Mother (of) Goofs – The Convention Center that Rick Built

This is the Convention Center that Rick built.
Conference Harrison Bldg

This is the parcel
http://gismap.augustaga.gov/PropertyCard/Default.aspx?pin=037-3-
That lay under the Convention Center that Rick built.

This is the Center Manager/Owner
paulssimon
That had the parcel
That lay under the Center that Rick built.

This is equipment the partnership deal said would be paid for by
Tilting Kettles
That Center Manager/Owner
That had the parcel
That lay under the Convention Center that Rick built.

This is the Administrator who worked with Rick to bill the city for


That kitchen equipment that was going to be the cost of
That Center Manager/Owner
That had the parcel
That lay under the Convention Center that Rick built.

This is the lawyer who looked in vain for the city commission-executed PARTNERSHIP CHANGE
permitting
Augusta Attorney Andrew McKenzie
That Administrator to work with Rick to bill the city for
That kitchen equipment that was going to be the cost of
That Center Manager/Owner
That had the parcel
That lay under the Convention Center that Rick built.

This is the Architect paid to prevent contracting snafus
who got excluded from reviewing the purchase for which
That lawyer found no partnership change to allow
That Administrator to work with Rick to bill the city for
That kitchen equipment that was going to be the cost of
That Center Manager/Owner
That had the parcel
That lay under the Convention Center that Rick built.

This is the land right Augusta found it had under its Convention Center after
Air Rights?
That Architect noted his exclusion from the purchase review that might have stopped
That which the lawyer found no partnership change to allow
That Administrator to work with Rick to bill the city for
That kitchen equipment that was going to be the cost of
That Center Manager/Owner
That had the parcel
That lay under the Convention Center that Rick built.

This is the Manager/owners parcel value for which Augusta was forced to trade the equipment to use its own building
on
That empty land right Augusta found it had after
That Architect noted his exclusion from the purchase review that might have stopped
That which the lawyer found no partnership change to allow
That Administrator to work with Rick to bill the city for
That kitchen equipment that was going to be the cost of
That Center Manager/Owner
That had the parcel
That lay under the Convention Center that Rick built.

These are the $8250 in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 campaign contributions from the Center Manager/Owner
paulssimon
Rick got after buying

That equipment value it became necessary to trade for
That empty land rights Augusta found it had after
That the Architect noted his exclusion from the purchase review that might have noted
That which the lawyer found no partnership change to allow
That Administrator to work with Rick to bill the city for
That kitchen equipment that was going to be the cost of
That Center Manager/Owner
That had the parcel
That lay under the Convention Center that Rick built.

This is the rival donkey in Congress grinning like a mule eating briars

That Rick got those campaign contributions from the Center Manager/Owner seeing
That equipment value it became necessary to trade for
That land right Augusta found it had after
That Architect noted his exclusion from the purchase review that might have noted
That which the lawyer found no partnership change to allow
That Administrator to work with Rick to bill the city for
That kitchen equipment that was going to be the cost of
That Center Manager/Owner
That had the parcel
That lay under the Convention Center that Rick built.

Dekefeating the Tyranny of Credentials

The
Aurelius Principle

A Multidisciplinary Approach
Works Wonders

“Let it be your constant method to look into the design
of people’s actions, and see what they would be at, as often as it is
practicable; and to make this custom the more significant, practice it first
upon yourself.”
– Marcus Aurelius

On Tuesday evening, September 17, 2013 Mayor Deke Copenhaver in an Augusta City Commission meeting challenged me to supply my “credentials.”  He cut me off and would not let me respond. Since he asked for it – here goes.

Fact of the matter is I don’t really have any credentials. I have something much more effective and powerful that I call the Aurelius Principle. What the principle stands for is looking at major transactions globally or taking a multidisciplinary approach. Clients get a whole lot of angles on a problem in one pass that just an accountant, lawyer, administrator, engineer, planner, procurement agent, or other professional cannot provide.

The Aurelius Principle works this way: it uses an opponent’s own power, authority, records, and documents against him. If you think about that, it is something that the very best attorneys use. If one does it really well, he might find himself with a new lucrative line of work. For example, the in depth study of the Augusta convention might lead to marketing the same strategies that the management company there used to secure $3 million a year taxpayer subsidy.

