The Augusta Municipal Golf Course is under new management, despite a public protest of the contract by Paul Simon, chairman emeritus of the youth golf program First Tee of Augusta.
Just minutes before the Augusta Commission’s consideration of a bid by the Orlando, Fla.-based company, Cypress Golf Management, to manage the city’s golf course, Simon made a public plea to commissioners to pull the item from the May 22 agenda in order to have a “full discussion” of the management agreement.
More than a year ago, Simon presented the city with a competing proposal from First Tee of Augusta to manage the city’s golf course, nicknamed “The Patch.”
Simon said the benefit of his proposal was the city could save money by allowing the golf course to merge and share resources with nearby First Tee of Augusta.
“We filed a plan with the city last year and it has never been voted up or down,” Simon said, adding there were four reasons he would ask commissioners to take Cypress’ bid off the agenda. “First, is financial. There is over $100,000 difference to the city, per year, to go with our plan versus the plan that is on the table.”
Simon said that Cypress’ bid included a $36,000 management fee, while First Tee’s proposal did not include any such fees.
Cypress’ proposal also included travel expenses for the company to make trips to Augusta from Florida.
“We don’t have such fees, we are right next door,” Simon said, adding that the Orlando company also plans to do the accounting of the golf course’s books in Florida. “They also expect you to get a liquor license in your name and provide insurance for them at your expense.”
The second reason Simon asked commissioners to postpone a decision on Cypress’ proposal was because of the language in the contract.
“You don’t get your budget for this plan until 45 days after the plan is approved,” Simon said. “They also don’t furnish you an audit unless you ask for it.”
The other two reasons Simon said the city should not approve Cypress’ contract were First Tee of Augusta was local and the organization understands the importance of “The Patch” to the future of Augusta’s youth.
But when it was time for the Augusta Commission to make a decision on Cypress’ proposal, it appeared most of the commissioners were confident in Orlando company’s plan.
Only Augusta commissioners Marion Williams and Wayne Guilfoyle seemed to still have questions about Cypress’ proposal.
However, Recreation Director Bob Levine told commissioners that he estimated the city would make a much bigger profit under Cypress’ proposal than First Tee of Augusta’s plan.
“If we were to be $300,000 over the break-even point, I calculated that the city would be making $175,000 under the Paul Simon agreement and $254,000 under the Cypress agreement,” Levine said. “And that’s with the fees that are in the contract and based on the operating budget.”
Augusta Commissioner Alvin Mason insisted the commission should only discuss Cypress’ proposal since it went through the proper bidding process, while First Tee of Augusta’s plan was not considered by the procurement department.
“I just think that we should deal with the agenda item that we have here which doesn’t have anything to do with any other potential or proposed bid that was not ever even looked at because it didn’t come through (the bidding process),” Mason said. “So I would hope that we would just deal with what we have in front of us.”
Guilfoyle explained that he just wanted to make sure, if the accounting was going to be performed in Florida, that it was done by a professional firm and not “just numbers written on a piece of paper and handed to us.”
Levine said that all the money will be accounted for by the city’s finance department.
“The cash register is in Augusta,” Levine said. “The money goes from the cash register to the finance department. We get monthly reports from Cypress on the number of rounds, the different types of rounds, the money that comes in from food and beverage and the expenses are all itemized in their request for payment.
“So, the money goes from the cash register at The Patch to city hall.”
As commissioners called for the vote on Cypress’ bid, Simon again tried to voice his objections.
“Mr. Mayor, could I say something?” Simon asked from the chamber’s floor.
“Actually, the vote has been called for, the question has been called for, Mr. Simon,” Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver replied. “So, I apologize, but procedurally we need to move forward with the vote.”
Clearly, Augusta commissioners had made up their minds about the future of The Patch because they unanimously approved Cypress’ bid with a 10-0 vote.
Representatives from Cypress have told commissioners that the company hopes to have the golf course out of the red and making money by late 2016.