$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.

Enron Accounting Revisits DOT

On February 5 of this year the time of the groundbreaking for the Riverwatch Parkway Extension Project, WAGT TV26, WJBF Channel 6, and the Columbia County News-Times all incorrectly reported that the $34 million project was being funded wholly out of TIA-2010 funds, also known as TSPLOST.

The TIA funds for the project came out of the 75% funding level list approved by voters within the Constrained Projects List. There is a project cost estimate found in the details. That paints a truthful picture. Nearly $11 million for the project is reserved out of DOT highway and fuel taxes and there is a $3.3 million cost overrun already, leaving $20 million in TSPLOST funding.

You know there is something screwy when that many news outlets get it wrong and are all using the same number.

Well it didn’t take long to find the source. It was DOT, who came into the TSPLOST debate tarnished and smarting from Governor Sonny Perdue accusing them of “Enron Accounting,” but seems back to their bad habits by putting out a webpage showing TIA spending that looks to be TIA, alright – Totally In-Accurate. A Lincoln County project is only $1 million of TIA funding, but DOT listed it as $4 million. Wrightsboro Road in Augusta is shown as $19 million TIA funding, but it is only $2 million.

If DOT wants to reestablish its credibility after its flirtation with Enron Accounting they sure have a funny way of showing it.

How they are going to fund the huge cost increases with revenues collected so woefully low would make an Enron Accountant strain.

Shameful Legislation Hurts CSRA Region and Lincoln County

Al Gray Remarks to Lincoln Co. Commissioners
6/14/2012

Chairman Johnson and Gentlemen of the Commission, thank you for allowing me to speak tonight. I have come to sound a warning about the proposed new 1% Transportation sales tax that comes before voters July 31st. Frankly, in all the years following public policy I have never seen anything this shameful.
The greater shame is on this county’s legislators – Bill Jackson, Lee Anderson, and Tom McCall for springing forth such an assault upon the people of this county. The bill that gave rise to this abomination was called the Transportation Investment Act. This bill set up a regional transportation roundtable for 13 counties, including Lincoln County. While it is true all had input, the law set up an executive committee of 5 to have the final vote for the 13 counties. They set it up so that Lincoln County is forced to be in this whole new level of regional government, whether we vote to pass or fail, so that our votes are diminished. This is taxation without representation. Worst of all they committed EXTORTION against us all, by denying state funds if we say “No!” Beyond this, this is a 14.2% tax increase that they swore to never vote for. Nor were any options even offered, like dedicating the 1% to our county.
Yes the shame is upon them and tonight I come to ask you to stop embracing this nonsense lest you bring greater shame on yourselves and the Chamber of Commerce, a group that risks its reputation by hawking this tax.
Politicians and Chamber representatives have been going around the CSRA saying this tax will raise $841 million under a base case. This is a LIE and the Promoters’ own data shows that. Here is a chart showing the base case. It is built on wild income growth numbers – 8% next year – that are a fantasy. The real numbers knock holes in these projections!
 Will we get only $650 million? Sales tax revenues are WAYYYYYYY down as the blue charts show over the last 5 years. Can we pretend our way back to prosperity?
Gentlemen YOU HAVE BEEN HOODWINKED!!!!!!! What these real revenue numbers show is that area wide, revenues will probably only cover $500 million to $540 million of the investment list projects! This will mean that the ones in the last years of this deal won’t be funded. Incredibly $6.6 million of the $7.7 million of Lincoln’s projects are to be built in these final years. 
 Source: Constrained List Spreadsheet from CSRA Regional Commission
The numbers say these projects will lack funding. You have been deceived and now are being asked to foist this deception upon the people of Lincoln County.
Beyond that, this is a terrible 14.2% increase in the sales tax. Frugal folks just cannot stand such an increase in any cost, for a 14.2% increase doubles living costs in 5 years. For this? This comes on top of a 23% sewer rate increase and several double-digit school tax increases. Look around! Who can afford that?
These deceivers have managed you get some of you excited over Lincoln County getting $722,000 a year in new discretionary funds. Well, based upon the data above this looks to be far less. This money is only coming to us because this scam makes Richmond and Columbia counties give up $7 million to bribe us into this wicked partnership with them. How is that right? A 1% new tax dedicated to Lincoln County would raise more revenue. Why are you excited about the same money or less with strings attached? Why are you willing to destroy your credibility for this?
Gov. Sonny Perdue said that DOT committed ENRON ACCOUNTING when it lost control of highway funds 4 years ago. Now they are all excited about getting their hands on this money. They want us to bail them out.
Mark Twain once said there were three kinds of lies….Lies….Damned lies and statistics……..now we can add a fourth lie – Tsplost.
My warning is this. Don’t go forth using these phony numbers after tonight. You know better and the people now know better.
Just vote no on T-splost. It is the only honorable thing to do.
For more reality based information on what Tsplost really is all about visit CityStink.net online.