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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dasclay
0
Points
dasclay 08/22/07 - 11:42 am
0
0
What A waste....

What A waste....

johnrdupree
1
Points
johnrdupree 08/22/07 - 11:57 am
0
0
Well it's about time they got

Well it's about time they got this passed. And it's good to see that we have six commissioners that can see past their own district lines and vote for the good of the city. While the operations contract probably should have been put out to bid, at least it won't be under city control with some lame "advisory" board to get in the way of every step. None of the articles mention it, but if the contract is not inflation adjusted, it gets a little less costly each year (but I'm pretty sure Morris smarter than that). And let's also hope that most of the profits (if there are any) go to Augusta Riverfront. The more events they bring in the more money they make. And the more hotel rooms get rented, the more restaurant meals get eaten, the more souvenirs get bought, the more gallons of gas get sold, all of which generate tax revenue. Remember, this is an investment for the city. It's not going to make money on the front end but will take a little piece of pretty much every dollar visitors spend.

dasclay
0
Points
dasclay 08/22/07 - 12:03 pm
0
0
But they passed this when the

But they passed this when the other Board members had left? Johnrdupree, the only big draw augusta has now is the Masters, and the cutural festivites.... how much actual money will it generate? Remember when they wanted too, and openned port royal? Or how about the wonderful, but IMHO bad located Fort discovery?

Little Lamb
43463
Points
Little Lamb 08/22/07 - 12:12 pm
0
0
It is common for motions to

It is common for motions to be "sprung" on commissioners at the last minute. Though the 3 Hs are known to be obstructionists, in this case I sympathize with their frustrations. They should have had a few days to be able to read the fine print on a 50-year contract between the city and Augusta Riverfront LLC. Of course, whether they would have actually read them is another question.

scoot2
1
Points
scoot2 08/22/07 - 01:28 pm
0
0
Who is Betty Beard really

Who is Betty Beard really for? Has she forgotten what race she is? She always sides with the white man I can't wait unitl her re-election time she in my district and I'll vote for anyone besides her.

johnrdupree
1
Points
johnrdupree 08/22/07 - 01:34 pm
0
0
Wow, jumbo, you're a perfect

Wow, jumbo, you're a perfect example of what's wrong with the commission. "Gotta vote against the white man, no matter what the issue is." How about we paraphrase Dr. King? Judge a vote by the content of the issue, not by the color of who proposed it.

BlackJack7
15
Points
BlackJack7 08/22/07 - 01:37 pm
0
0
I'm with U alias - I dont

I'm with U alias - I dont understand how they're gonna call themselves trying 2 carve out space downtown for this TEE and not utilize the lot that was once home of the "late" Regency Mall. Someone please enlighten me with an intelligent justification as to why this is so - and I really dont care to hear anything about downtown development! Because if this is supposed to be a consolidated government, South Augusta is just a legitimate site of a place such as this as Downtown.

scoot2
1
Points
scoot2 08/22/07 - 01:48 pm
0
0
John Dupree u don't really

John Dupree u don't really understand me. A project that has a 50 year contract that will eventually help redevolp downtown is a bunch of bull. Betty Beard district is mostly black we want reap any benefits off this deal. Anyone who agrees to a 50 year contract has to reap sometype of benefit off of this. I hate to say this but Mr. Morris want be around in 50 years so we are nowing helping support the next 3 generations of Morris. It just ludacris in my eyes.

johnrdupree
1
Points
johnrdupree 08/22/07 - 02:06 pm
0
0
Jumbo, the whole city will

Jumbo, the whole city will reap the benefits of this deal, the same way the city benefits from the Masters, the boat races, First Friday, or any other event where people come into town and spend money. Betty Beard did exactly what she was supposed to do: she saw that the deal was good for the city and not bad for her constituents, and she voted accordingly. And at least she stayed. How many black citizens had no representation at all because their elected officials wouldn't even stay and do their duty? Shameful.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
16
Points
WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/22/07 - 02:18 pm
0
0
PAYBACK, nobody is going to

PAYBACK, nobody is going to pick South Augusta as a convention and trade center location. Sad as I am about that, it's still the truth. It would be a little like going to Buffalo or Detroit for the scenery.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
16
Points
WorriedAboutOurFuture 08/22/07 - 02:24 pm
0
0
One thing I am not clear

One thing I am not clear about on these operating costs. Is the $350K per year all that the city/county ever will be required to pay? If it is, we may be getting a real bargain here. Just project what $350K will look like in operation expenses for that kind of facility down the road. And BTW, JUMBO, even if $350K per year seems like a fortune to you, it's probably little more than a good week to Billy Morris. He and his family don't need this headache.

johnrdupree
1
Points
johnrdupree 08/22/07 - 02:25 pm
0
0
Payback, how's this for an

Payback, how's this for an intelligent reason? According to Damon Cline on the Scuttlebiz blog (http://blogs.augusta.com/node/980), Morris has offered to donate the land for the TEE center. Regency Mall, on the other hand, is privately owned and would have to be bought. Remember, **the city does not own Regency Mall**.

