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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.”

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augusta817
75
Points
augusta817 02/06/13 - 08:22 pm
10
0
Here we go again

1. If we were a nation, we'd be invaded b/c we can't govern ourselves.
2. Sell the Patch. Golf is not an inalienable right, but neither are civic centers, convention centers and Air conditioned bridges.
3. Also, sell Daniel Field. Somebody please find out how much that costs the city each year.
4. Let's get a tough grand jury going. "If if don't (sic) look right, you better indict."

SON of Scoob
434
Points
SON of Scoob 02/06/13 - 09:17 pm
11
0
No Kidding

Well gosh, who in their right mind would want to business with the Clowns Downtown.

tl-bro
178
Points
tl-bro 02/06/13 - 09:26 pm
8
1
Amazing

Listen, Mason and Lockett have it all figured out. Why bother privatizing it and make money for the City, when the City employees already do such an excellent job. If Mason and Lockett have all of the answers, let them go try to grown green grass and make money with it.

Riverman1
87582
Points
Riverman1 02/06/13 - 09:26 pm
10
2
I'd love to see Liittle Lamb

I'd love to see Liittle Lamb on the grand jury since he lives in Richmond County. Talk about a run-away grand jury, that would be one. LL would take charge of the proceedings and tell the DA what he wanted. Establishments fear with good reason smart and independent grand juries.

dichotomy
34785
Points
dichotomy 02/07/13 - 12:36 am
15
3
"It’s no payback; it’s slow

"It’s no payback; it’s slow down,” Lockett said. “We asked them to slow down but they refused."

Lockett needs to realize that people in business don't want to slow down and join him and his brethren back in the 1960's. You, Mason, and Williams wanted to play stupid race games and Fentress just told you where to shove it. And rightfully so. You and your posse just cost us money and perpetuated a problem that should have been solved last year. More smooth moves from a bunch of old blowhards and loud mouths. Can't wait to see how y'all do when y'all are totally in charge. I've never lived in a county that totally collapsed before. But if anyone can do it, you 5 can. Have y'all ever thought about moving to Detroit and running for office up there. You'd fit right in.

Incoming message from Fentress to Lockett, Mason, and Williams.......stick it where the sun don't shine blowhards.

JRC2024
9439
Points
JRC2024 02/07/13 - 01:08 am
14
1
dichotomy, you are right,

dichotomy, you are right, they are a bunch of blowhards. And Marion Williams is up to his old tricks of abstentsion. I would bet the commission would be a complete failure if they take over. Close the patch,sell the land and not worry about it.

wildman
1157
Points
wildman 02/07/13 - 05:41 am
12
1
Why

Why would anybody want to do business with Augusta Richmond County? Personally I would like to thank them for morning laugh I get everyday I read the paper. You can't make this up! The Dis-Functional Commission of Augusta Richmond County!!!!

ColCo
878
Points
ColCo 02/07/13 - 07:21 am
12
1
Urban Brain Drain

The theory is that the A and B students leave cities like Augusta, relocating to larger cities, where they can progress in their personal lives, earn significantly higher wages and educate their children. By seeking greener pastures, they leave the C, D and F students in charge "back home". I think we are witnessing the theory in action.

pointstoponder
336
Points
pointstoponder 02/07/13 - 07:23 am
11
0
The Augusta Commission,

The Augusta Commission, striving to make Augusta a great place to be from.

justputtin
1454
Points
justputtin 02/07/13 - 07:30 am
14
0
No surprise here

There are existing individuals/mgt companies already in this area that are competent and successful that won't get near this job for it's a recipe for disaster. These clowns are a dysfunctional group. A couple good, level heads on that commission are outweighed by incompetent egos that "know it all" but actually know little.

Little Lamb
47283
Points
Little Lamb 02/07/13 - 08:41 am
7
1
Moi?

Thanks for the vote of confidence, RM. I would not be Shermanesque. If I were called to grand jury service, I would be honored to serve. I would make sure to include some "out of the box" ideas.

Little Lamb
47283
Points
Little Lamb 02/07/13 - 08:43 am
6
1
Context

I seldom understand, and even less do I agree with Bill Lockett's reasoning process. But here is one Lockett statement I do agree with:

“The record we have of entering into agreements with vendors is not good.”

Little Lamb
47283
Points
Little Lamb 02/07/13 - 08:54 am
5
2
Options

Of course, the businesslike decision would be to zone the golf course parcel as light industrial and sell it with no strings attached to a private entity at auction, no minimum bid. That way, the parcel would generate tax revenue.

One other idea, though it might seem weird, is to do what the state of Georgia did with the Golf Hall of Fame parcel, i.e., donate the golf course parcel to Grooo. We have seen that President Ricardo Azziz loves to expand his imperial empire. Grooo could continue to maintain the parcel as a golf course and use it for golf team practice, as well as a place for university students and employees to play golf as a perk.

But if I were Azziz, I would bar county commissioners, city employees, the general public, and other riff raff from playing. It should be for university-related personnel only.

Austin Rhodes
2927
Points
Austin Rhodes 02/07/13 - 08:56 am
6
2
Austin Rhodes
2927
Points
Austin Rhodes 02/07/13 - 08:58 am
6
1
LL...the college already owns Forest Hills GC...

...you wanna give them another one?

I say give it to First Tee.

