TEE center stuck in neutral

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The fate of the downtown trade, exhibit and event center still hangs in the balance, and with it, support for the $184.7 million sales tax package before voters.

Augusta super district Commissioner Don Grantham had hoped to resolve funding the TEE center at a special-called meeting Thursday, but the plan unraveled because Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason and Commissioner Corey Johnson went out of town for the long weekend.

Both are considered key to getting six or more votes on a financing structure to move the project forward. An earlier proposal by City Administrator Fred Russell failed 5-4-1 on May 5, splitting the commission along racial and super district lines.

Changes have since been made to Mr. Russell's plan to satisfy concerns of Mr. Mason and Mr. Johnson. Mr. Grantham said he understood from the negotiations that it would be worked out by the end of this week, before the start of summer, when voters start leaving town in droves.

As things stand, it appears the commission can't deliver on a sales tax project approved by referendum four years ago, and Mr. Grantham said he was hoping to change that perception before Memorial Day.

He said he's not sure why the two commissioners left town before settling the matter. Neither returned phone calls from The Augusta Chronicle on Wednesday or Thursday.

"I don't think they got notification" of the meeting, he said.

Commissioner Betty Beard said she believes a compromise will be reached before June 16, the last day to cast votes. But nothing was going to get done Thursday because she and other "no" voters had reservations about things they saw in information passed out Wednesday.

Had the meeting not been canceled, she would have skipped it, she said.

The meeting has been rescheduled for Tuesday, the same day committee meetings will be held. Mr. Grantham said he's worried now about keeping the five commissioners within his super district unified, and he might turn against the sales-tax package if the board stays deadlocked.

Commissioner Joe Bowles said he would like to reach a deal, but he is indifferent as to whether it affects the referendum. Government waste needs to be cut, he said, and ending the sales tax could save residents a penny per dollar on purchases.

"I sure hope it causes SPLOST to fail. It should fail," he said. "I think it's time for the voters to say, 'We're sick of you taking our money and throwing it away.' "

The financing plan Mr. Russell proposed in April involved creating a new development authority to issue $26 million in bonds to build a $38 million TEE center with a $17 million parking deck, and $9 million in bonds to start redevelopment projects in the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods. The two issues have been tied together since 2007, when Mr. Grantham and Ms. Beard reached a compromise to approve the TEE center's site and operating agreement by generating $750,000 per year for the inner city through a $1-a-night hotel fee.

After the vote on Mr. Russell's plan failed earlier this month, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Mason said they weren't against building the facility, they just wanted the parking deck and creation of a new development authority nixed.

Mr. Grantham said the new authority is off the table, and the parking deck has been reduced to a $12 million, 475-space garage, to accommodate future add-ons.

Under the latest version of the plan, the revamped seven-member Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority would handle financing for the TEE center and the Downtown Development Authority could handle the inner city.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT'S NEXT?

The special-called meeting to potentially vote on a funding structure for building the TEE center and starting redevelopment projects in the Laney-Walker and Bethlehem neighborhoods has been rescheduled for Tuesday, the same day commission committee meetings will be held.

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Brad Owens
4281
Points
Brad Owens 05/22/09 - 02:54 am
0
0
Let me get this right, the

Let me get this right, the DDA will handle the money that isn't going to the 'Central Business District' but to another part of the city? I am telling you, I smell a big fat bureucratic rat of self perpetuation growing there. Why can't the Administartors office handle the money or the CVB since this is legally earmarked as 'tourism support', you know, the whole hotel motel tax and everything. They bettr look at the law and they better be sure this is all legal because I would bet that the items being touted would not be considered 'tourist attractions.'

dickworth1
954
Points
dickworth1 05/22/09 - 04:06 am
0
0
No new taxes, vote against
Unpublished

No new taxes, vote against splost, it is time to let all politicians
whether local,state, or federal that we as citizens are tired of all this spending and will not tolerate anymore tazes period.

dhd1108
1
Points
dhd1108 05/22/09 - 06:15 am
0
0
alluding to the article

alluding to the article title...its too late to "reverse" this monstrosity. hopefully the commissioners will end up driving it off the proverbial cliff.

HillGuy
7
Points
HillGuy 05/22/09 - 06:19 am
0
0
The article never addressed

The article never addressed why the voters were mislead over the true cost of the TEE Center in the first place.

justus4
99
Points
justus4 05/22/09 - 06:46 am
0
0
This article is an example of
Unpublished

This article is an example of how the Non-Minority Media (NMM) chooses to slant a particular story, by stringing words together that fits a particular pattern. Those two commissioners that "don't show up" according to the article, are probably minority. So a non-minority commissioner calls for a meeting, knowing the schedules of those two fellow commissioners, and then the "story" becomes that there were no-shows. When the meeting was called, "they" KNEW that those two would not be available. In other words, the NMM's pattern is to believe the non-minority and not believing minority, while keeping the masses misinformed, however, "we" recognize contrived deception.

pointstoponder
161
Points
pointstoponder 05/22/09 - 06:58 am
0
0
Justus, first you are

Justus, first you are assuming the non-minority Commissioners knew all the Commissioners schedule. Not likely. The clerk of Commision may have, but i doubt most commissioners keep track of their compatriots schedule. Second, when you are elected to represent the people, you need to be prepared to make adjustments to your schedule or don't run. Finally, if the Commissioners in question don't bother to keep up with local events, should they even be Commissioners? It isn't a matter of misinformation, you simply choose to hate based on race.

pointstoponder
161
Points
pointstoponder 05/22/09 - 06:59 am
0
0
BTW Justus, your name is

BTW Justus, your name is quite telling of your attitude, "just us".

