“After 10 years of neglect, we do need to put our minds on upgrading, renovating and treating the center better,” City Councilwoman Renee Knight said at a Tuesday Council meeting to discuss the matter.
Mayor Jeffrey DeTar said the council is still reviewing the capital improvements proposal and did not know when it would be voted on or if members would seek ways to lower the price tag. Funding would come from the city’s general fund, hotel/motel taxes or some other revenue source.
Getting Morrow Center back on track hasn't been easy. Earlier this year, Morrow filed a lawsuit in Fulton Superior Court against Civentum Inc, the previous operator of the city-owned convention center. Morrow accused the company, which it also fired earlier this year, of failing to provide a record of expenses or revenue related to the Morrow Center or how much the marketing firm has collected in hotel/motel taxes after it was named the manager of the city's tourism business in August 2018.
Browning, who has worked with the Georgia International Convention Center in nearby College Park, said the problems ran deeper than record keeping issues.
She said the facility’s kitchen was not up to code and grease traps had not been cleaned in years, locks on interior doors of the building were broken and some bartenders that worked at the center did not have the proper licenses to pour drinks. Meanwhile the center was using inadequate software for contracting and payments.
The majority of the issues have been resolved, but Browning suggested updating and enlarging the meeting room that does not have heating or cooling with an HVAC system, hiring additional staff with a new events coordinator and office manager and investing in new audio/visual equipment with service contracts for software and hardware updates.
City Manager Sylvia Redic said while it’s important to treat the facility as a revenue generator, it most likely would not be a big pool of money. She thinks of Morrow Center as an asset that sets the community apart from others in south metro Atlanta.
“It’s like a public park,” she said. “Parks are never going to make you money but you want to maintain them because they are about quality of life. They are amenities for a city.”