Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Breaking News: Lori Davis Announces Run for Augusta Commission Seat

District 1  Commission Candidate Lori Davis

Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012
Augusta, GA
From Reports

Ending months of speculation, community activist and government watchdog Lori Davis has made it official today; she will seek the District 1 Augusta Commission seat currently held by Matt Aitken. First coming to prominence in 2009 battling persistent crime and recalcitrant landlords in her Harrisburg neighborhood, more recently Davis has taken center stage in local politics as one of the principal figures exposing corruption and waste in Augusta's government, especially over the controversial TEE Center and Reynolds Street parking deck.

Davis cites a current commissioner who is out of touch with his constituents and seems to serve the special interests like Augusta Riverfront LLC instead of the average citizen and taxpayer as a primary motivation for entering the race. Davis also says she was extremely troubled that  current commissioner Matt Aitken had not even bothered to read the annual budget before voting for it, and an overall lack of attention to detail by this commission is continuing to waste taxpayer dollars. She says that recent votes over the TEE Center and parking deck demonstrate that the commission is tone deaf to the will of the public and that at this point the only way to get real reform in Augusta's government is to get a seat at the table to change things. Davis says that it is obvious that the public needs a citizen watchdog on the commission who will ask tough questions and get results and not be merely a rubber stamp for the special interests.

Lori Davis' campaign website can be found at You can read the  full press release below or at this Link:---> Lori Davis Announcement
Campaign Pledge Here---> Campaign Pledge

******************For Immediate Release****************

    February, 29, 2012 
Augusta, GA

                                 Community Leader Joins District 1 Commission Race

AUGUSTA, GA --- Lori Davis, known for her leadership and relentless efforts to improve local government and neighborhoods, announced today that she will run for the Augusta-Richmond County District 1 Commission seat. Davis stated, “not only do we not have an elected representative working in the best interests of our families in District 1, our current commissioner has been voting against the will of his constituents and contrary to the platform he campaigned on. I've had phone calls and emails from all over the county thanking me for my assistance in exposing corruption concerning the TEE Center and parking deck, and for fighting against the 'good-ole-boy' politics that prevents us from moving forward. In order to really make a difference, I need to have a seat on the commission”.

As a co-founder of the grassroots social media organization “Augusta Today”, and as a regular columnist for their blog,, Davis has helped uncover some of the most fraudulent, careless use of taxpayers' money in recent history. In her February 10, 2012 blog, Davis pointed out the hypocrisy in current District 1 Commissioner's (Matt Aitken) support of the corrupt TEE Center project, and called for a recall vote for his commission seat. “I would have hoped he would resign after his stubborn support of the TEE Center and parking deck fiasco, knowing we've documented the corruption. Aitken wouldn't even return an email before casting his vote to approve the tainted parking deck agreement”, stated Davis.

Davis also stated that unfortunately the crime and drugs continue at a more dangerous level in her home community, Harrisburg. “I want to talk about making progress with race relations and moving our city in a positive direction, but it's difficult to focus on the future if we don't take action to improve our individual communities, NOW. It seems we're going backwards instead of moving forward. My goal is to to change that direction.”

Lori Davis will bring to the commission a strong background in management and active involvement in the community. She started the group “Concerned Citizens of Harrisburg” to fight the crime, prostitution and illegal drugs in Harrisburg, has served as President of Harrisburg-West End Neighborhood Association, and presently serves as President of the West Augusta Alliance. Davis has a Bachelor of Science degree in Education and a Master's in Science Education from Auburn University. She has had the unique opportunity to teach in rural, parochial and inner city schools in the southwest Georgia area. She is currently office manager for GYN Care Associates and Augusta hCG Weight Loss Center on Walton Way in Augusta.

Lori Davis will work with the administrator, other commissioners, and the mayor as long as their efforts are in the best interest of District 1 and the entire county. Her campaign website has been launched and will have new information in the next few weeks concerning her goals and actions needed to move District 1 in the right direction.
# # #

Augusta Riverfront LLC Feels Entitled to Taxpayers' Money

Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012
Augusta, GA Commentary

At Monday's committee meetings, Augusta Commissioners refused to endorse a controversial $836,288 change-order for the TEE Center. Causing the most consternation was approximately $400,000 for a more expensive air handling system. The current one meets state standards but The Marriott hotel wants a more premium HVAC system that provides nearly four times the air exchanges required by state standards. The problem is, Augusta Riverfront LLC, the owner of the Marriott wants taxpayers to pay for it. Paul Simon, the head of Augusta Riverfront LLC threatened commissioners that if they  did not approve the change-order then they "could not operate" together.