ONLY THE TRUTH
2
Points
ONLY THE TRUTH 05/22/09 - 07:17 am
0
0
Since the Chronicle is owned

Since the Chronicle is owned by Billy Morris and Mr. Morris is white and the whites are the minority in Augusta---What publication are you refering to as "Non-Minority"?

HillGuy
7
Points
HillGuy 05/22/09 - 07:22 am
0
0
No one, including the author

No one, including the author of this article has answered the simple question: Why were voters mislead in the first place over the true cost of the TEE center? This is classic bait n switch. They initially low-balled the price tag (on purpose to ensure its passage).. knowing it would not be any where near the correct amount to build this facility. Now they are coming back essentially saying "Oh well we were a bit off on our numbers.. it looks like this thing is going to cost atleast twice what we first told you it would.. oh and we also forgot to mention the parking deck.. we're going to need another $17 million for that too." The way this was handled by the commission was dishonest from the beginning. The voters should not reward their dishonesty by falling for this bait and switch trick.

TechLover
15
Points
TechLover 05/22/09 - 07:50 am
0
0
Over $25,000 per parking

Over $25,000 per parking space for a total of $12 million? Tell you what, Ive got 15 acres, folks can park here and I'll drive them there over the next 25 years for a measly $10 million.

HillGuy
7
Points
HillGuy 05/22/09 - 08:06 am
0
0
This should be a rule of

This should be a rule of thumb, whenever you are putting a project like this on SPLOST for a vote... be upfront at the very beginning what the actual costs are going to be and what all exactly will need to be built, including parking decks and a reasonable in the ball park price tag. If you cannot come up with real figures to put in front of the voters then don't bother putting it on SPLOST in the first place. There is $20 million sitting around that could have been applied to something else.

Little Lamb
45275
Points
Little Lamb 05/22/09 - 08:16 am
0
0
HillGuy, you have provided

HillGuy, you have provided reasons why we should all vote NO on the SPLOST referendum. The election is ongoing now, and the final date to vote is June 16. Vote NO!

Little Lamb
45275
Points
Little Lamb 05/22/09 - 08:19 am
0
0
And for any readers of this

And for any readers of this story: If your commissioner is Joe Bowles, Jerry Brigham, Joe Jackson, Corey Johnson, Alvin Mason, or Jimmy Smith; please call them and ask them to vote NO on the TEE center. There is plenty of time for more debate on the subject. We don't need for Don Grantham to ram his plan down our throats. More citizen input and debate is needed.

justsaying
0
Points
justsaying 05/22/09 - 08:25 am
0
0
Downtown is overun with empty

Downtown is overun with empty buildings...fill them first...sustain a viable economic base for 2 years...then build a staduim...trolleys...hell build a Magic Kingdom!

HillGuy
7
Points
HillGuy 05/22/09 - 08:36 am
0
0
We already have BillyWorld...

We already have BillyWorld... so why not a Magic Kingdom?

pointstoponder
161
Points
pointstoponder 05/22/09 - 08:43 am
0
0
Little Lamb, please post your

Little Lamb, please post your address so I can mail you my property tax bill when the increases come.

Riverman1
82158
Points
Riverman1 05/22/09 - 08:46 am
0
0
So Alvin Mason is out of

So Alvin Mason is out of town. We pay for his cell phone and the gas he is using for his trip, yet he can't take a call?

tlnvols
0
Points
tlnvols 05/22/09 - 08:50 am
0
0
If they cancel TEE center

If they cancel TEE center than take away the $ they gave Betty..

HillGuy
7
Points
HillGuy 05/22/09 - 09:20 am
0
0
None of this would be

None of this would be happening, had they told voters at the very beginning how much this TEE center would actually cost, and put THAT figure on the previous SPLOST. They never told voters that the $20 million was merely a "down payment".. I suppose if they had been honest about the actual cost of this project then voters may have decided differently. That's why this whole thing is a sham. What they ought to do is put the TEE center, Betty Beard's pet project, and that silly pond at Regency Mall as separate items on the ballot. Ask voters point blank if they support spending anymore money for the TEE Center above and beyond the first $20 million.. then give voters the option to rescind the first $20 million and apply it to other SPLOST projects such as road improvements or something like the Miller.. Give them a list of options. These pet projects of certain commissioners should not hold the entire SPLOST hostage.. let them stand on their own merits.. this would end the backroom deals and vote buying.

