“I’m getting phone calls left and right from people who want to run this golf course,” City Administrator Fred Russell said Friday.
Firms from Florida and Virginia, local individuals and groups have contacted the administrator, all interested in running the golf course, known as The Patch.
Russell said he expects city recreation workers, who ran the golf course from the 1990s until January, to have a role in managing the course for at least “a few weeks” until a new operator is found. He couldn’t say when the course would reopen.
The administrator said he also had fielded calls and visits from Patch players demanding their money back for annual memberships and from course employees owed back wages by The Patch in Augusta LLC.
One of them, 20-year-old David Harkins, who worked as assistant maintenance manager for The Patch in Augusta, hasn’t been paid in two weeks, according to his father, Robert Harkins, who blamed the city for the trouble.
“I’m just concerned that the city has left these people hanging out to dry because of politics,” Harkins said.
Employees and Patch members seeking compensation should put their requests in writing, Russell said.
After warning The Patch in Augusta last month for its failure to pay monthly rent since March, Augusta officially notified the Scottish firm Friday that it was in default – for failing to keep the course open to the public 364 days a year, not maintaining 50 golf cars on the premises and not maintaining insurance, Russell said.
Members and employees weren’t the only ones angered by the situation at The Patch. Several Augusta Commission members, notably Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles and Joe Jackson, were infuriated by the city’s handling of three Augusta brothers ready to manage the course.
Headed by Dennis Kelly, The Golf Course at Augusta LLC said it began making improvements and investing resources at the course a week and a half ago, after Russell led them to believe that the city would agree to make about $62,000 in needed repairs, only to have Russell’s recommendation rejected during a closed-door commission meeting Tuesday.
“I basically told the gentleman I couldn’t consummate the deal,” Russell said. On Thursday both firms were gone, Red Douglas Clubhouse was locked up and Club Car hauled away 50 golf cars that The Patch in Augusta owner Brian Hendry had leased.
Discussion of the issue will continue Monday. Last Tuesday’s closed-door legal meeting was never adjourned because several commissioners were said to have stormed out during discussions. Those remaining – who weren’t enough for a quorum – did not consent to Russell’s recommendation.
Those present when the meeting ended Tuesday were Jerry Brigham, Corey Johnson, Alvin Mason, Bill Lockett and J.R. Hatney and Mayor Deke Copenhaver, said City Clerk Lena Bonner.
Russell said he didn’t know whether the commission would agree Monday to make the repairs, or whether the Kellys would come back if asked. Regardless, city recreation and procurement workers are assembling a new request for proposals in the event the commission decides to put the course back out for bids, he said.