For Paul Simon and Augusta Riverfront LLC to threaten to sever ties with Augusta over the  TEE Center project because they may not be able to get their hands on more taxpayer money demonstrates a galling arrogance that has reached an apex of absurdity. The taxpayers have given Augusta Riverfront LLC and The Marriott a $38 million dollar gift in the TEE Center, but to hear Simon speak, they are doing us all the favors. To hear Simon speak, you'd think the Marriott was the only hotel in town. We'd like to remind Mr Simon that there are other hotels located in downtown Augusta and in other parts of the city that have never asked for nor received the generous government hand-outs that his Marriott hotel has. These hotels also draw in visitors year round and they also pay the hotel-motel tax which is being used finance bonds for construction of the TEE Center and  to pay Augusta Riverfront LLC a generous $350,000 per year to manage their $38 million gift from taxpayers plus an additional $350,000 for the Convention and Visitor's Bureau to market the facility. What are these other hotels getting for what they pay into the city in hotel-motel taxes? It seems that it is all going to Augusta Riverfront LLC.. ..their competition.

For Augusta Riverfront LLC to be issuing any ultimatums at this point over the TEE Center is ludicrous. This project has been entirely funded through taxpayer dollars and public bonds. Augusta Riverfront LLC has to date pledged zero dollars of their own money towards the construction of this facility. And to top it off, taxpayers even built them a $12 million parking deck on their own property giving them control of the entire ground floor. And we would also like to remind Mr Simon, that his Marriott hotel and adjacent office building was built partly with a $7.5 million taxpayer funded UDAG loan, that Augusta Riverfront LLC never repaid. In the late 1990s, he was able to strong-arm commissioners into forgiving that loan over the objections of then City Administrator Randy Oliver.

It seems that Augusta Riverfront LLC has an addiction to taxpayer money and now they want more. And they aren't asking politely; they are demanding it. They feel entitled to it! And it's no surprise really that they have this attitude because commissioners likely will give it to them like they have so many times in the past. Despite the tough talk at last week's commission meeting and Monday's committee, several commissioners hinted that they would likely change their votes next week and go ahead and approve the change-order. But considering how little Augusta Riverfront LLC has contributed to this project, why not ask them to pay for the fancier HVAC system?

The TEE Center can be completed without the more expensive air handlers.  If The Marriott wants a more premium system then why not ask them to pay for it? Let's think about it. The taxpayers are already chipping in an additional $350,000 to market the facility, something that should be the responsibility of the management firm, Augusta Riverfront LLC, who will be paid $350,000 per year to operate the TEE Center. That's about the cost of the premium HVAC system that the Marriott is demanding. So how about they pay for the more expensive air handlers in exchange for the taxpayer gift to market the facility for them? Seems only fair, right? Especially after all of the other generous hand-outs Augusta Riverfront LLC have managed to get courtesy of the taxpayers.

It's about time for Augusta Commissioners to show some backbone and stop bending at every whim of a spoiled brat who wants "MORE, MORE, MORE" and then threatens to pitch a temper tantrum if they don't get everything they want from the taxpayers. It's time to say "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!" ***

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lori Davis: Putting Slumlords on Notice

Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012
By Lori Davis

If you live in Augusta Georgia, or the surrounding area, the neighborhood, “Harrisburg,” conjures up all kinds of thoughts and verbal reactions from those who are familiar. Those who are most familiar know that the remaining homeowners of Harrisburg have been fighting a no-win situation in the effort to take back the neighborhood from the area slumlords. For those of you who are new to this subject, Harrisburg is an historic mill village which is situated between Summerville and Downtown Augusta. It is an island unto itself of prostitutes, drug dealers and their slumlords who continue to enable this type of behavior with total disregard for those of us who live here.

We have waged a very public battle for over 5 years. (See the Augusta Chronicle for the many related articles). The traits that our most notable slumlords have in common are:

Their names are well known among their peers in the community.
They have excelled in their personal areas of business and are quite affluent.
Most are church going types.
They promise you that they would never knowingly rent to drug dealers as they collect their rent in cash.
They will tell you that until it can be proven in a court of law that problems are occurring on their property, they cannot evict.
And lastly, it is the problem of RCSO to take care of the issue.

Guess what slumlords, we have really had enough and will go to great lengths to expose you and the addresses where you harbor your antisocial renters. Know that we can expose those addresses at any time because they are a matter of public record. Facebook also is a powerful tool and will be used to our advantage…. To the slumlord who continues to set up boarding houses when he knows it is illegal, I hope your Daddy is proud of you. He has a very good name; what happened to you?

To the Slumlord who told an 80 year old woman she could move if she didn’t like her situation living between two of your crack houses, there are many who use your downtown insurance services that might just discontinue the patronizing of your business.

To the slumlord who got caught with the many custom outfitted boarding houses without a single fine from code enforcement, may your patrons leave your Walton Way bar.

