Despite the protests of well-meaning Super District 10 Commissioner Grady Smith, unless drastic changes are made in the contract Augusta Riverfront LLC has proposed to run the TEE Center, it is dead in the water.
“We’ve got a chance to shine in January and put our best foot forward,” Smith said. “We’re letting a few negative people spoil the show.” (Augusta Chronicle 10-16-2012)
A few negative people? I can almost guarantee that Smith would not willingly sign such a confusing and complicated document in his personal business life, particularly not with a 15-year “lock” built in to it.
The massively expensive and complicated contract has been a point of contention for months, and when it was presented for final consideration last Tuesday it was clear that most of the commissioners present wanted no part of it, in its current form.
Much has been written and said about the “sweetheart” aspects of the deal, which is I suppose were almost to be expected from a project that was sold to taxpayers as a $25 million facility, but ballooned to more than $50 million when all was said and done five years later.
Community activists Al Gray and Brad Owens were joined on my radio show this week by former mayoral candidate Bonnie Ruben in highlighting many troubling points about the long-term contract, which of course was presented for the commissioner’s approval by Augusta Riverfront LLC frontman Paul Simon. Ruben called the contract “One of the worst deals in the history of American government”…
Gray is a cost recovery expert who has spent a very long and successful career chasing down bad deals and auditing contracts and projects to track waste, fraud and correct expensive loopholes.
When he attempted a few months back to comment on the bizarre nature of the Tee Center deal, Mayor Deke Copenhaver naively questioned his credentials. Let me share a few lines from Gray’s corporate website, which I have vetted through testimonials of others in his field:
“Cost Recovery Works, Inc. is committed to providing clients with superior returns by offering proactive project auditing and controls methods geared to reduce project costs, project tax accounting programs designed to minimize state sales and use taxes, cost recovery reviews for projects which are underway or have been completed, and rapid close-out reviews to gain maximum rewards to clients using the performance based fees.”
Go to costrecoveryworks.com and see the rest of it yourself.
Aside from the impressive track record and professional accomplishments, the man is something of a local legend among Augusta area outdoorsmen, and oddly, real estate investor types.
He is one of the few people I know who has challenged “less than favorable” property zoning decisions and development restrictions imposed by Columbia County leaders, and prevailed.
That aside, above all else he is an expert in his chosen profession.
If Gray has studied a deal, and declares it to be suspect, you can bet your last damn dollar it is suspect. If the mayor had used his common sense, he could have researched the guy instead of scoffing at him, and perhaps we would be far closer to getting a reasonable deal in place than we are now.
What needs to happen now? The city needs to hire an expert in such deals (I hear Al Gray may be available), and hammer out the troublesome aspects of the Tee Center contract, paragraph by paragraph, before it is presented again for consideration.
As history has shown us, it accomplishes nothing to present such a complex deal to 10 elected officials who have no formal training in such matters, and who up to this point have been depending on inept city administrators and attorneys to interpret the fine print.
Get Al Gray, or someone “like Al Gray,” who is astute and experienced in these matters, to act as the city’s agent, and let them haggle over the arrangement sentence by sentence if need be.
And say what you want about the “Band of Merry Men” working with Al to get the word out on this mess via the citystink.net website and their Augusta Today Facebook page, but the bottom line is they were right, and the naysayers and TEE Center apologists were wrong, and they have been since this entire fiasco started.You Might Also Like: