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Augusta Regional Collaboration Project hits snag over restroom renovation

Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014 4:46 PM
Last updated Thursday, Aug 28, 2014 1:40 AM
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The ARC Project hit a roadblock this week when a city inspector declared the Metro Augusta Chamber of Commerce building unfit for occupancy until a first-floor restroom is installed.

The Augusta Regional Collaborative, a creation of Mayor Deke Copenhaver, has a five-year lease of the city-owned property, a 1976 creation by the firm of renowned architect I.M. Pei located in the 600 block median of Broad Street.

But the unique structure, designed as a series of five connected diamonds, lacks restrooms on its first floor and an elevator never was installed in an included shaft.

Augusta Building Official Marshall Masters said Wednesday that inspector Johnny Smith determined during a preliminary walk-through, required for ARC to obtain a business license and certificate of occupancy, that the building’s lack of a restroom meeting requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act was an issue that had to be addressed before the building could open, and has requested drawings of the planned facilities from ARC.

ARC, which is soliciting proposals from organizations of all kinds to occupy at little cost one of several spaces inside for food and beverage, events, performance and recording, educational or office uses, obtained $300,000 in city funds for the project and another, a mills campus proposal.

A 2012 memorandum of understanding signed by then-Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles states that $100,000 of the funds are to be used for renovations and rehabilitation of the property, although a city finance official said the funds weren’t paid until earlier this summer, after ARC has had construction workers and volunteers performing work on the building.

ARC Executive Director Matt Kwatinetz could not be reached for comment. Al Dallas, Copenhaver’s executive assistant and city liaison on the project, said ARC has drafted a plan for a unisex, ADA-compliant restroom on the first floor and will soon seek bids for the work to be performed. He said the addition will delay opening of the site until October, a month or so behind its scheduled opening in September.

Dallas said the restroom wasn’t a complete oversight but a detail Kwatinetz hoped to address after ARC secured “temporary occupancy” of the building.

ARC has obtained at least 15 applications from organizations seeking to inhabit one of the spaces, but Dallas did not know when those selected would be notified.

One applicant, Brad Owens, said he hopes the Southeastern Filmmakers Association – of which he is president – will be chosen to get to use one or more of the spaces for its monthly meetings and occasional mini-film screenings.

The networking organization has around 400 members but hasn’t had a permanent place to gather for some time, Owens said.

Owens noted the irony of the city citing its own building for a deficiency, but said any development in the 600 block is a positive one for downtown Augusta.

“I consider it a positive thing that this is even a concern,” Owens said, “because I know that people will be using the building again.”

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Riverman1
84040
Points
Riverman1 08/27/14 - 08:37 pm
9
2
Brad has had kind words about

Brad has had kind words about Matt K. Maybe his group will get a room when it opens.

Dixieman
14950
Points
Dixieman 08/27/14 - 09:03 pm
15
0
I love my government.

My government tells me what kind of light bulbs I may use.
My government tells me how much water my toilets can flush.
My government tells me the races of persons I may and may not hire to keep within its laws and regulations.
My government causes me to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on things I may not like, agree with, or need. Like a first floor bathroom in this building.
But I do not mind paying extra money for all these things.
Because my government is wise and benevolent.
And can put me in jail if I do not comply.

Little Lamb
46022
Points
Little Lamb 08/27/14 - 09:45 pm
9
2
Brad and K

Yes, RM, I remember Brad Owens praising Matt K. in the comments a week or two ago, and I thought it odd then. Now we know why.

Politics makes strange bedfellows.

Brad Owens
4436
Points
Brad Owens 08/27/14 - 10:53 pm
6
7
Not so much..

I don't profit of off my public service, never have, never will. I have good ethics and moral values that are instilled in me from my parents and grand parents. Anyone wishing to question my integrity over trying to help out an organization I am the president of and happen to love needs to get to know me better.

I discussed applying for a space for the Filmmakers group to meet over a couple of months meetings, there was not one member opposed to putting in the application. I am very hopeful that we will be selected to participate in the 600 Broad project and also would hope that the group, now over a dozen years old, would be selected for its own merits, not something I said or petty politics.

And look at it this way, the building will be up to code now and much more valuable an asset for the taxpayer than if it were still sitting empty and falling into further disrepair.

Now, let me be clear; I have been singing the praises of Matt since we got to know each other earlier this year. He is a very smart and dedicated person with an MBA from the Wharton School of Business which puts him in a rare category of talent in the U.S. much less Augusta. It is rare to have a person of his caliber donating his time and talents to help out a city run like Augusta is.

I suggest anyone wanting to know more contact Matt directly, he is an open book and always ready to tell folks about the work here.

Brad

bdouglas
5034
Points
bdouglas 08/27/14 - 11:22 pm
13
1
"It is rare to have a person

"It is rare to have a person of his caliber donating his time and talents to help out a city run like Augusta is."

While I make no judgement of Mr. Kwatinetz myself, I take issue with saying he is "donating his time." He's not doing what he's doing without a paycheck by any means. Just because the county might not be paying his salary directly, he's not doing anything for free.

