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'Patch' bidders call city's rejection 'ridiculous'

Group vying to operate golf course told it must have business license

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Questions are being raised again about the fairness of Augusta's procurement process after the city rejected its only offer to privately operate the municipal golf course because the company lacks a business license -- something its organizers say is impossible to obtain until it takes over the public course.

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Jon Myers plays Augusta Municipal Golf Course. The Augusta Commission voted in June to solicit private management proposals. One offer has been received, and it was rejected because the company lacks a business license.   Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Jon Myers plays Augusta Municipal Golf Course. The Augusta Commission voted in June to solicit private management proposals. One offer has been received, and it was rejected because the company lacks a business license.

"We think it's a Catch-22 situation," said Scottish golf course developer Brian Hendry, one of three partners who incorporated The Patch in Augusta LLC to bid on the management job.

The company's fee proposal was returned unopened, and its attorney filed an appeal with the Procurement Department on Wednesday.

The Patch in Augusta is a venture among Hendry, Savannah-based developer Michael J. Kistler and Scottish golf pro Ronald Macdonald. The group wants to upgrade the course and clubhouse into a play spot for Masters Tournament patrons, keeping green fees for local players "fair and reasonable" the other 51 weeks of the year, according to a business plan on file with the procurement office, which The Augusta Chronicle reviewed under an open records request.

The plan says that by charging a premium during Masters Week, the company could earn an extra $147,000. That figure is almost what "The Patch," or Augusta Municipal Golf Course, cost taxpayers last year.

In 2009, the operation off Highland Avenue lost $170,000, and this year it is expected to lose $150,000 to $200,000, according to Recreation and Parks Director Tom Beck.

Amid continuing debate over whether to privatize the course, sell it or continue subsidizing it to accommodate its working-class regulars, the commission voted in June to solicit management proposals, then make a decision based on what kind of responses came back.

A dozen invitations to bid went out, but Hendry's company was the only taker, the bid documents show.

The Patch in Augusta is incorporated through the Georgia Secretary of State's Office and has a federal tax identification number. Organizing attorney Benjamin McElreath said he tried to obtain a local business license, but was told by the License and Inspection Department that if the company would be operating at the municipal golf course, it would need to first show proof of a lease there.

"To reject it for the reason they did is ridiculous," Kistler said. "They're using a technical default, which I don't believe would hold up in court."

Procurement Director Geri Sams was out of the office the latter part of last week. Quality Assurance Analyst Phyllis Mills referred questions to Sams, but said the golf course bidder had opportunities to ask questions beforehand and raised nothing about the license issue. Had it done so, the problem might have been resolved, she said.

The Public Service Committee voted to reissue the request for proposals. Beck said that, under the circumstances, the next one might need to be amended to give leeway on the license requirement.

Despite innuendo to the contrary fueled by the divide over privatization, Beck said he's certain there was no effort to derail the prospect of outside management. The lack of responses, he said, has to do with the tough economic climate for public courses and the city's insistence that pay-and-play rates remain in the current $20 to $35 range.

Commissioner Joe Bowles, who has long been pushing for privatization, said the commission should forgo another bid process and grant Hendry's company's appeal.

The Patch in Augusta should get leeway if they tried to obtain a license, but were rebuffed, said Robert Mullins, the plaintiff's attorney in several suits against the Procurement Department.

"If that's the case, they shouldn't be required to have one," Mullins said. "And they shouldn't have been rejected."

Business licenses are based on gross revenue and range in price from $82 to $10,338.

A plan for 'The Patch'

Elements of a business plan for operating Augusta Municipal Golf Course submitted to the city by The Patch in Augusta, LLC:

- Redesign the clubhouse with a Scottish flavor, adding a fully-stocked pro shop

- Existing members won't be asked to raise extra money

- No more quarterly memberships -- full membership plans only

- Create a signature hole patterned after Augusta National, with flowering trees and shrubs and an air-conditioning system

- Lay practice areas with Astro Turf

- Manicure trees, fairways and greens

- Charge premium green fees during Masters Week to raise an additional $147,000. Local members wouldn't be excluded from play, but would be required to pay the going rate.

- Keep regular prices "fair and reasonable"

-- Johnny Edwards, staff writer

Who's behind The Patch in Augusta LLC?