To the slumlord who has rented for years to drug dealers on Tuttle St., and says it is the Christian thing to do, may you end up living next to them.

 And lastly, To the slumlord whom we found out your identity today, may those who trust you as their senior account executive for their business advertising think twice before making you a wealthier man.

On a lighter note…. Many thanks to the Harrisburg landlords who do the right thing. Those that come to mind and have been most active in our efforts to clean up Harrisburg are Tyson Schuetze, Gail Kaitschuck, Butch Palmer, Fred Daitch, and Phil Williams. These landlords have a true heart for Harrisburg and show it by renting to those that they would not mind living next door to. This, dear Slumlord is, “Landlord 101.” May I suggest that you get a copy.***

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Sermon: Everybody Raised Up - Walk!

Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012
Augusta, GA

How many truly great friends do you have? Folks who would go to nearly any extreme to give you comfort, aide, and assistance? One man in the bible had friends like that, friends who would not be denied in their quest to get help for him. He was paralyzed physically and with sin.  Jesus forgave and healed, but first there was that marvelous team of friends.

1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
 6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
 8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them,“Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

This miracle definitely made an impression on the disciples of Jesus, as this story appears in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, as well as here in Mark. Imagine the dedication they witnessed!

The paralyzed sinner was carried to the house where Jesus was on a pallet. To their dismay clamoring people had crowded the house and spilled outside.  The most quick-thinking of them found a most daring of solutions and told the others. The stronger of the band of friends hoisted the ailing one onto the roof. The more industrious of them removed a section of roof. Together they gently lowered their beloved friend into the presence of Jesus.

First Jesus took away the sin to the murmurs of doubters of his powers. Then he took away the man’s physical disability, telling him to pick up his mat and go home. We don’t know whether the healed one hesitated. It certainly would have been human. We do know that forgiving the sin was the greater feat, one that Jesus repeated for us all, but one that was not an overt demonstration of his healing power. The sight of the healed man walking out with that mat did that.

We are left to use our imaginations for the rest of the story. How did the healed one thank his devout, strong, unfailing, and devoted friends? We can envision a huge celebration immediately after his miracle. We can conjure up a lifetime of returned dedication to each one of them.

Did this band of brothers remain close for the rest of their days? Unfettered by the shackles and chains we have in modernity that was a much easier task in that day. It was a necessity. It will become one again, probably the hallmark of our collective salvation, reform and recovery after the cataclysmic collapse of our universally corrupt society. That is coming.

Folks who can be a friend and have friends like the man in this story will survive. Those who try another course are very much doomed.  Buying and hoarding gold won’t work. Fleeing America won’t help. Collecting guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition is foolish. Fortifying your home is illusory. In the end and before the end, we have each other. We should all strive to be as good a friend as possible to as many as possible on our way back to the future. The band of friends in this story is there to inspire us.  Hate the sin and love the sinner, it is said. That is easier said than done. It is not impossible.

What do you think the healed man did with respect to sin in his life?  One has to suspect that having felt the healing of Jesus, that this fellow lived as best he could for the rest of his days. We know not how many more days we have individually and as a people. The lesson of today is of friendship. Learn how to nurture it and you will pass the remainder of your days in happiness and peace.

Do this well enough and there will be people willing to walk through fire for you and even die for you.  As one who, until recently, was perfectly content to live out his days, but suddenly chose another path in which new friends and intensely devoted ones now walk, you just have to feel the power there to believe it.

The second commandment is “Love your neighbor as yourself” It is the hardest of them all. When duty calls one to be critical to change another’s wayward behavior, he must always hold out the hand of friendship beyond the controversy.  This writer tries that once a week, calling somebody who thinks there is unrequited animosity to tell them, there is tomorrow and tomorrow let’s work together. Most of the time they are stunned and sometimes this caller will hang up in tears himself.

I have to do better. We all do. Jesus commands it and it is our salvation, and soon, our survival.

Yes, we have to be very committed to changing our society back to comity, honesty, honor, and sacrifice and that means confrontation. Just keep in mind that tomorrow is another day, one in which a lot of wayward people will come home.

Let us close these thoughts with that wonderful song of the power of friendship, You Raise Me Up***

Brother Al Gray, High Reverend of The Church of What's Happenin' Now

Last Week's Sermon: A Ruth-less World Falls Into a Grain Bin of Truth

And now we leave you with our Hymn for the day:

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Serious Problems Plague Augusta's Private Contractor of Public Transit

Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012
Augusta, GA
From Reports

City Stink reporters along with other members of the media were invited to sit down with Commissioner Bill Lockett for a presentation concerning Mobility Transit, the company that is now managing Augusta's city bus service. To say that Commissioner Lockett was upset about the recent shenanigans of this company would be an understatement . He poured over pages and pages of notes that he had taken obviously from many conversations that he has had with disgruntled employees, trainees, and bus riders.

