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Mayor Deke Copenhaver tired of public fighting over convention center

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Negative publicity is driving the debate over management of the Augusta Con­vention Center behind closed doors.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver said he was calling off a work session today on the center’s management agreements after the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police’s decision Mon­day to cancel two conventions – including the facility’s first event Jan. 27-30 – made news across the Southeast.

“Basically, we are now in damage-control mode, and I would highly recommend that those parties who still have questions or concerns meet with the management group or their representatives directly,” Copenhaver said Tuesday in an e-mail to the Augusta Commission.

Frank Rotondo, the president of the police association, said Tuesday that the planning required to hold a law enforcement training conference – such as booking out-of-state speakers, selecting instructors and negotiating food prices – requires a management agreement be in
place. He gave the city a Mon­day deadline to approve one.
“A reasonable cut point was after yesterday’s meeting,” Rotondo said. “They can’t operate the facility without that management agreement.”

Though any commissioner who heads a committee can call for another work session, none did Tuesday.

Copenhaver, who warned last week of long-term damage to the city’s reputation over the canceled conventions, said in his e-mail that continuing to air disputes over the agreements “will only continue to bring negative regional media attention to Augusta while at the same time, further negatively impacting our ability to ensure the long-term success of the facility.”

Downtown business owners are upset about the canceled events and lost revenue, the mayor said.

Ben Casella, the president of the Down­town Augusta Alliance, called the situation “incredibly unfortunate” and “nothing short of embarrassing.”
“We see the (convention) center as huge for downtown,” Casella said. “We think that cities that have convention centers are looked at carefully, and those that don’t are overlooked.”

The Augusta Convention and Vis­itors Bureau estimated $8.4 million in direct visitor spending from the 12 events still scheduled at the facility during 2013.

The spending numbers do not impress critics, who point instead to estimated operating losses and proposed management agreements they contend will gut the city’s general fund with no commensurate benefits.

Commissioner Joe Jack­son, who voted previously with four other commissioners in favor of the management plan, said he had been contacted by constituents Tues­day who praised the commission for slowing the process.

“All I’m doing is trying to control how much we lose,” he said.

The commission OK’d build­ing the center next to the Marriott on property partly owned by Marriott operator Augusta Riverfront LLC in 2009. The company, which has operated the hotel for two decades, shares management with Morris Com­mu­ni­cations Co., the owner of The Augusta Chronicle.

The operating documents were presented to the commission just a few weeks ago. Simi­lar documents related to the convention center’s parking garage took the commission about six months to tweak and approve.

Commissioner Bill Lock­ett, one of the project’s biggest critics, hadn’t wavered Tuesday. He called the documents – which were prepared and reviewed by Augusta River­front officials, City Adminis­trator Fred Russell and city attorneys – “a blank check” that, in effect, left the commission responsible for negotiating the deal.

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NavyVeteran
81
Points
NavyVeteran 10/30/12 - 10:31 pm
13
7
The city's reputation

Hey Deke,
Gotta clue for ya, the city's reputation is already in the toilet and the County Commission put it there. Whether you like it or not, this city is toast unless you grow a pair and do what needs to be done. Get this Commission to think/work for what is best for Augusta/CSRA and not what is best for them/their voters.

Common sense, but then, since when is common sense a factor for this County ? ? ? ? ?

F4therTime
4656
Points
F4therTime 10/30/12 - 10:34 pm
14
2
Yeah right...
Unpublished

Downtown business owners are upset about the canceled events and lost revenue, the mayor said.
I'm sure that lost revenue is more important than their taxes going through the roof to make up for a bad contract just for the sake of having a contract. Try again Deke the meek.

Brad Owens
4906
Points
Brad Owens 10/30/12 - 10:54 pm
19
3
More propaganda from the Mayor...

The REAL reason Deke doesn't want another work session is because every time they have one they lose another vote on the commission.

The count now is 7 against, 3 for.

And to all of you blaming the commission, you are 100% wrong. They are doing their job on this one and should be commended.