GnipGnop
12240
Points
GnipGnop 08/28/14 - 02:55 am
8
1
Kinda ironic

That a project that is Deke's is held up because their isn't a proper place to dispose of CACA....

Riverman1
84040
Points
Riverman1 08/28/14 - 04:47 am
10
1
About "Donating"

Yeah, I coughed on the "donating his time" too. But that's ok, Brad. We understand.

Riverman1
84040
Points
Riverman1 08/28/14 - 05:07 am
11
1
Question for His Majesty

I wonder if we regular folks who didn't graduate from The Deep Springs Academy, Harvard, Wharton and don't ride tandem bikes with Deke will ever be privy to the accounting of the ARC and Matt's salary since the organization received $300,000 in county money and almost got over $5 million? I realize we are all simpletons like the TV reporter who tried to ask the royal one a question about Ft. Discovery and was screamed at for such umbrage and summarily dismissed from the royal court for eternity.

corgimom
32523
Points
corgimom 08/28/14 - 05:16 am
5
3
Dixieman, if someone is

Dixieman, if someone is unable to climb stairs, what are they supposed to do when they need to use the restroom?

That's not just code, that's common sense.

dsterling9
832
Points
dsterling9 08/28/14 - 08:38 am
9
2
THE REAL QUESTION...

The question is why this project was allowed to proceed in the first place without proper plans and drawings and why our tax dollars are being used on an poorly planned and executed 'scheme'?!

historylover
8771
Points
historylover 08/28/14 - 08:54 am
8
0
Brad Owens

I do know you and I respect you and your dedication to our community very much. I think the main problem with this project is the same as in most things in ARC. The lack of transparency. Where the money allocated has gone, how it will be used and who will occupy the building. Matt K and Deke have done a poor job of "putting their business in the streets" so to speak. Just honoring the taxpayers with information would go a long way in ARC.

Brad Owens
4436
Points
Brad Owens 08/28/14 - 09:42 am
5
1
historylover, thanks..

I am very proud that The Southeastern Filmmakers (SEFM) is being considered for use of this space for meetings, film related classes, mini-film festivals that showcase local independent filmmakers work and other related uses.

SEFM has been around for over 12 years and it is a networking group that supports independent film making through networking, volunteers, classes and organization. We are a member of the GAAC and support all local film making by providing a clearing house for information on local film related art. SEFM doesn't make movies as an organization, it simply connects folks who do in a forum so they can share information on their film projects and have a group that can provide volunteer support.

I do think it is funny that anyone would attack me for doing my job as President and applying through the ARC for meeting and office space, but given this town I guess that was inevitable that I would be attacked for it because it is an easy shot to take for those with agendas, but my support for Matt and my request for space are not related.

And for the record, I like Matt Kwatinetz and I consider him a friend at this point. I have gotten to know him pretty well this past year and the characterizations of him by people who have never met him nor have any information about what it is he has done here in town are the reasons I "defend" him or sing his praises.

I suggest folks get informed and learn more before they speak. And with that I ask; What EXACTLY have they (ARC) not been open about? I would agree that maybe they could have done a better job of getting information out, but not announcing something with a brass band press conference and hiding things are not the same thing. But maybe they feel results are a better thing to tout than to just spin possibilities/promise into fake news.

And as a taxpayer I would rather have 600 Broad occupied and up to code like it will be than empty and deteriorating like it was.

The fact it is going to be art related is excellent because we need more focus on helping artist who maybe cannot afford a gallery on Artist Row.

I would challenge anyone to do an ORR to see exactly how much of the "approved" tax monies has been turned over and what it has been spent on. The answer will surprise you.

Anyway, this is a good thing for downtown and a good use for an otherwise useless asset that city owned, so of course I support it.

Brad

Brad Owens
4436
Points
Brad Owens 08/28/14 - 09:49 am
6
1
RM1...

HAS the ARC received (key word here, RECEIVED) $300,000 in county money? HAS IT? That is the question that I want someone else to find out. Have you done and ORR to find out? I know who you are and you can do an ORR yourself and get the answers. In fact, I challenge you to ask that very question and come back with the answer please. I would very much like to hear your comments with the facts in your hands.

The answer WILL surprise you.

pja5529
1907
Points
pja5529 08/28/14 - 10:30 am
6
1
Brad thanks!

Thank you for your comment! I think its ironic that people complain about downtown, the vacancies, dilapidated buildings etc....and these same naysayers complain when a revitalization project takes place downtown.

Riverman1
84040
Points
Riverman1 08/28/14 - 10:40 am
5
1
Brad, I didn"t attack you.

Brad, I didn't attack you. I said or implied I now knew why you have been vocal supporting Matt. I can understand you doing what's best for the organization you lead and that's what I said.

You ask me if the ARC has received the $300,000 from the county. All I know is the Chronicle says they did...even here in this article. But this brings up the transparency issue again. Why not divulge all their income from the county and private sources? Is the money kept seperately? Reveal Matt's salary and the plans for the organization. Why doesn't Matt talk to the press.