The Principle is time-tested and simply does not fail, because it works on all sides of valuable transactions. The technique has been leveraged up to ever higher planes. It worked well enough for me to hardly hit a lick at a snake and retire early. I don’t have a lot of references, but I do have the Mayor’s records. He will find those a lot more convincing than “Credentials”.

Let’s try to weave an aspect of the principle into the question that Deke Copenhaver asked. Marketing personally to Fortune Magazine listed company executives was nearly impossible but then I sent a letter to  them, with a great white shark eating their precious logos in a window envelopes! It worked! CFO’s whom I needed to spent $50,000 on to contact contacted me!

The renegade marketing added to an enquiry list from potential and eventual clients of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., its predecessors, and mine that included these names, which just might be impressive even to the Mayor.

Tenneco

 

Fort Sterling

 

Maryland Cup

 

Procter and Gamble

 

USG

 

Hanes Brands

 

Sara Lee

 

Con Agra

 

National Gypsum

 

Georgia Pacific

 

Lilly Tulip

 

3M

 

Sunbeam

 

McDermott

 

Johnson and Johnson

 

Fulghum Industries

 

Lowes

Medimmune

 

Home Depot

 

Corning

 

Bass Pro

 

CarMike

 

W.R. Grace

 

Eli Lilly

 

Bristol Myers Squibb

 

Intel

 

St Joseph Foods

 

Georgia Iron Works

 

Boise Cascade

 

Stone Container

 

Fort Howard

 

Weyerhauser

 

Willamette

 

Packaging Company of America

 

Temple Inland

 

Fluor

 

 Lenzing Fibers


 Kahn’s

 General Electric

 Hillshire Farms


 Fort James

 Unilin

Jacobs

 

Fulghum Fibres

 

Donahue

 

 Duke Energy  Sweetheart Products  Hoku Corporation

 BCE Outdoor

 Control Plus  Arale Woods LLC

I performed work for 29 of those companies over the years as an employee, contractor, or subcontractor.

Leveraging up the Aurelius Principle in Augusta and Georgia has made for amazing findings and real results, especially during the Augusta Project since 2011.

To sum up, I knew I might be rusty and used Augusta like my very own laboratory to sharpen my skills. Not many rats escaped.

 

          AG

The author is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of multidisciplinary contract cost avoidance, cost recovery, and public policy services to industry and government.

Mission “Impossible” In a Slum

Originally posted September 18, 2013

The Augusta City Commission on Tuesday, September 17, 2013 heard the following raucous presentation, followed by a heated discussion. Full text follows the video.

 

Mayor Copenhaver and Commissioners:

Thank you for allowing me to speak tonight in opposition to designating the Downtown Business District a SLUM.

When words no longer are required to carry their true meaning and devolve into meaning the opposite, all men and women should shudder, for in that immoral state what is the meaning of right and wrong?

Let’s look to the Department of Community Affairs Guideline on how to do Urban Redevelopment in Georgia. It cautions against this Commission surrendering all of its Redevelopment Powers to an Authority, but this resolution breathes life back into a body possessive of those powers. It says there needs to be public and private input gone missing in these proceedings. It says beware conflicts if you have a DDA. It says the redevelopment district can be a single parcel, not requiring over 1000 of them in 595 acres. It cautions on the use the broadened power of eminent domain and the power to single out individual landowners for reward or punishment. It says the redevelopment plan is easily changed so you can start with a small district to fund the municipal building with tax exempt bonds, then expand it. These DCA guidelines have neither been followed nor met in myriad ways.

When you allow words to lose meaning, you allow debate over their meaning to obscure that which is a real public menace. The people rightfully fear monsters hatched in the dark will go on to feast – on them – in the dark. The DCA guidelines shine light on the process, so why not insist that they be met?

Questions about this resolution are legion. Is it responsible to fund unlimited debt service with SPLOST revenues that have not been approved yet? Won’t the net result force funds from 99.8% of the rest of Richmond County into this district? Can’t a much smaller Opportunity Zone be created? Can you recapture powers of the Urban Redevelopment Agency? What is afoot with using the very different Redevelopment Powers Act in a coterminous TAD that is so secretive?

Pictures are said to be worth a 1000 words and the Mayor will hold me to about 550, so let me conclude with 2 pictures. Here you see me with my most important client, my mother.

She was confronted with a county overlay zone that singled her property out for restrictions that would have gutted the value of her commercial site. One commissioner, 2 planning commissioners and staff said it was a DONE DEAL with one opining that her land should be acquired by the county for a park. She looked to be all alone until other property owners were awakened.

The people of Augusta are in similar peril. Arrogance around property rights exhibits ignorance of how deep and wide the concepts of fairness and “do unto others” hold our world together. Here you see how the Communist Chinese had to yield to it when elderly homeowners refused to surrender to the government.

The ability under Augusta’s charter to pass any outrage at any time with 6 votes coupled with this SLUM resolution would leave them with no hope.

Flush “SLUM” and let’s banish the much over-used word “Impossible” from describing Augusta. Let’s do it now, do it with conviction and do it together.  Nothing is impossible to those who demand honor instead of a SLUM.

 

Augusta Commission Asked to Chill Out

by Al M. Gray

Originally posted September 8, 2013

The Controversial Urban Redevelopment program is on the Augusta Commission Public Services Committee agenda for Monday September 9, 2013, but something else is attention-getting.  It was the request to approve the addition of a chiller to the Convention/Tee Center Chiller Plant. This item might not normally draw a commissioner’s attention, since the Marriott is said to be paying for it.

 

Let’s not beat around the bush. There are some pretty serious questions, old and new, that this request summons forth. We will begin with the new questions and end with the old questions.

 

Issue One: Cost Responsibility for Additional Chiller Space and Piping

 

 The Public Service Committee Meeting Item Coversheet contains this statement:

 

During the design of the TEE Center project, the chiller plant

 

was designed for future expansion. All piping stub outs and

 

additional space has been provided to add two additional chillers

 

and cooling towers.

 

 

 

Some of this space and capacity is now proposed for use in service of the Conference Center. However, the Conference Center CORE agreement, which I understand remained in place when the Tee/Convention Center was authorized, seems to place responsibility for Conference Center HVAC Equipment on Marriott owner Augusta Riverfront LLC. Did Augusta pay for the “additional space” and the piping stub outs under the Convention/Tee Center Contract?  If so, where did the contractual responsibility shift to Augusta?

 

Issue Two:  Effects of Chiller Deletions on Convention/Tee Center Construction/ Mechanical Contracts

 

The attachment to the Chiller Agenda Item is a letter from Morris Communications Corporate Architect Robert Kuhar dated August 19, 2013 discussing the expansion of the chiller plant. It contains this statement:

 

….. the central plant was a part of the design very early on in the project..

 

however due to budget constraints, it was not fully implemented. Addition space was

 

provided for expansion of the system.

 

 

“Not fully implemented” suggests partial implementation. How much of the design providing additional capacity and expansion to include the Marriotts and Conference center was implemented? Also, since the Convention/Tee Center project was built on a fast track basis on partially complete design, did all of the non-Augusta Convention/Tee costs get deleted from the contractor’s and mechanical contractor’s scope of work when the earlier design was deleted? This writer has seen large overpayments occur in similar circumstances.

 

Issue Three:  Chiller Redundancy and Cost Responsibility

 

Within the attachment to the Chiller Agenda Item, appears this:

 

A central chiller plant cools the new Convention Center with cooling towers locate d on

 

the roof.• Two chillers provide 400 tons of cooling each. There is a total of 800 tons of cooling

 

available. • When fully occupied during the warmest time of the year the current Conference Center requires approximately 400 tons of cooling.• There is 100% redundancy provided by the second chiller.

 

 

If this redundancy is to cover the Conference Center, shouldn’t that portion of the capital expenditure have been born by the Manager, Augusta Riverfront LLC, if the existing Conference Center Agreement still governed?

 

Issue Four:  Convention versus Marriott and Conference Center Separate Metering Status

 

In the supporting memo from Robert Kuhar, Corporate Architect of Morris Communications, dates August 19,2013 and with the subject line Centralized Cooling Concept there is this:

 

…the Marriott and Conference center could be metered by either flow meters or

 

BTU meters to determine cost of operation between the different facilities

 

 

 

This brings an old matter back up. You might recall that when Augusta citizen activist Lori Davis requested to see the electrical single line diagrams that will show how power is being distributed between The Conference Center, the Convention Center and the Marriott, she was rebuffed under the guise of “security.” Wasn’t there supposed to be separate metering of utilities to segregate Convention/Tee Center costs , from Marriott and Conference Center Costs? Where does this stand? Can you, the public, or this writer now see the documents and audit trail for these costs?