Deke is more upset about bad publicity outside Augusta than he is the budget deficit we are currently facing and the burden this lopsided deal would place on the tax payers backs.

The only "embarrassing" part of this is that three commissioners still support the boondoggle.

Brad

P.S. I notice there is no mention of any of the details of the agreement ever in any of these stories, I wonder why?

countyman
21623
Points
countyman 10/31/12 - 12:35 am
8
5
I don't understand how people

I don't understand how people can just throw away the event, and not think of the effects. The conference is now heading to Athens, and the press did travel across the state. It's definitely not the end of the world, but not a good light towards Augusta.
http://www.myfoxatlanta.com/story/19950243/police-group-cancels-conventi...

If the commissioners knew they couldn't reach a deal with the Marriott by July. Then the months of August, September, and October should have immediately switched to Global Spectrum. Saving local taxpayers money, and losing potential revenue is one big cancellation. The main point is the deal should have been completed months ago.

The renovation of the Regency Inn(Holiday Inn Express) on Broad street is the result of the TEE Center, and we still have no management deal in place. I can only imagine the amount of new construction when the facility opens. Please get something done, because thousands of people are ready to visit downtown Augusta. The TEE Center equals progress similar to the other developments in the county,(Direct flights to DC, Starbucks plant, Cancer Center, Home2 Suites by Hilton, Rockwood plant, renovation of Fort Discovery(Discovery Plaza), Medical Commons, Five Guys, Marlin & Rays, Walmart neighborhood market, two 4k sq. ft. buildings infront of Kroger, Georgia Power facility, Walmart on Wrightsboro rd, Village at Riverwatch, purchasing of the former Regal Village theater in the Augusta West Plaza, Residence Inn by Marriott, etc) and progress brings success.

HenryWalker3rd
2393
Points
HenryWalker3rd 10/31/12 - 04:43 am
11
2
There was a great article in
Unpublished

There was a great article in one of the other local papers...basically saying Augusta is NOT the convention type city. With the once a year spruce up, there really isn't much here that would attract a convention crowd...what's there to do here? No beach, no upscale shopping, no theme park, just restaurants and strip clubs. ie the police convention and tattoo convention.

The TEE center $ should have been spent elsewhere.

I voted for Laurie...on the flip side, I'm not too sure how that would have went...another day in Augusta...sigh.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/31/12 - 05:20 am
6
3
Now the whole nation knows of this deal

Surely, the Downtown River Front 5 or 6 politicians will now bend for what is right for the taxpayers and might find time to remember taxpayers interests.

Abundant consideration in explaining this Stereotypical Good Ole Boy deal to higher public powers will be interesting with National attention.

ADDED PLUS:
Every TEE Center deal and vendor written agreements will surely catch the eye of some outside investigative journalist (TV or printed) looking to made a name.
A bright investigation journalist need look no further than the numerous facts presented in comments by:
Rivernman1,
Rebellious,
Seenitbe4,
Countryman,
Little lamb,
Brad,
Austin,
and so many others.

Political Career Dissipation Lights Flashing Blinking so bright Downtown, the taxpayer should be selling the energy back to GA Power.

Techfan
6462
Points
Techfan 10/31/12 - 05:19 am
4
4
The fighting shouldn't be in

The fighting shouldn't be in public. It belongs in the back room, where the deals are made.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/31/12 - 05:30 am
7
2
Back room deals vs. Open HONEST Government

Since its Taxpayer $$$ how do we attend a back room deal, other than watch them openly fight it out?

Besides they are not fooling enough people.
The lost of the GA Chiefs of Police convention was not needed if the TC documents that had been requested for over 6 months had been presented earlier for review.

The simple temporary solution was as Wayne G. offered.
But to the River Front 5-6 it was: Our way, or else.

While Congress clowns may pass big deals without reading them, it is not done on a local level with immunity.

seenitB4
97018
Points
seenitB4 10/31/12 - 05:52 am
6
4
A Cat

Why am I thinking of a cat covering up something??

