Firm's pitch to manage Patch voted down

Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength (right) was presented a handmade trophy as a token of appreciation by the Retired Military Police Association during Tuesday's Augusta Commission meeting.

Augusta Municipal Golf Course will remain under city management for now after a move to enter lease negotiations with a Virginia Beach, Va., golf management firm failed.

Recommended by Depu­ty Admin­is­trator Bill Shana­han, Vir­ginia Beach Golf Man­age­ment had offered to pay the city $250,000 in rent over 10 years to operate the course for the public, with Augusta to fund capital improvements of more than $5,000.

The firm’s principals, Mike Fentress, Eddie Luke and Augusta native Andrew Menk have a combined 66 years of experience as PGA professionals, according to Fentress, who said Monday they were prepared to get the course back in shape to serve the many who enjoy playing it.

A vote to move forward with the firm failed 5-3 at the final commission meeting of the year Tuesday, with commissioners Bill Lockett, Alvin Mason and Corey Johnson voting no. Commissioner Grady Smith was absent Tuesday.

The vote was the commission’s third attempt at outsourcing the course this year, after The Patch in Augusta LLC abandoned its lease and negotiations with an Augusta-based company failed. The course has been back under city management since September.

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles, casting one of his final votes as a commissioner, said the move would have saved the city about $200,000 annually, rather than the average of $190,000 in annual losses it sustained under city management in the three prior years.

“Let’s look at those other entities that we’re funding that we don’t need to be funded,” Mason said. “I want to assure this body is looking at the big picture.”

Johnson and Mason said they would like to see the city improve the course first, using a sales-tax allocation, before seeking new management.

Also on Tuesday, the commission relieved concerns of a west Augusta patio home community by voting 8-1 to uphold a June decision against rezoning a tract to allow a 252-unit upscale apartment complex.

“I think it’s wonderful,” resident Jane Moss said.

The matter is hardly over, as property owner the L.P. Mays Family Partnership already has filed a lawsuit alleging the commission has no legal reason to deny the request given surrounding uses in the area off Augusta West Parkway.

The commission also approved a motion from Com­mis­sioner Joe Jackson to name the new sheriff’s administration building for retiring Sheriff Ronnie Strength.

Strength, who was honored during the meeting by a retired Army military police association, leaves office at the end of the year, and Lockett said only then should a building be given his name.

“I’m sure it will be 10 commissioners supporting this in January,” Lockett said.

The motion passed 6-1-1 with Lockett opposed, Bowles abstaining and Hatney absent when the vote was taken.

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Topic page: Augusta Municipal Golf Course

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