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Augusta Commission balks at housing director's loan request

Tuesday, Aug 20, 2013 11:10 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Aug 21, 2013 12:20 AM
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Augusta Commission members put the brakes on a $2.5 million loan sought by the city’s Housing and Community Development director to continue an ongoing redevelopment effort in two historic black districts.

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Augusta Commissioner Bill Lockett listens to Housing and Community Development Director Chester Wheeler.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Augusta Commissioner Bill Lockett listens to Housing and Community Development Director Chester Wheeler.

They also voted, with Mayor Deke Copen­haver breaking a 5-5 tie, to seek more proposals for the management or sale of Augusta Municipal Golf Course.

Housing and Community Development Director Chester Wheeler defended his department’s spending of $8 million on Laney-Walker redevelopment, despite its resulting in only 19 new homes over the project’s first three years. Wheeler sought the loan to cover a shortfall until the city is able to issue additional bonds based on future collections of a hotel bed tax, of which $750,000 a year is guaranteed to the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem efforts for 50 years.

Wheeler said while only a handful of houses were built and occupied, 275 lots had been obtained and 97 dilapidated properties had been demolished.

“And we are paying $45,000 a month to market all those?” Com­missioner Marion Williams asked.

“The $45,000, commissioner, is for project management,” Wheeler said. “It is rare for you to find in any city government the kind of talent in engineering and construction related that you could employ in-house and put them on a project of this magnitude. So you hire the people who do.”

Marketing, meanwhile, a significant effort to “rebrand” the blighted area, is $6,000 a month, Wheeler said.

Some $660,000 a year on consultants, Commissioner Joe Jackson said, “could be better spent.”

A vote to refer the matter to an upcoming committee meeting passed 8-2, with Commissioners Bill Fennoy and Bill Lockett opposed. Any more than a few weeks’ delay, Wheeler said, would cause “serious financial impact.”

Commissioners also approved 9-1 a meeting between City Ad­min­istrator Fred Russell, Dis­advantaged Business Enterprise Coordinator Yvonne Gentry and Ellis Albright after Albright’s fifth appearance before the board. His nonprofit organization, the CSRA Business League, wants to help minority-owned businesses win more city contracts, but at a contract price of $175,000.

Commissioners Wayne Guilfoyle, a contractor whose mother is Japanese-American, noted he’d never been offered help by the group, nor had he sought it. He and Commissioner Donnie Smith peppered Albright with questions about the proposal and its legality under the city’s court-ordered injunction against using race-based preference.

“This is not the forum to interrogate him,” Commissioner Bill Lockett said. “It’s 10 of us up here. No more of the ‘I’ stuff.”

“Eleven people up here,” Copen­haver noted.

General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie said Albright could serve as the city’s agent to work with minority-owned businesses so long as his activities did not violate the court order.

For the city-owned golf course, Fennoy said he has played the course for 35 years and it is now living up to its nickname, “The Patch.”

“I went up there last week and it was pitiful the way that course has been allowed to deteriorate,” he said.

After three failed efforts to outsource management of the course, it has been operated since last year by a skeleton city staff. Williams called Tuesday for another vote on a proposal to merge the course with adjoining First Tee of Augusta, but Davis offered a substitute motion to issue a new request for proposals to manage, lease or even buy the course.

“I feel like there are some good opportunities out in the community,” Davis said.

The course was privately run for many years, and could be again, Guilfoyle said. “The RFP needs to clearly state what we want as a body, what we want for the future of that course.”

In other business, the commission:

• Voted to receive as information Gentry’s report on her office’s recent success in obtaining race, gender and other data from companies and their subcontractors doing business with the city. Old bid documents didn’t request the data, but starting this year they do, Gentry said, and contractors are providing it. The data is needed to justify the use of racial preference.

• Voted down a motion to hire a director to oversee both Disadvantaged Business Enterprise and Equal Employment Opportunity issues, which is called for by the city’s charter.

• Heard about plans to develop a proposal to manage downtown parking from Deputy Administrator Bill Shanahan, who received a job offer Monday from York County, S.C. Shanahan said the completed proposal will be ready for committee review in three weeks.

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corgimom
32399
Points
corgimom 08/21/13 - 04:18 am
6
0
develop a proposal to manage

develop a proposal to manage downtown parking

Downtown parking needs managing? It does? Managed how? Is this Parking Meters Brouhaha 3.0?

corgimom
32399
Points
corgimom 08/21/13 - 04:19 am
7
0
$6,000 per month to "rebrand"

$6,000 per month to "rebrand" Laney-Walker?

