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Augusta Commission halts municipal building construction until space issues resolved

Tuesday, June 3, 2014 10:43 PM
Last updated Wednesday, June 4, 2014 7:50 AM
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Augusta Commission members blasted the architect and, to a lesser extent, the project manager, in voting Tuesday to suspend construction on two floors at Augusta Municipal Building until space issues are resolved, but vowed not to spend more money on the $40 million renovation project.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the commission took no action on two unpopular garbage fee increases for property owners in the old city limits and owners of vacant lots, citing Environmental Services Director Mark Johnson’s absence.

“I don’t think the aggravation should be directed toward his assistant,” Commissioner Bill Lockett said.

Commission Clerk Lena Bonner drew attention to the building’s space issues on the partially renovated second floor last week. The former home of two courtrooms and court offices, the floor presently houses the mayor’s suite, the city law department, a spacious new commission chamber and the clerk of commission’s space, a cramped area behind the commission chamber with a single restroom for men and women.

The $40 million project included insufficient storage space for records, such as historic documents stored in an eighth floor vault, which former clerk Thomas Beckham made sure was included during construction of the building in the 1950s, Bonner said Tuesday.

When she raised the issue of record storage space with project manager Heery International, “they were very dismissive,” Bonner said. They “apparently didn’t appreciate the historical value of those records.”

Options for addressing the space and layout issues include giving the clerk the new offices of the city law department, located at the west end of the floor across from the mayor’s office.

In correspondence obtained by The Chronicle, Gen­eral Counsel Andrew Mac­Kenzie sought and obtained larger-than-standard offices for himself and Senior Coun­sel Wayne Brown “for Wayne and I to conduct our meetings and negotiations in a private and more amicable setting than can be had in a formal conference room.”

He also needed table and desk space “to view large numbers of documents, exhibits, plats and maps” and extra storage space to “keep a large number of files in our office for quick retrieval and access, convenience and security.”

A second option presented by Interim Administrator Tameka Allen was a $2,500 meeting with Heery and architectural firm Virgo Gambill to seek a solution.

“I want to know who designed this floor – who set this up?” Commissioner Marion Williams asked. “I’m really disappointed with the architect and with the work that’s been done here.”

Mayor Deke Copenhaver, whose spacious new office includes a restroom, a large reception area and his own entrance, said he hadn’t had much input on the layout. “I knew I wasn’t going to be there that long,” he said.

“I’m not going to spend another taxpayer’s dollar on this building until it gets fixed,” said Commissioner Joe Jackson. “Why do we have Heery? Where is the forethought?”

Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson proposed stopping work on the eighth and ninth floors, the intended new home of the city finance department and administrators.

“I am in construction,” Johnson said. “I don’t understand how the law department got so much space and the clerk got so little ... There’s a lot of unused space on this floor.”

Commissioner Donnie Smith said he recalled a change order sought by Virgo Gambill for additional design work on the project.

“They are the only people in this room that are responsible,” Smith said. “Gentlemen, I am just as disappointed in you today as the first day I met y’all.”

Mason offered a comparison between the single restroom in the commission space, presumably to be shared by men and women, and the law department’s two spacious restrooms.

“I don’t see where I’m going to spend any additional anything,” he said. “Subject matter experts and technical people, that’s what we pay them very handsomely for.”

Architect Steve Virgo with the firm listened to the criticism from the rear of the large commission chamber, then left the meeting.

Commissioners Wayne Guilfoyle and Bill Fennoy opposed stopping the project. “Once we stop, it’s hard to get started back,” Guilfoyle said.

As they were about to vote on suspending the project, Johnson said due to “legality issues” relayed to him by Brown, the commission ought to hold off on the vote until a called Monday meeting.

Brown said “it would seem appropriate to schedule immediate meetings” of the clerk, administrator, Heery and architects ahead of a vote to stop construction.

Johnson said demolition work on the eighth and ninth floors could continue but new construction should stop.

A motion to suspend construction but proceed with demolition “until the matter is resolved at no cost to Augusta-Richmond County” passed 7-2, with Guilfoyle and Commissioner Bill Fennoy voting no.

In another item, commissioners named Bonnie Ruben, Isaac McKinney and Amanda Bryant to three open seats on the Urban Redevelopment Agency, the entity charged with issuing bonds to fund the renovation project and a handful of other downtown construction projects. The members replace three others deemed ineligible for holding other commission board appointments.

