Commissioner: 'I feel like they are holding a gun to us' in TEE Center management negotiations

By: Chris Thomas Email
By: Chris Thomas Email

News 12 First at Five / Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- We have an exclusive look at a new hotel planned for downtown Augusta. But the fight over the Augusta Convention Center could make things difficult.

"We have spent the money to build this building to draw people in and now we are having to turn them away," said Augusta Marshal Steve Smith.

Smith can't believe a failed management deal just cost Augusta's new convention center a two-year contract with the Georgia Chiefs of Police Association.

"I was very disappointed. I have been a member of the Georgia Chiefs Association for 25 years," Smith said. "There is a little bit of pride in the chiefs that get to host this."

Smith is not the only one who's hopes were dashed.

"I am concerned," said Peggy Seigler with the Augusta Convention and Visitors Bureau. "I would be lying if I said I wasn't."

Seigler says the impasse could be far reaching.

"And I happen to know somebody who bought a hotel on Broad Street and was waiting for this [TEE Center deal] to happen," Seigler said.

The old Regency Inn is set to become a new Holiday Inn Express. It would give the TEE Center visitors another place to stay.

"To make that a vibrant part of the community again would be excellent," Seigler said.

The commission just needs to approve the management deal with the Augusta Marriott ... or so the line goes.

"And I feel like they are holding a gun to us and we're having to make decisions," said Augusta Commissioner Joe Jackson.

Jackson says many commissioners feel like hostages in the negotiations.

"You create a crisis and then you blame the commission," said Commissioner Alvin Mason.

The mayor pro tem is now suggesting dropping the Marriott and turning to the James Brown Arena managers to run the center on a possible temporary basis.

"If we have to turn to Global Spectrum, then that's a wise choice in my opinion," said Commissioner Joe Bowles.

Meanwhile, Smith is planning a road trip.

"My information is our conference will be held in Athens," Smith said.

So what next? Commissioners are trying to settle on a date for an emergency work session. They hope to meet in the next week.


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