Russell calls TEE Center 'calculated risk' as operators declare 'no question' it will lose money

By: Chris Thomas Email
By: Chris Thomas Email

News 12 First at Five / Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The parking deck is done. Augusta's new Trade, Exhibit and Events center will soon be complete, but there is still no management agreement.

The new TEE Center construction is wrapping up, but the deal to manage the place is teeing taxpayers off.

"I'd like the best bad deal we can get," said concerned citizen Brad Owens.

Owens went before commissioners complaining taxpayers are forced to take on too much risk with the new TEE Center management deal.

"We paid to build the stuff. We're paying to run it. We're paying all the maintenance," said Owens to commissioners.

Expected TEE Center Manager Paul Simon says the city is also responsible for any losses.

"The city will lose money?" we asked Simon.

"No question in mind," he replied. "There is not a question about that. The city will lose money."

City Administrator Fred Russell says the cost of not moving forward is too great.

"You can look backwards all the time, and if you do that, you are never going to have anything," he said "If you're not brave enough to take that one step and move forward to maybe take a chance ... it's a calculated risk."

It is a risk the city's supposed partners at the Marriott are not willing to take.

"Why don't you come down there and take a risk ... take a loss for the benefit of the city?" Simon said. "Why should we? We gave them land. We allowed them to break into our building and disrupt our building for two years."

"Is this a good deal?" we asked Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle.

"Not at this point, it's not," he replied. "Not until we see what it's going to cost the taxpayers."

Did we mention there is no formal cost estimate for just how much money the city will lose?

"They decided they wanted to build at our location," Simon said. "Here are the terms in which we will allow them to build at our location. It's good for us. It's good for them."

The Marriott has threatened to cancel the first event in January if a deal is not reached as early as next week. They say they will try and get a cost estimate to commissioners by the end of the week.

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