It was his intent to make the media aware of what all has been going on since the city outsourced it's public bus service. The picture he painted for us was not a pretty one. He succeeded in piquing our interest as reporters to investigate the allegations that he was presenting to us. Investigative journalism is certainly not at a premium in Augusta so this story looked like another good one for City Stink to look into. Following will be a brief overview of the reported problems as told to Commissioner Lockett by many who have been affected by what appears to be total ineptness of this company. We at City Stink will need a bit more time to piece together just who this company is, and why they were chosen for the job. Looks to be another interesting Augusta saga.

Mobility Transit is a company out of Knoxville, Tennessee that claims that they contract with cities to manage and operate public transit. The thing that I found most interesting is when you do an internet search on this company the first page that comes up says,"Mobility opens it's doors in Augusta as APT's new transit operator." Hmmm. Interesting first page for a company website. The other thing that I found interesting was the city of Augusta began business with them in August, we are almost into March and this is still up on their website. Kind of interesting that claims that they have gotten so many recent contracts that they can't keep up with the financial end of the job. Maybe this is why the power was turned off at the Broad Street station last week.

What we know:
Preliminary searches for information shows us that Kevin J. Adams is the President and CEO of the company. Mike Rosson is the agent of record for the LLC as registered with the State of Georgia on 6/17/11. The filing address is listed as 1535 Fenwick Street which doesn't seem to exist, and attorney of record is Alan I. Shanahan who is in Michigan. Another interesting address associated with this company is 1800 Hickory Glenn Rd. Knoxville, Tennessee. When using google maps, it appears to be a house out in the country. Another Hmmm.

What We Have Been Hearing:
Now to share what we are hearing which certainly warrants further investigation: These are the complaints that have been reported to us about Mobility Transit.:
*Employees who are new trainees will make $25 per day during their two weeks of training and upon  completion will receive a $750 bonus. If training is not completed, their is no pay.

*Employees were taken off hourly wage and became salaried after it was noted that some were working 30 and 40 hours of overtime.

*The jobs of mechanic, tire maintenance, and general maintenance were replaced with one employee making $11 an hour. A mechanic's hourly wage previously was $17.50.

*There is one employee handbook that is specifically for bus drivers but is used as well for all other employees.

*Mobility Transit inherited $200,000 in bus parts and declared them obsolete asking the city to replace them. The company also supposedly runs a side job selling scrap metal.

*Employee health benefits and life insurance benefits were cut off for non payment.

*Business License is dated February 7, 2012 when the company has been operating since August 1, 2011.

*Vendors claiming that they have not been paid for their services are: Ga. Power, NAPA,Truck Parts Specialists, A and W Oil, GNK Uniform Service, and Fleet Care.

*Some management level employees paid rank and file employees out of their own pockets.

 It doesn't seem that anyone associated with this company and it's way of doing business is happy with the way things are going. Employees as well as bus riders are filing complaints which have gone unanswered as turn over has escalated, forcing more and more overtime for fewer and fewer bus drivers.

I guess one would have to agree that this is quite a list of problems for a company that advertised themselves as totally solvent as well as experienced in running an operation of this magnitude. All of this begs the question; How in the world did procurement choose this company, and how much research was done to make sure that what they put in their application and contract was true? City Stink will continue to follow this situation closely until we are satisfied that all of our suspicions have been researched. We will keep you informed as we continue our investigation.***

Augusta Elections Date Change a Dirty Trick?

Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012
Augusta, GA Commentary

UPDATE:  After the GA Senate defeated a bill earlier on Tuesday that included moving Augusta's local elections to the July 31st, primary, the GA House resurrected the effort later that night by amending Senate Bill 92 to include the elections date change. The vote came at 10pm. So what's going on here?

We first told you about an effort to move all non-partisan elections in Augusta from the November general election ballot to the July general primary ballot back on December 5, 2011 (See New Elections Law Could Save The Cabal here). GA House Bill 158 was passed into law by the Georgia General Assembly in the 2011 session. It shifted all county and consolidated  non-partisan elections from the general election to the mid-summer general primary ballot and would go in effect for the 2012 election season. However, an official opinion from the state Attorney General  said that Augusta was exempt from this law because it was considered a municipality under its charter.

But that still wouldn't stop proponents insisting on moving Augusta's local races to July. Just yesterday, the Georgia House passed a bill sponsored by Barbara Sims (R-Augusta) that would force Augusta to move its non-partisan races from the November general election ballot to the July primary ballot. The bill passed along party lines 95-58. Local Democrats vow to fight it.

