Why only a Patch?

Wider range of options should be considered to save city golf course

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The Augusta Commission is reviewing the municipal golf course's financial operations, apparently with a fine-tooth comb.

Bo Bollinger knocks his ball onto the green as Jessie Morton looks on at the Augusta Golf Course off Highland Ave Tuesday afternoon. The City is looking for alternatives to privatizing the golf course.   Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Bo Bollinger knocks his ball onto the green as Jessie Morton looks on at the Augusta Golf Course off Highland Ave Tuesday afternoon. The City is looking for alternatives to privatizing the golf course.

Great!

But the committee is hardly turning over every rock: It's determined to shape up the golf course, nicknamed "The Patch," in any way other than privatization.

Why limit ourselves that way? If we're in the market for solutions, why rule one out from the get-go?

Committee Chairman Bill Lockett says it's to avoid fee increases that might come with privatization. Fair enough, but isn't that a determination that could be made after studying all options? Why pre-judge and conclude, without looking at the facts, that privatization would be more expensive?

Otherwise, we appreciate the newfound inquisitiveness on the commission for the golf course operation. Lockett and others want detailed information on the past few years' financials, for instance.

Amateur sleuths on the board have occasionally made careless forays and reckless allegations. But some real problems have indeed emerged: A Chronicle story in 2006, reporting on an audit of the Patch, said, "the city's purchasing policies often were ignored; inventories not listed; credit card sales unverified; cash receipts mishandled; and sales tax collections fouled up. Even a 'substantial amount' of beer was unaccounted for ..."

Isn't it just possible that a privatized operation might help avoid such problems and introduce new efficiencies that could help the course stop being such a drain on the city's coffers -- about $300,000 a year -- without substantially increasing green fees?

At the time of the 2006 audit, the city was also considering getting into the dragstrip business. As we said at the time, considering the mess at the course, having the city build a racetrack was the last thing taxpayers needed.

These are important questions, as the city faces a delicate balancing act: You'd like the course to be self-supporting if possible, but the municipal golf course serves a vital role as an inexpensive entryway into a wonderful sport for beginners and the green-fee challenged.

One other thing to like about the committee's work is that it is asking for information about other municipal golf course operations. Great idea. Find and implement the industry's best practices.

The other reality the committee should consider is the condition of the course. Despite the dedication of course employees, the course could use a major investment.

This may be an area in which privatization could, indeed, work to our betterment: Would a private entity be willing, for example, to upgrade the course with his own money in return for a longterm contract to operate it?

Unfortunately, we won't ever know the answers unless we ask the questions.

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Riverman1
79555
Points
Riverman1 02/11/10 - 05:54 am
0
0
Columbia County's Bartram

Columbia County's Bartram Trail Course is "owned by the Bartram Trail Community Development Corporation, a non-profit entity set up to own and operate the course for the eventual owner – Columbia County. The course is managed by East West Partners Club Management."

Austin Rhodes
2852
Points
Austin Rhodes 02/11/10 - 08:15 am
0
0
The Patch is being

The Patch is being "protected" by a handful of elected officials (a group that fluctuates over time) who have a bunch of old buddies who want to play as CHEAPLY as they can, without regard for the taxpayers that have to subsidize the financial shortfall. This group is/has been so short sighted that they never understood they are killing the goose that lays the golden golf ball.

dashiel
176
Points
dashiel 02/11/10 - 08:21 am
0
0
Privatization is the

Privatization is the Republican solution. Divest to a "private" company with less-experienced employees at higher salaries, greater overhead and a ten percent profit. Only Joe Duffer will suffer.

Austin Rhodes
2852
Points
Austin Rhodes 02/11/10 - 08:55 am
0
0
Actually, dashiel, there was

Actually, dashiel, there was a deal offered a few years ago that would have seen the Patch run by a private company that would PAY the city to run the course, over 100k a year. Let's see...that is a 400k turn around for ONE YEAR alone. The minority commissioners buried that plan. I guess they enjoy underwriting the cost of golf for Joe Duffer. Hell, why not? We pay for so many other po' folks meals, medical care, rent, school lunches for their kids, etc etc etc...why not golf?

