Trade center wins approval

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Commissioners approved a proposed multimillion-dollar trade, exhibit and event center Tuesday, but only after four commissioners walked out of the contentious meeting.

The 6-0 vote in favor of the proposed site and operating agreement came after an initial vote failed 5-3-2.

The TEE center will go on a site adjacent to the city-owned convention center and the Augusta Marriott Hotel & Suites on Reynolds Street. The vote also approved a 50-year operating agreement with Augusta Riverfront LLC to cover $350,000 in annual capital and operational costs.

City Administrator Fred Russell said the next step is hammering out a formal contract between the city and Augusta Riverfront, though he said he's not sure how long that will take.

It likely will be 2010 before the city sees a building, said Barry White, the president of the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau. It will take about a year to design the center and two to build it.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver called for a 10-minute recess after the first vote, but Commissioners J.R. Hatney, Marion Williams, Calvin Holland and Bernard Harper did not return.

The remaining commissioners voted to reconsider the proposal, which has failed to win approval several times in the past year. It quickly passed as Commissioner Jerry Brigham, who had voted no the first time, cast the needed sixth vote.

The $350,000 will be paid for with a $1 hotel occupancy fee. An estimated $750,000 in excess from that fee will go toward a community-redevelopment plan proposed by Mr. Russell, which would revitalize neglected historic neighborhoods such as Laney-Walker and Bethlehem.

The contract also will now include an annual audit of the TEE center and the convention center.

Several commissioners expressed frustration before the first vote that they had not seen the redevelopment plans or changes to the operating agreement ahead of time and should not be asked to vote on something they had not looked over.

"I don't have any information," Mr. Hatney said during the recess. "Until I see it, it don't mean a thing to me."

Mr. Brigham said he changed his vote after talking with Mr. Russell, who Mr. Brigham said eased some of his concerns.

"He soothed my soul enough that I could vote for it," Mr. Brigham said.

While negotiating the contract for the TEE center, Mr. Russell said he hopes to bond the $37.5 million for the redevelopment project, the excess amount estimated to come from the $1 fee during the contract's 50-year life.

Under the proposal, Mr. Copenhaver and Mayor Pro Tem Betty Beard would appoint a group to work with the city's housing and development department to implement the redevelopment plan, which Mr. Russell said could begin six months after bonding.

The $20 million for the construction of the TEE center project was approved by taxpayers in November 2005. Bonds were issued in August. Until now, site approval has foundered as commissioners either sent it back to committee or took no action.

Augusta Riverfront LLC is a subsidiary of Azalea Development Corp., which is headed by William S. Morris III, the chairman and CEO of Morris Communications Co., the parent company of The Augusta Chronicle.

Reach Laura Youngs at (706) 823-3227 or laura.youngs@augustachronicle.com.

HOW THEY VOTED


Augusta commissioners on Tuesday approved a site and operating agreement for the TEE center after the first vote failed.

First vote second vote
Mayor Pro Tem
Betty Beard
Yes Yes
Joe Bowles Yes Yes
Jerry Brigham No Yes
Andy Cheek Yes Yes
Don Grantham Yes Yes
Bernard Harper Abstained Not present
J.R. Hatney Abstained Not present
Calvin Holland No Not present
Jimmy Smith Yes Yes
Marion Williams No Not present
Comments (62) Add comment
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Just My Opinion
5456
Points
Just My Opinion 08/22/07 - 04:38 am
0
0
Am I the only one here that's

Am I the only one here that's thinking these other commissioners who left the meeting are going to come back raising cane?? At least it never stays boring down there! I don't think we've heard the last of this.

rabeth
0
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rabeth 08/22/07 - 04:56 am
0
0
When are the people of

When are the people of Augusta going to wise up and get rid of the present commissioners and get some people in there that will work for the people and Augusta and not just for themselves and this forever 'black and white' issue that is killing Augusta? It is like Augusta is stuck back in the 1800's and can't move forward.

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 08/22/07 - 05:09 am
0
0
rabeth, the past several

rabeth, the past several times the commission has had trouble it hasn't been a black/white problem, it's been a black / not black problem. One or more of the four absent commissioners either get their way or they stomp their foot or disrupt the meeting or just leave, especially if there are some commissioners absent and a quorum can't be reached. The ploy didn't work this time. The charter needs to be rewritten to provide for leadership and accountability ..... most of the time. This is one of the rare times the current system worked.

BAMABOY
20
Points
BAMABOY 08/22/07 - 05:44 am
0
0
If you do your reseach, very

If you do your reseach, very few Centers make money and do not draw that many unless you are a " real" destination. If it were to make money, why is the management company asking for $350,000 operating expenses for 50 years?