Proponents of the bill say it is all about saving money for costly run-off elections. They contend that non-partisan races often result in run-offs and it's better to lump those with the primary run-offs in the summer instead of create new run-offs in early December. But the bill does not guarantee that there won't be anymore general election run-offs. Georgia law requires any candidate to receive 50% plus one vote to win an election outright. That's only 100% certain in a two-candidate race. Any race that has a third-party or Independent candidate can result in a run-off. A Libertarian forced a run-off in the 1992 Senate campaign that resulted in Republican Paul Coverdell unseating incumbent Democrat Wyche Fowler. Will the Republicans in the Georgia General Assembly try to now ban Libertarians, other third parties, and independents from running on general election ballots in the name of avoiding costly general election run-offs?

If Republicans were really serious about saving taxpayers from extra run-off elections then they would instead pass a bill instituting Instant Run-offs. Also, known as preferential voting, voters rank their preferences of candidates on the ballot. This way if their 1st choice is knocked out in the first round, then their second or third choice will be counted in an instant run-off. This method has been used for many years in Australia and is employed in several US jurisdictions from Maine to Minnesota, and to parts of California. If avoiding costly run-offs is the goal, then IRV (Instant Run-off Voting) is the way to go.

But let's be honest, this is not about reducing run-off elections in Georgia. This is a blatant attempt to suppress black voter turnout for these local races in an effort to help the ruling establishment cling on to power in places like Augusta-Richmond County, which has become increasingly majority African-American over the past decade. With a majority African-American population approaching 60% in Richmond County, it seems inevitable that this majority will take the reigns of power in local government sooner or later. Well this effort to move the local elections to July seems to be an attempt by Republicans to push that inevitability to later.

It's not surprising that an Augusta politician would be the sponsor of this bill. It's been no big secret that the ruling establishment in Augusta has been in panic mode over the likelihood that blacks will soon take control over most areas of local government. There has even been a concerted effort to beg Sheriff Ronnie Strength to run for one more term because they think he is the only one capable of withstanding a challenge from a strong black candidate. With new redistricting maps, the racial balance on the  Augusta commission could  easily flip, especially with a large surge of black voters showing up in November to cast a vote for President Barack Obama. And that seems to explain why this change is to go in effect for this election year instead of delaying it to the 2014 election season. Could this change also be insurance for candidates like Matt Aitken, if he decides to run again?

Having such a major change in the elections date for local races in the same calendar year will also put extra burdens on candidates. They will have to scramble to qualify and then raise money for an election nearly four months earlier. And a mid-summer low turnout election will likely drastically change campaign strategy and the dynamics of the race. It also makes it very difficult for candidates to enter the race if they don't know exactly what date the election will be held on.

There is a very good possibility that the Department of Justice could throw out this legislation on the basis that it violates the Voting Rights Act in diluting minority voting strength. The motivation behind this move seems obvious enough. So after all is said and done, this could all be thrown out and the date for local elections remains in November. But until there is official word, there will be uncertainty for candidates and voters, and that's not a good thing.

Some people justify the elections change even acknowledging that it is likely motivated by suppressing black turn-out by saying that Democrats gerry-mandered districts and used dirty tricks to maintain power for years. But do two wrongs make a right? Even Augusta afternoon radio talk-show host Austin Rhodes said that the motivation behind this was obvious; that it was about suppressing black voter turnout. He told listeners that this did amount to a dirty trick, and that just because Democrats used similar tactics in the past did not make it right now because Republicans are in control. He said that Republicans should be better than that and take the "higher road."

The fact is there are many large cities that have switched to majority black rule, and they did not fall apart into chaos. Power shifted towards a black majority in Atlanta in the 1970s.. and the city actually experienced its greatest economic booms since that time. Corruption can come in all shades and Atlanta has had its fair share, but then so has Augusta.

This unfounded terror coming from the white  political and business establishment in Augusta over an inevitable majority black rule is a manifestation of  a deep-rooted racism that has continued to hold this community back for decades. And with this last ditch effort to cling onto power through dirty tricks, it's rearing its ugly head again and undoing years of what seemed like progress in race relations in Augusta. The people pushing this move need to be concerned about what kind of statement this is making to the outside world about Augusta and the state of Georgia. They are doing more damage by keeping the politics of racial division and mistrust alive than any imagined harm they see coming from inevitable majority black rule.***
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Friday, February 24, 2012

Augusta's Contract With Heery International Contains More Surprises

Hear Ye, Heery is Here
More Overpriced Payees for the City?

In 2003 the City of Augusta did a wise thing in a very foolish way. The administration saw an enormous upswing in capital spending that it lacked the staff and expertise to plan, engineer, procure, manage and control. A large, growing, and respected Atlanta-based firm, Heery International was selected to perform these functions. The strategy was sound.

The execution was horrible.

