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Patch bidder backs out

Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 6:56 PM
Last updated Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 2:29 AM
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Repeatedly rejected by a divided Augusta Commission, a Virginia golf management company opted Wednesday to withdraw its bid to run Augusta Municipal Golf Course.

Denise Bargeron putts on the ninth green while playing the front nine with her husband, Matt, at the Augusta Municipal Golf Course. A Virginia golf management company opted to withdraw its bid to run the course.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/FILE
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/FILE
Denise Bargeron putts on the ninth green while playing the front nine with her husband, Matt, at the Augusta Municipal Golf Course. A Virginia golf management company opted to withdraw its bid to run the course.

“After successfully negotiating a lease agreement with the evaluation team and having the motion to approve a lease agreement fail three times, we have decided to respectfully withdraw our offer,” Mike Fentress, the president of Virginia Beach Golf Management, wrote in an e-mail to interim Recreation Director Ron Houck.

Reached by phone, Fentress said his company needed to focus its energy on another golf course project rather than await the commission’s possible change of mind.

“The timing, we have all the different chemicals and things that need to go out at The Patch; prolonging that, we just had to decide, what’s the best way to go? It’s just a matter of timing,” he said. “We would have loved to have been able to do it.”

Virginia Beach Golf Management, whose principals are three PGA pros, including Fentress and Augusta native Andrew Menk, was the highest-ranked bidder to respond to a fall request for proposals to run the city-owned course, known to locals as “The Patch.”

The firm proposed to lease the course from Augusta for $250,000 in rent over 10 years, offer the public affordable rounds and implement a golf developmental program called Get Golf Ready to introduce new players to the game for which Augusta is known worldwide.

Augusta commissioners voted in 2009 to seek competitive bids from companies to run the course, which is expected to make a profit under city accounting rules but had failed, under city management, to do so for most of a decade.

Commissioners who supported leasing the course as a cost-saving measure that’s also good for Augusta golf expressed disappointment at the decision.

“It would have been a win-win for Augusta, Georgia, for the management group to get The Patch back in top condition, increase membership and be the golf course that Augustans deserve,” said Commissioner Mary Davis. “I am extremely disappointed that we as a commission could not work together to vote on the management contract.”

Commission votes Tues­day to approve and deny the lease both failed 5-4, with Commissioner Marion Williams abstaining each time to stop the mayor from casting a tie-breaking vote.

Leading the charge to deny the lease were commissioners Alvin Mason and Bill Lockett, who cited a tendency by the commission’s former, six-member white majority to “ramrod” approval of outsourcing city services, including the golf course and bus service, while excluding its four black members from the discussion.

“It’s no payback; it’s slow down,” Lockett said. “We asked them to slow down but they refused. The record we have of entering into agreements with vendors is not good.”

The development is at least the commission’s third stumble since voting to seek bids nearly four years ago. Its first attempt, a lease to The Patch in Augusta LLC, fell apart last year when the company abandoned its lease and left several employees unpaid. Fall negotiations with three Augusta brothers who offered to assume the lease also fell through after the commission declined to fund capital improvements at the course. Since then, a staff of three city recreation employees, including former course manager Ed Howerton have been in charge.

Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle, who voted in favor of the lease Tuesday, grimly suggested selling the course was the city’s only option.

“We will never entertain another management company to come in and take a look at this golf course, because of our past actions,” he said. “If you look at the countless hours this company spent, the money they spent to come down to these meetings and then to see the outcome of last night, it’s disturbing.”

Davis said budget constraints will determine the course’s future. With a lease in mind, the city did not include operational funds for The Patch in this year’s budget, although staff now working the course already are included in city payroll.

“That management group was our best opportunity at the time to get the course in the condition it needs to be in and the best for our membership,” she said. “We don’t know as far as our budget right now what we can do for The Patch.”

Comments (52) Add comment
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itsanotherday1
46948
Points
itsanotherday1 02/07/13 - 02:03 pm
2
0
WB

I suspect you are not far off. First of all, most of the employees who work there are constituents and/or supporters of those wanting the county to keep it.
Two, I suspect also that **SOME people get to play for free.

