We’d love to give the city a mulligan on this one.
The Augusta Commission earlier this month failed to approve a $300,000 sales tax investment in the city-owned golf course affectionately known as the Patch.
The vote actually cost the city another $300,000 – as the management firm that began leasing the course from the city in January offered to match the city’s investment in badly-needed improvements.
We hope the commission will reconsider – especially since the vote on the matter was 5-4 in favor, only lacking the six-vote majority that most of its actions require.
Tellingly, The Chronicle’s Susan McCord wrote recently that “some commissioners have questioned why a private operator should get the money.”
In truth, the city would get the benefit not only of its own sales tax money, as was long intended, but also of the management firm’s money. The course, you see, is still owned by the city and its taxpayers.
That sales tax money wouldn’t have gone to the management firm; it would’ve been put into a municipal asset that had been neglected for far too long.
As Mayor Deke Copenhaver so rightly noted at the March 6 meeting, a lot of folks here and across the planet consider Augusta the golf capital of the world. What a shame if its own municipal course isn’t even close to what it can be.
Moreover, if the city isn’t willing to invest in itself and its own high-profile assets – remember, a ton of golfers will descend on the city the first week of April – then how could we ask anyone else to?
Some lament that the city’s return on the course now is but the $1,000 a month rent from the management firm. But remember: The commission had several choices when it decided last year to lease the course to a management firm. Another proposal would’ve given the city more of a return than the $1,000, but would’ve also entailed more risk. This is the path the commission decided upon.
If commissioners wanted to wash their hands of it, why didn’t they just sell it and get some cash?
Instead, some appear willing to see the golf course continue to be neglected – just under someone else’s name. What’s the use of that?
Brian Hendry won’t allow it.
“I think we’re making it better every day,” says the Scot whose firm manages the Patch now, and who flew here from Scotland to encourage the joint investment in improvements.
“Obviously, if you get extra money, and it’s matched by ourselves, I think things could’ve been even better.”
But Hendry – whose folks have already made a lot of inexpensive improvements in the grounds and the cart-path markers – is upbeat still, and so are we.
We hope once the Masters Tournament is over, the commission takes another swing at this.