Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

City Ink: Patch deal a bogey

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Former Augusta Recreation Director Tom Beck says Augusta commissioners got what they asked for when the city’s municipal golf course, aka the Patch, was padlocked last week.

For the 15 years that the recreation department ran the Patch under Beck’s direction, it was maintained, repairs were made and there were no complaints from the public.

“The issue was primarily a paper deficit,” said Beck, who commissioners fired this year on trumped-up allegations of time-card fraud. “There are multimillion-dollar operations running deficits all over the city. Just look at the civic center, whose budget is balanced every year with alcohol taxes. But they decided the golf course was the one to go after.

“So this guy Brian Hendry comes in, and they knew or should have known he had absolutely zero experience running a golf course. He was planning to tread water for 50 weeks of the year. Make his money Masters week. He made no bones about it. But I heard they absolutely bombed. They had very little activity. As a businessman, he wasn’t going to lose any more money, so he stopped making lease payments.”

Last year, after commissioners made an issue of the deficit, they formed a sub-committee to study what to do. The chairman was Commissioner Bill Lockett who held several public meetings and eventually recommended keeping the course in recreation and putting it into the general fund. Another sub-committee of Augusta State University officials and Patch players, with businessman James Kendrick as chairman, recommended leasing the course to Affiniti Golf Partners, which manages the nearby Forest Hills Golf Course.

So Beck offered commissioners three options:

• Keep the course as part of the recreation department.

• Pay Affiniti Golf $5,000 a month to manage it.

• Lease the course to Hendry and his silent partner from Savannah, Michael Kistler, for $1,000 a month.

“They ended up taking the easy way out and the Patch LLC took over in January,” Beck said. “I saw Kistler one time during the selection interview. I worked with them four months in the transition and never saw him again.”

FORE! The recreation department operated the course as an enterprise fund, which means it was run like a business, able to produce revenue and show profit and loss. In the best of circumstances, golf courses don’t make a big profit. And the majority of the deficit was cost allocation and depreciation, Beck said.

Every year, the course paid the city $70,000 in cost allocation for employee salaries and other expenses which counted as part of the deficit.

“When they would spit out the deficit number, it included cost allocation and depreciation,” he said. “One of the early recommendations was to put it in the city’s general fund, and that would have solved the problem. Those expenses would have gone away, and the deficit would have been down to less than $100,000 a year.”

In comparison, the Aquatics Center cost taxpayers more than $300,000 a year to operate and May Park Community Center cost almost $200,000 a year.

“Overall, we spent $8 million and took in $1 million,” Beck said. “So why was the golf course so different? Public golf courses struggle all over the country to make money, and the commission knew that. It was a wonderful outlet to a lot of great people who have been let down by their city leaders. A real shame.

“Now look at what’s happened. They got what they wanted. And the three amigos who led the fight for Hendry’s lease were Wayne Guilfoyle, Joe Bowles and Joe Jackson, along with Administrator Fred Russell. They were the key players to thank for pushing the lease with Hendry, over either Affiniti Golf, a proven professional management firm, or keeping it in house in the general fund. It looked to me like a double bogey plan from the start turned out to be a triple.”

OHHH, IT’S FEDERAL FUNDS. WELL, LET’S JUST SPEND IT: Commissioners took the first step toward becoming landlords last week when they approved the housing department’s plan to build apartments on Barton Chapel Road.

Assistant Housing Director Hawthorne Wilcher Jr. told them the department has 100 percent of the money to build nine attached two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments. With federal cutbacks each year, the department wants to become self-sufficient, he said.

Bowles said he couldn’t make a decision based on the single sheet of information before him.

“It tells me how much money we’re getting, and we’re not on the hook for it, but I remember about three months ago sending $700,000 back to Washington. So we are on the hook for what you do.”

Jackson made a case for the department doing more to clean up blight in the Dover-Lyman neighborhood first.

