Imagine your betrothed telling you before the wedding, “If I’m not there, start without me.”
That’s precisely the level of commitment – or lack of it – the city of Augusta has shown our public golf course known affectionately as the Patch.
Tired of six-figure losses at the city’s course, Augusta commissioners last year decided to lease it for $1,000 a month to a Scottish interest, which has since left the picture.
Three local brothers recently stepped up to fill the management void, using their own money and sweat to spruce it up before a recent tournament for the First Tee nonprofit organization. But the commission last week turned its back to the Kelly brothers, inexplicably refusing to accept their help under terms similar to the Scottish concern’s. OK. The Kellys walked away, understandably feeling a little jilted.
The slight didn’t hurt them as much as it hurt the city.
Now Administrator Fred Russell reports that firms from all over the country are inquiring about coming in and running the course for the city. So Russell plans to have the city operate the course as a bare-bones operation for a week or so, with workers borrowed from Recreation, and eventually bring in a new management company. The city is formally asking for proposals from would-be managers.
Although, he says anything is on the table.
One of those “anythings” ought to be to consider either selling the course or trading it for something else of value.
If the city does maintain ownership of the course and allows a private entity to run it, let’s hope the commission does the right thing – and acts like an owner.
It’s clear the city can’t just take a monthly stipend and pretend it has washed its hands of all responsibility for the Patch. If the city is going to be the owner of a golf course, it’s time for the city to act like one – and at least be a partner with whichever entity comes in to run it day-to-day.
To this point, the city has been no better than a runaway bride. Yes, the Scottish owner became delinquent in monthly payments – but the Kelly brothers have to feel a bit left-at-the-altar.
If some other golf course manager comes along to say “I do” to the city of Augusta, he needs to know that the city is committed.
It may not say “for better or worse” in those legal contracts they sign in such arrangements.
But maybe it’s time to start.