Last week, the Spirit reported on Augusta’s desire to make some additional revenue by doing things like adding vendors to the Riverwalk and bringing outside management to other venues, particularly the Jessye Norman Amphitheatre. The idea is that the money they make should go right back into making the Riverwalk a vital and dynamic place.
“It’s one thing to get a certain percentage of the city’s general fund to go to support, but I think if we have parks and other assets that generate greater fees, then certainly they need to be keeping those as opposed to going back into the general fund,” said Al Dallas, the mayor’s executive assistant.
While that all makes sense on paper, you wonder how practical the ambition is, considering the way the city has handled its riverfront marina.
The city’s 14-year relationship with Mobile Marine, the company that operates the marina, has been frosty for years, but things came to a head last year when Mobile Marine owner Mike Stacey accused members of the Port Authority of breaking into one of the marina buildings.
That made for bad publicity, but things really turned in May, when the city’s law department sent Stacey a letter announcing its intention to terminate Mobile Marine as the marina operator, citing several of the company’s deficiencies, including not providing documents regarding underground storage tanks and not paying rent, utility bills and taxes.
As of that letter, dated May 20, 2014, Mobile Marine owed $21,600 in rent, $3,736 in utility bills and $251 in outstanding occupational tax.
Not exactly a money maker for the city, huh?
Complicating things, of course, is the fact that the riverfront land in question is owned by the city, the Port Authority and the Downtown Development Authority. Getting three people to agree on anything is difficult, while getting three groups to agree on a course of action is next to impossible. But that’s an awful lot of money for a cash-strapped city to leave uncollected.
Stacey’s rocky relationship with the Port Authority and boat owners and many others along the river is one thing, and insiders are hinting that there is a lot about to break on that front, but if money is supposed to talk, shouldn’t the lack of money also have something to say? In this case, it seems like the city hasn’t been listening, which makes you wonder just how well it could oversee things further down the Riverwalk.