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Augusta commission to revisit Patch vote

Commission will take up lease proposal again today

Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012 7:13 PM
Last updated Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012 1:07 AM
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The Augusta Commission will take another swing today at leasing the city-owned golf course to a Virginia Beach, Va., firm.

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles, who leaves office Tuesday, said he asked the mayor to request the 2 p.m. meeting to reconsider a Dec. 18 decision against renting Augusta Mu­nic­ipal Golf Course, known as The Patch, to Vir­ginia Beach Golf Manage­ment. The item is the only one on the agenda.

Recommended by procurement officials, the firm led by three PGA golf professionals, including Au­gusta native Andrew Menk, operates three government-owned courses in the Virginia Beach area.

Bowles said he has learned more about the firm’s principals, who propose to pay $250,000 in rent over the life of a 10-year lease.

“I think it’s very critical that we get this done,” he said. “I think it would be pretty interesting to see what they could do with the golf course.”

Super District 10 Commis­sioner Grady Smith was out sick Dec. 18 when a motion to enter lease negotiations was one vote shy of passage. Smith, who is recuperating from a fourth hospitalization this year because of complications from diabetes, said he will attend if his health permits.

Smith said he’s observed a company with real course management know-how. He is a member of the committee that governs Forest Hills Golf Course, a state-owned course that is privately managed for a fee.

“It’s just disappointing for Augusta, the mecca of golf, to let someone go out there and see that cow pasture. It’s sickening,” Smith said of The Patch. “They think they can take those people from the rec department and they can do it.”

The course has been under city recreation management for most of the decade and tended to operate in the red despite occupying an enterprise fund, meaning revenues are expected to exceed expenditures.

A five-year lease with a five-year renewal option is on the table with Vir­ginia Beach Golf Management, but Smith said he’d like a shorter term, maybe two years.

“We ought to learn from history instead of jumping on the first deal that comes along,” he said. “Let’s give them a two-year contract and see how much it’s worth.”

Commissioner Jerry Brig­ham said he’ll vote for negotiations to spare taxpayers the course’s chronic operating losses, which averaged about $200,000 annually until last year’s commission vote to lease it. He disagreed with other commissioners’ concerns about the need to improve the course before seeking a manager.

“I think what we’ve seen over the last several years is we’ve managed to lose money in operations of the golf course,” Brig­ham said. “I don’t think we’ve managed to do anything else.”

The company would be the third to try its hand at the course in a year. The Patch in Augusta LLC quit paying rent in April, about the time the commission vetoed spending tax revenue on improvements. A group of three Augusta brothers wanted to take over the lease but backed out in Au­gust after the commission again refused to make improvements. The latest proposal requires city approval and funding for capital improvements costing more than $5,000.

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Riverman1 12/27/12 - 06:26 am
I see the problem being the

I see the problem being the new Commission will not make the needed improvements either. If that's been the reason for others backing away from managing the course, why won't it happen again with this group? This new Commission will tend to want city management for the course and buses more than the outgoing Commission.

justputtin 12/27/12 - 07:42 am
Good luck Joe

This is a dysfunctional group. It's a real shame. I hope you can be there Grady. Good luck.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 12/27/12 - 12:41 pm

It is wrong for the six white commissioners (three of which are lame ducks and will not be back in January) to "roll" the four black commissioners at this special meeting called for no purpose other than overturning a decision from last week.

This idea of privatizing the patch might be good and it might be bad, but it needs to be discussed by the new commission.

The four black commissioners can avoid being rolled by making sure that none of them show up for today's meeting. The city charter requires seven commissioners to be present for a quorum. Stay away, Al. Stay away, Bill. Stay away, Corey. Stay away, Rev.

Willow Bailey
Willow Bailey 12/27/12 - 01:36 pm
The Patch should be sold.

The Patch should be sold. The City couldn't turn a profit if their lives depended upon it.

YeCats 12/27/12 - 02:05 pm
Agreed. The only solution,

sell it. On the courthouse steps. No level of government should be in a free enterprise business. See the results?

David Parker
David Parker 12/27/12 - 03:31 pm
Correction Willow, the city

Correction Willow, the city couldn't make a profit FOR the city. I believe there are quite a bit of profits made by the city to some end.

Willow Bailey
Willow Bailey 12/27/12 - 04:15 pm
You are correcto, Davie P.

You are correcto, Davie P. Muchas gracias.

PghSteelersFan 12/27/12 - 07:17 pm
either make the capital

either make the capital improvements needed and lease it for enough to re-coop the investment or sell it 'as is' and be done with it. Just make sure 'as is' states it has to continue to be a golf course and not a big housing development. For one thing no sane person is going to buy a house right under an airport landing strip even it if is ''sporadic" with small planes. Also the roads as I remember won't handle a huge development.

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