TEE Center tops Commission agenda

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News 12 at 6 o'clock, August 20, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---You may have heard of the Trade, Exhibit, and Events Center, also known as the TEE Center. The future of the project could be decided tomorrow.

George Harrison is a local restaurant owner. He's been in the business for over 30 years. He says he's excited about the proposed Trade, Exhibit and Event Center, which would be built across the street from his restaurant, Beamie's.

"I hope they do find a way to do this. I think this is really good for the city," Harrison said.

It would be a 40,000 square foot building. That's enough space for car shows, expos, and more. This comes as an expansion to the current city-owned convention center at the Marriott. It brings hotel rooms, ballrooms and exhibit space all under one roof, on James Brown Boulevard.

It's a proposal that promises $1.4 million for the city in just the first year and over 600 jobs. But it could get voted down for a third time in Tuesday's commission meeting. Tax payers approved the $20 million needed to build the TEE Center in 2005. Since then commissioners have either sent it back to committee or taken no action. City administrator Fred Russell says these things take time.

"Each day that goes by, the cost goes up, and those thing happen, but with an important decision like this that we face, you need to make sure you do it right and you only get one chance at it," Russell said.

Meanwhile, the expenses continue to climb. Barry White, president of the Augusta Visitor's Bureau, says the city has spent about one million dollars in interest so far.

"The sooner we can build it, the more likely we'll be able to get the facility that we originally intended to build," White said.

Mr. Harrison says he's sold on the project: "I think it translates for prosperity not just for downtown but for the surrounding area."

The TEE Center is not the only item on Tuesday's Commission agenda. There's also a motion to approve Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax money to build a training facility for firefighters. There is a little over $4.2 million remaining in the SPLOST fund. Commissioners will decide on a motion to use that money to build the training facility.

Commissioner Andy Cheek is also planning a presentation for Tuesday's meeting. Last week News 12 told you about the Ellis Street Option that would turn Ellis Street and 12th Street into waterways. The idea includes gondolas and shops along that stretch. Commissioner Cheek says it's part of a plan to make downtown Augusta a greater tourist attraction.

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