 

Issue Five:   Conference Center and old Radisson Hotel versus the 8 Air Turn Marriott standard

 

On August 17, 2012, activist Lori Davis submitted a Georgia Open Records Act Request inquiring into the design of the Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems for the existing Marriott/Conference Center before integration with the Convention/ Tee Center HVAC system. The response she received was a CD with empty file directories. The purpose for the inquiry was to evaluate the $399,000 change order to the smoke handling system, which was supposedly based upon a Marriott requirement for 8 air turns instead of the 2.5 designed. Since the Conference Center and Marriott hotel date back to 1999 (at that time the first building was a Radisson), we wondered whether those older buildings themselves met the 8 air turn requirement. Our next question, had that one met a negative response, would have been to ask why the new Marriott standard would apply to the Tee/Convention Center HVAC, which doesn’t appear to feed directly into either Marriott hotel, but into the Conference Center.  Also, any upgrade of the Conference Center to 8 air turns would have had to receive Augusta’s approval.

 

A final reason that might have brought responsibility for that $399,000 change order cost into question was that the governing Conference Center CORE agreement says this:

 

Section 7.2 HVAC Operations. Insofar as certain of the Improvements of the Parties shall be

 

internally connected through common conidors (sic)and passageways, Developer, in operating the air conditioning and heating system for the Hotels and the Expanded Conference Center, shall operate such systems in a manner which will not unduly drain heat, ventilation or air conditioning from the Improvements of any other Party.

 

 

 

Doesn’t this imply that the Tee/Convention HVAC would stand alone, with no requirement to meet the higher Marriott standard of 8 air turns? Was the $399,000 change order a necessary Augusta cost, given the authoritative documents? The Augusta Commission settled the construction contract issue by approving the change order, but did that settle the issue between the partners?

 

 

Issue 6: Morris Communications Employee Involvement

 

 

Is the involvement of a Morris Communications Executive indicative that Morris employees are the members of Convention/Tee management firm Augusta Convention Center Management LLC? What role does the corporate architect play in the management of these facilities?

 

 

Update: The Public Service Committee of the Augusta Commission voted to approve the installation of the additional chillers and related piping in its September 9, 2013 meeting. In the meeting Paul Simon of the Augusta Marriott asserted that there is separate metering of utilities between that which Augusta pays and that which the Augusta Marriott and manager Augusta Riverftont LLC  absorbs.

Augusta’s administration continues to hold the as-built drawings that would confirm the existence and contractual correctness of the separate metering. A review of the HVAC design must be the subject of a follow-up Georgia Open Records Act request to answer the questions as to whether the HVAC system design for the Convention/Tee center followed contractual divisions of responsibility between the Manager and the owner, the City of Augusta.