CHIEF
2
Points
CHIEF 08/22/07 - 05:50 am
0
0
wow, another money pit. at

wow, another money pit. at least you can see progress on the commission; see who was not there.

justsoyaknow
0
Points
justsoyaknow 08/22/07 - 06:03 am
0
0
Getting a TEE center that

Getting a TEE center that will not generate money, the commissioners acting like some nonproductive elementary kids and, finally, Billy Morris getting his projects at the taxpayers' expense. Hmmmm...... What's so different about this to make it newsworthy?

shivas
2
Points
shivas 08/22/07 - 07:03 am
0
0
The convention centers bring

The convention centers bring revenue into the community as a whole. The Center itself may not be a huge revenue earner, but the local economic impact will be significant. Augusta is a destination, and has great name recognition throughout the country. A top-notch convention center is essential to attracting large trade venues. Yes, almost all these cenvention centers are in some way supported with local tax dollars. Hope the 4 Donkeys enjoyed reading the headlines this morning!!!

alias1
0
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alias1 08/22/07 - 07:15 am
0
0
Oh yeah build a trade center,

Oh yeah build a trade center, waste more money. Like there isnt enough run down businesses in augusta now. why not rebuild some of those like the REGENCY MALL????? Look at that place. and forget about the racetrack that we are waiting for.

Vulcan_Rider
0
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Vulcan_Rider 08/22/07 - 07:38 am
0
0
As I understand it, the

As I understand it, the 'center' and most others lose money, but you have to factor in the money made by the traffic that is brought in. My question would center around, how much use the building would get? Very few 'events' in Augusta get support from the puplic. Go to any Green Jackets games, or the indoor football games or the hockey games.

Little Lamb
45281
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Little Lamb 08/22/07 - 07:51 am
0
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To BamaBoy: The TEE center

To BamaBoy: The TEE center was never envisioned to make money, so that is why they are covering the operating costs with the hotel tax. The $350,000 a year operating expenses seems outrageous to me. I guess Augusta Riverfront LLC plans to pay for luxurious offices, exorbitant salaries, and "wine & dine" money to potential clients. They could staff the office with one $50,000 director and one $25,000 admin assistant, but the commissioners voted for luxury.

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 08/22/07 - 08:04 am
0
0
Either the chicken or the egg

Either the chicken or the egg has to come first. If we build it, and have a good sales pitch, they will come. This is a good idea for the growth of the city. When the commission takes a positive step the boo birds start hooting. Well, with their reputation, I guess it makes sense. I still hope the general population will be behind this project though. It represents one of the thresholds Augusta has to cross to go beyond the large town status to a become a small city.

bigdan4439
31
Points
bigdan4439 08/22/07 - 08:04 am
0
0
WOW...great dedication from

WOW...great dedication from those commissioners, "abstained" and "not present," keep in mind these are the same commissioners that will come back hooting and hollering when something changes or doesn't go exactly as planned. For crying out loud how are we ever going to get things straightened out down there when 40% of the elected officials can't even hang around for a second vote. That is really sad, ESPECIALLY on such a major issue. GET THE HORSE MANURE OUT OF OFFICE, when are voters going to learn?!?!?!?!

Little Lamb
45281
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Little Lamb 08/22/07 - 08:12 am
0
0
I understand your

I understand your frustration, BigDan. But go read the article about the golf and gardens and you will see that we get things "straightened out" much better when Williams and the 3 Hs leave the building than when they are present.

bigdan4439
31
Points
bigdan4439 08/22/07 - 08:18 am
0
0
Oh trust me, i agree whole

Oh trust me, i agree whole heartedly with that, i think the entire city would be better off without them. My commissioner voted and for that I am proud. I just think this goes to show that a great deal of the voting population in Augusta is blind to the issues at hand and simply electing these people based on personal agendas and it is down right SAD.

halffull
0
Points
halffull 08/22/07 - 08:29 am
0
0
Questions. 1. What is the

Questions.
1. What is the difference in spending millions on a TEE center verses a race track?
2. Shouldn't the city be community redevelopement anyway?
3. Where are the lines that constitute the "inner city"?
4. Does the scrutiny of the James Brown Arena and Augusta Transit cease now that we agree that these venues are not there to make a profit?
5. "If" the TEE center does make a profit, where does it go.
6. Who will remember this "deal" with Betty 20 years from now to assure that the "inner city" won't be neglected?

csralookout
256
Points
csralookout 08/22/07 - 08:33 am
0
0
The black commissioners need

The black commissioners need to grow up & be professionals. At least stick around & vote no & be a man about it....lets run out the door because we don't get our way....very professional!