The Patch in Augusta LLC is a venture among Scottish golf course developer Brian Hendry, Savannah, Ga.-based developer Michael J. Kistler and Scottish golf pro Ronald Macdonald.

Hendry is leading the ongoing $15 million redevelopment of Hazlehead Golf Course, a municipal course in Aberdeen, Scotland, originally designed by Alister MacKenzie, the architect of Augusta National Golf Club.

Kistler, the president of Savannah's Development Associates Inc., owned and operated three golf courses in Georgia and Florida in the 1980s and 1990s. He built and designed Crosswinds Golf Club, a public course beside Savannah International Airport, operating it from 1998 until he sold it in March. He also owns the New South building near the Savannah River levee and the Freightliner of Augusta diesel truck dealership.

-- Johnny Edwards, staff writer

Procurement department accusations

The Procurement Department has been the subject of a flurry of lawsuits over the past four years accusing it of unfairly rejecting prospective contractors. In one filed by the Association for Fair Government claiming a rigged system -- a suit later dismissed on summary judgment -- the city's answer to the complaint revealed contracts repeatedly have been awarded to companies that lacked proof of a business license.

- Virginia-based Seabury Aviation Planning won a contract for an air service consulting position in 2009, with the license requirement waived because the other bidder didn't provide one either, court documents show.

- Arizona-based Head Penn Racquet Sports won a bid to provide tennis balls that same year, and because no other bidder provided license information, the license requirement was overlooked.

- In a 2008 bid for inmate toiletries, North Carolina-based Bob Barker Co. Inc. provided no license, but because it submitted the lowest bid and other bidders were also noncompliant, it got the job anyway.

- In an affidavit on file in another lawsuit filed by a rejected bidder, Quality Assurance Analyst Phyllis Mills said vendors have never been required to obtain Augusta business licenses, that it wouldn't make sense for them to be forced to obtain one before they get a contract award.

-- Johnny Edwards, staff writer

Comments (23) Add comment
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Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 09/20/10 - 12:38 am
0
0
Government stupidity is

Government stupidity is beyond belief.
We own a course that is losing big time money. Somebody offers to take it off the public's hands.
Even if we gave it away, we would at least gain money from the tax revenue. But this is a proposal to sell it, and not only to sell it, but to sell it to some big name folks with a proven track record.
What does the city do? It doesn't even open up the proposal.
There is stupidity and then there is just plain incompetence.
When will she get fired?

Riverman1
106952
Points
Riverman1 09/20/10 - 06:20 am
0
0
The group was also said to be

The group was also said to be planning a luxury hotel near the course as Mr. Macdonald has developed in other places around the world. If Lori Davis were mayor these developers would be taken to dinner and asked how we could help them instead of making them feel like they were at the DMV waiting to get their driver's license renewed.

We need leadership. Someone to run get the license for them, put it in their hands and offer our deepest apologies.

disssman
6
Points
disssman 09/20/10 - 06:24 am
0
0
Insider. Where do you see a

Insider. Where do you see a "sell"? These guys are trying to be middle men and charge the same as now, but obviously wanting a management fee. Who wants to build a new clubhouse? Put another way, are they building the clubhouse, or are we doing it so they can run it? Glad to see a semi "stakeholder" in the process.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 09/20/10 - 06:56 am
0
0
dissman, I think you might be

dissman, I think you might be right. That's a good catch, but it doesn't change my opinion. Returning a proposal without even opening it is desired ignorance.

Junket831
0
Points
Junket831 09/20/10 - 07:14 am
0
0
Does the Patch charge a

Does the Patch charge a different fee for players not living in Richmond County? I ask because if the facility is losing money and is subsidized by the taxpayers it seems that non residents should pay a higher fee.

This proposal listed here seems like a possible option. Too bad it was treated like a DMV experience. Maybe if we tried to locate the course downtown Deke would become a champion, especially if Mr. Ripkin was suggesting it.

bdouglas
6471
Points
bdouglas 09/20/10 - 08:22 am
0
0
Ronald MacDonald... Maybe

Ronald MacDonald... Maybe the beverage cart will start serving french fries and Big Macs, too?

scott-hudson
10
Points
scott-hudson 09/20/10 - 08:24 am
0
0
Great story Johnny. Also,

Great story Johnny. Also, what Hendry is doing with the Tivoli Theatre in Aberdeen is exciting as well.