**Friends and family of the ususal suspects.

Absent any other evidence, this is the only rational explanation for their behavior.

404Law
226
Points
404Law 02/07/13 - 02:14 pm
1
1
Like I said before...

Post from December 2012:

This is simply the tee shot, correct? (i.e., voting to enter a lease agreement with the City). Now, Russell and the gang of six minus 1 must hit their second shot to a pin fronted by water and anchored by sand (i.e., bringing the negotiated contract before the new commission). Not an easy shot. They will likely walk away with a bogey 1 before this hole is finished. (i.e., the process to approve the negotiated contract with the new commissioners will be quite difficult).

*****
I think a lot of you have missed the boat on this one. Or, to continue with the golf metaphor..."are rolling it past the hole." First, and to a lesser extent, this was a statement to Joe Bowles. That is about as personal at this gets. Joe, this was what you wanted most, and they didn't let you get it, despite your special call meeting.

Second, to a slightly greater extent, this is about the decision to sale / lease the Patch (to get it off the City books), but not e.g., the Aquatics center and other rec spots like Newman (which remain on city books). The argument is that the City is subsidizing swimming and tennis (I am pretty sure tennis too), so why not golf. I can understand the logic there, especially considering the confluence of race/class/gender in the CSRA. It's a political history that must be considered, no matter how far we've personally moved on.

And finally, to a large extent, this is about power. This vote signals a huge power shift in Augusta politics. Everyone has been served notice. In some ways, that's a good thing.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 02/07/13 - 02:19 pm
3
0
boondoggle after boondoggle

boondoggle after boondoggle after boondoggle

Yes, Regency Mall, Parking decks, Muni-golf course. CM, I don't think it's that everybody agrees that the course should do this or should do that. It's the system or manner in which the commish does their business, or lack thereof. Fiddling around until the bidder bails out when we all know that the city has had plenty of time to make a decision, coupled with the fact that we just got burned by the Scottish gentleman b/c the commish approved his bid.

It's not the golf course, it's the Augusta commissioners. That's what I read from it.

dichotomy
36277
Points
dichotomy 02/07/13 - 03:10 pm
2
0
"This vote signals a huge

"This vote signals a huge power shift in Augusta politics"

Got nothing to do with a power shift. Just a bunch of old blowhard fools playing who's got the biggest one. And unfortunately they ain't talking about brain size. They've been doing this for 17 years and explains most of the problems.....including why everything they do costs us twice what it should....plus legal fees to settle their stupid decisions.

But hey South Richmond County, what ya gonna do when you are the minority? At least we can sit back and calls 'em like we see's 'em 'cause we sure got nothing else left to lose.

They are a bunch of old fools...always have been....always will be.

Little Lamb
47970
Points
Little Lamb 02/07/13 - 03:28 pm
3
0
No More

Countyman posted:

I think ASU should get the land in order to expand.

Old habits will be hard to break, but it's now known as Grooo.

countyman
21299
Points
countyman 02/07/13 - 04:04 pm
2
3
Priorities

People are clearly naive if they believe the public doesn't care about public transportation... It's much different when you own property in Richmond County compared to actually living here. I hear daily comments about the lack of routes, etc.

Around 3,000 people use the public transportation system in Augusta. I'm not even counting the additional riders who want to the use the system if ran more effectively(citizens on Fort Gordon for example).

How many Richmond County citizens even use the Patch in one week?

Nobody is defending anything related to the commission. The fact remains the majority of citizens feel we have more important issues than a golf course. How is the Regency Mall considered a boondoggle? Thousands of cities across the US have malls that closed similar to the one in Augusta. Why do people always try to make Augusta seem so different in a bad light?

The parking deck is beautiful(ask the mayor of Charleston), and the issue was related to the contract with the Marriott.

Riverman1
90611
Points
Riverman1 02/07/13 - 04:00 pm
4
0
Austin said, "Special Grand

Austin said, "Special Grand Jury...I got yer Special Grand Jury...

http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/1999/11/13/met_274115.shtml

http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2003/04/26/met_370804.shtml

Roundly ignored and a HUGE show of complete arrogance by the elected officials of the day..."

