The Sale of The Promise Building to Bibb BOE was Not A Grandiose Gesture

It seems Charles Richardson really just hasn’t learned when to keep his mouth shut when it comes to speaking about education in Macon. In his latest editorial here is what he had to say about the recent sale of the Promise Center.

The Central Georgia Partnership for Individual and Community Development Inc. gave the community a gift by selling the made-to-be controversial Promise Center to the Bibb County school system, a move it clearly did not have to make. Financially, there was no motivation for the CGPICD to sell. While people conveniently forget the school board voted on the lease that sat before them unanimously and was again deemed valid by a Superior Court, the sale should put all that talk in a casket. If there was doubt of the lease’s validity, why spend more than $10 million to get out of it?

 

The CGPICD will now start over at the old Hamilton school. It’s mission, along with the more than 40 community partners, hasn’t changed: to impact the lives of children and families in that area over the long term. They will never get credit for it, but they have remained true to that mission, putting aside the darts and arrows of withering criticism.

 

It’s difficult to predict the direction of progress without a set of guiding principles. The progress we want is either set in those principles or not. I know, we’re still figuring out those principles — but we are figuring them out.

Talk about rewriting history. Let’s try and set Charles straight since we are all entitled to an opinion but not the facts. In information obtained from documents of the Collier lawsuit, WMAZ and the very same Macon Telegraph where Charles works but fails to check with real reporters for any verification of facts, here is what they all reported.

Chief Financial Officer Ron Collier claims he was punished for raising questions about a $1 million payment. The school district, a Macon Promise partner, paid the money to the Central Georgia Partnership For Individual and Community Development. That is another promise neighborhood partner.

According to an invoice from PICD, the money was supposed help renovate the old Ballard Hudson building on Anthony Road, and MPN planned to house their programs in that building. Another version of the invoice says the $1 million fulfilled the school district’s pledge to provide resources for 2012 that a federal grant was supposed to match.

But Cliffard Whitby, executive director of MPN says they never requested or received the $1 million, and that money is strictly between the school district and PICD. The story gets more complex with reports Superintendent Romain Dallemand pledged almost $20 million over 10 years in school resources without the school board’s knowledge.

That includes the district leasing half of the Ballard Hudson building from PICD for $5.75 million through 2023. That lease helped PICD secure a $4.8 million loan from the Urban Development Authority to fix up the old school. Part of Collier’s suit argues that lease is illegal. And, according to an audit report of the district’s finances, the school board didn’t approve the lease before it was signed.

So just to clarify things, Charles seems to be saying that Whitby and the CGPICD had the BOE (read Bibb county taxpayers) over a barrel and on the hook for potentially $20 million or possibly more. What Charles Richardson always seems to conveniently leave off is that unanimous Board approval of the lease was taken when the BOE was unaware that they were committing to anything close to $20 million or anything close to that amount. Charles also conveniently leaves out the fact that this building was sold to Whitby and Samuels who for all intents and purposes are CGPICD for peanuts or $220,000.

In what universe does Charles Richardson live in when a school property sold for $220,000 gets bought back by the same purchaser for millions after they also helped pay for repairs and upkeep and still think that is a good deal. Charles is either a complete moron, out of his mind, or has ulterior motives for thinking that  could ever under any circumstances be considered a good deal in any universe. It was a blatant  money grab from our school system pure and simple and all of that $52 million missing is as good as flushed down a toilet with little to show for it. We sold Ballard because we didn’t need it. It will now be repurposed but we could have done that ourselves with repairs for millions less.

 

Hey Charles, if you think that is a good deal you are just the man I need to speak with. Let me buy your car from you, let’s look up the blue book value and I will pay you a great price in cash of 15% of the current Kelly blue book value. But you will then need a car to drive if you sell yours to me. Don’t use any of your other cars that work perfectly fine and for the love of God don’t shop around for other cars from any other buyers since they would just confuse you. You will need to trust me since I am doing this for the children. I am harmless I promise.  Since I am trying to help you out, I want to give you a fantastic deal. I will rent your former car back to you, but only 3 or 4 days days a week because I want to hire it out the other days for some extra cash, but I won’t charge them as much rent simply because I don’t want to. Since you are my main man, I will only charge you $2,000 a month to rent your car. Oh and one more thing, you are not allowed to do any repairs, change the oil, or even buy gas from anyone but me. I will do all that for only $150 per week as a maintenance fee to make sure it runs in tip-top condition and purrs like a kitten. Again, please don’t do any due diligence on maintenance or repairs since that would just confuse things.  After you rent it for around 5 years I will then sell it back to you for five times the Kelly  blue book value of a brand new car of the same make and model.