TrukinRanger
1748
Points
TrukinRanger 08/22/07 - 02:38 pm
0
0
It costs money to make
Unpublished

It costs money to make money!! The TEE center is a GOOD idea for Augusta. There are plenty of medium sized conventions that go on that we could possibly attract. The area around the Marriott Hotels, Riverwalk, etc has great potential. These are the type things we need to continue with the revitalization of downtown Augusta. I also still believe in putting the Stadium in town, and even though I don't like racing, I realize there is a market for it-- just not run by the city. All of these ideas are things that could help Augusta in the long run. It will cost money to get started, but the more revenue we generate, the more we can do to revitalize the areas that have been neglected.

Little Lamb
43463
Points
Little Lamb 08/22/07 - 02:39 pm
0
0
Is he really "donating" the

Is he really "donating" the land if he's getting a building put on it and a contract to operate a facility at no cost or risk? If there were happen to be a convention there, most would stay at his hotel. I'm not saying it's bad, but it's not much of a "donation."

Top Notch
0
Points
Top Notch 08/22/07 - 02:44 pm
0
0
I'm so sick of everyone

I'm so sick of everyone getting on the case of Mr. Morris. Without the Morris family and a few other Augusta blue bloods this town would be in MUCH worse shape. I think that this is a great idea- I stand behind our newly appointed local government, anything that Deke believes in I will back up.

Top Notch
0
Points
Top Notch 08/22/07 - 02:45 pm
0
0
Dittos to TrukinRanger.

Dittos to TrukinRanger.

CHIEF
2
Points
CHIEF 08/22/07 - 02:50 pm
0
0
Snob, you are truly a rich

Snob, you are truly a rich soul. Get a life on broad st. and tell us what its like. Beware of the wolf in sheep clothing.

johnrdupree
1
Points
johnrdupree 08/22/07 - 03:33 pm
0
0
True, the "donation" does pay

True, the "donation" does pay off for him, but he could have sold it to somebody else, or charged the city something for it. Think of it more as a deal sweetener. And from the city's point of view, it is a donation. It's much better than having to piece the land together through a bucketful of individual acquisitions.

white lady
3
Points
white lady 08/22/07 - 04:34 pm
0
0
white gangs are taking over

white gangs are taking over augusta you just dont even know. Were just not in the trailer parks anymore we have moved to the suburbs. Were in west augusta, belair rd, grovetown, harlem, appling, martinez, evans, aiken, north augusta. Its so funny bc there focused on black gangs bc of the media attention it gets when its black men involved. Meth is the number 1 drug, coke does not stay in your system like weed. If your child goes to harlem, evans, lakeside, & especially greenbrier thank you parents for giving your children your hard earn money. I have 3 cars, i have belair rd to evans, to grovetown on lock. We jack ppl all the time bc there not scared of us, so its just to easy sometime. The media makes it look like richmond county is 80% black when its only 52% i guess thats good for me cops wont stop me. If your child goes to evans, or greenbrier i want to give a special thanks again for your money. Greenbrier & evans got them freaks to i cant lie. Lakeside straight, but get them greenbrier & evans girls on that x or some of that white girl, you be then made over 2 thousand in couple of hours. Plus they freaks let you bone & get some monica lewinsky

misscj0123
1
Points
misscj0123 08/22/07 - 04:41 pm
0
0
You are a real jerk whiteboy.

You are a real jerk whiteboy. If you ever touch my kids I will see you locked up sooooo fast. You are NOT above the law.

Vulcan_Rider
0
Points
Vulcan_Rider 08/22/07 - 04:49 pm
0
0
Sad, very Sad

Sad, very Sad

CHIEF
2
Points
CHIEF 08/22/07 - 04:57 pm
0
0
Whiteboybelair rd blood.

Whiteboybelair rd blood. Your a liar and a fat head. The only game you got is mouth and ignorance. But Run while you can.

white lady
3
Points
white lady 08/22/07 - 05:13 pm
0
0
touch them, they trying to

touch them, they trying to touch me, im barely over 16 i just thank you for your money, its not my fault that white girls are freaks, they all want blond hair & to have a lil dog like paris hilton i didnt created that. i just receiving the benefits that theyre dumb most of the time. I loved columbia county, richmond county please keep takin up the news i know they stories on black kids anywayz, belair rd meth city, b's up c's down, westside blood, f crabs, get money

YankeeGuy
0
Points
YankeeGuy 08/22/07 - 05:26 pm
0
0
Why not conduct all city

Why not conduct all city business with the 4 noshows permanently absent? Maybe our community can move forward now.