“It’s just really disheartening that we’ve got a burnt-out house next to one you guys are trying to sell for a buck and a half. And who the hell wants to buy next to it? Who wants to wake up every morning and look at that? You’ve got a prominent restaurant ready to pull the plug on Richmond County right now because of the area.”

Commissioner J.R. Hatney asked about liability and who would get the rental income. Wilcher said the land bank would get it. Under further questioning, it became apparent he didn’t know who would get the money.

“I disagree with Augusta-Richmond County being in the hotel rental business, landlord business,” Jackson said. “Who’s collecting the money? Who’s getting the money? And as Commissioner Brigham said, how does it affect our tax digest? And if, as Commissioner Bowles said, it’s a shell game, and they’re not sure who in the hell is going to get the money or where the money is going or who’s paying the property taxes, I’ve got some issues.”

Bowles also expressed concern about liability. “We can put it into the land bank or whatever you want to, but the federal government is going to come back to us.”

Brigham commended Wilcher for thinking outside the box, but added, “I think you’re trying to get us into a box we don’t need to be in – and that’s to be landlords.”

Then Lockett lectured them about their “double standard.”

“We’re not talking about any dollars coming out of our general fund,” he said. “We’re talking about federal dollars. When we were talking about the TEE Center there was no concern about spending millions of dollars. Now we’re trying to help poor and middle-class people who do pay taxes. I think everybody is entitled to a very nice place to live whether they rent or whether they own.”

Shortly thereafter, the vote was called. Bowles inexplicably voted yes. And the motion passed 6-3.

Go figure.

WHO HAS ANY MONEY LEFT? Friends of Freddie Sanders, Republican candidate for Richmond County sheriff, are holding a fundraising fish fry for him at T’s Restaurant at 6 p.m. Monday. Other events for Sanders will be at Julian Smith Casino on Thursday, and at Jesse Carroll Center on Sept. 18.

Lewis Blanchard, the campaign chairman for former Democratic sheriff’s candidate Scott Peebles, who lost to Richard Roundtree in a runoff, is holding a meet and greet for Roundtree at his clubhouse on Azalea Drive at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. After Peebles lost the runoff, he endorsed Roundtree and just days later people who had donated to Peebles received invitations to the Roundtree event.

EXPECT TO BE ENTERTAINED: The Shield Club is holding a retirement party for Sheriff Ronnie Strength at Sconyers Bar-B-Que restaurant Wednesday at 6 p.m. About 300 people have been invited. Sanders is among the speakers expected to praise and roast the sheriff.

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seenitB4
93470
Points
seenitB4 09/08/12 - 05:42 pm
5
2
Just wondering..

If a certain radio personality will be invited to this....

EXPECT TO BE ENTERTAINED: The Shield Club is holding a retirement party for Sheriff Ronnie Strength at Sconyers Bar-B-Que restaurant

Riverman1
90289
Points
Riverman1 09/08/12 - 06:24 pm
3
1
J.B. Powell will be

J.B. Powell will be there...so no radio guy.

Riverman1
90289
Points
Riverman1 09/08/12 - 06:27 pm
5
1
About Augusta government not

About Augusta government not being in the hotel business. Heck, we built the Marriott a convention center, parking deck, kitchen and will buy them furniture for the center this month. We also pay hundreds of thousands a year to market the convention center which is actually marketing the Marriott. Let's just be honest here.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 09/08/12 - 07:17 pm
7
1
Why?

Forget the fact that the commissioners met illegally when they met secretly to decide on the Patch, why would they want to meet in secret? In other words, what were they hiding?

And, again, I challenge any commissioner to cite the Georgia Code section showing that the meeting was not illegal.

itsanotherday1
46795
Points
itsanotherday1 09/08/12 - 08:51 pm
6
0
What restaurant is about to pull out?