Brad Owens
5200
Points
Brad Owens 09/20/10 - 08:36 am
0
0
I hope Lori speaks out on

I hope Lori speaks out on this RM1 and lets folks know that she would not put up with non-sense choices like this.

VOTE AGAINST ALL INCUMBENTS THIS NOV. 2nd!!

Brad

Little Lamb
52566
Points
Little Lamb 09/20/10 - 09:20 am
0
0
I'll bet that if Johnny

I'll bet that if Johnny Edwards looks under a few rocks (or perhaps in a few slime pits), he will find that Commissioner Bill Lockett is behind Geri Sams’ ludicrous actioins. Lockett has made it clear that he is dead set against anyone but the city to operate this golf course. So he and Sams probably concocted this Catch 22 plan where no one would qualify to operate the course.

Jake
36672
Points
Jake 09/20/10 - 09:29 am
0
0
I have played the Patch off

I have played the Patch off and on since the early 60's. While it looks better now than it did back then, I have often wondered what it would look like if a little more time and money from an outside source was invested in the course. The idea of capitalizing on the Masters draw seems appealing as well. When I played the course during this past Masters there was hardly anyone playing, which seems a shame. To send the bid back sight unseen seems foolish and rude. I wonder if the commission sent it back with a "COD, postage due" note on it? Idiots.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 09/20/10 - 09:39 am
0
0
When the city is served with

When the city is served with another lawsuit because of the procurement department, I wonder if they will open it or just send it back as well.
Remember, what you don't know, can't hurt you.

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 09/20/10 - 10:02 am
0
0
This is absolutely ridiculous

This is absolutely ridiculous but seems to be consistent for Ms Sams. Its too bad we don't have a leader running this city to reign in incompetents like Sams. This is something the mayor should be forcefully speaking out on. Here is a case where you have a private developer coming in and actually giving the taxpayers a great deal and making millions of new investment into a struggling facility with the hopes to turn it into a revenue generator for the city.. very different from the tax payer giveaway the mayor is championing in the ballpark.

Ushouldnthave
0
Points
Ushouldnthave 09/20/10 - 10:33 am
0
0
Got to love beaurocrats.

Got to love beaurocrats. Next, Augusta needs to privatize the procurement department.

pointstoponder
1185
Points
pointstoponder 09/20/10 - 11:16 am
0
0
Actually, the lawsuits are

Actually, the lawsuits are why Procurement rejects any any bid that doesn't meet all requirements of an RFP. Although I think Procurement could be better run, lawsuits filed by Mullins et al are the reason why a more resonable approach isn't in place. If they were to award to a firm without the license (on bid day) Mullins, or some other opportunistic attorney would file suit on behalf of some firm that didn't submit because they didn't have a license at the time but would have it they had known that requirement would be waived.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 09/20/10 - 11:35 am
0
0
pointstoponder, if I'm not

pointstoponder, if I'm not mistaken, Mullins sued because the procurement department was not consistent in how it reviewed bids. One big would be rejected for not conforming while another one would be accepted despite not conforming. The procurement department should not be able to give certain bids preference over others. They should be judged on equal footing.

sjsd17
10
Points
sjsd17 09/20/10 - 02:06 pm
0
0
It doesn't make any

It doesn't make any difference who the Mayor is...the Commission is who has always protected Ms. Sams!!!!!
Even though it's been shown time and again just how incompetent she is and how poorly the department is operated.

Same old, same old!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Little Lamb
52566
Points
Little Lamb 09/20/10 - 02:46 pm
0
0
Good point, sjsd17. She

Good point, sjsd17. She either must have good photographs or she sends a little of the graft their way.

dani
13
Points
dani 09/20/10 - 10:28 pm
0
0
I thought this problem had

I thought this problem had been taken care of. Are you serious? This woman is still in charge and still making these silly blunders. Why? How does she keep a job?.

corgimom
45111
Points
corgimom 09/21/10 - 06:19 am
0
0
The bigwigs in Augusta want a

The bigwigs in Augusta want a cheap place to play golf, and they want it locally owned and operated, so they can control it.

The more money they have, the bigger the cheapskate.

stadry
0
Points
stadry 10/25/10 - 07:07 am
0
0
jeri's got negatives of

jeri's got negatives of someone doing something

CATFISHSTEW
14
Points
CATFISHSTEW 10/25/10 - 09:39 am
0
0
And i think a Goat is

And i think a Goat is involved !!

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