This is Richmond Cty money at stake, not a communal pile of cash at The Deep Springs Academy where they collect money to grow rutabagas. You suggest he actually has not taken possession of the county's $300 K as if that makes it all right when all it does is show even more lack of transparency since we know the county money is somewhere in the mix. Only the heavens know exactly where is the problem.

pja5529
1907
Points
pja5529 08/28/14 - 11:20 am
2
5
riverman

it sounds like you are saying he is kissing Matt's behind just to get meeting space for his group...which I would definitely take as an attack on my character if that were directed at me.

Riverman1
84040
Points
Riverman1 08/28/14 - 11:21 am
5
2
PJA, have your hearing

PJA, have your hearing tested.

badmoon426
1173
Points
badmoon426 08/28/14 - 11:45 am
6
1
Don't Worry...

...Georgia Official Records Request have been filed and will be filed over the circumstances surrounding the ARC project and it's personnel and management.

Accountability and transparency are key to shedding light on this project that didn't have to follow any established protocols to gaining access (or almost access) to the taxpayer bank vault.

badmoon426
1173
Points
badmoon426 08/28/14 - 11:50 am
5
0
No Business License...

...what other official documentation is the ARC Project missing?

Susan McCord
127
Points
Susan McCord 08/28/14 - 12:17 pm
6
0
ARC $

According to finance department, ARC was paid the $300,000 in a lump sum earlier this summer. It must have been in July because it was not on the June or May statements.

badmoon426
1173
Points
badmoon426 08/28/14 - 12:28 pm
5
0
Susan McCord...

...what about the other business and legal documents that are required for business in Augusta Richmond County?

I heard they were missing some if not all of their documents.

Riverman1
84040
Points
Riverman1 08/28/14 - 02:00 pm
5
0
Where Did The Money Go Then?

"According to finance department, ARC was paid the $300,000 in a lump sum earlier this summer. It must have been in July because it was not on the June or May statements."

Brad, you don't think they got the money? We may have a real story here if that's the case.

dichotomy
32988
Points
dichotomy 08/28/14 - 02:22 pm
5
0
"The question is why this

"The question is why this project was allowed to proceed in the first place"

Because, like every other Augusta government and quasi-government project, they are too incompetent to put together a company picnic. If you think it is hard to figure out where the $300K went and who has it, just imagine if they had gotten the $5.5 million.

With all the crap going on behind closed doors in Augusta government I can't figure out why they keep forgetting to put in the bathrooms...especially in the Marble Palace. Maybe that is the stench we keep smelling out here in South Richmond.

pja5529
1907
Points
pja5529 08/28/14 - 02:31 pm
1
4
Riverman

I don't need to.

Little Lamb
46022
Points
Little Lamb 08/28/14 - 03:13 pm
4
1
No Attack

pja5529 posted to riverman:

it sounds like you are saying he is kissing Matt's behind just to get meeting space for his group...which I would definitely take as an attack on my character if that were directed at me.

Merely making an accurate statement of the motive of another person is not an attack.

Brad Owens
4436
Points
Brad Owens 08/28/14 - 04:08 pm
3
1
LL,

That is not an "accurate" statement and questioning my motives when I have stated what they are is and attack .. sorry.

You all don't like Matt, no problem, I do. You all have never met or worked with him, I have. My opinions are based on firsthand knowledge, your's are not.

So I stand by all of my comments (with my real name attached) and you all can make inaccurate statements with innuendo based on what you think you know.

Brad

Brad Owens
4436
Points
Brad Owens 08/28/14 - 04:11 pm
2
1
badmoon426..

Who did you "hear" that information from? Since we are talking about transparency (Ironic a person using a fake name talks about that) why not put your name on your postings and tell the world who "told" you that ARC didn't have it's paperwork.

I am betting you "heard" it from the same people you get most of your incorrect information from.

Brad

badmoon426
1173
Points
badmoon426 08/28/14 - 06:14 pm
3
1
Brad Owens...

...that is my nickname and 426 was my dorm room number when I was a student at Georgia Tech.

Riverman1
84040
Points
Riverman1 08/28/14 - 07:04 pm
3
0
Brad, Your Turn To Comment

Brad said to me: "HAS the ARC received (key word here, RECEIVED) $300,000 in county money? HAS IT? That is the question that I want someone else to find out. Have you done and ORR to find out? I know who you are and you can do an ORR yourself and get the answers. In fact, I challenge you to ask that very question and come back with the answer please. I would very much like to hear your comments with the facts in your hands.

The answer WILL surprise you."

Brad, Susan answered the question in the comments so it's now up to you to supply the comments about where the $300,000 is or went.

By the way, common sense says you will not say anything negative about Matt K. when you are trying to get him to give your organization free space in the building. I don't mean that to denigrate your character. It's simply common sense. Now answer the question you were pushing me to answer since SOMEBODY got the money and it is SOMEWHERE.

historylover
8771
Points
historylover 08/28/14 - 07:27 pm
1
0
badmoon426

Go Jackets! We have had many Tech alumni in our family and still have three on their way to graduation. No comment other than that, other than "If I had a daughter sir, I'll tell you what I'd do..."

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