A proposal to merge First Tee of Augusta with Augusta Municipal Golf Course came to a halt Tuesday with only four commissioners – Corey Johnson, Bill Lockett, Marion Wiliams and Alvin Mason – voting in favor.
Also Tuesday, commissioners approved key terms to incorporate into a new ambulance contract with Gold Cross.
Commissioner Donnie Smith, who opposed the golf course proposal, said the city simply doesn’t have the $2.25 million sought by First Tee co-founder Paul Simon for renovations at the course that Simon said are vital to making “The Patch” successful.
“We don’t have $2 million. If they want to put it on the SPLOST and citizens say that’s what they want, he can come back. We just don’t have the money for nonessential services right now,” Smith said. “There are 13 different golf courses around Augusta that can provide what The Patch provides.”
Simon, who developed a proposal to share staff and equipment between the city-owned course and First Tee, which adjoins it, to create an eventual profit for the city as conditions improve and rounds increase, said after Tuesday’s vote he was finished making golf proposals to the commission unless they invite him back. Simon said conditions are currently so poor at the city-owned course the commission should be ashamed to charge a fee to play there.
“It’s awful. They should close it down,” he said, noting that the grass was in better shape at Newman Tennis Center than at the city-owned course in a city known worldwide for golf.
A longtime Patch player, Frances Mercer, said she was disappointed.
“I personally think the First Tee would have been a pretty good deal,” she said. “It might have been golf at a fair price for people who don’t want to pay (more).”
By the time the vote was taken, 3½ hours after the meeting began, two commissioners, Wayne Guilfoyle and Joe Jackson, had left the meeting early. Commissioner Mary Davis also left early to attend her daughter’s 16th birthday party; Mayor Deke Copenhaver was absent altogether.
While the commission has been debating the future of the city-owned course and soliciting proposals for at least four years, several commissioners learned of a new plan for the golf course for the first time Tuesday.
Grovetown businessman Anthony Griffin, who spoke at the start of the meeting, is proposing an expansion of amenities at the course to include a full-service restaurant, a coffee shop, indoor-outdoor putting and driving facilities and an enhanced shop to increase revenues at the course.
Griffin said if the commission signed a letter of intent to support his endeavor and banked $2 million, he’ll turn over $500,000 in profits to the city within two years.
“All we need is you to say ‘Let’s see this happen’ and we can do this yesterday,” Griffin said.
The EMS terms approved 6-3 by the commission Tuesday included several additions that Charles Masters, vice president of the firefighters’ union, said were needed. They include maximum call response times of eight minutes for life-threatening calls in urban areas, and 11 minutes in rural. Ten ambulances would be on duty during peak times and six overnight, a number that Masters previously said was insufficient to keep residents safe.
Gold Cross founder and owner Bo Pounds said earlier Tuesday that his company had met maximum response time requirements 94 percent of the time over its six years as Augusta’s provider and had expertise that Augusta 911 lacked in dispatching EMS on life-threatening calls.