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/31/12 - 06:35 am
7
3
Covering mistakes.

SIB4 - I agreed a litter box needs dumping when it is full of covered over stuff.

A Little History that might be applicable.

From the AC dated August 4th, 2012
"The expansion of the downtown Augusta convention center is on track to be completed in January, the same month as the first scheduled event.

See:
http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/business/local-business/2012-08-04/aug...

Side Thought
Are there any construction delays or issues which have affected the TEE Center being ready in Jan. 2013? They were booked so close to the "estimated completion date". Did this have any bearing on the cancellation also?

Tullie
2930
Points
Tullie 10/31/12 - 06:26 am
10
2
Our Mayor

Our Mayor is finally tired of this.

I am ashamed of him. This could have all been prevented if he had been on top of this to hammer out the center's management agreements a long time ago.

I don't think it is a matter of ineptness down there as a matter of so-called back room deals that are behind a lot of this. It ends up making some of them look like fools.

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle has really stepped up to the plate and tried to help the people in his district by questioning this deal and NOT going along with it. I really appreciate him. He is trying to help us.

Everyone, please let the Mayor, your Commissioner, Fred Russell, know how you feel about this. I certainly am.

seenitB4
97018
Points
seenitB4 10/31/12 - 06:29 am
6
2
Gwinnett county has problems too

http://www.ajc.com/news/news/local/stadiums-costs-outweighing-revenue-po...

They use it like play money...toss it everywhere.....hey...watch it fall from the sky.....with the weather expenses we are racking up year after year.....I would say we need to have a safety net .....a reserve just to repair damage .......instead we are spending like drunken sailors....

Tullie
2930
Points
Tullie 10/31/12 - 07:45 am
10
3
countyman

I don't understand how people can just throw away the event, and not think of the effects. The conference is now heading to Athens, and the press did travel across the state. It's definitely not the end of the world, but not a good light towards Augusta.
http://www.myfoxatlanta.com/story/19950243/police-group-cancels-conventi...

If the commissioners knew they couldn't reach a deal with the Marriott by July. Then the months of August, September, and October should have immediately switched to Global Spectrum. Saving local taxpayers money, and losing potential revenue is one big cancellation. The main point is the deal should have been completed months ago.

From what people are saying here, Fred Russell was the one that booked the Police Chief Convention. How they know that, I don't know.

But anyway, what I find curious is why is he finding people to book the convention center?

If that true, and he did get them here why didn't he tell them that there is a problem with the convention center but we have other options here in Augusta that can handle them with no problem? All that could have been done and we could have at least offered a solution here. Instead of letting them hang in the wind.

There again, our Mayor could have stepped in and said something about that as well.

These people were trying to force an issue for their own purposes and it backfired.

Unfortunately, it makes Augusta, the Mayor, the Commissioners look what most people outside the South think of Southerners
anyway..inept, slow, backwards, untrustworthy.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 10/31/12 - 06:44 am
8
2
SIB4 - Gwinnett Stadium

I cited the same project when A-RC wanted to build a NEW stadium Down Town. Gwinnett lost 3 Commissioners. If I remember right, 2 to jail and the 1 that resigned is still facing jail.

All over a Good Ole Boy Deal for $29M that ended up costing over $50M and making the right people $$$$.

The taxpayer kept hounding them and wrote the right people to to get the smell investigated.

Sounds like a boilerplate for A-RC doesn't it?

Riverman1
93326
Points
Riverman1 10/31/12 - 06:48 am
8
5
Wolverines!!!

Sulky, petulant, crabby, surly and huffy politics. Cancel work sessions because you don’t have the votes. Looks to me like those of us on the internet are beating the hard copy guys and winning….finally. With a few more episodes like this, we could make a dent in the malfeasance so prevalent in the county. Wolverines!!!

Riverman1
93326
Points
Riverman1 10/31/12 - 07:10 am
7
4
Two Million a Year?

