Back into the rough

With gridlock on city golf course, commission takes huge step backward

The mayor says we’ll be all right.

 

All evidence to the contrary.

The Augusta Commission, back to a 5-5 racial split after last year’s elections, wasted little time in splitting votes by race Tuesday and grinding progress to a screeching halt. Black commissioners opposed, and white commissioners supported, having a professional company run the city golf course.

Their loggerheads caused the management company to withdraw its bid to run the course.

Congratulations, Augusta Commission.

Even in Augusta, you have to wonder: How in the world is this a racial issue?

The vote Tuesday surely would’ve been a 5-5 tie, which would have allowed Mayor Deke Copenhaver to cast a deciding vote. But he likely would’ve voted to approve the deal – so Commissioner Marion Williams pulled a stunt he and others used to block progress several years ago during his first stint on the commission: He abstained, leaving the vote at 5-4 – one vote short of the six-vote majority required for the Augusta Commission to approve things.

For some reason, some members of the Augusta Commission actually seem opposed to having the municipal golf course known as the Patch be operated well enough to turn a buck – or at least not lose hundreds of thousands of them, as it has historically.

So, despite a vote by the previous commission in December to approve private management of the course, the new commission gridlocked on finalizing the deal.

Commissioner Bill Fennoy, who voted against the lease deal with Virginia Beach Golf Management, actually insinuated that the course shouldn’t have to be profitable, since the city’s aquatics and tennis facilities aren’t.

That’s like saying your student shouldn’t have to work hard because the kid next to him in class isn’t.

But Commissioner Donnie Smith, citing the city’s projected $5.2 million deficit, noted the lunacy of the commission turning down the company’s $100,000 check – and, moreover, avoiding operational losses at the course.

Commissioner Mary Davis also noted correctly that the course is in “dire need of professional attention.”

This city should decide, once and for all, whether it wants to have a municipal golf course. If the answer is yes, then get it professional management and invest in fixing its embarrassing condition. Regular patrons, as well as Masters Week guests, deserve no less.

If the answer is no, then sell it.

As for the racial split on this issue, it makes absolutely no sense. Many of the golfers who frequent the Patch are minorities. They deserve better than what they’re getting from this commission.

Virginia Beach Golf Management ran from this mess like a putt down a false front. You can’t blame them. You have to wonder why any company outside of Augusta would want to do business with a city that is so poorly managed, volatile and even hostile to prospective business partners.

If this is the new commission’s best shot from the first tee, it’s going to be a long 18 holes.

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