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Commission to consider revised Patch plan

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A divided Augusta Commission will reconsider Monday and again Tuesday businessman Paul Simon’s proposal to merge Augusta Municipal Golf Course with the nearby youth golf program First Tee.

The proposal is for the city to relinquish management of the beleaguered, money-losing course to the Fore! Augusta Foundation, the nonprofit that runs First Tee, but also calls for the city to invest $2.25 million in special-purpose, local-option sales tax funds for renovations at the course.

In response to comments made by commissioners Corey Johnson and Marion Williams at a July 15 work session, Simon said he amended his proposal to give Fore! Augusta a shorter, five-year management option if the course becomes profitable within three years after the renovations are complete. The previous option was seven years plus an option for 10 more.

Other changes in the amended proposal Simon said involve the city’s split of profits with the management group. The prior contract showed a 50-50 split; the amended contract divides the first $100,000 evenly while the next $100,000 and up give the city a larger share.

The plan is a “win-win” for the city, First Tee as well as Paine College, whose team could use the course, Simon said. It would also benefit tourists seeking to play rounds in the world’s golf capital, he said.

Despite the changes, several Augusta commissioners remain skeptical.

“I can’t support spending more of our taxpayers’ money into The Patch when we obviously need those funds directed to funding our safety and infrastructure needs,” said Commissioner Mary Davis.

Simon’s proposal is one of the latest the city has considered since an initial attempt at outsourced management, to Scotsman Brian Hendry, fell apart, and a subsequent effort to lease a local firm failed after the city refused to fund improvements at the course. Then in January, the commission rejected another offer from Virginia Beach Golf Management, which would have provided an immediate source of revenue to the city.

“We had the best opportunity back in January,” said Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle. “Until we find something close to that, I’m not supporting anything else.”

Guilfoyle said the city ought to put management or even sale of the course out for bids.

Other commissioners, including Bill Lockett, maintain support for Simon’s proposal.

“Mr. Simon is talking about pretty much the same thing that James Kendrick and I were working on in 2010,” said Lockett, who chaired a subcommittee seeking solutions for the course that year.

“We’ve got the First Tee, with all the young people. We’ve got the municipal golf course; they’re right next to each other. We can make money not only during the Masters; we can make money year-round,” he said.

Lockett said the city should not sell the course or lease it to a private firm because it’s a recreational service the city owes its residents.

“The taxpayers are paying for Newman (Tennis Center); the taxpayers are paying for the Aquatic Center,” he said.

Commissioner Marion Williams said he also supports Simon’s plan but hopes the city can recoup more than half the profits and not become locked into a long-term contract.

“They know how to make money,” Williams said of Simon, the former president of Morris Communications Co., owner of The Augusta Chronicle. “I’m not interested in another (deal) right now. If we don’t do this, we need to do it ourselves.”

Since last year’s efforts to outsource management fell through, the course is under city management, with projected losses.

City Administrator Fred Russell said the matter comes down to the commission’s priorities.

“Once again, the question is what do you really want to have? Cheap golf, or turn it into something that makes money?” he asked. “How much do you want to put into it to make it work?”

Russell was not surprised that another proposal recently surfaced. Grovetown entrepreneur Anthony Griffin, an evangelist who invented a golf shoe that holds tees and ball markers, is presenting his proposal to run the course at the start of Tuesday’s commission meeting. Griffin’s proposal also calls for $2 million in city money to improve the course.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Patch work session

WHEN: 3 p.m. Monday

WHERE: 8th floor committee room, 530 Greene St.

WHAT: Commission meeting

WHEN: 5 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: 8th floor commission chamber, 530 Greene St.

Comments (15) Add comment
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GnipGnop
11740
Points
GnipGnop 08/04/13 - 09:38 pm
3
0
It would be nice

if they put as much time into the property tax system as they do the bus system and the patch. I guess it will take a class action lawsuit to get it addressed seriously...

GnipGnop
11740
Points
GnipGnop 08/04/13 - 10:15 pm
2
0
One other thing

How about half our money back for half the trash service?

dichotomy
31619
Points
dichotomy 08/04/13 - 11:01 pm
3
0
Yeh, I'm sure Lockett and

Yeh, I'm sure Lockett and Williams don't mind blowing another $2.25 million of taxpayers money. They don't care about the taxpayers....but Paine gets to play free so SURE, by all means, spend Richmond County taxpayer money. Oh by the way, is that APPROVED or UNAPPROVED SPLOST money they are spending? Seems like our commissioners and Fred Russell don't know the difference, or do they CARE, before they start obligating "future" spending.

