First on 12: Ga. Chiefs of Police 'looking for another venue' as TEE Center deal falters

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News 12 First at Five / Monday, Oct. 29, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Another attempt to reach an agreement between the TEE Center and the City of Augusta has failed.

Commissioners were trying to reach an agreement by Monday with Paul Simon, who is expecting to operate the Trade, Exhibit and Events Center in downtown Augusta.

Simon said previously if an agreement was not reached by Monday, he would cancel the Georgia Chiefs of Police Convention scheduled for January.

The organization will now seek to be released from its contract with the TEE Center due to the failed bargaining attempt.

"At this point in time, I have directed the training director of our association to look for another venue site," said Frank V. Rotondo, executive director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police. "Unless an agreement can be reached today, we will proceed further and choose another venue site."

Commissioners are going to set up a work session to figure out their next step.

"Why are we building these things and saying they are not supposed to make money?" questioned community activist Lori Davis. "Who decided that?"

Davis raised a stink on social media. The convention center is expected lose more than $900,000 in the first year. If you think that stinks, the first group to book the center just bailed out.

"I'm moving on," said Rotondo, who plans to take his 650 guests elsewhere. "People will ask us what happened. We'll be glad to tell them what happened and be very truthful and honest."

Rotondo says he expected some bumps in the first year. That is why he signed up two years. The Augusta Convention Center just lost a two-year deal.

"Today it's the police chiefs. Who will it be tomorrow?" questioned Mayor Deke Copenhaver who is less than pleased. "It's just ridiculous that we've been going through this months and months and months and still no agreement."

The delay forced the Georgia Police Chiefs to look for a new venue.

"How do you feel about this whole process?" we asked Rotondo.

"Absolutely nobody contacted us," he replied.

The failed deal has some city leaders calling for the city administrator to step down.

"I do believe the administrator and the outside council that are handling this should either remove themselves from this or they should resign because they are not doing what they are getting paid to do," said Commissioner Bill Lockett.

"Do you agree? we asked City Administrator Fred Russell.

"Nope," he replied. "That's just the reality of it ... typical Augusta."

One of the issues centers around bonuses for workers at a center expected to lose close to $1 million in the first year.

"The everyday person can say something is wrong with this," said Davis, who is convinced fanning the funk on this deal could save taxpayers millions in the end.

"You let taxes be raised to pay for million dollar losses every year and you are going to see a lot more citizen involvement," Davis said.

That expected workshop could come as early as Wednesday.

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