Michael Ryan
606
Points
Michael Ryan 02/11/10 - 09:37 am
0
0
Anyone who thinks government

Anyone who thinks government does it better, just read our story today about the state's restaurant rating Web site. They still don't have it up and running, after promising it last April, and they don't seem to care. Of course, they don't have to -- their livelihoods don't depend on customer service!

TrulyBlessed
0
Points
TrulyBlessed 02/11/10 - 10:12 am
0
0
Privatization may or may not

Privatization may or may not be a good solution here, but anyone who thinks that it is a magic panacea should remember the Chronicle's article from three months ago about Sentinel's probation services.

willienelson
5
Points
willienelson 02/11/10 - 10:18 am
0
0
Why not close the course.

Why not close the course. offer vouchers to play elsewhere up to $250,000 each year. You would save all costs of upkeep, salaries and a minimum of $50,000 per year based on this article. Then you could use the property for a drag strip and make lots of money.

webdesigns
0
Points
webdesigns 02/11/10 - 10:32 am
0
0
I have a better idea....

I have a better idea.... Close anything that makes no profit and drains the county of needed funds... stop spending and passing on the losses to your community!!! If allowing a private company to run this course or use the land for another type of business will generate an income for your county...It is a.. no brainer! Just my opinion...

Chief_Broom
21
Points
Chief_Broom 02/11/10 - 11:15 am
0
0
It sure would be great if the

It sure would be great if the city could partner with the Augusta National in some way concerning a municipal course. I love the Patch but it has always been as much of an embarrassment for the city as it has been a way for making golf more accessable to everyone. The city of Augusta is synonymous with golf and it would certainly be fitting if we had a world class publicly owned golf course that existed under the same principles as the Patch.

deekster
24
Points
deekster 02/11/10 - 12:24 pm
0
0
Not a knock, just history.

Not a knock, just history. Where else can you look for your ball and discover hand grenades? Leftovers from our "government ownership history". The city received two airports, one hospital, two golf courses, an arsenal and mucho properties and many more benefits from formerly "federal owned properties". None of this would have happened without our being a "government town". Augusta is and always will belong to the federal government. The Fort, The Bomb Plant and the The VA complex. Not to mention Augusta continues to be under "federal court ordered desegregation" and "hiring practices".

Brad Owens
4102
Points
Brad Owens 02/11/10 - 12:36 pm
0
0
Yeah, sounds like someone

Yeah, sounds like someone wants the course. Why don't the commissioners look at EVERY department like this? Now, let me get this right, we are going to cut the Sheriff by $1,000,000.00 during a violent crime spike, we are going to sell the 'patch' but yet the DDA gets to keep its $200,000.00 a year? With NO cuts even after the trolley study and other non-sense? Why can't we get rid of all thses leech groups FIRST before we sell something like the Patch? I always pick on the DDA because I am DIRECTLY familiar with their waste, but I bet there could be PLENTY of cutting of these so-called advocay groups if we wanted. Also, the ACES are hypocrites given the TEE situation, if the answer in 'Privatization' then WHY did they ask for their running costs to be given to them to run the TEE for 50 years? For what they will spend on the TEE they could have built five 18 hole golf courses and a ball stadium. Funny, you all don't mind corporate welfare that YOU get but you sure don't like the Nuns and Monks from Saint MAry's and Aquinas having a cheap place to play golf do you?

LCC0256
618
Points
LCC0256 02/11/10 - 03:23 pm
0
0
Brad you have made some

Brad you have made some irrefutable excellent FACTUAL points. There could be a way that the city could keep the course & at least break even if not make a profit. But it would require managerial talent and intellect that that is in short supply when it comes to most political bodies. You and i know that most of the commissioners are impotent little men with LARGE egos who look at their position on the governing body not as how best they could lead the community in a common sense & ethical manner but how best to make themselves feel better about......THEMSELVES!!!! That mind set is not about to change. (it has not in the past 3-4 decades) Consequently this situation with the public golf course in the "golf capitol" city will continue to puzzle those mental midgets (albeit egotistical giants) at the marble palace.....It really is beyond them to figure this out....(i hope i am totally mistaken about that last statement)

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