BUTTACHE
0
Points
BUTTACHE 08/22/07 - 08:39 am
0
0
Thank goodness the

Thank goodness the abstentions didnt hold us back again!! If they would have we need to change our name to ABSTENTIONGUSTA. PLEASE REWRITE THE CHARTER FOR A SIMPLE MAJORITY, SO CHICKENSHI%$ LIKE MARION WILLIAMS, COACH HOLLAND, HATNEY, and HARPER will not keep holding back our progress back simply walking out. Their constituients must really be something. ARRGGGGGGG!!

Little Lamb
45281
Points
Little Lamb 08/22/07 - 08:55 am
0
0
Let's watch our language.

Let's watch our language. (and our on-screen handles, too)

RealWorkers
0
Points
RealWorkers 08/22/07 - 08:55 am
0
0
When was the last time the

When was the last time the commissioners strolled thru the LEC (401 Walton Way) since spending millions are on the agenda? The building has fallen apart and become a real hazzard. Hundreds of people work and visit there everyday and some have taken up residence (jail). A brand new trade center vs an LEC with decent working conditions.....which makes more sense.

Native Augustan
12
Points
Native Augustan 08/22/07 - 09:00 am
0
0
Put the contract to run the

Put the contract to run the TEE center out for BIDS -- that is the only fair way to get a fair market price. As for the Commission -- again I say that History has taught us that an even number of votes does no one any good. We must rewrite the Charter to allow the Mayor a vote/veto power or add/subtract on district. The question that jumps out at me is exactly what are the four MIA Commissioners losing by voting for something that will bring tax dollars to the city? Who promised who what that they did not get? When you act like a child -- childish questions are asked.

Little Lamb
45281
Points
Little Lamb 08/22/07 - 09:03 am
0
0
You are so right about

You are so right about bidding out contracts like this, Native. But it's too late. Augusta Riverfront LLC got the whole cookie yesterday.

bigalsc
4
Points
bigalsc 08/22/07 - 09:32 am
0
0
I don't understand why the

I don't understand why the contract to run the TEE wasn't put out for bid either. But this venue will prove to be a dynamic instrument for change for the entire community, New businesses, new JOBS, new tax revenue streams to offset rising property taxes. Its all win-win!,

WorriedAboutOurFuture
16
Points
WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/22/07 - 09:51 am
0
0
Agree that oprations contract

Agree that oprations contract should have been out for bid, but Billy Morris already has more money than God and probably isn't doing this as a big moneymaker. I also tend to think, perhaps a bit naively, that he usually has Augusta's best interests at heart if they don't conflict with his own.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
16
Points
WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/22/07 - 09:53 am
0
0
If the voters already had

If the voters already had approved the bond issue for constructing the TEE, who the heck do these four "representatives" of the people think they are blocking it at every turn?

coco rubio
4
Points
coco rubio 08/22/07 - 10:08 am
0
0
not sure what mayor deke

not sure what mayor deke during the recess, but he should be commended for taking another vote after the 4 commissioners left.....it's time to move forward and get things done......thanks deke!

Rozzie2003
5
Points
Rozzie2003 08/22/07 - 10:42 am
0
0
Congratulations to the 5

Congratulations to the 5 white commissioners and Betty Beard for voting to get the TEE Center going and the money to re-build the inner city.vBeard has done a courageous thing by voting with the other 5 commissioners and getting the money for the inner city building program. She will be criticized by some blacks but others will praise her.
God bless you Mrs. Beard!

istp
0
Points
istp 08/22/07 - 10:44 am
0
0
it's about time they finally

it's about time they finally agreed..i remember the last time we as people had to vote but it didn't come out right..I'm so happy to find out that there will be one after all!

RichmondCountyResident1
29
Points
RichmondCountyResident1 08/22/07 - 10:45 am
0
0
The four commissioners should

The four commissioners should have returned and voted, even if you would have voted no. A fifty year no bid contract, is that good business sense?The mayor did the right thing to keep the show moving.TEE, the jury is out on this one, all rosy pictures aside.

CHIEF
2
Points
CHIEF 08/22/07 - 11:01 am
0
0
I guess we all agree, Lets

I guess we all agree, Lets see who gets moved out or voted out. The LEC is needed but only a lawsuit will fix that.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
16
Points
WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/22/07 - 11:24 am
0
0
WOW. Consensus on an AC forum

WOW. Consensus on an AC forum about RC commissioners. I am very impressed.

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