City Scandal: Good mayor/bad mayor

It looks like Lawrenceville has their own version of the "tennis center" fraud going on. The similarities are frightening. Good old boys playing with numbers behind closed doors. New mayor steps in and finds hanky panky going on. Good old boys say they would never do anything wrong. Taxpayers get stuck with the bill.

At least we're not the only fools in Georgia.

Curtain not up, but costs are: New Lawrenceville mayor sees 'scary' overspending on theater

By Steve Visser
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 01/28/07

Lawrenceville Mayor Rex Millsaps believes the show must go on, but he is holding his applause on the Aurora Theatre.

The City Council is paying more than it had planned to build the theater, and the mayor is no fan of cost overruns.
The project has already gone $200,000 over budget, said Millsaps, who was elected in November. That's $500,000 more than the former mayor said would be acceptable.

"It's scary," said Millsaps, a certified public accountant. "The council has been approving every change order that has come in. I think some more questions should have been asked."

Millsaps voiced concerns at a council work session after hearing more than $80,000 was needed for the electrical system, in part to accommodate a state-of-the-art sound system the Aurora got from a donor.

But the mayor also noted that the electrical power hookup to the theater hadn't been included in the contract —- in an effort by the council to get the cost down to an acceptable figure. That cost-cutting raised the possibility the council had approved an unrealistically low figure purely for public consumption.
"They pulled stuff out of the bid to get it started," Millsaps said. "But those things are having to go back in, and the concessions we got to take them out are nowhere near what it costs to put them back."

Councilman P.K. Martin said the council didn't plan to bring costs in through the back door after approving a lower project budget last year. "We weren't trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes," he said. "I can understand why people would think that, but, no, we were not trying to do that."

The Aurora Theatre is the signature piece for the rejuvenation of the city's once seedy square, but it has been beset by budget controversies since the council lured the theater away from Duluth.

Estimates for renovating the old church on Pike Street were initially $1.5 million. That estimate rose to $2.5 million when architects said they needed to expand the church because it was too small for two stages. But last March, the first bid for renovation came back at $4.7 million, which threatened to derail the project.

The council decided to downsize the construction —- saying at the time it was cutting frills —- and rebid it. That bid came back in at $3.5 million, which, with further cuts, was reduced to $3.3 million. The Aurora also agreed to pay the city $600,000 over 20 years to bring the city's costs to about $2.75 million.

Mayor Pro Tem Bob Clark said almost every renovation project suffers from cost overruns. Some of the Aurora's most expensive were unforeseeable, such as nearly $52,000 to restore the brick; $14,000 in bell tower repairs; $10,000 to replace windows; and $8,400 to replace a deteriorated sewer line. He said the original budget cuts still saved the city money.

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CCB's picture
Submitted by CCB on Mon, 01/29/2007 - 8:24pm.

Now that's funny! Every city has their good ole boys. Some just screw up worse than others.

The devil himself can't create as much damage as a few little men on a bad ego trip. At least our folks were stopped before we hemorrhaged to death.

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