How do you "rebrand" it?

Riverman1
83902
Points
Riverman1 08/21/13 - 05:15 am
8
0
Pretty Bad Area Huh?

Goodness, gracious, almighty, if you have to spend $6,000 a month for years to make people believe an area is nice, it must be pretty bad. What about the other areas of the county that need to be "rebranded"?

Riverman1
83902
Points
Riverman1 08/21/13 - 07:45 am
7
0
Audit the $660,000 "Rebranding"

News flash: The $6,000 a month, $660,000 a year, spent on consultants to rebrand Laney Walker isn't working. I'd like to see a breakdown of how that money is being spent. Exactly WHAT has been done?

Keep in mind, Laney Walker is to receive $750,000 a year for the next 50 years. That was a pay-off for approval of the TEE Center that sits empty all the time, yet requires $350,000 a year in management fees. This is all getting to be so surreal I'm going to start calling it Yoknapatawpha County.

corgimom
32399
Points
corgimom 08/21/13 - 05:56 am
6
0
I don't know, maybe they give

I don't know, maybe they give the drug dealers and the prostitutes and the criminals money to go somewhere else?

ragingbull
945
Points
ragingbull 08/21/13 - 07:12 am
6
0
" An unlicensed pharmacist on

" An unlicensed pharmacist on every street corner, and all your personal needs taken care of on every side street", Hell... it's a start for rebranding.

Riverman1
83902
Points
Riverman1 08/21/13 - 07:21 am
7
0
Buy Me An Award

I think we now know why the Laney Walker project was given a couple of national awards for urban renewal.....money.

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 08/21/13 - 07:24 am
1
0
Ben Dover is making unsolicited house calls to ARC taxpayers.
Unpublished

Ben Dover is making unsolicited house calls to ARC taxpayers.

soapy_725
43678
Points
soapy_725 08/21/13 - 07:25 am
1
0
Can anyone in ARC spell forcible rape?
Unpublished

Can anyone in ARC spell forcible rape?

nocnoc
42557
Points
nocnoc 08/21/13 - 08:18 am
5
0
Do the math

8m / 19 new homes = $421,052.63 per home.

or $175K for that

Can anyone else say
Political Payback Downtown PORK BARREL?

jwilliams
831
Points
jwilliams 08/21/13 - 08:20 am
3
0
Taken from the Augusta

Taken from the Augusta Chronicle, 8/21/13, “This is not the forum to interrogate him,” Commissioner Bill Lockett said. “It’s 10 of us up here. No more of the ‘I’ stuff.”
According to the Merriam – Webster online dictionary, the Definition of interrogate (verb) is to question formally and systematically. In addition; Synonyms catechize, grill, inquire (of), query, question, and quiz. Related Words besiege, bombard, cross-examine, cross-question, examine, pump; poll, survey
I agree with Lockett, the open floor of the commission chambers is not the forum to INTERROGATE Albright or anyone else, but he himself does it as well as Williams and Mason. When Lockett, Williams and Mason do it, they attempt to justify it by saying that it is for the protection of the taxpayers, but when others do the same as them it’s considered to be wrong. I am sure that the department heads that you Mr. Lockett have “PERSONALLY” interrogated on the open floor of the commission chambers wish you would have practiced then what you preach now.
Don’t get me wrong here, it is the obligation of the elected official to ask questions to get the factual answers that they need in order to run this government effectively and efficiently as possible, but it needs to be done in the proper forum and without humiliation and insult to others.

raul
4868
Points
raul 08/21/13 - 08:29 am
3
0
Who or what entity is

Who or what entity is responsible for oversight of Housing and Community Development?

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 08/21/13 - 08:34 am
5
0
lovingthesouth72
1368
Points
lovingthesouth72 08/21/13 - 08:39 am
4
0
waste of tax $$

$8 mill on something that will not bring any money to the city. what a waste of my tax dollars. Better check someone's bank account or "business expense" account.

lsmith
105
Points
lsmith 08/21/13 - 09:03 am
0
1
Pathetic Deal
Unpublished

The agreement to give one community 750,000 a year for 50 years has got to go down as one of the worst deals the city has ever made. But, of course it has plenty of worthy contenders...IE The Parking Garage for the Tee Center....The Tee Center Contract with Morris Companies....The Parking Garage for the Morris Marriott. They balked this time on putting the Cotton Patch golf course (with millions improvements) in the hands of Paul Simon's darling First Tee, but if history means anything it'll probably be given to the First Tee. Why is it that Simon, who's worth millions and his boss who's worth untold more millions always come to the city with their hands out for taxpayer money for their private project endeavors? I guess because so far it's worked.