I still say there is something seriously sick about commissioners who want to spend millions of our dollars and obligate us to long term responsibility for losses when they COULD HAVE had a lease that PAID US a little every year. We have a sick bunch of people on our commission and they throw our money around like Monopoly money.

gargoyle
15532
Points
gargoyle 08/05/13 - 12:12 am
3
0
A program is needed to follow

A program is needed to follow this farce, or pronounced memory loss. Let’s see if I’ve got chain of events correct: 80's private managed no major problems till the 90's when the landlord (Augusta, City of) turns control in house to the Rec. department. Costs skyrocket, accusations of incompetence abound, the books turn a deep shade of red. The landlord decides that a private manager is needed so they put out bids to lease the property a winning bidder is found and the financiers of the landlord approve monies to maintain the property, but alas the landlord wants to discuss the issue further half of the board wants to keep it in house, half want go with the bid and C. Johnson didn't understand the question. The Bidder is leased the property and promptly told the monies to maintain are being withheld. The bidder breaks the lease and local tenants are picked without bids this time. As soon as the newest tenants find out the landlord has let the property fall into disrepair they bail out. Now money is rediscovered to fix the place up and Fred Russell gets to pick a new tenant. He picks a big time downtown property owner to spearhead and First Tee and don't want to hear anything else. All this makes me wish I had a head injury. Did I forget anything?

Riverman1
81245
Points
Riverman1 08/05/13 - 06:56 am
3
0
Excellent, Gargoyle.

Excellent, Gargoyle. Interesting that NOW they seem willing to pay for capital improvements.

Brad Owens
4178
Points
Brad Owens 08/05/13 - 07:28 am
3
0
Logic?

Thank you Commissioners Mary Davis and Wayne Guilfoyle for injecting reason into this argument.

justthefacts
21052
Points
justthefacts 08/05/13 - 08:20 am
1
0
Truthfully

It's probably just time to close it. Put up an Outlet Mall.

Cameron Poe
854
Points
Cameron Poe 08/05/13 - 10:24 am
2
0
Will someone please explain

Will someone please explain to me why sharing profits with the management team is part of the plan? They are already being paid to manage. That is the job they signed up for. Unless of course there is some sort of joint ownership deal that we are not being told about. Bottom line you don't share profits with managers that is what their salaries are for. This is very simple to understand. Why does the commission not understand this? Well, unless Simon and his group are getting partial ownership and the city isn't telling us.

harley_52
22812
Points
harley_52 08/05/13 - 10:31 am
3
0
Turn The Patch Into A Farm...

...use labor from trustee prisoners, those serving out "community service" time, and able bodied people being paid some sort of welfare payments. Use the produce to feed jail prisoners and sell the leftovers at the Farmers' Market with the revenue going for operation and maintenance of the farm.

justthefacts
21052
Points
justthefacts 08/05/13 - 12:03 pm
0
1
Cameron

Just a guess, but it is probably designed to encourage the managers to spend the money wisely. If they have skin in the game, they manage the numbers closer. Suppose we told Congress they could have half of all surplus dollars? The national debt would be gone in two yrs!

Sweet son
9943
Points
Sweet son 08/05/13 - 12:05 pm
1
0
Close this boondoggle!

Maybe the city could buy some cows and let them graze on the greens and fairways! LOL! SPLOST should be spent on things that will benefit more people than just a few old duffers and a college that has money problems of it's own.

$2.25million, heck no! Also thanks to Guilfoyle and Davis for their stand!

Cameron Poe
854
Points
Cameron Poe 08/05/13 - 12:57 pm
3
0
justthefacts

Thank you for your response. It seems like a logical answer. However, I still have issues with it. You are essentially giving someone partial ownership for no reason other than you hope it will encourage them to do what you have already hired them to do. So, basically you are paying them to manage plus a profit split. If this were a small commission being paid I could understand the logic behind it. But when a realtor makes a commission on a house they are not also sharing in the profits of the realty company. Does this make sense? Or am I just splitting hairs here? Either way, to me, it seems like we are going down the wrong path with Simon (whose track record speaks for itself) and the Patch. Just seems like another example of our city commissioners pretending to understand a situation.

Little Lamb
44796
Points
Little Lamb 08/05/13 - 05:06 pm
0
0
Creative Accounting (i.e., fraud)

From the story:

The proposal is for the city . . . to invest $2.25 million in special-purpose, local-option sales tax funds for renovations at the course.

There is no $2.25 million in SPLOST funds just lying around. SPLOST taxes are supposed to be spent on projects approved by the voters on the referendum. On the last referendum there was no mention of SPLOST funds going to renovate the Patch. This is a shell game. If they appropriate current SPLOST funds, that means another project, approved by voters, will not be funded.

This is not voter fraud; but it is fraud upon the voters.

Little Lamb
44796
Points
Little Lamb 08/05/13 - 07:25 pm
0
0
Two Wrongs Don't . . .

From the story:

“The taxpayers are paying for Newman (Tennis Center); the taxpayers are paying for the Aquatic Center,” Commissioner Bill Lockett said.

I would love to see an investigative reporter at The Chronicle (or even The Spirit) publish a story of how much money the city puts into each facility (Patch, Newman, and aquatics center) each year (operations, maintenance, and capital) and how much they collect in fees.

seenitB4
83988
Points
seenitB4 08/06/13 - 07:40 am
1
0
Funny thing

Didn't some others want $300,000 to bring the place up to par but that was voted down....saving it for the "right" folks maybe.

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