Augusta Commission members learned more but twice failed to pass a motion Thursday to move forward with renovations at the municipal building, a job most of them see as botched.
Issues raised with the $40 million project include the clerk of commission’s complaint that her allotted space is too small, a large mayor’s reception area with no one to staff it, a lack of janitorial closets, a conference room for commission meetings with attorneys that isn’t private and an issue with employee restrooms discovered Thursday.
While the building presumably will eventually include new restrooms for the public, remodeled employee bathrooms include a security code for access but no lock from inside.
“One you go in there, there’s no mechanism to stop anyone from coming in behind you,” Commissioner Marion Williams. He blamed Heery International, the city’s capital projects program manager for a decade, for the issues.
“That company needs to go, that’s the bottom line,” Williams said after the meeting. “Heery’s supposed to be saving us money.”
Commissioner Bill Lockett pointed a finger at “the project manager,” later identified as Deputy Finance Director Tim Schroer.
“The project manager needs to be relieved of that responsibility immediately,” Lockett said, and replaced by “somebody with expertise.”
Former City Administrator Fred Russell appointed Schroer to the task last year, according to Lockett, while various contractors are only “doing what they were told to do.”
“I’m in construction and I know how the game plays,” Commissioner Grady Smith said. “When we made a mistake, let’s be man enough to admit it … They draw and implement what we want them to implement.”
Neither Williams nor Lockett thought more city funds should be spent on the project, and Commissioner Joe Jackson has said the same. All three options presented by interim Administrator Tameka Allen had large price tags.
Meanwhile, the procurement department is occupying the spacious new legal suite into which the commission previously voted to move the clerk while new procurement offices are in the works on the sixth floor, set for completion Nov. 21.
“Right now, we’ve got no space to move procurement in?” said Mayor Deke Copenhaver, asking whether Allen needed a motion to proceed.
Two motions to restart construction on the eighth and ninth floors to create office space for the administrator, risk management and finance, both failed 5-1. Williams opposed each time and commissioners Donnie Smith, Joe Jackson, Bill Fennoy and Wayne Guilfoyle were absent.
The options presented by Allen were:
• Combine two rooms in the legal suite for document storage to move the clerk of commission, $501,454
• Modify the mayor’s reception area, a storage room and shared commissioner offices to create offices for the administrator on the second floor and the law department on the ninth, $1,209,523
• Modify the seventh floor to house the administrator and the Richmond County Marshal and redesign the ninth floor for the law department, $961,737
• Modify the mayor’s reception area, a storage room and the commissioner offices for the administrator, create risk management and marshal offices on the seventh floor and leave the ninth floor as is, $809,581
While part of the project was paid using previous sales tax collections, more than half was to be bonded. The Urban Redevelopment Agency which authorized the bonds in March later turned out to include ineligible members, and the agency has yet to authorize the new bond issue.
Asked by Commissioner Mary Davis whether she could digitize records to save space, Commission Clerk Lena Bonner said even with digital storage state law requires the city keep hard copies, while the courts tend to want “wet signatures” when they subpoena documents. Bonner said she’d saved the city from a lawsuit when she provided hard copies of about 250 documents that went missing from the city’s digital storage.
“Your own law states that (meeting minutes) have to be kept in a bound book,” Bonner said. “I don’t know if the attorney differs.”
General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie offered no opinion.