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.