The Augusta brothers who took over the lease of Augusta Municipal Golf Course want the city to make several needed improvements at the course or they may back out of the deal.
The Golf Course at Augusta LLC, led by Dennis Kelly, was assigned the lease Monday by the Augusta Commission with the signature of Aberdeen, Scotland, businessman Brian Hendry. Hendry’s firm, The Patch in Augusta LLC, was five months behind on the rent.
Hendry’s lease includes the stipulation that the lessee takes the course “as is,” but in a letter Monday from Kelly to Augusta General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie, Kelly said the firm may back out unless the city agrees by Friday to make several basic repairs.
Kelly wants the city to fix a leaky roof and two air conditioning systems and address drainage and irrigation issues at the Highland Avenue golf course, according to the letter.
“In a normal landlord-tenant relationship, the landlord is responsible for any capital improvements,” he said Tuesday. “It’ll increase the value of the golf course that the city owns, and it’s necessary for us.”
Recent heavy rains have worsened drainage issues, but they can probably be handled with a city bulldozer, while the irrigation system, which has several leaks, probably needs to be dug up and repaired, he said.
Hendry’s firm found the premises “habitable” under the lease when it took on the course in January, but Kelly said they are not.
“Hendry’s left a lot of people in Augusta surprised,” said Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles, who last week obtained supporting signatures from six commissioners for the assignment of the lease to Kelly and his brothers, Pat Kelly and Brian Kelly, all Augusta residents and longtime supporters of the city course.
Hendry’s firm hadn’t paid rent at the course since April, when he played host to international Masters Tournament guests there, although he later said Masters Week hadn’t gone as well as he’d hoped. The commission also declined a March request to provide Hendry a $300,000 sales tax allocation for improvements at the city-owned golf course, which was approved by voters several years ago.
Kelly said he didn’t want the sales tax funds but expected Augusta-Richmond “to use those funds to do what they’re supposed to do with them.”
Bowles, Kelly and City Administrator Fred Russell said they expected the new wrinkles to be ironed out.
The requested repairs “didn’t seem to be anything outrageous,” said Russell, who returned from a weeklong vacation Tuesday and said he had limited knowledge on the request.
In the documents approved Monday, Hendry’s firm relinquished about $85,000 in city golf course equipment to cure its default on the lease and cover the five months’ missed rent and city liability for club memberships the firm sold. Kelly said he hoped to honor those memberships.
MacKenzie, who is on vacation until Friday, said he would re-examine the lease but that if it was the commission’s will the repairs could be made.
“I’ve never seen a lease anywhere that the owner doesn’t take care of the structure that they’re renting,” Bowles said.