-AG

Catering May Crater Augusta Finances

TEE Catering Delivers Sweets To Whom?
Originally posted on CityStink
Thursday, November 8, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Al Gray
The author, Al M. Gray is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns.
Part 2 of Reviewing Augusta’s Tee Center Contracts
When Augusta’s Trade, Exhibition, and Event (TEE) Center was officially presented as a concept for approval in August 2007, what stood as the partnership agreement was an unsigned, undated document entitled  “Term Sheet.” between the city and Marriott Hotel Franchisee Augusta Riverfront LLC. Under that agreement, Augusta was not in the catering business and was not slated to furnish $1.4 million in kitchen equipment, or if it was, that detail was not spelled out for the Augusta City Commission.
Much has been written on this blog about the saga of the Tee Center Kitchen Equipment and that tale is not one to be retold now.
What is now germane is  that the Augusta Commission has been presented with a raft of contract and legal documents to be approved and executed that clearly should have been in place by late 2009, having been repeatedly promised as being “finalized” by City Administrator Fred Russell in the last half of that year. Now the Commission is being asked to whisk these complicated deals through in an expedited fashion lest Tee Center events face cancellation.
After the Management Agreement, the Tee Center Catering Agreement has the greatest impact upon TEE Center operations, as Augusta Riverfront LLC is already the Manager of Augusta’s Conference Center and Caterer for events there. Augusta is paid no share of catering from its Conference Center under previous deals.
The following represents a summary of the primary Catering Agreement issues compiled from a review of the contract documents. This list has been provided to Commissioners and has become the basis of discussion and attempts toward a speedy resolution of major issues. The approach was to review the agreements in PDF form,  write comments, apply sticky notes that Adobe Acrobat provides to annotate documents, and then to provide a summary from the compiled sticky notes.
Solutions were designed to be the product of meeting participants and were not suggested in the summary.
The author is not a licensed attorney, auditor, or public accountant. This analysis was provided from a multidisciplinary perspective in the manner that accountants, attorneys, administrators, owners, policy makers, and media might find useful in trying to decipher the pitfalls and dangers in the agreements.
 Primary Issues
  1. Since most of the language in the Catering Agreement mirrors the language of the previously-reviewed and annotated Management Agreement, this document will only be annotated with comments and questions unique to this agreement.
  2. Phantom legal documents (see “ Conference Center Management Agreement dated____, 2012”) should not be referenced.
  3. ARLLC (Augusta Riverfront LLC) is both Conference Center operator and Caterer with a captive LLC (TEE Center Manager Augusta Convention Center Management LLC) between them. Isn’t this just a fiction to eliminate a conflict of interest as alluded to in the Catering Agreement?
  4. Controls over inventories of food and beverage (to prevent co-mingling of Augusta, Hotel and Conference Center purchases) being in place before contract execution should be mandatory.
  5. If Kitchen doesn’t serve Hotels (as has been publicly stated by the Marriott General Manager), can’t that reference be taken out?
  6. Cross over events into the Conference Center will deprive the Tee Center of catering revenues, while the agreements relieve the Conference Center of costs.
As with the Management Agreement, time will tell how many of the above issues are addressed, handled, and rectified.
 -AG
The author, Al M. Gray is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns. He is a frequent contributor to CityStink.net.

