Originally created 08/31/99

GreenJackets' park to be named for corporate sponsor



An Augusta Commission committee unanimously approved the Augusta GreenJackets' requests Monday to rename Lake Olmstead Stadium for a corporate sponsor and to pave an adjacent parking lot and charge for parking.

The finance committee's action will be voted on Aug. 10 by the full city commission.

The GreenJackets want to bring in a corporate sponsor which will pay the minor-league baseball team about $100,000 a year for naming rights to the ballpark.

The GreenJackets would get 75 percent of the naming-rights fee during the first year of a 10-year agreement and the city would get 25 percent.

For the next nine years, the GreenJackets would get 65 percent and the city 35 percent.

The GreenJackets would pay for the parking-lot paving and charge no more than $1 for parking the first year.

In another matter, commissioners refused a request by Rural Metro Ambulance Service to adopt an ordinance requiring emergency ambulance services to provide Advanced Life Support level of service.

The advanced level, as opposed to Basic Life Support, requires more highly trained staff and more advanced equipment.

A city ordinance requiring advanced service would allow Rural Metro to bill Medicare at a higher rate, company officials said.

Officials of Gold Cross Ambulance Service, which also provides ambulance service in Augusta, oppose the ordinance. They contend it would affect their company and could result in higher ambulance bills for everybody.

Commissioner Willie Mays said he objected to adopting an ordinance drawn up and pushed by the company it would affect.

"If that's where the problem is lying, to get further revenue, and this is a `sneakeroo' way of doing it, then I don't think we ought to be in the ordinance business and passing that cost on, not knowing whether Medicare is going to guarantee that process for every one of those billings that go out.

"I don't think we ought to be caught with that goat ... and then putting it in the form of an ordinance," he said.

The commission's Public Safety Committee told Rural Metro officials to get a recommendation from the Region VI Emergency Medical Services Council about the need for advanced service on all ambulances.

In other action Monday, Augusta Commission committees:

Agreed to allow Alternate Energy Resources Inc. pay off a big past-due utility bill over the next 13 months. The company, under a court order to clean up ground-water contamination at its Walden Drive facility, owed the city $212,225. Officials have paid the bill down to $113,000.

The Finance Committee voted to let the full commission debate the merits of a proposed contract for maintenance of city vehicles and equipment. The contract would give the company that eventually gets the contract authority to fire employees who aren't doing the job after a 90-day trial. The city's current contract with Tecom expires Dec. 31. Previous contracts have allowed for a year's review of performance.

When Richmond County government -- before merging with the city in 1996 -- contracted out garage services almost five years ago amid allegations of theft and mismanagement, one of the main concerns was that Ryder MLS keep county employees on the payroll.

City officials now want to raise the standards required of the contracting company. To do so, they must allow the company the authority to run the garage like a business.

Some of the former county employees lack the skills to do the work required, city Fleet Manager Harry Siddall said.

"We understand we need to have some consideration for them," he said. "We also place on the contract benchmark requirements that say, `You will perform at this level. But we're going to tie your legs together so you can't get to that level. We're going to bind you with people that may not be to the skill level that you need."'

Commissioner Henry Brigham said he and other commissioners are skeptical about privatizing government departments -- turning them over to private contractors to operate -- because it jeopardizes employees' jobs.

"That's a terrible message to send to our employees," Mr. Brigham said.

Sylvia Cooper covers Richmond County government for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (706) 823-3228 or sylviaco@augustachronicle.com.