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Patch-First Tee merger fails; ambulance contract gets OK

Tuesday, Aug 6, 2013 10:21 PM
Last updated Wednesday, Aug 7, 2013 12:07 AM
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A proposal to merge First Tee of Augusta with Augusta Municipal Golf Course came to a halt Tuesday with only four commissioners – Corey Johnson, Bill Lockett, Marion Wiliams and Alvin Mason – voting in favor.

Edster Tomlin walks through the tall grass to the No. 4 tee box at Augusta Municipal Golf Course. Poor conditions were cited as a reason for the proposed merger with First Tee of Augusta.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Edster Tomlin walks through the tall grass to the No. 4 tee box at Augusta Municipal Golf Course. Poor conditions were cited as a reason for the proposed merger with First Tee of Augusta.

Also Tuesday, commissioners approved key terms to incorporate into a new ambulance contract with Gold Cross.

Commissioner Donnie Smith, who opposed the golf course proposal, said the city simply doesn’t have the $2.25 million sought by First Tee co-founder Paul Simon for renovations at the course that Simon said are vital to making “The Patch” successful.

“We don’t have $2 million. If they want to put it on the SPLOST and citizens say that’s what they want, he can come back. We just don’t have the money for nonessential services right now,” Smith said. “There are 13 different golf courses around Augusta that can provide what The Patch provides.”

Simon, who developed a proposal to share staff and equipment between the city-owned course and First Tee, which adjoins it, to create an eventual profit for the city as conditions improve and rounds increase, said after Tuesday’s vote he was finished making golf proposals to the commission unless they invite him back. Simon said conditions are currently so poor at the city-owned course the commission should be ashamed to charge a fee to play there.

“It’s awful. They should close it down,” he said, noting that the grass was in better shape at Newman Tennis Center than at the city-owned course in a city known worldwide for golf.

A longtime Patch player, Frances Mercer, said she was disappointed.

“I personally think the First Tee would have been a pretty good deal,” she said. “It might have been golf at a fair price for people who don’t want to pay (more).”

By the time the vote was taken, 3½ hours after the meeting began, two commissioners, Wayne Guilfoyle and Joe Jackson, had left the meeting early. Commissioner Mary Davis also left early to attend her daughter’s 16th birthday party; Mayor Deke Copenhaver was absent altogether.

While the commission has been debating the future of the city-owned course and soliciting proposals for at least four years, several commissioners learned of a new plan for the golf course for the first time Tuesday.

Grovetown businessman Anthony Griffin, who spoke at the start of the meeting, is proposing an expansion of amenities at the course to include a full-service restaurant, a coffee shop, indoor-outdoor putting and driving facilities and an enhanced shop to increase revenues at the course.

Griffin said if the commission signed a letter of intent to support his endeavor and banked $2 million, he’ll turn over $500,000 in profits to the city within two years.

“All we need is you to say ‘Let’s see this happen’ and we can do this yesterday,” Griffin said.

The EMS terms approved 6-3 by the commission Tuesday included several additions that Charles Masters, vice president of the firefighters’ union, said were needed. They include maximum call response times of eight minutes for life-threatening calls in urban areas, and 11 minutes in rural. Ten ambulances would be on duty during peak times and six overnight, a number that Masters previously said was insufficient to keep residents safe.

Gold Cross founder and owner Bo Pounds said earlier Tuesday that his company had met maximum response time requirements 94 percent of the time over its six years as Augusta’s provider and had expertise that Augusta 911 lacked in dispatching EMS on life-threatening calls.

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Just My Opinion
4669
Points
Just My Opinion 08/07/13 - 04:50 am
3
1

Can't y'all see what's

Can't y'all see what's happening with this whole Patch thing? This has been dragging on for years now. I don't think it's so much the money that would need to go towards it...I think it's the ultimate plan of the city to get rid of the site, just sell it and make some needed money (money that would soon be squandered, IMO). This same story, with different variances, is written time and again, only to end the same way...the newest plan fails. I think the idea is to make us so sick of the Patch, that the majority of the public just says to heck with it, stop wasting time and money on it, and the PUBLIC ends up backing the idea for the commissioners to sell it! Alot easier for the commissioners to sell a "landmark" piece of property if the public is behind it, wouldn't you say?