Sure, I remember the Special Grand Jury and Marion Williams being upset with the whole process. My interests in the possibilties of grand juries began back then. I do think that GJ uncovered a lot that resulted in positive results. Ronnie Few and the Fire Dept. were exposed, plus the money University got from the city for indigent care come to mind. When you start shining the light on government practices while providing the GBI with findings things can happen.

A grand jury simply has almost unlimited power. The court has to help them investigate and obtain whatever material requested. They can literally tell the DA to wait outside if they want. As I said, "run-away grand juries" are feared by the establishment. They had BETTER NOT put me on one, being the skeptic I am.

Riverman1
90611
Points
Riverman1 02/07/13 - 04:12 pm
4
0
Countyman, it's a Potemkin TEE

Countyman, it's a Potemkin TEE Center and parking deck.

countyman
21299
Points
countyman 02/07/13 - 04:09 pm
2
4
I think we should call the

I think we should call the TEE Center the'' immediate $12 million impact''.

20 events, thousands of people, $12 million pumped into the city, and we don't even have to add the impact from the new business in the CBD.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 02/07/13 - 04:30 pm
4
0
CM, you mention Regency.

CM, you mention Regency. It's sat unused and not code-compliant for over a decade, if not 2 decades. At some point, maybe during their "retreats" they should have made some definitive actions toward getting it used, razed, or in compliance. Yet they don't, and now we have drame spilling over b/c of the Patch, the Tee, GRU, etc. You name it. At some point can they accomplish something and have it be a success? I know the "forecast" for the TEE is bright. But it hasn't happened and we are way in arrears on paying for it right? I think the math suggests that it will never be paid for outright. It's all the benefit that comes with it. I understand that.

But to clarify, I see the commissioners act expediently, but not for the city, for themselves and their ilk. The golf course arrangement didn't meet their need, nevermind that the city would stop bleeding from it, but they put the kabosh on it nonetheless..... Have a good evening yall.

GnipGnop
12692
Points
GnipGnop 02/07/13 - 04:41 pm
4
1
Actually Countyman...based on my estimate...

Everytime I have played there it has been full...i would bet there are at least 100 people playing a day and at least 200 on saturday and sunday. The problem is most are not paying. You said half the people don't care about golf which made my response accurate. If only 3000 people use the bus then the rest could care less. Thank you for making my argument for me. The only difference being I bet everyone pays to ride the bus and it wil never see a profit. If everyone paid to play golf there would be a huge profit. Same old letting the fox watch the henhouse that hapens in government run entities. BTW doesn't matter where you live. It matters that you pay property taxes and deserve certain rights just like any other tax paying property owner. If you can't see that then I feel sorry for you.

Riverman1
90611
Points
Riverman1 02/07/13 - 04:37 pm
5
1
Potemkin Center

I seriously doubt the economic impact. The link I posted shows the events that are coming this year. Notice many have been here before using existing venues, so you can’t assume they are only coming now because of the Potemkin Center. The Ironman has done very well in the past, as has the Georgia Housing Redevelopment without the center. So it’s disingenuous to say they are only coming because of the Potemkin Center. But look at the events. HFW is in Evans and I doubt few people from Columbia County will be staying overnight in Augusta. ESI is also in Augusta and I doubt many of their people will be staying downtown. I also notice some previously announced events are now off the schedule. I know about the police chiefs backing out, but what about the others?

http://augustaconventioncenter.net/event-calendar.php

countyman
21299
Points
countyman 02/07/13 - 05:41 pm
2
3
The cost of the TEE Center is

The cost of the TEE Center is $38 million.. The $12 million impact doesn't include the $6 million Holiday Inn Express for example. I'm not including Eros Bistro, Boars Head Public House, purchasing of the former WAGT building(restaurant/meeting space), Farmhaus Burger/12 apts, etc. I actually agree with you in terms of Regency Mall, but plenty of cities have empty malls. I'm defending any current/former commissioner. Several proposed ideas were turn down by the public in terms of Regency Mall too.

I seriously doubt 100 people actually use the Patch every single day. All of those citizens don't live in Richmond County anyway. Either way the number 100 is nowhere close to the 3,000 using public transportation daily.