Villa _______? It wouldn't surprise me; I don't go there anymore due to the surrounding seediness.

rebellious
21408
Points
rebellious 09/08/12 - 08:56 pm
2
1
Georgia is

down by a point at the half. My sleep pattern is screwed up. I can not even focus on this article, but I think Miss Sylvia has awakened and is starting to crack the fast balls off the bat. Who knows, she may be a closet member of the SSM.

rebellious
21408
Points
rebellious 09/08/12 - 09:03 pm
6
1
So Joe

has been on the commission how many years? And he is now interested in Lyman/ Dover street. Get the front door. Amazing. The lack of accountabilty the federal funds and results monitoring has cost AUgusta beauCeaup Dollars.

Riverman1
90289
Points
Riverman1 09/08/12 - 09:21 pm
6
0
What do you mean Joe Bowles

What do you mean Joe Bowles doesn't look out for us? He got us a percentage of the parking deck revenue even though it should have been we received 100% because we own it. What a guy.

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 09/09/12 - 06:03 am
3
0
has the parking deck been

has the parking deck been donated to the land bank authority yet?

is that even legal?

is the parking deck considered an under-utilized, non-tax generating property?

just deed the sucker to the riverfront corp and tax Billy to the hilt.

seenitB4
93470
Points
seenitB4 09/09/12 - 06:30 am
3
1
hahah Rebel

He said...

Who knows, she may be a closet member of the SSM.

They kept South Augusta humming & we need that again....call them anything ya want big boy....:)
God I miss them....bring em back Reb.

soapy_725
43947
Points
soapy_725 09/09/12 - 07:24 am
0
0
Joe can't be this ignorant?
Unpublished

Neither can SOME of the other clowns.The other option is dishonest? Bought and paid for by handlers? Deliberate? Conspiracy to defraud the taxpayers of ARC? Remember, bring honor to your father and mother, that your days may be long on the land the Lord gave you. Live your life to the honor of your parents.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 09/09/12 - 08:22 am
4
0
A good choice

Sanders understands what good seafood is, by picking T's.

seenitB4
93470
Points
seenitB4 09/09/12 - 09:37 am
5
0
Lyman & Dover st area

they said...

Jackson made a case for the department doing more to clean up blight in the Dover-Lyman neighborhood first.

“It’s just really disheartening that we’ve got a burnt-out house next to one you guys are trying to sell for a buck and a half. And who the hell wants to buy next to it? Who wants to wake up every morning and look at that? You’ve got a prominent restaurant ready to pull the plug on Richmond County right now because of the area.”

Well now....a new building DOWNTOWN will solve everything heh...RIGHT!

This area is between Deans Bridge & Lumpkin.....IT NEEDS cleaning & some work .....cleaning in terms of visual & crime ......we see articles everyday about folks leaving the southside.....& they just can't figure out why....I say....put the commish in a bus---ride them around these sections of town---give them a birds eye view.......lock the bus doors if yo have to....ride by the Gordon Hy too.

Conservative Man
5577
Points
Conservative Man 09/09/12 - 09:40 am
4
1
No dispute with Beck....

.....however wasn't it Beck who brought Hendry before the Commission ,all the way from Scotland I might add, to ask for the 300 grand in SPLOST money, then was fired shortly thereafter?....I seem to remember that the contract had been signed, then Beck (without prior knowledge of the Commission)brought the guy forward to ask for the cash.....Not sure why, but something just doesn't ring "true" in this whole affair....

Riverman1
90289
Points
Riverman1 09/09/12 - 09:51 am
2
0
Conservative Man, Beck was Neutral. It says:

"So Beck offered commissioners three options:

• Keep the course as part of the recreation department.

• Pay Affiniti Golf $5,000 a month to manage it.

• Lease the course to Hendry and his silent partner from Savannah, Michael Kistler, for $1,000 a month."