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Butterman
3696
Points
Butterman 06/03/14 - 10:32 pm
5
2
Bonnie Ruben
Unpublished

will be a fantastic addition to this authority. Bonnie has business smarts and will keep track of every dollar. These other names are mysteries though. Who appointed the other two? Who are they and what qualifies them to sit on this authority?

Sonny Pittman
239
Points
Sonny Pittman 06/03/14 - 11:21 pm
8
1
Public bathrooms

And, the second floor, where the new and much improved Augusta Commission chamber is located has NO public bathrooms. An important consideration when citizens, especially baby boomers like myself, want to attend and listen to long public meetings.

Sonny Pittman
239
Points
Sonny Pittman 06/03/14 - 11:27 pm
6
1
Public bathrooms

And, the second floor, where the new and much improved Augusta Commission chamber is located has NO public bathrooms. An important consideration when citizens, especially baby boomers like myself, want to attend and listen to long public meetings.

just an opinion
2951
Points
just an opinion 06/04/14 - 06:35 am
7
0
The clerk of commission has been on PAID LEAVE for two years

It's two late now and two expensive to change it.

Dixieman
17596
Points
Dixieman 06/04/14 - 05:37 am
12
1
Yes, blame...

...the architect and the project manager, not the politicians themselves.
These clowns could not organize a two-car funeral.
I think they should be put in charge of Obamacare enrollment, which seems to be on the same level as their skillsets.

nocnoc
49681
Points
nocnoc 06/04/14 - 06:24 am
6
0
Marble Money Pit

$40Million and holding...
What are we now at $40M, a 2.2X in project overrun?
An of the leaders that 5+ years ago voted for this one saw this
coming

According to the AC
http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/government/2013-08-18/municipal-buildi...

The original 1957 cost figure for the Municipal Building was about $4.4 million after land acquisition and demolition of the Richmond County Courthouse was completed.

$4.4M in 2014 $$$$ equals
$4,400,000 in 1957 → $37,152,739.13 in 2014

Wow we are right at the point where it is costing ARC as much to fix it as it did to build it.

It is looking like we need a Outside Forensics Construction Audit more everyday?

Brad Owens
4922
Points
Brad Owens 06/04/14 - 07:39 am
3
5
Butterman...

What are your qualifications to assess if someone is qualified and would make a good Commissioner on the URA?

You're right about Bonnie Ruben being a great addition, but so are the other two appointees, they are solid citizens and meet the qualification requirements.

I remember when I was appointed you made all sorts of negative comments about me and then had to eat your words on the Municipal Building bond issue, so why don't you give your "informed" opinion a rest?

Brad

itsanotherday1
48419
Points
itsanotherday1 06/04/14 - 07:41 am
7
0
Brad

Thanks for the info on the other two; but political appointments are and should be open to public scrutiny. Too many times they are people who are buddies, etc. who don't have a clue. I speak from experience after watching the Coliseum Authority operate over the years, and attending some of their meetings.

Marinerman1
5499
Points
Marinerman1 06/04/14 - 07:44 am
7
0
Storage of Documents

My hunch is that the "Legal Beagles" are a little big headed of themselves, and got to the Architect. Private, personal bathrooms ? Really ? The Clerk needs the storage space, more. However, unless there is some historical value on the original, most old documents should be scanned and indexed into a records management system, which will take up only disk space on a server. Copies should be burned to DVD or other medium for archival copies. Who is going to polish the lawyers' gold-plated bathroom fixtures ???

triscuit
3266
Points
triscuit 06/04/14 - 07:48 am
6
2
I just wish Bonnie Ruben

I just wish Bonnie Ruben would take care of her own dilapidated property before she gives advice on other issues.

Discussionstarter
501
Points
Discussionstarter 06/04/14 - 08:06 am
5
0
Typical Deke

“I knew I wasn’t going to be there that long,” he said. Deke.... when do you think input should be made.... after the project is complete?! A $40 million expenditure.... with a hands-off approach; no wonder this city is in trouble. Iwould have been embarrased to make that comment. But you had no hesitation trying to slip $7 million in for your mills project and all your energy for a new stadium. I think the new Mayor from Ga Tech might have learned how to deal with these type issues.