I can honestly say thousands of additional people would ride the bus if ran more effectively. All you have to do is go ask the young adults living on Fort Gordon.

Can you honestly tell me thousands of additional people would use the Patch if an private company ran it smoothly?

countyman
21299
Points
countyman 02/07/13 - 05:58 pm
2
3
The TEE Center is up to 20

The TEE Center is up to 20 events now, and the link you provided doesn't include them...

What events were here in Augusta beforehand? The ESI Ironman tournament and the actual convention are two different things.

The company ESI headquartered in downtown Augusta has powerful clients from all over the world. I don't think you realize the number of people who will be attending from other continents. Why do you think only the local employees at ESI will be attending?
http://www.esi911.com/esi/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=33&I...

The Georgia Housing Association didn't return to Augusta, because they outgrew our facilities. I'm sure it's a coincidence they decided to return now that we have additional space.

GnipGnop
12692
Points
GnipGnop 02/07/13 - 06:21 pm
4
1
Can you honestly tell me...

the bus system will turn a profit? The golf course will. Does it matter where they live if they are paying? Again, by your logic anyone that doesn't live here that rides the bus shouldn't count? Really now...you can do better than that...Have you ever played golf? Do you know how many people do play? I wouldn't be surprised if the number a day (in good weather of course) is greater than 100. I have played since I was a teenager. If you had a 4some on every hole that's 18X4=72X$30=$2160. That's pure profit not including alcohol sales and food sales. You can run a golf course with 3 or 4 people. If golf courses weren't profitable there wouldn't be so many here. It's all in how it's run and whether the people are charged to play. How much overhead and how many people do you think a bus service takes?

countyman
21299
Points
countyman 02/07/13 - 06:18 pm
2
3
The truth will set you free!

This is why I tend to take some of the comments made by Riverman with a grain of salt.. I never get on the Chronicle and make comments, unless I have the facts to back them up. The people who continue to give him thumbs up obviously have no idea either.

What previous events backed out?

Here's a few of the former speakers at the ESI conventions. None of the speakers work at ESI in downtown Augusta.

http://www.af.mil/information/bios/bio.asp?bioID=12690

http://www.iaem.com/international/InternationalCouncilPresidentBioPage.htm

http://nathanielforbes.com/

Riverman1
90611
Points
Riverman1 02/07/13 - 06:20 pm
5
0
Countyman, thanks for the

Countyman, thanks for the update. About the events backing out, I thought the original schedule had other events listed, but I could be wrong.

Riverman1
90611
Points
Riverman1 02/07/13 - 06:22 pm
6
0
Because a speaker doesn't

Because a speaker doesn't live in Augusta, does it follow that most of the people attending are from out of town?

seenitB4
93728
Points
seenitB4 02/07/13 - 06:48 pm
2
1
I bet River is crushed now..:)

I will slap my hands now...I'm guilty of giving RM some thumbs up....

Lordy---lordy...what a day on here..

seenitB4
93728
Points
seenitB4 02/07/13 - 06:53 pm
1
1
Thank God

We have some on here who will educate us....lol

Goodnight countyman...& riverman....have fun!!

rebellious
21419
Points
rebellious 02/07/13 - 07:20 pm
2
0
Round 12

River vs County (Man)
Ding Ding Ding

The last time I was at the Patch, many years ago, one thing that jumped out immediately was the number of large, luxury cars (Benz, Chrysler 300's, BMWs) with "Retired Army" specialty license plates or stickers on the rear. Made me think it strange that retired military would prefer the Patch over Gordon Lakes. And thenext thought was why would they prefer the Patch over Gordon Lakes? At the timethe patch was like unto playing golf in a cow pasture.

I think shortly after, Red had to defend a bunch of beer purchases with no sales and no inventory, or something like that. Made me say "That makes sense"

Riverman1
90611
Points
Riverman1 02/07/13 - 07:41 pm
2
0
Patch equals Potemkin Golf

Patch equals Potemkin Golf Course. It's not a real golf course. But it doesn't look like a model course either, so I'm not sure it fits. Heh.

Rebel, you better watch out or I'm going to start on the airport and that lounge that's the size of a motel room kitchen.:)

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