Riverman1
90289
Points
Riverman1 09/09/12 - 09:56 am
2
0
Glad Sylvia Got off the Playwright Kick

I’m glad to give up my career as a burgeoning drama critic and get back to politics on City Ink. Heh.

scorehouse
196
Points
scorehouse 09/09/12 - 10:48 am
0
1
everybody
Unpublished

is entitled to a nice place to live? really? i'm tired of entitlements! 47 million on food stamps, millions in free housing, millions on disability because they are fat! why aren't i entitled to keep the money i EARN from work? oh, because i'm not entitled! these people are lazy freeloaders and you call them entitled!

Little Lamb
47897
Points
Little Lamb 09/09/12 - 10:49 am
2
4
Campaign Contribution

Follow Blanchard's money, RM.

:-)

scorehouse
196
Points
scorehouse 09/09/12 - 11:26 am
0
1
money
Unpublished

i thought money followed blanchard?

seenitB4
93470
Points
seenitB4 09/09/12 - 02:22 pm
0
0
Question...please

which commissioner made the motion to dismiss beck?

janderson1945
1903
Points
janderson1945 09/09/12 - 03:14 pm
2
0
SeenitB4

According to the AC on 4/23, Asked for his recommendation, Russell said it was to terminate Beck, and Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle made a motion to fire Beck for cause, meaning he will receive no automatic severance pay. Commissioner Bill Lockett seconded the motion. For my personal opinion, the course should be put up for sale.

seenitB4
93470
Points
seenitB4 09/09/12 - 03:29 pm
2
0
thanks

Thank you from inquiring minds..☺

trimmy
29
Points
trimmy 09/09/12 - 04:05 pm
0
1
Augusta's politics in general
Unpublished

If ol' P.T. Barnum were still doing his thing, he would certainly be after this circus!

Riverman1
90289
Points
Riverman1 09/09/12 - 08:09 pm
1
2
"Lewis Blanchard, the

SYLVIA SAID, "Lewis Blanchard, the campaign chairman for former Democratic sheriff’s candidate Scott Peebles, who lost to Richard Roundtree in a runoff, is holding a meet and greet for Roundtree at his clubhouse on Azalea Drive at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. After Peebles lost the runoff, he endorsed Roundtree and just days later people who had donated to Peebles received invitations to the Roundtree event."

Shows you how Blanchard operates. Question was Blanchard the official campaign manager or just the chairman as noted here? I've seen him described in various ways.

Riverman1
90289
Points
Riverman1 09/09/12 - 07:58 pm
1
2
LL said, "Follow Blanchard's

LL said, "Follow Blanchard's money, RM."

Yeah, buddy.

Riverman1
90289
Points
Riverman1 09/09/12 - 08:03 pm
1
2
Maybe they can get the

Maybe they can get the Waynesboro Noble group to now endorse Roundtree. Heh.

janderson1945
1903
Points
janderson1945 09/09/12 - 10:06 pm
1
0
SeenitB4

No problem, anytime. Much of this occurred apparently prior to us moving to the area and has been going on for quite some time. With all of the inexpensive golf course options in the area, I don't see why tax money would be spent on this for numerous years nor do I understand all of these back door deals that others are alleging. If (Insider Information) is correct and laws were broken, then who is it that follows up within the area? That would be my main question so that it can be prevented in the future.

Riverman1
90289
Points
Riverman1 09/10/12 - 05:40 am
1
1
Commissioner Joe Jackson

Since it was reported in a past City Ink column about Commissioner Joe Jackson contributing a thousand dollars to Peebles, I wonder if he will now go along with Peebles-Blanchard again and contribute to Roundtree? Will Deke endorse Roundtree, too? We know Sheriff Strength is endorsing Freddie Sanders.

Riverman1
90289
Points
Riverman1 09/10/12 - 10:13 am
1
1
Is Trust an Issue?

Is trust an issue or not with this Sheriff's race and the endorsements of Blanchard-Peebles for Roundtree after what all transpired in the run-off and primary? Or are such questions off limits? I'm talking about the public trust and trust between the players.

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