I know this is just the deal for you Charles because you understand business so well. So hit me up. I’m waiting so let’s make this deal happen soon. Oh and act fact because it is a limited time offer Charles.  😆

Miraculous Returns

David Oedel wrote a very detailed explanation entitled Miraculous Returns. A few quotes from his article. I chose to bold especially relevant parts for emphasis.

“Cliffard Whitby told me that he, with a few others he declined to name, put up personal funds to buy that building from Bibb’s BOE in 2009 for $220,000 in the name of a new nonprofit Whitby organized, Central Georgia Partnership for Individual and Community Development.

 

Whitby’s claimed purpose? Solely to help his community. Whitby grew up nearby and graduated from Southwest High before beginning work in construction, property management and development. Whitby says he personally hasn’t gotten a dime back from the transactions with Bibb County and the bond deal. He also says he’s put in slightly under $1 million more in contracting services through Whitby Inc., getting nothing back for that either.

But those donations (loans?) must feel largely wasted in terms of community service. The portion of that building being leased back to Bibb’s BOE is still eerily empty, half finished. Construction has largely stopped.

 

Another third of the total square-footage, including the most costly and valuable part of the property — a spiffy basketball arena paid for partly with CGPICD bond proceeds secured by BOE payments — is being leased not by Bibb’s BOE, but Central Georgia Technical College, for $11,000 monthly with a 2 to 3 percent automatic annual increase. That’s roughly $144,000 average annually over the lease’s life. By contrast, for BOE’s two-thirds, only about half of which is finished space, the BOE is now paying CGPICD $575,000 annually plus another $325,000 per year. The BOE also amazingly kicked in another cool million for renovation. Total, that’s $10 million the BOE would pay over a decade.

 

The two leases are grossly incommensurate with one another despite the fact that total construction costs have been allocated about equally between the two leaseholds, according to Whitby.

Whitby’s CGPICD is now trying to peddle the whole building back to Bibb’s BOE for $7.8 million, which Whitby says is CGPICD’s sunk cost. Whitby declined to say who else had done work other than Whitby Inc. and Stafford Construction. Stafford did most of the renovation work, charging about $3.8 million for apparently high-quality construction, especially CGTC’s high-finish arena including an addition.

 

The BOE appears duly skeptical about CGPICD’s offer. As former Bibb and present DeKalb County Chief Appraiser Calvin Hicks explained to me, discounted cash flow, not cost, is better for valuing such buildings in problematic locations. Some evidence of cash flow would be the $144,000 being paid by CGTC, but CGTC didn’t pay for the arena build-out, so even that’s high compared with BOE’s outrageous lease. BOE’s “special” purchase option at the end of 10 years isn’t any bargain either, because the BOE would be paying yet again for its own improvements.

 

The BOE needs independent counsel to evaluate whether it may legally declare the lease with CGPICD void.”

 

Mr. Oedel very adeptly explained just how ludicrous the contention Charles Richardson is now trying to spin that the CGPICD out of the goodness of their heart decided to help the BOE and people of Bibb county out. An old saying immediately comes to mind. With friends like that who needs enemies. They got out while the getting was good because they are keenly aware that this entire episode was a disaster and they could not count on that lease remaining valid had the BOE decided to fight it further.

 

At the end of the day the BOE decided it would likely end up saving money in the long term by buying it now than fighting the lease. I understand that this was a split decision and my instinct would be to fight the lease and air all the dirty laundry in public once and for all. But I also understand I may not be privy to all the information.

The one thing I am sure of is this entire Promise project has done nothing to improve the mission or finances of the Bibb county school district which should be about educating our children. It was a complete and utter failure and when people like Charles Richardson try and put lipstick on that pig no one is biting so he should keep his trap shut. Dallemand’s missing $52 million with a good chunk of that coming from Promise has set educating children back a decade or more as they desperately try and recoup all that lost money. From now on it is my hope that the BOE will stick to their true mission and steer clear of men promising miracles. Keep our money in the schools and focused only towards that singular purpose of public education.

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