Simon Says He is Cheaper; Watchdogs Say “CAP It!”

Friday, July 20, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Bradley Owens

Elections have had October surprises but lately anytime the Augusta Richmond County meets with a parking deck agreement on the agenda, watch for the wild, woolly, and unexpected.

The February meeting saw a last minute compromise whereby proposed parking deck manager Augusta Riverfront LLC (ARLLC) was conditionally awarded a management agreement with the condition that the land they own under the Reynolds Street Parking Deck (all but a small parcel) being transferred free of the almost $7,000,000.00 in liens that bedeck the title to the land bank

The Augusta-Richmond County commission meeting on Tuesday, July 17, 2012, saw a morning pre-meeting surprise, when ARLLC’s Paul Simon offered a cost comparison between numbers he suddenly provided and those submitted by Ampco Parking, who had been recommended for award of the management contract for the parking deck based upon its competitive low bid. (It is noted that Administrator Fred Russell directed the award to ARLLC, who was not part of the bid process, after notifying Ampco that its bid was rejected.)

There is no surprise that Simon says his numbers were $14,000 lower, I mean what did you expect him to say, “We are bilking you?”

The surprise was that he took the risk of putting numbers to a combination of two dissimilar deck agreements, one cost-reimbursable and the other a net lease deal, with the gamble that the commission would take his last-minute, arguably improperly-disseminated (through Fred Russell) gambit at face value and approve the management agreement.  All of this happened despite ARLLC’s failure to get the liens released hence clearing the title for the land bank and doing as they promised.

The public needs to take his bet and counter with one of its own.

Open Challenge to Paul Simon

Dear Paul,

Since you are pleased to present such a reasonable budget, let’s cap it at the numbers shown. We agree that you really don’t need the following to make this a profitable deal, so let’s drop these items from your earlier proposal;

·        $250,000 referenced in the capital budget section,

·        The liability insurance cost reimbursement that would have been covered by the Ampco fee

·        Overarching power to expend Augusta’s money as you see fit

·        The ability to define “costs” in whatever manner you deem expedient

·        Latitude to assign high-priced employees to the deck deal

·        Two fees totaling $50,000 (Ampco’s was less than $18,000)

·        The ability to exceed the budget with impunity (Ampco was prohibited from doing that, weren’t they?)

Those of us in the community have read repeatedly in ARLLC partner Billy Morris’ newspaper for the need to have sound financial policies in government operations.  That being the stated position of the “Big Boss” we are quite sure you will see the need for a procedures manual by which Augusta’s auditors can judge compliance with some contract mandated standards, won’t you? Such a manual was going to be required of Ampco so certainly you are prepared to give us one, right?

Yes, Paul, we are pleased that you have put forth these solid numbers and are sure that you would be willing to share those for the Conference Center Deck, so we can see about how the second $25,000 fee is accounted for. We are also interested to know about how the costs relating to the 150 ground level spaces in the Reynolds Street Deck that you own, subject to liens, are treated. Our “back-of-the envelope” calculations brought that cost, based upon your numbers, to about $47,000 or so a year.

Mr. Simon, if you are willing to cap the costs at the numbers shown, eliminate all of the provisions in the management deal that make it a blank check to your LLC and dispense with those pesky liens, I think we can make a deal.

Because then, and only then, you just might be on the same footing as Ampco.***

B.O.


**View Paul Simon’s “comparison” below**

ARLLC – Budget Comparison

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