The Oconee County Industrial Development Authority, after 40 minutes in executive session, voted in open meeting today (Wednesday) to approve a contract to sell 38.5 acres in its Gateway Technology Business Park south of Bogart for roughly $760,000.
The purchaser is Alexion Pharma LLC of New Haven, Conn., the parent company of Synageva BioPharma Corp., which has a pharmaceutical production and research operation on 11 acres adjoining the newly purchased property.
The IDA sold 12 acres to Rooker, a design and construction firm specializing in industrial development based in Tucker, in June of 2013 for $300,000, with the agreement that Rooker would build an entrance roadway on part of the acreage.
Rooker held the land under the name RP Gateway LLC, which is registered at 445 Bishop Street in Atlanta, the same address as Rooker.
According to Oconee County Tax Records, Alexion purchased the property for $6,750,000 on Sept. 30 of this year.
Details of Today’s Contract
The IDA approved a 20-page agreement selling the property at 1041 Aiken Road for $20,000 per acre.
Calculation of acreage to be purchased will be based on the actual acreage shown in a new survey of the property minus areas determined by Alexion to be wetlands, excluding a pond and a one-acre portion of those wetlands.
The purchase by Alexion will give the company complete ownership of the eastern portion of the Gateway Park.
The IDA made its decision in a called meeting, which began at 7:35 a.m. in the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce, 55 Nancy Drive in Watkinsville.
Today’s meeting followed a nearly two-hour meeting on Monday, almost all of which was in executive session closed to the public.
The IDA met for only 10 minutes in open session today.
The vote on the contract was without discussion or controversy.
At the beginning of the meeting, however, IDA member Chuck Williams, who represents much of Oconee County is the Georgia House of Representatives, asked County Attorney Daniel Haygood if the IDA had gone into executive session correctly on Tuesday.
Haygood said, “as far as I saw,” the IDA did not violate any state law.
That discussion is just beyond the two minute point on the video below.
After the Authority came out of executive session and after it voted on the purchase agreement, Authority Chair Rick Waller asked for citizen comment.
During that time, I explained that Waller had told me not to set up my camera and to leave the room and that County Finance Director Wes Geddings had closed the door separating me from the meeting. That was before the Authority voted to go into executive session.
I said I accepted Haygood’s response to Williams since Haygood had not been present when Waller told me not to set up my camera and to leave the room and was not present when Geddings closed the door.
Waller responded to my comments by saying he was trying to do me a “favor” since he didn’t want me “to set and then immediately take down” my tripod and camera.
“I didn’t tell you that you couldn’t be here,” he said.
Waller did not deny that Geddings had ascended the stairs and closed the door to the room in which I was sitting prior to the meeting taking place. At that time, no one else was in that room.
That exchange with Waller starts at 7:10 on the video below.
No Recording Of Exchange
There is no recording of what Waller said to me on Monday. He approached me immediately as I entered the room.
My memory is that he told me he did not want me to set up my camera. It was not presented as a favor or as advisory.
I asked him what he wanted me to do. He replied that I should go upstairs at that point and wait until the executive session had ended.
J.R. Charles this morning gave me the draft minutes of the public part of Monday’s meeting. He apologized for not responding to my request for the minutes yesterday, saying that he was sick. (He appeared quite sick today.)
Those minutes show that seven IDA members were present, four staff members were present, and eight “others” were present. The "others" included incoming members of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners and of the IDA itself, but none of these persons currently holds office.
All of the staff and “others” were invited into the executive session excepting myself and Blake Giles, editor of The Oconee Enterprise. Giles arrived about five minutes after the 4 p.m. start of the meeting but did stay until the Authority came out of executive session.
The Monday minutes indicate that the IDA voted to go into executive session at 4:05 p.m., after approving the minutes of the Nov. 14 meeting.
The vote to go into executive session was made by Oconee Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis and seconded by Watkinsville Mayor Charles Ivie. All IDA members voted for the motion.
The stated purpose of the executive session was “potential sale of land.”
The Authority came out of executive session at 5:45 p.m., according to those minutes, heard the financial report from Geddings, and adjourned at 5:50 p.m.
The video of the open part of today’s meeting is below. The separation is when Giles and I were asked to leave the meeting so the Authority could go into executive session.
Giles and I were escorted to a small conference room distant from the one we were told to use on Monday and where it was impossible to hear anything at all of the deliberations by the IDA in the basement of the Chamber offices.
OCO: IDA 12 14 16 from Lee Becker on Vimeo.
1. "'I didn’t tell you that you couldn’t be here,' [Waller] said.
OK, even if he actually did. Being told "Buzz off!" is but a polite hint.
2. The "others." Yes. Same thing as "not us."
"Not us" often times means "light of day."
They will weasel out of whatever they can. Guess they are "camera shy". Thanks for trying to keep them honest, Lee. Those other folks should certainly not have been in the meeting either. Interesting they did not bring that up. So, Rooker bought 12 acres for 300,000 in 2013 and then sold it to Alexion for over $6,000,000 in 2016. Am I correct to assume, Rooker built the buildings for them to justify the increase in amount?
Yes, Rooker built the two buildings and did the other improvements and then leased the facility to Synageva before selling it to parent Alexion earlier this year.
"Something is rotten in Denmark"
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