This blanket order was executed with 4% annual rate increases mandated. Despite the downturn in construction and the overall economy, in which labor, overhead and profit have tended to fall, the compounding of Heery's rates continued unabated. The rates established for next year are up an incredible 48% over the initial rates. A Principle in Charge then was $162.16 an hour, this year one is $230.81 and next year it would be $240.04. A project manager then was $87.32. Now one is $124.28, rising to $129.25 next year. An administrative assistant went from $42.41 to $62.78 an hour.

The cumulative effects are stunning. In July 2010 the contract was extended to 2013. At the time, the contract price was raised from $7,082,355 to $10,317,906.

Amazingly, the total overhead and fee in RW Allen's contract to build and equip the entire Tee Center is $1.8 million, while Heery's program management fees will top $1.2 million. There is another $1.3 million slated for the Webster Detention Center Phase II. The Reynolds Street Parking Deck is a surprising $549,390.

A defense can be made that division of duties between the construction management firms and Heery reduced the costs of the former. That is a valid point. The difference in rates probably negates a lot of this advantage, however.

A fairly common approach is for the hourly rate for such services to be based upon some verifiable figure, usually the salary rate of the employee divided by 2080 (52 weeks, 40 hours per week) times a multiplier that is negotiated. 2.0 to 2.3 is a normal range. The Heery contract does not accomplish this. The rates were firmly set on an unknown basis back in 2003 and 2004. Augusta did not negotiate controls over composition of rates.

Beyond this, generally there is a firm division in setting rates that only people directly engaged in the project or on site are billed. Principals, Project Directors, and home office administrative assistants, all of whom appear on Augusta's contract, are included within the markup applied to the directly-engaged employees. Augusta's Heery contract allows these employees to be billed in addition to the marked-up billing rates of the direct employees.

Augusta is only permitted to audit the hours billed and the employee classification. Augusta is not allowed access to payroll records to ascertain accuracy of the rate billed or upon what basis the rate is determined. The language is blunt: “OWNER may only audit accounting records applicable to a cost-reimbursable type compensation.”

What this says is that the public can never know how community liason Butch Gallop's Heery billing rate got to be a whopping $177.91 an hour billed, with the potential of being billed at the $240.04 an hour on the rate sheet for next year!

The contract is nearly always advertised as a joint venture between Dukes Edwards Dukes and Heery International. Indeed, Dukes Edwards Dukes principal Winfred Dukes appears on the billing rate sheet at $240.04 an hour in 2013, up from the initial $162.16 an hour. For the sake of clarity and honesty, Dukes bills only about 4 hours a month. He is one of several Heery executives who Augusta should never have allowed to be billed in this writer's humble opinion, since they are at supervision levels above the Senior Project Managers and directly-engaged staff on Augusta's projects.

To summarize, the Heery contract has been on auto-pilot with compounding rates, unverifiable rate bases, and apparent inadequate division of direct labor versus overhead. The fault lies with Augusta, not its contractor, in this case as in all of the others recently reviewed. Augusta is profligate with taxpayer money, in this case by not revisiting a blanket order for services, electing to extend it untouched for years.

Who is Winfred Dukes? Well we found him under the Gold Dome in Atlanta.
State Rep. Winfred Dukes

 Who knew Augusta had another state representative in the Georgia House?

Mysterious bodies abound in Augusta's contracts. So far there are two in the Heery contract.

Stay tuned, there is more to come, as the deciphering of Augusta's contracting continues.

Much more.***

Related Stories:
"Galloping" Away With Taxpayers' Money

**View Heery Document Below

TEE Center Update: Did Fred Fix the Kitchen But Fail to Execute?

The Convention Center Agreement Today
Fred and Barry's Unexecuted Fix?
Friday, Feb. 24, 2012
Augusta, GA

In TEE Center Kitchen Costs Leave Taxpayers Burnt! , yesterday's City Stink exclusive, this writer covered deficiencies in the City of Augusta's Tee Center Term Sheet with its partner in the project, Augusta Riverfront LLC, which was approved by the city commission on August 21, 2007. This was the approved document recently cited by attorney Jim Plunkett's resolution recounting the history of commission votes ratifying TEE and parking deck agreements. A formal agreement was belatedly drafted and conditionally approved for the Reynolds Street Parking Deck on February 7. 
Despite references in Board of Commissioner meetings all through 2009, no formal contractual agreement has been found executing the final Tee (now conference center) operating agreement. The original operating agreement for the Convention Center was recorded in the office of the Clerk of Superior court. There doesn't seem to have been any modification nor has there been any action to define rights with respect to the .23 acre tract that the LLC owns under the Tee Center. Like the parking deck agreements the formal agreement seems to have lagged negotiations by years.