Brad Owens
3652
Points
Brad Owens 08/07/13 - 06:10 am
7
1

Glad to see the golf course proposal failed.

Whenever we hear they want to "share staff and equipment" from Simon and his crew it means they intend on shifting their employees salaries onto the taxpayer and therefore increasing their own profits by eliminating overhead. I want the course in private hands but not at the expense of the taxpayers wallet. You just can't tell me there is no way to make this profitable without millions invested, and if that IS the case, sell it.

Riverman1
70685
Points
Riverman1 08/07/13 - 07:16 am
4
1

If it were sold with the

If it were sold with the stipulation it HAD to remain a golf course open to anyone with the money to play, what possible negative consequences could there be?

nocnoc
31006
Points
nocnoc 08/07/13 - 07:22 am
4
0

We have enough public courses in Augusta already

Sell the land,
increase the ARC emergency fund and get rid of some unneeded SPLOST taxes.

Or increase the size of Daniel Field.

Little Lamb
40190
Points
Little Lamb 08/07/13 - 08:14 am
3
1

Frightening

George Eskola's Tuesday evening report on Channel 6 News had a scary video clip of Commissioner Corey Johnson. Here is a quote from Johnson as he speaks of Paul Simon’s proposal:

“They're not charging us anything coming in the door. It would be different if they said they need $50,000 to even start. They're not talking about that, they say, ‘we're going to run it at no charge.’”

That Corey Johnson would make such a statement to a reporter and have it recorded is scary to me. That Augusta has a commissioner who believes that Paul Simon’s organization would run the city golf course at no charge to the city is mind-boggling. We are doomed as long as we elect commissioners with brains as addled as Johnson.

Here is the link. It probably won’t be posted long:

Fore

Little Lamb
40190
Points
Little Lamb 08/07/13 - 08:27 am
4
1

Sell

The city could sell the land to the developers who want to establish the tony drug rehab facility for rich folks. The neighbors on the south side don't want it down there, but it would be perfect at the Patch location.

scamp1
103
Points
scamp1 08/07/13 - 09:22 am
5
1

Patch - part of the history of killing

Four years ago, Augusta State University was ready to buy the Patch, grandfather the Patch members into Forest Hills, and work with First Tee to use some of the property for expansion. Some of the Patch property would be used to build the ASU Wrightsboro Road Campus - All this expansion was in the ASU master plan. The Board of Regents approved the master plan and approved a $30 million nursing and education building. Students approved a new student center - bond counsel was hired for the student center and the architects were hired and designed the classroom building - and were paid. However, Lockett and the Save the Patch committee had killed ASU's buying the Patch so this planned new construction was moved across the street on land given to ASU by the city and on the shopping center land adjacent to the housing. Then Azziz, the chancellor and the governor killed ASU, and Azziz killed the whole Wrightsboro project.

Jake
30388
Points
Jake 08/07/13 - 10:13 am
6
0

Presence

How is it that publicly elected officials, who should have a sense of obligation to the folks who elected them, can walk out of the meetings early or not show up to vote?

Little Lamb
40190
Points
Little Lamb 08/07/13 - 10:55 am
3
1

Public Service

Good comment, Jake. However, we learn from the story above that the meeting had gone on for over 3½ hours when the Patch vote was taken. When you have long, contentious meetings (especially with sneaky pitchmen insulting your intelligence), the urges to walk out must occasionally become overwhelming.

I'm assuming that there were other items on the agenda after the Patch vote. I wonder what the total time of the meeting was.

Sweet son
8257
Points
Sweet son 08/07/13 - 12:46 pm
2
1

Paine College Course

That's all Corey Johnson, Bill Lockett, Marion Wiliams and Alvin Mason wanted! Since Paine seems to have deep pockets right now (LOL!) maybe they could work out something with Jim and Lil's Cow Pasture over in Carolina.

Riverman1
70685
Points
Riverman1 08/07/13 - 01:20 pm
3
1

LL, remember the Armani suits

LL, remember the Armani suits in Columbia County?

