With its water rate tweaked and with the apparent blessing of most Augusta Commission members, the city-owned Augusta Municipal Golf Course appears headed in a different, Scottish direction.
A final lease agreement between the commission and The Patch in Augusta LLC goes before the commission during its regular meeting today.
The lease includes a water rate that's higher than procurement documents offered, but firm principal Brian Hendry said he was willing to make the concession.
“It's an increase,” said Hendry, of Aberdeen, Scotland. His plans for the course include rebranding it “The Patch,” installing changing rooms with lockers for both men and women, adding Scottish touches and two signature holes and hiring a golf pro.
Officials wouldn't detail what the new water rate was, but said it's higher than the $143 monthly flat rate currently paid by both the city course and nearby Forest Hills Golf Course.
The $143 monthly rate last week shocked some commissioners, who were unaware of it until nearby youth golf clinic First Tee of Augusta requested a similar rate.
During a dry month, First Tee might pay $4,000 for city water, Executive Director Jill Brown said.
City Administrator Fred Russell said he'd return with a uniform policy for golf courses at a later committee meeting, but it won't be in time for today’s 5 p.m. commission meeting.
Hendry has been in Augusta since Wednesday finalizing details for the course with partners Ronnie MacDonald and Michael Kistler, but said he'll likely depart before the commission votes on the lease.
“This guy's enthusiastic about running the golf course,” Commissioner Matt Aitken said. “We need to be looking at different things.”
Aitken was one of six commissioners in July to vote in favor of leasing the course for $1,000 a month to The Patch in Augusta LLC instead of another option, to hire a management firm.
Commissioner Grady Smith previously voted instead to hire the firm, Affiniti Golf Partners, which was asking $5,000 to manage it. Smith serves on the board that hired Affiniti to manage Board of Regents-owned Forest Hills, but has since said that he prefers either of the private options to leaving the course under city management, where it has been a money-loser for years.
Remaining opposed is Commissioner Bill Lockett, who questioned why in August 2006, according to meeting minutes, the commission voted to transfer $35,000 to the public golf course to cover “water bills.”
“The way I feel about it is this thing should not be passed tomorrow night; there should be further discussion on it,” Lockett said Monday, noting that Farmers Almanac predicts rain during the weeks Hendry plans to make up losses by marketing the course to corporate Masters tourists.
Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said he remained in favor of the seven-year lease proposal.