Land Swaps, Bonds and Air Rights: The Parking Deck Saga Continued

The parking deck at 9th and Reynolds Streets
Originally published October 30, 2011 in the defunct CityStink blog
October 30, 2011
Augusta, GA
Dustin Goads
Al M. Gray, President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc. contributed multidisciplinary review techniques in support of this article
Since City Stink first ran the story this past Wednesday on the Reynolds Street parking deck saga, the proverbial fecal matter has hit the fan. Unfortunately many people in the media are still missing the big story and some have chosen to divert attention away from the main issues and  toward State Sen Bill Jackson, implying that City Stink was accusing him of wrong doing and “dragging his name through the mud.”  Nothing could be further from the truth.
Sen. Jackson’s name only came up because public property records show he was involved in a land swap with the city so that a small 0.07 acre parcel that he had owned with a  business associate for decades could be secured for the new parking deck at 9th  and Reynold’s Street. The real issue that is being ignored is the inflated price the city ended up paying for that 0.07 parcel and its implications for 933 Broad Investment Co LLC (aka Augusta Riverfront, LLC), NOT that Sen. Jackson walked away with any huge pay-off or was somehow tipped off by someone to hit it big in land speculation. If you go back and read the article you will find that City Stink never made any such accusations.
Explaining the Land Swap Transaction
State Sen. Bill Jackson and a long time business associate, who is now deceased, had owned a 0.07 acre parcel at the corner of 9th and Reynold’s Street since 1969. It just so happens it was right where the city of Augusta needed to build a new parking deck. Instead of an outright sale of the property to the city, an arrangement was set up called a  1031 Exchange. When you hear the term “Land Swap”, this is what they are referring to. These are quite common in the business world, though not quite as common for municipal governments to be a party to. But it made good business sense for Sen Jackson to want to avoid paying capital gains on the outright sale of the property, since he says he was not particularly interested in selling. No one faults Sen Jackson for making a sound business decision. The 1031 allowed him to defer any capital gains. It also allowed for more purchasing power for the two parcels he wanted in the exchange, since capital gains would have gobbled up 15% of the profit from the sale.
However, the city didn’t just swap out land with Sen Jackson that it already owned. The state Senator was interested in two small parcels at the corner of 13th street and Reynolds street adjacent to his Tile Center business. Those parcels were owned by K&W Investment Co. You can view the property records here: 1311 Reynolds St parcel and 35 13th St parcel. But the thing is, to acquire these two parcels, the city paid out $119,000. And that is the main point. Sen Jackson just got the land.. no money. The $119,000 was held in escrow by a 3rd party intermediary while the transactions were being finalized. Even though Sen Jackson didn’t walk away with a big fat check in the deal, he did get a larger parcel that was of considerable more value to his business than the tiny 0.07 acre orphaned parcel he transferred to the city at 9th and Reynolds Streets.
Now a particular talk radio personality was making it sound like the land swap was at the very best a “wash” for Jackson or that he may have even lost money on the deal. Not quite. Acquiring the crucial corner parcel at 13th St and Reynolds St gave Jackson increased visibility and access for his Tile Center business and thus increased the value of all of  his land there. So Jackson made quite a good deal for himself, not faulting him with that, any good businessman would do the same thing. The question here is, in all of this, did the taxpayers make a good deal?
How Augusta Riverfront, LLC is the MAIN Beneficiary of the Land Swap
As we have said before the main player in the parking deck, aside from the city of Augusta, is Augusta Riverfront, LLC. This is  the company who will manage not only the new parking deck, but the new TEE Center. They also own the Marriott hotel adjacent to the new TEE center. As we first told you, the land where the TEE center parking deck now sits is owned by a company called 933 Broad Investment Co, LLC, which we found is a shell company of Augusta Riverfront, LLC. This means that the company who wants to manage the parking deck (at a yearly fee of $25,000) actually owns the land where the deck sits, EXCEPT for that one 0.07 acre parcel involved in the land swap with State Sen Bill Jackson.
As we just told you, the city paid out $119,000 in that exchange. What that did was essentially inflate the land values where the parking deck sits, establishing a price point of $1.7 million per acre! And who owns most of that land? 933 Broad Investment Co LLC (aka Augusta Riverfront, LLC). So that puts them in a pretty sweet position over this deck. They already own the ground floor of the deck, which means they get the revenue generated from the spaces on the first level, and now they want a $25,000 contract to manage the rest of the deck. Many city leaders are crying foul and saying they were mislead and want ALL of the land where the deck sits under city ownership. But not so fast. Augusta Riverfront, LLC can now assert that their land is worth $1.7 million per acre if the city wants to buy them out. That could also be used as powerful leverage in negotiating a sweet heart management contract for managing the  new Reynolds’s street deck and the one adjacent to the Marriott.
What Exactly Were Commissioners Told?
When several commissioners were told that the city did not own the land where they just built a $12 million parking deck, they were dumbfounded. It seems as though just about everyone on the commission was of the belief that Augusta Riverfront, LLC or its subsidiary had already donated their parcels of  land for the deck. But that never happened. Commission meeting minutes from 2009 clearly show that city administrator Fred Russell told commissioners on multiple occasions that Augusta Riverfront, LLC or its subsidiary had AGREED to donate the land to make way for the parking deck. You can view those commission meeting minutes on the City of Augusta website.
