Commission vote on Augusta Municipal Golf Course stands

Commissioner Corey Johnson wanted a new vote on leasing the Augusta Municipal Golf Course, saying he made a mistake last month and meant to endorse another proposal. The do-over motion failed, with only three supporting votes.

Augusta Commission member Corey Johnson did not get the support he sought to undo his July 19 vote to lease Augusta Municipal Golf Course to a private firm.

Johnson said his previous vote, one of six in favor of leasing the course to The Patch in Augusta LLC, was an "error," and he made a motion during Tuesday's commission meeting to rescind the earlier action.

Only three commissioners -- Johnson, Grady Smith and Johnny Hatney -- voted yes, so the motion failed.

Now, city officials must work out details of a lease agreement with The Patch in Augusta, a firm composed of Scottish golf developer Brian Hendry and Savannah, Ga., developer Michael Kistler.

Working through an Augusta lawyer, the two men have proposed to rent the course from the city for $1,000 a month and make up any operating losses by marketing rounds to tourists during Masters Week.

The alternative, which Johnson said he intended to vote for July 19, was to pay Affiniti Golf Partners, an Alpharetta, Ga., firm that now manages Forest Hills Golf Course, $5,000 a month to manage Augusta Municipal Golf Course, nicknamed "The Patch."

Smith, who speculated he might not agree to Johnson's do-over request because Johnson had voted against his motion to reconsider another commission action, has long served on the board that the governs the University System of Georgia Board of Regents-owned Forest Hills and supported Affiniti based on the improvements he said the firm has made there.

The Affiniti proposal also included provisions to assist nearby First Tee of Augusta with maintenance and youth golf so the city could convey part of the First Tee real estate it owns to Augusta State University for the school's expansion plans.

Voting against Johnson's motion, Commissioner Alvin Mason said it was "unfortunate" that a commissioner had been unprepared.

"To do anything different would be hypocritical," despite the move's potential to disappoint Augusta State and some Patch players, Mason said.

Although the motion was read aloud before the July 19 vote, Johnson said afterward that he had intended to vote for the plan developed by James Kendrick. Kendrick, a First Tee board member, helped put together the deal with Affiniti.

The golf course has been operating at an annual loss of around $150,000 since 2003. Neither proposal guaranteed employment for the eight city workers who currently operate the course.

Voting with Commissioners Jerry Brigham, Joe Jackson, Mason and Wayne Guilfoyle and Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles against Johnson's motion, Commissioner Bill Lockett said the city would be setting itself up for litigation if commissioners were routinely allowed to change their votes.

"Certain principles I'm going to stand by," Lockett said.

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Millage rate set

In other action, the commission voted 6-3, with Commissioners Alvin Mason, Joe Jackson and Wayne Guilfoyle opposed, to tentatively set the millage rate for general fund maintenance and operations at 8.075 mills. The 0.019-mill increase over 2010 will increase property tax bills on a $100,000 house by 88 cents in the suburbs and $1.33 in the city’s urban district and will generate approximately $150,000 in new revenue, City Administrator Fred Russell said.

Originally scheduled to address the commission but a no-show today was city employee Donald D’Antignac, who’d requested to speak about Russell and “agreements, contracts, laws state and federal, municipal laws, policies and procedures, civil rights violations, cover-ups, corruption and misappropriation of tax dollars,” according to his agenda request. D’Antignac was identified by The Augusta Chronicle as having served a prison sentence for murder prior his 1986 hire but is currently in a dispute with city officials over his failure to enroll in a city pension plan.

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