Tots
25853
Points
Tots 05/22/09 - 09:28 am
0
0
Vote No!!!!!!!!!!!!! No to

Vote No!!!!!!!!!!!!! No to anything to do with SPLOST

HillGuy
7
Points
HillGuy 05/22/09 - 09:39 am
0
0
I'm not against the idea of

I'm not against the idea of SPLOST, but I am against the way the commission continually mishandles SPLOST. Didn't we go thru this just a few years ago? I think the voters are better equipped at deciding which projects are worthy of funding and which are not. All of these pet projects should be separate items.. if they are so invaluable to the community, then they can stand on their own merits. End the vote buying and swapping... let the voters have the say on what should and should not be in SPLOST. Considering the TEE Center was fraudulently sold to voters in the first place, it should be removed and the original $20 million rescinded. Betty Beard's bribe money should also be taken out.

mad_max
0
Points
mad_max 05/22/09 - 10:04 am
0
0
Let's rephrase that just a

Let's rephrase that just a little. We don't need for Don Grantham to ram Paul Simon's plan down our throats. Call your commissioner and ask them to vote NO on the TEE center. Then go down and cast your vote NO on SPLOST. Let this collective group of clowns and crooks know that we are tired it. If you put all of our commissioners and Russell in a room and locked them up for a week they could not plan a company picnic. If you are worried about a property tax increase if we vote no on SPLOST, well they use that threat all of the time to get support. We can stop them from raising our taxes and we can put them out if they try. We need to make them show us they can manage this county, live within OUR means, and work together for the COMMON good or we will take away their play money. They have not instilled enough confidence in the voters to trust them with additional money for "special" projects. They can't even handle day to day business. Snatch a knot in their butts and bring them back to reality. If they try to raise our property taxes we should stage a riot and bring this town to a screeching halt. We are paying top dollar for pee poor government.

HillGuy
7
Points
HillGuy 05/22/09 - 10:08 am
0
0
The more and more I look at

The more and more I look at this TEE Center, the more it has Billy Barn written all over it.

Westside Liberal
12
Points
Westside Liberal 05/22/09 - 10:39 am
0
0
Will the Augusta-Richmond

Will the Augusta-Richmond County Consolidated form of Government ever evolve into a viable entity? It originally was created to prevent any one "group" from controlling the entire voting process. But what we have created is a vehicle with brakes but no accelerator. A vehicle that can easily be halted or slowed down by any of the ten drivers in this eleven passenger bus and drifts slowly forward or backward with the wind when the brakes are not applied. Citizens of Augusta how much longer must we tolerate this type of stagnant government?!

Little Lamb
45275
Points
Little Lamb 05/22/09 - 10:41 am
0
0
Thank you, mad max.

Thank you, mad max.

Tots
25853
Points
Tots 05/22/09 - 11:21 am
0
0
thank you mad max.

thank you mad max.

augustalibertarian
4
Points
augustalibertarian 05/22/09 - 11:52 am
0
0
The reason the TEE center is

The reason the TEE center is such a good example of why you should vote NO on SPLOST is not because the commissioners lied to you on the previous SPLOST - politicians lie all the time in order to get their pork barrel projects put over on voters. The reason you should vote NO on SPLOST is because if this package of pork barrel projects is approved YOUR PROPERTY TAXES WILL GO UP TO PAY FOR THE FUTURE MAINTENANCE AND OPERATION OF THE PROJECTS. Just as the TEE center has created large, hidden costs beyond what was approved by the last SPLOST, so will most of the projects created by the current SPLOST proposal. Some studies have indicated that the m & o costs of a project can be as much as 10 times the cost of the construction costs. The SPLOST does not - and can not by law - cover future m & o. Those "hidden" costs - just like the TEE center - will be paid for with higher property taxes.

augustalibertarian
4
Points
augustalibertarian 05/22/09 - 11:57 am
0
0
pointstoponder, I think we

pointstoponder, I think we owe Alvin Mason and Corey Johnson - and Betty Beard, if she planned to blow off Commissioner Grantham's meeting - a debt of gratitude. I am perfectly happy to see public officials put time spent with their families on holiday ahead of attending backroom meetings to figure out ways to separate the residents of the county from their hard-earned money. Thank you Commissioner Mason, Commissioner Johnson and Commissioner Beard. Enjoy your weekend!

augustalibertarian
4
Points
augustalibertarian 05/22/09 - 12:04 pm
0
0
Westside Liberal, thank

Westside Liberal, thank goodness for "stagnant" government! The more "stagnant" a government is, the less it can interfere in the lives of those residents subject to its jurisdiction - and even non-residents in the cases of sales taxes and hotel taxes and other such taxes and fees proposed to "make" someone else "share OUR burden" (as it was put in another article).

Riverman1
82158
Points
Riverman1 05/22/09 - 12:07 pm
0
0
Augustalibertarian, it is

Augustalibertarian, it is strange to see the conservatives on the board praising the actions of the black Commissioners. No way the black Commissioners will change their minds now with this kind of white support coming to them. Bye, bye TEE.

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