It makes sense that Augusta Riverfront, LLC would agree to donate the land for parking deck. They were getting a sweetheart deal on the TEE Center and the management contract to operate it with no risk to them. In fact they were getting a $350,000 per year subsidy from taxpayers to run the facility. And the hotels owned by Augusta Riverfront, LLC are adjacent to the TEE Center and thus will get exclusive access to the facility. And don’t forget that the city forgave Augusta Riverfront, LLC of a $7.5 million UDAG loan that the city had acquired on their behalf back in the early 1990s for construction of the Radisson, now Marriott. So it is very plausible that commissioners would expect that Augusta Riverfront, LLC would “do the right thing” and donate the land for the parking deck.
The Deal was Changed but Someone Forgot to Tell the Commissioners
December 7, 2009 was when the crucial vote was taken that approved the deal over the TEE Center and parking deck. The meeting minutes show that once again commissioners were told by Fred Russell that Augusta Riverfront, LLC had agreed to donate the land and that the city would only need to acquire two other parcels, one from a “private individual” (that was State Sen Bill Jackson) and WAGT (though none of the actual parking deck sits on the former WAGT parcel). Commissioners voted to approve the deal based on this information. But somewhere along the way things changed, but commissioners were never told. It also was revealed that a much cheaper option for surface parking instead of a costly deck was rejected by Fred Russell without the knowledge of commissioners. Commissioners were not even aware of a parking study that proposed the cheaper surface lot option. Chris Thomas of WDRW reported on it.
So somewhere along the line the deal was changed  to where the city only acquired air rights above the ground floor of  the $12 million parking deck. But apparently commissioners were never told that the deal had changed. And was the parking deck even necessary in the first place? There is now a push among at least one Augusta Commissioner to clamp down on downtown parking to hopefully steer people to the new deck. So why was this deck needed? And who told the city it was absolutely necessary to build this deck?
Follow the Bonds, Follow the Money and Connect the Dots
The reason given now by city attorneys as to why the land was not donated by Augusta Riverfront, LLC is so that tax free bonds could be used for construction. But that begs the question: Why did the city need to purchase the 0.07 acre corner parcel from Sen Bill Jackson for the deck? If keeping the land under the control of Augusta Riverfront, LLC allowed for tax free bonds to be used for construction, then shouldn’t they have purchased that land from Sen Jackson instead of the city to consolidate ownership? But as we previously told you, the lopsided land swap with the city valued that parcel at $119,000, which then inflated the surrounding land values (owned by Augusta Riverfront, LLC) to $1.7 million per acre. How convenient.
The other question that begs to be asked is why The DDA (Downtown Development Authority) was taken out of the process over the issuance of the bonds for the parking deck? The DDA is a governmental authority whose original purpose was issuing and servicing bonds for downtown parking decks.. but NOT this particular downtown parking deck. Why?
Brad Owens, the founder of Augusta Today and a former member of the DDA and a frequent critic brings up the following points regarding the bonds:
“FOLLOW THE MONEY!
The key here has been said a few times but folks have missed it. Let me put the two together here for everyone:
1.) City lawyers say the deal was changed so tax-free bonds could be used for construction.
2.) His (Mayor Copenhaver) comment was the bond attorneys would have never let matters stand if there were something wrong with the deal.
Now, here are a few bones that need to be dug up on this based on the excuse that has been given;
  1.  WHO issued the bonds?
  2. WHO is servicing the bonds?
  3. WHICH attorney is handling this and what are the fees being charged?
  4.  ARE these “double barrel” bonds?
  5. WHICH bank is holding the money for these deals?
  6. WHAT interest rate/fee/surcharge is being charged by the bank?
Incompetence or Collusion?
It appears that many mistakes were made in this process involving the parking deck by the city and each one of those mistakes were to the great benefit of Augusta Riverfront, LLC. So that begs yet another question: Was this just yet another case of incompetence by city officials, or was this collusion among some key people on the city payroll and Augusta Riverfront, LLC to orchestrate a very lop-sided deal that now leaves the taxpayers with a $12 million parking deck on land they don’t even own? Also, was someone at the city involved with the inflation of the value of the land where the deck now sits to benefit Augusta Riverfront, LLC and to the detriment of the taxpayers? Why were commissioners told by Fred Russell on multiple occasions, that Augusta Riverfront, LLC had agreed to donate the land only for that to change without the commissioners being made aware of the change?
Why didn’t the DDA issue the bonds, especially when financing parking decks is the original reason it was created by the state in the first place? Was this done in an effort to remove scrutiny and oversight from the bonds?
And why isn’t Mayor Copenhaver more outraged over this whole sordid affair? He seems to be more mad at the messengers for exposing the meeting minutes that show that commissioners were mislead over ownership of the parking deck land. The mayor had this to say: “Why do some people always want to look back at matters? We should be looking ahead.”
We could not disagree more with mayor Copenhaver. Public officials should be outraged over this. The mayor may want all of this to just go away but we will most certainly not just look the other way on this when millions of dollars in public money are involved and especially not when it appears the process may have been rigged from the very beginning. We would hope that mayor Copenhaver would share the concerns of the public over this.
You can be assured there is more to come on this parking deck scandal… so stay tuned.
**Update** The connection between 933 Broad Investment Co LLC and Augusta Riverfront LLC:
933 Broad Investment Co LLC
Augusta Riverfront LLC
IDENTICAL!

* Al Gray and Kurt Huttar of contributed to the Reynolds Street Parking Deck series by searching land titles through the Augusta, Georgia GIS map site.