Based upon a schedule obtained in an earlier open records request by City Stink contributor Lori Davis (See Modifications Sheet Document Here) and informational updates made since the August 21, 2007 approval of the original term sheet that was unfavorable to Augusta, as noted yesterday, it looks like Augusta City Administrator Fred Russell and city Convention and Visitor's bureau chief Barry White actually may have done an exceptional job of renegotiating the deal so that it is dramatically more favorable to the city!

The proposed modifications put the City in control of the Center's finances, gives it catering revenues, provides for a set fee rather than profits from operations, and provides that profits from operations go to Augusta. If this modification represents the final agreement, it is vastly superior to the original deal and is actually a very good deal for the City of Augusta.

From here it looks like the original Term Sheet stands as the only basis of an operating agreement actually approved by the Commission and that the final agreement has been mired in what have to be tremendous legal complexities of merging the Tee agreement with the existing Convention Center agreement.

The final agreement should take care of the issue of the new kitchen equipment and replacements of that equipment going forward, but the Issue of how the new agreement relieved the LLC's responsibilities going into this transaction, up to and until the combined Tee Center starts operations, still stands as does the issue of LLC responsibility for the proposed HVAC changes demanded by the Marriott.

Leaving issues like these, which should have been finalized before construction, hanging for 4 ½ years is a huge failure of administration, despite Fred Russell's accomplishment of what looks to be a much, much better deal.

This story will be updated as new developments are known.***

** Pdf files referenced in this article can be found below.

Related Stories:

Term Mod Sheet

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Exclusive: TEE Center Kitchen Costs Leave Taxpayers Burnt!

!! Exclusive!!

And Now, The Tee Kitchen Saga
A cost recovery opinion and perspective

Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012
Augusta, GA

In a very heated Augusta Richmond County Commission meeting last evening, February 21, 2012, a proposed change order totaling $836,288 for modifications to the Tee Center Contract with RW Allen was disapproved (See The Change Order 2 document here).The substantial price increase was really the aggregate of 13 different change orders combined for the purpose of gaining Commission approval, usually a rubber stamp. This time the commission balked because of a stench boiling out of the unfinished Tee/Convention Center Kitchen. $399,823 of the increase was an HVAC upgrade to the kitchen area at the insistence of the city's partner in this public-private partnership, Augusta Riverfront LLC, operator of the Marriott hotel.

Neither side of the vote on the commission was wrong. Augusta's entire project management team had signed off on the change order four months ago, so disapproving it now was a moot point. Some commissioners accurately saw it that way and voted for approval, yet they all have serious questions. The rest missed the point about construction contract law and jumped to the real issue – are the Augusta Riverfront partners in this project controlling and expanding the scope to their benefit, yet totally at public expense?

The change order is a “done deal.”  A war appears imminent between the partners over financial responsibility for various areas of the project.

There is a powerful ODOR coming from the kitchen.

The parties jumped into this agreement based upon a document entitled Management Agreement Term Sheet – Trade Center, Version 6 dated June 29,2007, which the Commission  approved on August 21, 2007 (See TEE Center Term Sheet Document here). The purpose of the term sheet was to set forth that the “City of Augusta (“Augusta”) and Augusta Riverfront LLC (“LLC”) are interested in entering into a joint venture to own, build and operate a Trade, Exhibit and Event Center (“Trade Center”).”

This controlling document failed to establish effective dates or define WHEN operations start and construction ends. It would appear to embrace start of operations before project completion because it requires the Convention and Visitors Bureau to expend city funds 18 months before the project is complete. Aside from this, the project itself was scheduled to accommodate ongoing operations.

Let's see what the Term Sheet says about cost responsibility. “LLC has total responsibility to provide all operating cost of the Convention Center, including, but not limited to, labor cost, supply cost, insurance and all repair, maintenance, and replacement of equipment. These replacement costs include replacing kitchen equipment, laundry equipment, HVAC equipment, outside walls and roof.”

Then there is this section:


5.  OPERATIONAL & CAPITAL FUNDING: It is anticipated that the new Trade Center's rental revenues may not be sufficient to cover its operating expenses, particularly in the early years. The Trade Center will have capital needs for addition and replacement of various fixed assets. Augusta and LLC will participate in these Operational and Capital Funding needs as follows:.......

  d…......Augusta's Capital Funds shall specifically not be used for items related to Kitchen Equipment, Laundry Equipment, and any Convention Center or Hotel capital cost.

Remember there are no dates given to establish when operations start because operations were ongoing and overlap construction activities. Even more confusing is what is “Convention Center” versus “Tee Center.” Indeed, by actions of Augusta Riverfront LLC publicly acknowledging that BOTH are the "Convention Center" hasn't that partner effectively agreed that its financial responsibilities for the combined total include those that previously existed for the Convention Center?