Riverman1
94274
Points
Riverman1 06/04/14 - 08:19 am
9
0
Moving Toward $65 Million

Moving closer to Al Gray's $65 million forecast.

dichotomy
37628
Points
dichotomy 06/04/14 - 08:37 am
9
0
As I have said all

As I have said all along.....put our contracting folks and our commissioners all together in a pot and stir it and all together they STILL cannot organize a company picnic. Most of them are all mouth and few brains.

Just keep on electing them using the ONE requirement....and keep on hiring and giving those department heads huge pay raises because they meet the ONE requirement.......but their incompetence ALWAYS shows up in the product. NOT ONE SUCCESS......EVER. The Municipal building is a classic example of our government's incompetence.

Whenever our Augusta government starts talking about some big expensive project, what the TAXPAYERS should hear is "It will cost between 2 and 5 times what we say it will cost and it will be a complete failure or totally unusable when finally finished". NOT ONE SUCCESS....EVER. Especially DOWNTOWN projects.

Wait.....there might be one success. The one where they bulldozed a city block and planted grass and called it the Commons. Okay, I'll give them that one. That is about the height of our governments level of competence. They should not attempt anything more complicated than the planting grass.

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 06/04/14 - 08:45 am
4
1
Garbage

Remember that last year the commission established a special committee whose task was to recommend ways to make the property tax system and the fees more consistent. Recall that people inside the old city limits pay more for some things than people outside, and they pay less for some things than people outside.

So the Solid Waste Director took the task seriously and has offered this recommendation to attempt to smooth things out. What did the commission do? Led by Bill Lockett they voted to take no action! Wow! That’s some leadership.

The Solid Waste Director could not come to the meeting, so he briefed his deputy director and he briefed the finance director. They were prepared to answer any germane questions (and I'm sure they would have tried to answer any inane questions as well).

Here is what Commissioner Lockett said when moving to table the proposal:

“I don’t think the aggravation should be directed toward his assistant.”

That is shameful, Mr. Lockett. His deputy director is capable of answering your questions. The thing is, you did not have any intelligent questions to ask.

I'll leave it up to you readers to decide whether Bill Lockett is a vain man. But there are some in the community who stroke his ego. Here is a quote from the January 17, 2013 number of The Metro Courier:

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

What can one man do? It's a question we often ask ourselves—whether we think about elected officials or we think about ourselves. When it comes to District 5 Commissioner Bill Lockett, it's clear what one man can do. One man can make a difference!

Lockett's impact on the Commission has been far-reaching—by that, we mean he has included ALL residents into discussions about this city's future with his transparency and openness on key issues.

It is Lockett who challenges efforts to privatize city services at every turn. It is Lockett who stood alone in an original call for an audit into the controversial TEE Center and parking deck deals. It is Lockett who continues to scrutinize the city's Housing and Community Development department. All of these things are needed—and we shudder to think what may have happened in Augusta-Richmond County the last three years if Lockett hadn't been on the Commission.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I'm shuddering a little myself, but for different reasons than Metro Courier publisher Barbara Gordon.

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 06/04/14 - 08:58 am
5
0
Look in the mirror

From the story:

“I want to know who designed this floor – who set this up?” Commissioner Marion Williams asked. “I’m really disappointed with the architect and with the work that’s been done here.”

Well, Fred (What, me worry?) Russell told the architects what he wanted, the architect drew it up, but the commission approved it!

Pops
14741
Points
Pops 06/04/14 - 09:10 am
6
0
He's a lawyer and an architect

Marion Williams is amazing.......he should be put in charge of the entire county.

foxsilong
917
Points
foxsilong 06/04/14 - 09:19 am
4
0
approved a plan without even knowing "who designed this floor?"

“I want to know who designed this floor – who set this up?” Commissioner Marion Williams asked. “I’m really disappointed with the architect and with the work that’s been done here.”

Any disappointment or questions should have been addressed BEFORE approving the project. If the commission wasn't happy with the floor plans, they should have not approve the plan. Architects don't just draw based on their imaginary world. That is why consulting with architects (or any engineer/ doctor/ lawyer) cost money.

*high five Little Lamb*

Brad Owens
4922
Points
Brad Owens 06/04/14 - 09:46 am
3
3
itsanotherday1...

The information is available here;

http://appweb.augustaga.gov/agendapublic/meetings.aspx#

Click on the meeting agenda for yesterday and the click on "HTML" version of the agenda. Then scroll down to the item 38, the URA appointments, and off to the side you click on the "Attachments" thumbnail to see the Talent bank forms.