SugarFoot
0
Points
SugarFoot 08/22/07 - 06:12 pm
0
0
Jerry Brigham had it right

Jerry Brigham had it right the first time and should be wary of any contract with Augusta Riverfront LLC, especially a 50 year contract. I am all for a new Trade Center.. but the contract under which it should be operated should be fair to the taxpayers of Augusta. AS usual.. this is a one-sided contract that benefits Augusta Riverfront ( A Billy Morris entity) and puts the financial liability on the taxpayers. I find it interesting that the city made no effort to shop this around to another group that would have come to fairer terms. This has all of the markings of a "no-bid" contract. And don't forget that taxpayers were shafted by Augusta Riverfront, LLC before.. when a $7.5 million loan they had with the city was simply "forgiven." I say work out a contract with a group that has some trackrecord with running large convention centers. Billy Morris can barely deliver his newspapers.. what should make us believe he knows anything about running a large convention center?

single parent
395
Points
single parent 08/22/07 - 07:29 pm
0
0
The heck with a Tee center!

The heck with a Tee center! My kids and kids friends have to go to South Carolina to enjoy a decent park. We have two venues that we can't run now, what makes us think we can run a bigger one? We meaning all of us Voters , big wigs and so on...Does anybody have any idea of the population of people around the CSRA that need things to do in this area besides over priced events? I would love to take the grands out to the park ( lack of park) to fly a kite without going half way to the east of richmond county or across the bridge to do so. Diamond Lake was a start, but again look at the population size. The commons? My garden is bigger ! Then I have to buy bags to take my yard waste out for a service I already pay for? A person that is making money is cool.But there are not a bunch of empty properties around for nothing? Not ranting but we have more pressing issues. It isn't black or white its CALLED PEOPLE. I could go either way on the issue yes its good but no there are more things that our city can do to bring US up. Once a year events are not going to pay the bills! ! !

johnrdupree
1
Points
johnrdupree 08/22/07 - 08:54 pm
0
0
Of course once a year events

Of course once a year events aren't going to pay the bills, that's why we need a TEE center. The idea is to have mid-sized conventions, trade shows, and exhibitions two or three times a month. The majority of the people attending would be from out of town. They'll come here, spend money, and go home. How is that bad? The city has to generate tax revenue to pay for things like parks, and they can either get it by raising your (and my) property taxes or the can get tourists and conventioneers to visit and leave some of their dollars here. And for all people complaining about Billy Morris remeber this: he's not rich because he's stupid, he's rich because he knows how to make money. If he has a financial stake in the TEE center, then it will make money. And if it makes money, the city makes money. And that is the whole idea here, to bring money into the city coffers. How do you people not get that?

SugarFoot
0
Points
SugarFoot 08/22/07 - 09:05 pm
0
0
He's rich because he

He's rich because he inherited a lot of money. And he doesn't have a financial stake in the TEE center.. the taxpayers are footing the entire bill. His hotel stands to benefit from the traffic it generates.. on top of that.. he is getting an additional $350,000 kickback from taxpayers to run it for 50 years in a no bid contract. This is after taxpayers built a convention hall adjacent to his hotel many years ago. One way Morris is rich is because he is able to con idiot local politicians into financing his pet projects with tax payer money... so he can reap the reawrds with none of the financial risk attached

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 08/22/07 - 09:56 pm
0
0
SugarFoot, to say you have

SugarFoot, to say you have absolutely no grasp of the financial dealings of Billy Morris or this city would be to make an understatement. I do detect the strong oder of wealth envy though.

SugarFoot
0
Points
SugarFoot 08/22/07 - 10:32 pm
0
0
Oh what an easy way to avoid

Oh what an easy way to avoid the points. The fact is... Billy Morris has none of his own money invested in this project.. it all comes via the taxpayers (sort of like when the taxpayers subsidized the building of his office building and hotel back in the early 90s)...The taxpayers paid to build the convention center adjacent to his hotel too. Morris was supposed to pay the money back.. he said proceeds from the parking deck would cover it (laugh) not even close.. when that money never materialized.. he again wielded his power to get the city to forgive the loan in full... taxpayers out another $7.5 million. And let's not forget other boondoggles that Morris has cheerleaded for... none of course with his own money... The Georgia Golf Hall of Fame and Gardens... taxpayers are probably out over $20 million on that fiasco... but not Morris.. none of his money was risked on that project even though his paper ran editorial after editorial hyping the project as another economic boon to Augusta. I have no envy of The Rich at all. Look that what The Boardmans have done for Augusta... investing and risking their own money to save local treasures.. same can be said for the Knox's.

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