Marinerman1
4851
Points
Marinerman1 08/21/13 - 09:11 am
3
0
This Smelled From The Very Beginning

After Charles Walker got busted, I think that certain individuals needed another revenue stream. I know, let's revitalize the Lainey-Walker area! The whole "money for my vote" thing, stunk to high heaven, but the Commission chose to agree to it. I cannot understand how ARC can give dollars to something, and not require AT LEAST an annual audit, along with review of the tax returns of ANIC. $45K a month for Project Management? Really? And no documentation provided?

dichotomy
32920
Points
dichotomy 08/21/13 - 09:38 am
3
0
" Is this Parking Meters

" Is this Parking Meters Brouhaha 3.0?"

Cut 'em out, ride 'em in,
Ride 'em in, cut 'em out,
Cut 'em out, ride 'em in:
Rawhide!

Yeh, put them meters back out there. You will kill what little traffic you have so fast you will never even recoup the cost of the meters and installation costs.

triscuit
3085
Points
triscuit 08/21/13 - 10:10 am
1
0
$6000 a month for 'branding

$6000 a month for 'branding and marketing?" What company is receiving the money for this? One of Augusta's firms? I never see anything, marketing-wise, about this area. DEFINITELY someone needs to see where this money goes each month.

lgr
227
Points
lgr 08/21/13 - 10:13 am
0
2
downtown parking

parking downtown has always been a problem. 50 years ago you had to ride around the block a bunch of times before you found someone leaving and you got there space. trouble finding a space must mean people are downtown

GnipGnop
12234
Points
GnipGnop 08/21/13 - 10:18 am
4
0
Heck Countyman will do it for free!!!!

And do a much better job....Come on Augusta...wake up...why do you insist on voting with your skin and not your brain???? I think the funniest thing ever heard in a commission meeting is Lockett saying anything about interrogation. I wish there were more people on the commission that had the city at heart...my aunt served Augusta and loved Augusta and looked out for Augusta and the common man. Wayne reminds me of her.

dichotomy
32920
Points
dichotomy 08/21/13 - 11:06 am
6
0
"That was a pay-off for

"That was a pay-off for approval of the TEE Center that sits empty all the time, yet requires $350,000 a year in management fees."

This all started as a corrupt bribe and like any project that starts in corruption, it just becomes a pile of corruption and mismanagement run by people who are incompetent or crooked....or both.

There is a LOT of dirt associated with the Housing and Community Development Office and there are people who know about it but won't bring it out because it involves too many "connected" people and too much money. I know Sylvia knows a lot of it but even she doesn't ever talk about it. That ought to tell you something.

So we are paying someone $45,000 a MONTH, $540,000 a year, to manage this project!!! And another $6000 a month, $72,000 a year, to "rebrand" Laney Walker!!!! So the project gets $750,000 a year from the hotel/motel tax and WE ARE SPENDING $612,000 of it a year for PROJECT MANAGEMENT and IMAGE REBRANDING!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME??????

The FIRST thing that needs to happen at Housing and Community Development is to get another director that is smart enough to operate a calculator.

lifelongresident
1323
Points
lifelongresident 08/21/13 - 11:45 am
0
0
LANEY-WALKER REVITILIZATION?!!?!??!?!?!?!?
Unpublished

are you kidding me what decent, god-fearing, employed, responsible, right thinking, person/family would even consider buying a home surrounded by blight, drugs-dealers and uses, prostitutes, gun-fire, gangs, crime, and general deterioration??? but we have esteemed leaders/program directors trying to convince the commission "dat if you jess gibbs us mo mun-nay we can's convince pee-poh to lib on laney-walker"..give me a break the black powers to be of richmond county just don't understand and still believe "wee'se can fix da problem if wee'se jess throw mo mun-nay at it"....news flash for the commission and mr. wheeler until downtown/laney-walker/bethleham/turpin hill is cleaned up and the rats, roaches, welfare leeches, moochers, and parasitic broodmares, crinimals, gangs, drug-dealers-uses, prostitutes/heauxs and their kind are removed from thses areas no amount of money/rebranding will convince clear thinking, law-abiding citizens to buy a house...ahhhh hell even live in the inner city...how about first starting with building more and bigger jails, hire more police, then the DA start vigourously prosecuting cases, lastly judges start handing out extremely long prison sentences....then mr. wheeler you can talk about more money for rebranding