Little Lamb
47283
Points
Little Lamb 02/07/13 - 08:59 am
4
0
Membership?

From Susan McCord's story comes this puzzling quote from new commissioner Mary Davis:

“That management group was our best opportunity at the time . . . for our membership,” Davis said.

Does Mary Davis play golf at Augusta Country Club? Who in the world is she talking about when she says, “our membership?” Does anybody have a clue?

Little Lamb
47283
Points
Little Lamb 02/07/13 - 09:05 am
6
1
Collector

Well, Austin, one can never have too many golf courses. Azziz is a collector. Grooo owns property all over the county. They own property near Gracewood. They own a shooting range behind the Pilot Gas Station at I-20 & Riverwatch. They now own the prime parcel at 13th & Reynolds. Why not own The Patch? It's an empire. It needs to expand.

seenitB4
91146
Points
seenitB4 02/07/13 - 09:15 am
5
1
You don't have a lock on blowhards

Check the BOEs in Clayton & DeKalb counties....amazing to read & watch....they stumble over each other with crazy decisions....also Clayton county just voted back in a Sheriff that costs them MILLIONS in law suits....we live in a world of make believe....MAKE BELIEVE they can actually run a county!!!GeeZ

Little Lamb
47283
Points
Little Lamb 02/07/13 - 09:33 am
4
0
Votes?

From the story:

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

Who among our Chronicle commenters think that there are six votes to sell the property?

BamaMan
2555
Points
BamaMan 02/07/13 - 09:38 am
6
0
Whewwwwww

Dichotomy you're blood's pumping today! High five!!!

GnipGnop
12532
Points
GnipGnop 02/07/13 - 10:29 am
7
0
Brilliancy at work....NOT!

“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.”

Uh..you asked for bids 4 years ago...how much slower can you get? Where was the slow down when it came to the Mariott TEE center and Morris/Simon parking deck?

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 02/07/13 - 10:42 am
9
0
Augusta commission

Augusta commission BRILLIANT!!!

said nobody ever

countyman
20729
Points
countyman 02/07/13 - 11:51 am
3
11
Why is this even a big story?

Why is this even a big story? I seriously doubt even half of the population in Richmond County cares about what happens to the Patch.

This is definitely small potatoes compared to the Regency Mall site, GGHF site, expanded public transportation, Village at Riverwatch, tasers/community policing, etc.

bubbasauce
22425
Points
bubbasauce 02/07/13 - 12:03 pm
8
0
To Dichotomy on his 11:30

To Dichotomy on his 11:30 post. Head on! Great post. As long as you post before me my opinions are exactly the same as yours. Love reading your posts, you speak the truth and I am sure them yahoos running Augusta know it, pitiful I say, pitiful! Wayne Guilfoyle, you are doing a great job by the way. You are representing our district well!

GnipGnop
12532
Points
GnipGnop 02/07/13 - 12:19 pm
6
1
Why is this even a big story?

Because it shows that we have certain commissioners that would rather throw money hand over fist like a drunken sailor than do something to alleviate the problem. There is no budget this year for the Patch...that means there will have to be some magic tax created to pay the difference. I bet the rain tax passes with flying colors now...

bubbasauce
22425
Points
bubbasauce 02/07/13 - 12:34 pm
4
0
Great articles Austin Rhodes,

Great articles Austin Rhodes, we really do need a grand jury investigation looking into Augusta and how it is ran. I would love to see that report! Citizens alert, citizens alert. Can anyone hear me!
To Little Lamb, sounds like she may be a member. Might there be a little conflict of interest there, not sure.

countyman
20729
Points
countyman 02/07/13 - 12:42 pm
2
4
If you live in Richmond

If you live in Richmond County then you would realize over half of the population doesn't care about the Patch. I'm not a huge golf fan anyway, and I think ASU should get the land in order to expand.

The growth of GRU, expanded public transportation system, etc is FAR more important to the future of Augusta.

I would love for the commission or somebody in the local government to present the figures of the people in Richmond County using the patch. It's no point of RC citizens supporting the course for citizens who live in other counties.

Obviously all of the counties in the metro should work together, but this is not the case for the patch.

linux
96
Points
linux 02/07/13 - 01:05 pm
5
1
Follow the money

I haven't been in this area very long so am unfamiliar with the council, however in my experience when a local government has control of money and can award contracts, it's a recipe for corruption. When they outsourced the bus service, there's no longer a reason for the union to support reelection campaigns, so even if it was the right thing to do economically, some politicians were left with less money in their pockets.

Likewise, if you let an outside firm run the Patch and make all decisions on sub-contracting, then the politicians lose the ability to influence those contracts and make money off of it.

The only other reason I can think of to delay such a decision is that paying for the golf course service lessons money available for local improvements in areas that would benefit certain council members. If that's the issue (IE, the city cannot afford it), then by all means just sell the property. Zone it so it can only be used as a golf course but by all means sell it.

GnipGnop
12532
Points
GnipGnop 02/07/13 - 01:51 pm
3
1
Well they don't care...

about the bus service either...that's not a valid argument. The argument is they had a chance to get it off the loss list and at least break even or show profit and they blew it.

Willow Bailey
20603
Points
Willow Bailey 02/07/13 - 02:37 pm
3
0
Why do they want to hang on

Why do they want to hang on to it so badly? Commissioners gamble and play golf there or something? Or is there a deal in the closed session?

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