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Augusta Commission stalls bond refinance vote

Tuesday, Aug 5, 2014 11:11 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Aug 6, 2014 12:29 AM
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A high-stakes contest between a minority-owned Atlanta bond underwriting firm and Augusta financial advisers shifted into high gear Tuesday, when a vote to refinance hundreds of millions in debt stalled because of a lack of Augusta Commission support.

The commission had been approached in May by an Atlanta firm, IFS Securities, about whether the package the city’s financial advisers was presenting for approval was the best deal, in the face of IFS’ promise to save the city $22 million.

Plus, IFS Vice President Craig Walker reiterated in a Monday e-mail to commissioners, “the city/county of Augusta/Richmond has never utilized an African-American firm as a prime contractor with a black population of over 50 percent … Here the city has the perfect opportunity to end the troubled track record of economic apartheid” in Augusta.

Financial adviser Dianne McNabb and special city counsel Jim Plunkett have maintained that the bond refunding deal had been in the works for some time and that competitively bidding the bond sale was the best way to handle traditional water and sewer bonds with little risk, considering the city’s high bond rating.

The bonds being refunded are from three bond issues done since 2000 to pay for nearly $400 million in utilities infrastructure improvements over the last decade, Utilities Director Tom Wiedmeier said. The city refinanced its 2002 bonds two years ago and intends to do a third issue for its 2007 bonds.

Even if the city opted to consider IFS for the deal, typically the city would need to use the official procurement process to seek bids from several providers, he said.

“I don’t see how they could go and pick the one firm,” Wiedmeier said.

Walker’s Monday e-mail, however, continued to question whether the city’s fees were the lowest McNabb could obtain and asserted that her previous employer, A.G. Edwards, had managed or co-managed four of Augusta’s last six bond transactions.

He also claimed the city’s water and sewer bond rating had dropped since the city used negotiated sales instead of competitively bid ones. McNabb denied A.G. Edwards had worked on any of the transactions and said the rating had increased.

Commissioner Bill Fennoy, who missed the committee discussion and was absent for the vote Tuesday, said he needed more information but would be willing to consider IFS’ proposal.

Commissioner Bill Lockett, who with Commissioners Marion Williams and Alvin Mason voted against moving forward with the deal Tuesday, said he was concerned about how the process had been handled but would likely agree to move forward with the package prepared by McNabb and Plunkett.

“Many misstatements were made,” Lockett said of McNabb’s and Walker’s conflicting information. “I’m quite sure if what she said was not true, more information will be forthcoming.”

Overall, the IFS proposal “opened my eyes to a lot,” Lockett said. “We will definitely be looking close, real close, in the future.”

Williams said McNabb wanted to meet privately with him to discuss the deal, but he insisted they meet “in open session” before the full commission.

“They said they did a bid process, but it never came back to us,” Williams said of the city’s use of McNabb and various others involved in the transactions. “When the other company came in and said they could get all this savings … .”

Commissioners voting to move forward with the deal Tuesday were Donnie Smith, Mary Davis and Joe Jackson. Wayne Guilfoyle, Corey Johnson and Fennoy were absent for the vote, which failed 3-4.

McNabb said she hoped to complete the deal by Oct. 2. It isn’t required but will save the city money on interest once completed.

Comments (12) Add comment
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GnipGnop
12752
Points
GnipGnop 08/06/14 - 01:28 am
2
0
Huh?

Commissioner Bill Lockett, who with Commissioners Marion Williams and Alvin Mason voted against moving forward with the deal Tuesday, said he was concerned about how the process had been handled but would likely agree to move forward with the package prepared by McNabb and Plunkett....so concerned that he will vote for it anyway? You just can't make this nonsense up

ColCo
927
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ColCo 08/06/14 - 04:41 am
5
0
"The troubled track record of economic apartheid"

Nothing like a salesperson from out-of-town race baiting to close a sale.

corgimom
38759
Points
corgimom 08/06/14 - 06:24 am
5
1
More incompetency from the

More incompetency from the commission...does it never end?

I would've told IFS what they could've done and where they could go, who do they think they are?

Riverman1
94299
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Riverman1 08/06/14 - 06:35 am
2
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Just As Well Wait Till January

Just as well put everything on hold until January. Then the changes will begin for better or worse.

nocnoc
49696
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nocnoc 08/06/14 - 07:20 am
6
0
Why be limited to a color

WHY NOT JUST PICK THE BEST CONTRACTOR?

Brad Owens
4922
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Brad Owens 08/06/14 - 07:21 am
2
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So let me get this right...

An outside "firm" the county has never never worked with and who did NOT participate in the procurement process, shows up promising pie in the sky savings based on incomplete information.

They inappropriately contact the commissioner directly via email and tried influence the African-American commissioners with play on the racial division in Augusta to try and get this business?

They have no track record, they did not participate in the process, they presented false/misleading information directly to the commission, they use highly inappropriate and inflammatory language (which he obviously has no idea what it means) to describe the city procurement process and then expects to be taken seriously?

Sounds legit to me.

Brad

P.S. Anyone claiming they can save us $22,000,000.00 on a bond refinance of that size is a snake oil salesman, the numbers don't lie.

Pops
14753
Points
Pops 08/06/14 - 07:39 am
2
0
These are the kind of financial issues

that show these guys truly in over their heads.........they are not that smart....

Dixieman
17603
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Dixieman 08/06/14 - 08:15 am
4
0
This is outrageous

“the city/county of Augusta/Richmond has never utilized an African-American firm as a prime contractor with a black population of over 50 percent … Here the city has the perfect opportunity to end the troubled track record of economic apartheid” in Augusta.
-------------------------------
And your remaining qualifications for this bid are -- ??
Race-baiting is totally offensive.

Riverman1
94299
Points
Riverman1 08/06/14 - 08:28 am
2
0
"New, progressive Augusta"

Welcome to the "new, progressive Augusta."

dichotomy
37643
Points
dichotomy 08/06/14 - 08:33 am
3
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I think Brad summed this one

I think Brad summed this one up quite well. With the worm turning, look for lots more of these "instant" black owned businesses to come out of the woodwork to take money from our "racially sensitive" majority commission.

Lots of lawsuits to follow.

Sweet son
11763
Points
Sweet son 08/06/14 - 10:24 am
3
0
IFS shows just what it is by playing the 'race card' in it's

pitch for the job. corgi and I agree and disagree but she is right on this one. IFS should be told where to go and I love it that three black commissioners saw through IFS's antics. And also IFS likening Augusta politics to apartheid is just insulting to all of us!

I suspect that the law requires a competitive bid process and IFS or any other 'minority business' should not be given extra consideration because of that designation.

ColCo
927
Points
ColCo 08/06/14 - 03:18 pm
3
0
Sweet son

In Hardie's upcoming brave new world, what will constitute a "minority business" in Richmond County?

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