Originally created 06/25/02

Coliseum readiness at issue



Leaders from the United Methodist Church have been invited to attend an Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority meeting today to talk about conditions inside the civic center, where the church held a major convention earlier this month.

Church officials say things weren't bad enough at the North Georgia Annual Conference of United Methodists to deter them from returning to the downtown coliseum; they're scheduled to come back in 2003.

But Augusta Commission and coliseum officials say criticism of the Seventh Street center's catering services and cleanliness are serious enough to be considered publicly and should be corrected before the next conference.

"There were some problems they had with food service and with the facility itself," said Commissioner Tommy Boyles, noting that he plans to attend today's meeting as "an interested Methodist" because he has no jurisdiction over the coliseum authority.

"They want to discuss (those problems) and iron them out," Mr. Boyles said. "From a commission end, we want to do everything we can to make sure everything is good in Augusta for everyone coming here."

The conference spanned four days and drew more than 2,500 Methodists, church officials report. From 1999 until last year, the annual meeting was held in Athens, although the conference has used Augusta's civic center about three times, said Dr. Jane Brooks, the superintendent of the Augusta United Methodist District.

Dr. Brooks, who served as the chairwoman for the conference's Augusta host committee, will address authority members today. In a telephone interview Monday, she would not identify any specific complaints about the civic center.

City officials say Methodist representatives met privately with Augusta commissioners and civic center authorities shortly after the conference to discuss their concerns.

Authority Chairman Bill Maddox said that after that meeting, he asked church leaders to brief the full board about what happened.

"Any complaints or anything, we'll make sure they're straightened out," Mr. Maddox said.

The conference has been held in several cities, including Rome, Atlanta and Dalton, church officials said. Two delegates from every Methodist church in the North Georgia Conference and all clergy attend.

"We (will) come back with confidence that the civic center folks will correct the concerns that we had," said Dr. Ed Tomlinson, the executive assistant to Methodist Bishop Lindsey Davis. "We feel confident that we're going to have a good time in Augusta next year."

Reach Heidi Coryell Williams at (706) 823-3215 or heidi.williams@augustachronicle.com.