The fate of the Augusta Municipal Golf Course is up in the air again after the Augusta Commission refused repairs requested by three brothers who wanted to lease it.
“We got shot down,” Dennis Kelly said. “We got nailed by the commission.”
Last week, Kelly and his brothers, Patrick and Brian, offered to assume the lease held by The Patch in Augusta LLC after the city found the Scottish firm in default for not paying five months’ rent.
The Kellys’ offer came with a few requests, however, that weren’t included in the lease assignment agreed to by the commission last week. In a closed-door meeting Wednesday, a consensus of commissioners agreed not to grant the requests, City Administrator Fred Russell said.
Russell said he’d agreed to Dennis Kelly’s requests after an informal meeting last week. They included the city making approximately $62,000 in repairs and giving the brothers free rent until July for covering annual memberships already sold by The Patch in Augusta, he said.
“I thought the request that he made in reference to the repairs and the deal with the memberships was reasonable,” Russell said.
On Wednesday, however, he said he “wasn’t authorized to move forward with the recommendation I had made.”
The closed-door conversation Wednesday was dominated by commissioners “who were not interested in outsourcing The Patch,” Commissioner Jerry Brigham said, declining to comment further.
Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles, who got six commissioners Friday to support assigning the lease to the Kellys, was unhappy about the result. He said those who opposed the Kellys “would rather see people get free golf.”
Outsourcing management of the city-owned golf course, a move intended to save money while keeping the course in the city’s hands, divided the commission last year.
“If we get the golf course back as a
liability,” Bowles said, “I’d be inclined to give it to Georgia Regents University. It sure as hell beats wasting $200,000 worth of taxpayer money every year.”
Commissioner Bill Lockett, an opponent of outsourcing who supported the decision Wednesday, said switching companies without putting the course out for bids “would be basically against the procurement directive.”
“There are other people that have an interest in running that golf course,” Lockett said. “Quite a few more when they understand what a lucrative contract that Hendry was getting.”
Aberdeen, Scotland, businessman Brian Hendry was the only bidder in the city’s past two efforts to find someone to run the course. Hendry created The Patch in Augusta LLC and spoke of reviving the course with a Scottish flair, brought in a Scottish golf pro and hired local staff. Since Masters Week, however, the firm hasn’t paid its $1,000 monthly rent. Lockett said he also agreed with the commission’s March decision against giving Hendry access to $300,000 in sales-tax dollars approved by voters for the course.
“To enhance the project of a private entity is ludicrous,” Lockett said.
Lockett said he preferred another group assembled by local businessman James Kendrick, which sought to hire Affiiniti Golf Partners for a $5,000 monthly fee to run the course while offering golf services to Richmond County schools, Augusta State University and First Tee of Augusta, a youth golf program.
The best option now is to bid the project out again, with the city running the course in the interim, Lockett said.
“I’m prepared to do that if necessary,” Russell said.