayers money being spent.

Too many political deals with taxpayer money is costing 2+X more than it should.

BTW: as of today Tuesday, 24 hours after dooms day, the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police website dated Friday, September 07, 2012 1:42:23 PM, still shows AUGUSTA as the local?????

Are we looking at someone scoring political points with a last minutes "I Saved It" announcement.

http://www.gachiefs.com/MeetingsConfs_WTC.htm

Conservative Man
5577
Points
Conservative Man 10/30/12 - 06:31 am
8
0
I have it on high authority....

....from a very VERY well placed source that the cancellation had absolutely NOTHING to do with the problems with the management deal....
I wasn't given the real reason, but I have no doubt that this source will be releasing more info as days go by....

If true, it's a sham for the power's that be to try to use this cancellation as a bargaining chip to force a sub-standard agreement on the taxpayers....

seenitB4
88173
Points
seenitB4 10/30/12 - 06:32 am
5
1
Details please..

Deposits....signed agreements.....what is going ooonnn....if I cancel my gas provider i will pay a fee.....
Who is running this show??

Riverman1
84925
Points
Riverman1 10/30/12 - 06:33 am
8
2
Small Group

Why did such a small group HAVE to use the TEE? If we built the TEE for 250 people groups that was overkill. Fred Russell's name keeps coming up with this group. So he was the one who got them to come here? He is a retired police officer. Is he also telling them what comments to make?

Riverman1
84925
Points
Riverman1 10/30/12 - 07:23 am
7
2
Russell's whisper campaigns at Commission meetings

I'm tired of Russell's whisper campaigns at Commission meetings. Make him abide by the rules, stay in his seat and speak to EVERYONE when he is recognized. He wants to influence votes with his private conversations that have no place going on while Commission meetings are underway. Is he not man enough to speak loudly enough for everyone to hear? If he were at a polling place he would be arrested for politicking.

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