Augusta commissioners vote down TEE Center management agreement

By: Chris Thomas Email
By: Chris Thomas Email

News 12 First at Five / Monday, October 22, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Augusta commissioners have voted down a management deal for the TEE Center.

"We have been at this for 7 years," said expected Augusta Convention Center Manager Darryl Leech. "Do we really want to be at it another seven years?"

The center will done in a matter of days, but city leaders can't reach a deal to manage the place.

"I have got to have time to set it up and run it," Leech said. "You can't open one of these things in a day."

Leech is now issuing an ultimatum.

"They are going to have to make a decision Monday to either sign this deal or cancel the first convention," Leech said.

The center is already slated to lose more than $900,000 in the first year.

"We can't afford to come out of the gate losing bookings at the facility." said Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver who called the meeting thinking he had the needed six votes to pass the agreement.

"Well you know I've learned more from disappointment than I ever have from success," he said.

One of the big sticking points centered around bonuses for convention workers.

"It gets pretty frustrating," said Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles about the expected 30 percent bonuses in the face of massive losses. "In any real business, if you are losing money, you are not going to give out bonuses, and if you do, you are not going to be around much longer."

"Do they need to remove those bonuses?" we asked City Administrator Fred Russell.

"I think you're being penny wise and pound foolish," said Russell, who quickly revised his statement. "If that's the only point that we are at ... I think we need to advocate for taking the bonuses out."

The expected convention operators seem to be in no mood to negotiate.

"And if we start canceling things, that box will be empty for a long time," Leech said. "The city really loses then."

Commissioners are expected to tackle the topic again next Monday.

"I think it is probably the best deal we are going to get," Bowles said.

Managers say they need 90 days to open the center. That could force them to cancel the first event in January.

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