Little Lamb
40190
Points
Little Lamb 08/07/13 - 01:43 pm
3
1

Heh

Yes, I remember those days when the men in the Armani suits and the Gucci loafers were razzling and dazzling the Columbia County planning & zoning commissioners and the county commissioners about how wonderful Marshall Square would be. It would make Evans the envy of the state. They promised the world: luxury hotel and conference center, upscale dining, upscale shopping, upscale housing (lofts above the shops plus a high-dollar, small townhouse development). They finally got a Chili's restaurant and a couple of big buildings in there, but it's nothing like it was promised. And they violated the PUD agreement from the get go. And the county had to bail out the owners by purchasing a lot of raw land in there.

Yes, Marshall Square needs to be a lesson for Augusta planning and zoning as they are thinking about the drug rehab center on Bennock Mill Road. The pitchmen are promising how wealthy and glitzy the clients of the rehab center will be. But the pitchmen are accountable for nothing. They are nothing more than carnival barkers. What actually gets established there may be very different than what was promised, and the hapless taxpayers will have no remedy.

603
Points
Barry Paschal 08/07/13 - 01:47 pm
2
1

"Armani suits"

Just remember, RM and LL: If the "Armani suits" (your term; actual maker unverified) had gotten their way, Columbia County taxpayers wouldn't have had to spend $6 million or so to buy half of Marshall Square, and then lose the tax revenue from that prime property for all these years as a result. Have you noticed, in the meantime, all the development taking place on the still-privately-owned portion, while the taxpayer-owned land is used for parking cars and flying model planes? Maybe you should think about cutting those Armani suits some slack, eh? :)

BTW, LL: That wasn't a "bailout" - it was a settlement of a $57 million lawsuit against the county. And calling Taxslayer, the giant dermatology practice and Evans Fitness "a couple of big buildings" is a wee bit understated, don't you think?

Little Lamb
40190
Points
Little Lamb 08/07/13 - 01:54 pm
3
1

Lawsuit

Yes, but it was a lawsuit the county could have won handily. The owners were trying to build more apartments than the PUD agreement allowed and at a higher density. The county was enforcing its own ordinances.

603
Points
Barry Paschal 08/07/13 - 02:03 pm
2
1

Actually, no

It wasn't a violation - it was just a reconfiguration of what already was approved. But the county opportunistically denied it, depriving the owners of the opportunity to make the sale. Remember: the Marshall Square owners aren't building anything. They're just selling land for construction within the approved uses. The actual projects within the site were never expected to neatly fall within the details of the master plan; it always ultimately depended on the individual sales of the parcels. That's sort of the way it works in the real world.

BTW: The senior housing developers got a variance. Notice that?

Little Lamb
40190
Points
Little Lamb 08/07/13 - 02:13 pm
2
1

PUD

When the county approves PUD zoning, the owner/developer is obligated to build what was approved — no more, no less, no modifications.

Of course, the county can always entertain modifications and approve them, but they are under no obligation to approve them. In this case, the county denied the modification request (to build more apartments than was approved and at higher population density). The government was entirely within its authority to deny.

A second-year law student could have won that case for the county.

Little Lamb
40190
Points
Little Lamb 08/07/13 - 02:15 pm
2
1

No Confidence

On a different topic, we learned on Channel 12 News last night that fireworks went off toward the end of the Commission meeting last night over an attempt by Bill Lockett and Alvin Mason to have city attorney Andrew MacKenzie censured and/or fired. Since it was a long meeting, perhaps Susan McCord had to leave early and missed that portion of the meeting.

Does anyone have any information about that story?

Little Lamb
40190
Points
Little Lamb 08/07/13 - 02:37 pm
2
1

Armani Again

Barry Paschal posted:

The actual projects within the site were never expected to neatly fall within the details of the master plan; it always ultimately depended on the individual sales of the parcels. That's sort of the way it works in the real world.

1. Well, I along with many others, expected the site to be built as the plans were approved. I guess I am that naïve.

2. Builders who have conventional zoning can build what the zoning allows. Single-family residential, multi-family residential, professional office, commercial store, industrial, agricultural, etc. But the PUD zoning is different. There you have multiple uses in a close-in area (whether one parcel or many) and the multi-use nature of the project is where the PUD zoning comes in.

