$200 Theater Tickets Trumped a $20 Million Cost Recovery Effort?

UPDATE: At the August 5, 2014 meeting of the Augusta Commission, the Augusta media got its panties in a wad over $200 James Brown Movie premier tickets and ruffled feathers between Mayor Copenhaver and Commissioner Bill Fennoy.

In any place other than Augusta, a request for the Augusta National Golf Club to pay up $20 million just might have attracted a camera lens.

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Mayor Copenhaver, Gentlemen and Lady of the Commission, today let’s go down the Road of Good Intentions known as TIA 2010. Here is a road sign Commissioners Bowles and Lockett tried to install on this twisted road before we got to this Fiasco Junction.

This program has gone structurally bust in the 13 County CSRA region to the tune of $80 million to $140 million. Revenues are nearly 10% short versus budget. The investment projects’ costs are worse – now reported at the $538 million of 2011, but stood at $630 million when TIA passed. Worst of all is that higher number bore increases of 2% per year, but the cost of early projects is increasing more than 5%.

What happens to Augusta and its partner counties when funds run out in year 8? Augusta gets 60% of Phase 1 money, so the other counties could see Augusta’s early projects eat up their funding.

Distrust grows from Augusta swapping projects between Phases. Augusta was permitted to move the two Berckmans Road projects from the last phase to the second phase, but has a side deal with the Augusta National for a loan that moves the main project to Phase 1. The amount funded is just the $16.7 million base cost of that project. When the real costs come in, those projects could cost $2 million more. If the funds are capped at $16.7 million Augusta bears that cost. If the escalated costs are allowed to Augusta, we bear the cost.

The National’s project overruns mean promises to the people get dropped, here and throughout the region. Already $7.5 million for Municipal Transit promised didn’t get a dime in 2013.

The arrangements with Augusta and the Augusta National are of dubious legality. Nothing in TIA 2010 provides for a private entity to interject itself to secure earlier funding. The TIA citizens’ advisory panel we citizens were promised had oversight wasn’t even allowed to vote on the changes.

What of the Berckmans right of way – a TIA allowable cost? The proposed land swap with the National could be a net payment to Augusta that appropriately belongs to the regional fund. How can you separate out the complete costs of those options, like tunnels, the National wants from the TIA portion?

Finally there is the matter of trust. We cannot trust Augusta. The National paid $1.9 million an acre for its last purchase yet you are giving up 13 acres bordering the course itself with no attempt to get the National to pay – not loan – the $20 million or more their project will cost. Then look at the Highlands Avenue Project, where you are using 90% in other funds over and above TIA to meet the contracted price. All counties were to report all costs, including other sources, but Augusta didn’t. How many other games is Augusta playing with us?

In February reports flew out about the “TIA success” here. The press used a deceptive TIA funding list largely of non-TIA funds. Today legislators are meeting in Atlanta over transportation thinking this disaster actually works.
Let’s douse that notion by loudly demanding concrete action to secure that state guarantee of funding we heard in the TIA campaign.

For the Augusta National – Doing business with the last Augusta administration was high risk. Pay for your project to get free of this embarrassment now.

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