Seriously, are we looking at $2 million a year to manage the TEE, parking deck, pay the utilities, maintenance, keep the kitchen equipment up and pay $350,000 a year to promote the center? Where in the world is this money going to come from? The old city, urban area of 44,000 certainly can't support those kinds of bills. Guess who in Richmond County is going to end up paying? Dichotomy? Open Curtain? You and your neighbors out there.

soapy_725
44107
Points
soapy_725 10/31/12 - 07:03 am
1
0
These coments are
Unpublished

detrimental to the career of future Congressman Boardman-Coperhaver. Do you not realize how much acclaim and notoriety will be showered upon ARC once the little king is in DC. Talk about a tourist attraction. Plains GA will not hold a candle to the home of the First Congressman to finish an iron man contest. What a misnomer. Iron Man Mayor. Instead of Sunday School lessons at the Plains First Baptist Church, we can have lessons in Iron Man competitions on the River.

Not to mention that his handlers need all of this construction money to fund future campaigns. Payback time will come.

" I had such plans for the family. Senator Corleone, President Corleone. Don't worry pop, it will happen."

soapy_725
44107
Points
soapy_725 10/31/12 - 07:05 am
1
0
Cancelling meeting to talk about cancellations
Unpublished

The sap is rising. The scum always rises to the top. What was that comment yesterday? Farcical?

soapy_725
44107
Points
soapy_725 10/31/12 - 07:08 am
1
0
I want my baseball field. I want my baseball field.
Unpublished

If I don't get my baseball field out of this construction conspiracy, I will just hold my breath until I turn blue. I may even sign a proclamation declaring today Hold Your Breath Day. If that doesn't work, day two will be Smurf Day.

scratchthesurface
26
Points
scratchthesurface 10/31/12 - 07:14 am
1
0
DO YOUR JOB DAVID!
Unpublished

DO YOUR JOB DAVID!

razordog
195
Points
razordog 10/31/12 - 07:15 am
9
4
I know...

Maybe they should let Dr. Azziz handle this entire situation, since he's an expert at making Augusta look good...NOT!!!

Young Fred
20679
Points
Young Fred 10/31/12 - 07:18 am
5
4
Mr. Copenhaver singing to his

Mr. Copenhaver singing to his friends:

It’s such a good feeling
A very good feeling
The feeling you know that we’re friends

Mayor, I do believe you’re a weenie. At least you’ve made it clear you’re aware of which side your bread is buttered.

my.voice
5160
Points
my.voice 10/31/12 - 07:25 am
6
3
Confused why this has derailed?

@Brad: I don't know what the commissioners are doing "right" in your eyes so maybe you can expound. All I understand is these public use facilities don't ever turn a profit, but the economic impacts are great. The costs, therefore, are an investment if you will in growth.

That said, I dont think that the SPLOST should have been recommended for vote had it not had a plan to move it forward. NOW is way too late in the game to start holding it hostage, the damn things nearly complete. Its not like we can turn it into a skating rink now.

The dark-part of this is Riverfront LLC or whatever Mr Simon's group is called. Why RLLC is allowed to stuff their pockets with even more money is beyond my comprehension, but that's somehow the way these deals get worked out. I do know RLLC got a new kitchen out of the deal, and heaven only knows what else. There was that brohaha about the fire system upgrade that Simon wanted.

I dont like those with the cash and resulting power abusing it, and thats the smell I am picking up here. Has a full public disclosure of the deal been made? I would be interested in the nitty-gritty of this......but all the while we need to accept that the deal has been made, like it or hate it.

The AC should be ashamed of itself for being so quiet on the matter. The Simon-Morris connection shows thru the whitewash guys.

seenitB4
97018
Points
seenitB4 10/31/12 - 07:26 am
5
3
open curtain..yes

Yes...we are sending them to jail......we have a tough DA ....he is loaded for bear.....some are squeeling on others now.....some have made MILLIONS on land deals.....does that ring a bell Richmond county??

dichotomy
37379
Points
dichotomy 10/31/12 - 07:49 am
5
1
"Negative publicity is

"Negative publicity is driving the debate over management of the Augusta Con­vention Center behind closed doors."