Sweet son
10398
Points
Sweet son 08/21/13 - 11:55 am
5
0
Mr. Wheeler's group needs to be

forensically audited!

badmoon426
1173
Points
badmoon426 08/21/13 - 12:55 pm
2
0
All these issues were...

...brought out in the ARC Commission on the LWB Overlay.

Lori Davis, Al Gray and Dee Mathis all brought up problems associated with the LWB overlay. Now we bring into play the lack of execution by the Housing Director. Where is the oversight on an authority that essentially can't manage its expenditures? What is return on investment other than greed, graft and consulting fees?

countyman
20120
Points
countyman 08/21/13 - 02:05 pm
1
4
Facts

The Laney Walker/Bethlehem projects has added over $4 million to the local tax base.

The trend across the US shows that young professionals, empty nesters, LGBT community, etc are some of the main people moving into the urban core.

Augusta is following the trend across the US, and Laney Walker is located near the Medical District/CBD.

The same changes that have taken place in Olde Town are now coming to Harrisburg and Laney Walker.

The TEE Center is doing fine, because the $8 million Holiday Inn Express is underway on Broad. The hotel near the common should begin soon too.

Riverman1
83902
Points
Riverman1 08/21/13 - 02:15 pm
3
0
ANIC is out to lunch

Adding 4 million in taxable property while paying $750,000 a year is hardly a deal. $45,000 a month management and $6,000 a month to rebrand. Heh, that word makes me laugh everytime I type it. This Charles Walker started ANIC is out to lunch.

Little Lamb
46016
Points
Little Lamb 08/21/13 - 02:16 pm
3
0
Committee

From the story:

Augusta Commission members put the brakes on a $2.5 million loan sought by the city’s Housing and Community Development director to continue an ongoing redevelopment effort in two historic black districts. . . . A vote to refer the matter to an upcoming committee meeting passed 8-2, with Commissioners Bill Fennoy and Bill Lockett opposed. Any more than a few weeks’ delay, Wheeler said, would cause “serious financial impact.”

Wheeler is guaranteed $50 million from the hotel tax. It's coming in like clockwork, three-quarters of a million a year; but that's not fast enough for Chester Wheeler. He has cronies he would like to pay off faster than that.

Now, at these "retreats" the commissioners are famous for, they agreed one time not to put items on the Commission agenda until they had first gone through committee. Well, lookee here; someone put this bonehead loan proposal on the agenda without first going through committee. Are the commissioners forgetting all the good lessons they learned in kindergarten?

Riverman1
83902
Points
Riverman1 08/21/13 - 02:21 pm
4
0
Countyman, I'm curious how

Countyman, I'm curious how you decide the TEE Center is doing well?

Then there is this: "The Laney Walker/Bethlehem projects has added over $4 million to the local tax base."

So that $4 million in taxable property is the 19 houses that we spent $8 million to build???

badmoon426
1173
Points
badmoon426 08/21/13 - 02:17 pm
1
0
Countyman, I guess you didn't pay attention...

...to the ARC Commission meeting that clearly showed that the LWB Overlay project was not following the established laws and where the local citizens of the affected area were being fed a line of BS.

Lori Davis, Al Gray and Dee Mathis pointed out the issues where the ARC government was not acting in the best interests of the residents of the LWB area. This has been documented in alternative media.

The question is why $660,000 a year on CONSULTANTS out of $750,000 in taxes? Why?

Also, $8,000,000 / 19 new homes = $421,052.63 per home. I have looked at these homes and I would like to know what young professionals or empty nesters are going to put that kind of money into a house where the surrounding homes go for a fraction of $420,000. To me it is an idiotic investment. No person takes a risk on a re-gentrification project without the full commitment of a community to make the change.

badmoon426
1173
Points
badmoon426 08/21/13 - 02:20 pm
2
0
Funny Thing...

...I maybe wrong but I don't see the Holiday Inn on Broad Street listed on the Holiday Inn Rewards site as 'coming soon'.

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