If the Marshall family wanted to subdivide their land and use conventional zoning, that would have been fine. But instead, the guys in the Armani suits mesmerized the Marshall family and convinced them to go PUD zoning and submit the multi-use plan.

Riverman1
70685
Points
Riverman1 08/07/13 - 04:02 pm
2
1

Columbia County vs. Armani Suits

As far as the actual commission meeting, Ron Cross was at his, Sheriff Andy, low keyed best when the Armani suits confronted the county. That was pretty funny. I wish I could remember his exact words, but they are somewhere on video that I viewed previously. I wasn’t sure about the whole idea of increasing the number of apartments idea although LL fought it from the start with demands they stick to the zoning definition. Ron Cross was also, actually, feeling his way.

I admire LL for educating us. But it appears the final solution wasn’t that bad as Barry points out. Everyone happy now a couple of years later? I know I’d buy some land there. The apartments won’t ruin it. This isn’t Richmond County.

Little Lamb
40190
Points
Little Lamb 08/07/13 - 04:28 pm
1
1

Jones Creek

Riverman asked:

Everyone happy now a couple of years later?

The operator of the Jones Creek golf course is not happy. Didn't they file suit for damages because run-off of silt from the Marshall Square land clearing filled up the golf course irrigation ponds? I think the Savannah Riverkeeper egged that lawsuit on.

Riverman1
70685
Points
Riverman1 08/07/13 - 04:49 pm
2
1

LL

THOSE kinds of lawsuits are always being made.

corgimom
19306
Points
corgimom 08/07/13 - 09:05 pm
0
0

Jones Creek was Otis

Jones Creek was Otis Crowell's baby. It was supposed to be huge and make tons of money for him. It never quite materialized the way it was planned. Jones Creek was supposed to be a private course- that's the way it was marketed originally- but not nearly enough people joined, so they had no choice but to make it public. The people that originally joined, thinking it was a private club, were beyond mad, and thought that they had been defrauded and overcharged for private memberships- which they had. A lot of people wanted to sue him for fraud.

It was an awful debacle, and it turned a lot of people off, which made things even worse. It was supposed to be even bigger and better than West Lake.

Jones Creek is just one of those many projects that didn't come off the way it was envisioned.

Little Lamb
40190
Points
Little Lamb 08/07/13 - 09:36 pm
0
0

Back to the Patch

I believe Paul Simon's Patch will not come off the way it was envisioned, either.

augustagolflover
2
Points
augustagolflover 08/07/13 - 11:48 pm
0
0

Jones Creek

I find it amusing when people like corgimom provide information that is completely wrong. Opinions are ok but be sure you know what you are talking about before you put it out there.....here are the facts about Jones Creek's beginnings...

As an original member and early homeowner I know the following to be true.

JC was opened in December 1985 as a DAILY ACCESS CLUB NOT PRIVATE.....Otis NEVER marketed it as a PRIVATE CLUB

It was one of the first of this type in the southeast and very successful.

Although the real estate did get off to a slow start, I believe anyone who rides through JC and the surrounding neighborhoods would consider it to be beneficial to the county and a successful venture.

In 1997, the course ownership sold the golf club and made a nice profit on it.

The new ownership did try to take the course private in early 2000 and were doing ok with it. Unfortunately, 9/11/2001 took its toll on our country and most people do not know this but one of the major shareholders in the golf course was backed by a hedge fund that was located in the WTC. The devastation of the fund adversely effected the company's ability to continue moving forward with the course.

The course was eventually purchased by a local group and efforts to keep the course moving forward continue today.....

It has had its share of struggles as all businesses have over the years since the 2003 sale but it is adapting well.....

Once again...Corgimom share your opinions but do not offer information as fact unless you know it is true....that is the problem with these message boards.

I remain a proud member and resident of JC to this day...

corgimom
19306
Points
corgimom 08/08/13 - 10:56 am
0
0

Augustagolflover, sorry, you

Augustagolflover, sorry, you are incorrect. For my personal privacy, I cannot tell you how I know all this, but you are incorrect.

And this is not my opinion, I know that what I say is true.

I don't need to make things up. However, you are welcome to your opinion, too.

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