That tells you all about each of the appointees.

Hope that helps.

Amanda Bryant was the President of the GRU Student Senate and graduated with a degree in Political Science and Public Administration.

Brad

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 06/04/14 - 09:51 am
4
0
Amanda

I have met Amanda Bryant. I know her political philosophy, and I approve.

burninater
9943
Points
burninater 06/04/14 - 12:42 pm
2
1
"...unless there is some

"...unless there is some historical value on the original, most old documents should be scanned and indexed into a records management system, which will take up only disk space on a server. Copies should be burned to DVD or other medium for archival copies."
------
There are multiple problems with longterm electronic storage.

Surprisingly, electronic storage media decay. Here are the expected lifespans:

"Floppy disk: 3-5 years. Though no longer made, many still exist; examples include 8”, 5.25” and 3.5” disks, along with items such as Zip and Jaz disks.

Flash media: 1-10 years. This category includes USB flash drives (also known as jump drives or thumb drives), SD/SDHC cards and solid-state drives; all generally are less reliable than traditional spinning-disk hard drives.

Hard drive: 2-8 years. The health of a spinning disk hard drive often depends on the environment; excessive heat, for example, can lead to quick failure.

CD/DVD/Blu-ray optical disk: 2-10 years. There is large variation in the quality of optical media; note that “burnable” discs typically have a shorter life than “factory pressed” discs).

Magnetic tape: 10-30 years. Tape is a more expensive storage option for most users–it depends on specialty equipment–but it is the most reliable media available."

http://agogified.com/97

Another issue is that old files become technically unreadable as software and operating systems change.

"Computer technology changes very quickly. Commonly used storage media can become obsolete within a few years. Current and future computers may not:

Have drives that can read older media.
Have hardware connections that can attach to older media (or media drives).
Have device drivers that can recognize older media hardware.
Have software that can read older files on media."

http://agogified.com/97

Municipal records are kept for decades. Switching to electronic storage would require periodic transfer to new storage media, and periodic reformatting and transfer of storage files to maintain compatibility with new hardware and software.

This would not be cheap. Can you say ER (electronic records) SPLOST?

Marinerman1
5499
Points
Marinerman1 06/04/14 - 12:52 pm
4
0
@ Burninater

My idea is a start, and better than housing document originals that could be destroyed by fire or water. They could be also scanned to microfiche or microfilm.

burninater
9943
Points
burninater 06/04/14 - 01:06 pm
3
0
Good point Marineman1, fiche

Good point Marineman1, fiche or film would be a much better longterm storage medium than the electronic ones I considered.

I wonder what the relative costs would be though between transferring the records vs simply storing the originals, and I suspect that even if a transfer to film or fiche occurred there would still be significant pressure to maintain the originals rather than destroying them outright.

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 06/04/14 - 01:18 pm
3
0
Storage

Perhaps the city should contact The Augusta Chronicle about long term storage of records. They seem to be able to retrieve articles in the newspaper and old photographs for several hundred years.

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 06/04/14 - 01:19 pm
3
0
Funerals

Dixieman posted:

These clowns could not organize a two-car funeral.

All this talk about Bonnie Ruben and funerals reminded me of a Kenny Rogers song called Reuben James. Here is the verse:

Reuben James, one dark cloudy day
They brought you from the field,
And to your lonely pine box came
Just a preacher, me and the rain,
Just to sing one last refrain to Reuben James.

Darby
29483
Points
Darby 06/04/14 - 03:15 pm
6
0
"Mayor Deke Copenhaver,

said he hadn’t had much input on the layout. “I knew I wasn’t going to be there that long,” he said."

.
Good thinking Deke - Sort of encapsulates your entire tenure.

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 06/04/14 - 04:21 pm
3
0
Zinger

That's a good one, Darby.

:-)

Gage Creed
19456
Points
Gage Creed 06/04/14 - 08:30 pm
0
0
Dig a little deeper...

More to this story than is being told...

dsterling9
1255
Points
dsterling9 06/09/14 - 07:55 am
0
0
ELECTRONIC STORAGE

Yes, electronic storage devices do degrade overtime. That is why most individuals, business, and even governments have a paid off-site electronic storage backup. Even I have duplicate backup for my personal/home devices. Common sense is...well...you know!

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