Interestingly, the Term Sheet provided that the kitchen for which Augusta Riverfront had equipment repair and replacement responsibilities would be consolidated with the Tee Center kitchen.

7.      KITCHEN AND BACK-OF-HOUSE: LLC and Augusta will allow the necessary modifications to the Convention Center to provide for the combined use of the kitchen, laundry and back of the house areas. The modified kitchen and back of the house space will be designed for use for both the Convention Center and the Trade Center.

In so combining the “Convention Center” with the “Tee Center” did Augusta Riverfront's existing financial responsibility for kitchen equipment disappear? Or did it carry over?

4. TERM OF AGREEMENT: Augusta and LLC agree to modify their agreement for the operation of the      Convention Center to include the Trade Center.

The Term Sheet also clearly stated that catering revenues produced by the kitchen equipment do not result in any benefit for Augusta.

APPENDIX A: Definitions

For purposes of calculating the “Trade Center Operational Funding” described in Section 5., the Operating Revenues shall not include the following:.....
m.     Trade Center Catering Revenues

2.                   Trade Center Catering Revenues: shall consist of those food and beverage revenues generated on formal, catered meal functions held in the Trade Center.

City Stink and Augusta Today contributor Lori Davis obtained the December 31, 2012 project billing from Construction Manager at Risk RW Allen to the city (See Document here: Attn to Kitchen Equipment Line Item Item 19 on Page 3). This billing includes a line item of $1,376,987 for Kitchen Equipment, $275,946 of which has already been billed and presumably paid, less the retainage. Examination of the supporting subcontractor invoice shows thousands of dollars to repair and clean existing equipment that would have apparently been the responsibility of the LLC under the previous agreement. The controversial HVAC change order to meet Marriott standards can be added to the total.

It is clear that the infrastructure and building costs for the kitchen are the responsibility of Augusta. These costs are included in the building mechanical, electrical, HVAC and other contracts. No potential issues are apparent there, other than cost issues that might be unearthed in the future by a construction auditor.

Adding the $1,376,987 of kitchen equipment to the Marriott-directed kitchen HVAC upgrade $399,083 means a total of $1,776,070 of kitchen equipment capital costs that are potentially disputable by the City of Augusta as costs to be born by Augusta Riverfront LLC.

Questions abound. Has the City backcharged the LLC for any of the $275,946 paid to date for kitchen equipment and repair or cleaning of existing equipment the LLC seems responsible for? Isn't the full $1,776,070 capital expenditures for which the LLC is responsible under the existing agreement and the Term sheet?  Was an intent to treat the capital expenditures for new kitchen equipment as an Augusta cost adequately stated in the term sheet? Are the provisions for the LLC to be a partner in the project mean it can claim one start date for its project start date, yet another as the start date of 'operations' under the same agreement when no dates are stated in that agreement? Hasn't the LLC by announcing that the whole is now the “Convention Center” legally shot itself in the foot by in doing so embracing responsibility for kitchen capital expenditures? How many other costs of the Tee Center construction supplant existing LLC responsibilities for operating and capital costs from the existing Convention Center agreements? Where are the backcharges to the LLC?


To summarize, the Term Sheet establishing the relationship between the City of Augusta and the LLC for the Tee Center Project seems to be flawed in terms of effective dates; makes repeated statements that capital costs of kitchen equipment, which cost more than $1.7 million, and other capital costs are LLC responsibility; combines the existing “Convention Center” agreement with provisions making the LLC responsible for kitchen equipment with the new Tee Center construction and operations; and excludes Augusta from any apparent benefit from use of this capital equipment.

Somebody has a grand mess in their kitchen. This writer would be hard-pressed to decipher financial responsibilities under this informal, rushed, and incomplete Term Sheet “agreement.”

The lawyers are salivating because dividing this baby is going to take more than the wisdom and judgment of Solomon. The opinion from this quarter would be that it could be split 50-50. Given the size of these costs, that won't be an easy pill to swallow.

The commission is, yet again, in an impossible position with respect to this project. Can they get any more Tee'd off?

Stay tuned for more cost recovery analysis  as the Tee Center documents are dissected while the project nears completion.***

 Al Gray

Editor's note: City Stink contributor Al Gray is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a Lincoln County, Georgia-based firm focused on construction, public administration, policy and cost recovery reviews on a guaranteed results basis. 
** Below are pdf files of the documents referenced in the above article:

Related Stories:
TEE Update: Did Fred Fix the Kitchen But Fail to Execute?

RWA December Pay App. (Atten to Page 3. Line Item 19 "Kitchen Equipment")
RWA December 2011 Pay App
TEE center Term Sheet Document:
TEE Term Sheet (1)
TEE Center Change Order 2 Document:
Tee Center Change Order 2 R W Allen