" I would highly recommend that those parties who still have questions or concerns meet with the management group or their representatives directly"

Now there are two contradictory statements. Those "parties who still have questions" happen to be the taxPAYERS and I doubt seriously that we could attend these little backroom, closed door meetings where OUR money is passed out like M&Ms on Halloween.

Mayor Deke, ain't it a pain in the arse when the taxPAYERS of this COUNTY come out of a 17 year coma and start asking questions. And nobody seems to have answers that pass the smell test. I'm sorry but this "deal" stinks and everybody knows it. The cost stinks, the losses stink, and the "15 year no bid" aspect of it stinks.

I'm sorry but you have know for couple of years or more that this situation was coming. We taxpayers resent the fact that the details of this one sided backroom deal was sprung on us after the fact and at the last minute. If no contracts were signed at the time this backroom "deal" was agreed to by the commissioners in office at that time, then no legal "deal" exists and we DON'T LIKE THIS ONE. Renegotiate a better, shorter term deal, or bid it out, or hire someone for a 1 or 2 year contract until we figure this out. You should have started this a year ago and you should have done this in public and you might have something in place now. YOU, AND OUR COMMISSIONERS, ARE GOING TO LEARN NOT TO DO SO MUCH OF OUR BUSINESS IN CLOSED DOOR, BACKROOM MEETINGS. We are sick and tired of it. We are awake and we are watching. Thank you Commissioner Guilfoyle.

Young Fred
20679
Points
Young Fred 10/31/12 - 07:53 am
3
3
“NOW is way too late in the

“NOW is way too late in the game to start holding it hostage, the damn things nearly complete”

Isn’t that the way government always seems to work. Come to the taxpayers with a proposal that understates cost, spend over budget, miss deadlines, then tell taxpayers “something has to be done NOW!”

It’s the “something” that worries me.

Little Lamb
48882
Points
Little Lamb 10/31/12 - 08:15 am
6
1
Putin

Barak Obama told Vladimir Putin to be patient; hold off on any deal-making until after the election and and new Congress is installed in January. Obama said his second term could allow him to be "more flexible" in his deal-making capabilities.

Well, maybe that's good advice here. Put off any more commission votes on this management contract until a new commission is seated come January. In fact, the commission ought to adjourn for the rest of the year and not vote on anything.

rcandrews
127
Points
rcandrews 10/31/12 - 08:57 am
7
1
Sung to, For What It’s Worth by The Buffalo Springfield

There’s something happenin’ here
And what it is has become perfectly clear.
Collectivists got their guns over there
And they will use them on us, so beware.

Its time we stop people look around
And stop the collectivists from ruining our town.

Battle lines have been drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Tax payers speakin’ their minds
Getting’ so much resistance all the time

We better stop people look around
And stop the collectivists from ruining our town.

Bad deals run deep
Into our wallets they’ll greep
It starts when their buddies get paid
Step out of line the man come and take us away

Its time we stop people look around
And stop the collectivists from ruining our town.
Stop hey what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
You better stop children what’s that sound
Stop the collectivists from ruining our town.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 10/31/12 - 08:30 am
5
3
Attn: All Future Conventions

Take note of how things operate here in Augusta.

Rather than coming together to fix a problem, our mayor cancels a public meeting and tells people not to discuss things as a group. The mayor knows that "sunshine is a great disinfectant."

Instead, what does he do?

He directs them to "speak" individually with the power brokers.

I picture that scene from the Godfather when the wise guys kiss the ring of the don.

Let the backroom deals begin!

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 10/31/12 - 08:34 am
5
2
I hear the beach house calling...

Now that Hurricane Sandy has passed, See Deke. See Deke run. See Deke turn off his cell phone.

All the while... the storm here in Augusta is getting stronger as the public gets more informed.

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