Augusta Commission might return to convention center issue

Augusta commissioners could again weigh in on the management agreements for the Augusta Convention Center during a meeting Thursday.

The 5 p.m. session, rescheduled from Tues­day because of elections, is the first opportunity commissioners have to vote on the management details since several attended a Friday closed-door meeting with attorneys.

The commission’s inability to finalize a management agreement with Augusta Riverfront LLC to operate the convention center, also known as the TEE Center, recently prompted the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police to cancel its four-day winter training conference, which was to be the venue’s first convention. Mayor Deke Copenhaver subsequently canceled a meeting on the agreement to avoid further publicity on the dispute.

The documents are attached to Thursday’s meeting agenda, but Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle and city Administrator Fred Russell said they didn’t know whether Augusta River­front had considered any of the proposed changes discussed Friday.

The firm, which has run the downtown Marriott and conference center for 23 years, shares management with Morris Comm­unications Co., the owner of The Augusta Chronicle.

The commission’s 2009 decision to build a convention center adjoining the Marriott and conference center and later to fast-track it and fund it using tax-exempt bonds made for a complex set of operating documents and several commissioners raised questions about the details.

Corey Johnson, who attended the Friday meeting and was not one of five who previously voted to approve the agreements, said he hoped proposed changes – including a shorter, five-year term and criteria for employee bonuses based on event bookings – could be incorporated.

“If not, we’re going to have to go in there and find somebody to manage it,” Johnson said.

Many of the issues commissioners raised were first identified by Lincolnton, Ga., resident Al Gray, who runs a construction cost-recovery business and attended the Friday meeting.

Commissioner Jerry Brig­ham, who previously voted in favor of the management contract, said the details need to be approved before four new commissioners take office in January.

“If it’s not decided by the end of December, it’s not going to be decided,” he said.

Thursday’s 5 p.m. commission meeting follows a 4 p.m. public hearing on the city’s 2013 budget.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Augusta Commission meeting; voting on management details for the Augusta Convention Center is on the agenda

WHEN: 5 p.m. Thursday

WHERE: Commission Chamber, Municipal Building, 530 Greene St.

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