Augusta Commission members will learn more about a plan to revive the city’s troubled public golf course at a work session Monday.
The plan, developed by Augusta businessman Paul Simon, is to share resources with the nearby First Tee of Augusta, a youth golf program whose Augusta location Simon co-founded.
Augusta Municipal Golf Course has fallen into increasing disrepair since the city leased it last year to Scottish businessman Brian Hendry, whose abandonment of the lease was unnoticed by city officials for months. With later efforts to outsource “The Patch” failing, the course has been back in city hands since last year, but its budget and staff are limited.
Simon’s plan calls for the city to pay up to $2.25 million in renovations at the course, but he promises a reduction in operating costs and eventual profit, at which time the city will pay a management fee to First Tee owner Fore Augusta Foundation.
Commissioners are divided about Simon’s proposal.
Commissioner Bill Lockett said he likes the proposal, which calls for the course’s quality to resemble that of nearby Forest Hills Golf Course, with the potential for “The Patch” to become the home course of Paine College’s golf team.
“I think this is the best thing that we’ve been able to come up with yet,” Lockett said. “We need something that’s going to guarantee community involvement. … I think it’s an outstanding idea with First Tee and ‘The Patch’ adjoining each other. Young people don’t have to go to another town or city, they just move on over to ‘The Patch.’”
Lockett said the city could afford the $2.25 million in renovations.
“It’s going to come from the same place that we get money for anything else we want,” he said. “It could potentially be placed on the SPLOST, but we cannot rely on waiting for the SPLOST to be approved or not be approved; this is something we need to get going now.”
Asked previously about the source of the funds, City Administrator Fred Russell pointed to the next round of the special purpose local option sales tax, which is expected to go before voters next year.
Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle is more skeptical and said he preferred giving a prior recommended bidder, Virginia Beach Golf Management, an opportunity to create immediate income for the city.
“I just can’t figure out why we can turn our backs on the Virginia Beach guys,” Guifoyle said. “We had the opportunity to save. Now we’re going to spend money we don’t have?”