Sparks fly at special-called meeting as commissioners approve Patch deal

The Patch
A company from Scotland will officially run a formerly public golf course in Augusta. The Augusta Commission approved this during its meeting Tuesday. (WRDW-TV / Sept. 20, 2011)
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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The municipal golf course in Augusta, affectionately called "The Patch," will yet again be under new management. Commissioners were called to a special meeting on Thursday to revote on privatizing the golf course.

"It's named 'The Patch' for a reason," said Sammy Nevarre, who was out golfing today.

"It's not the best kept course, but a lot of people play for the value," he said.

Neither Nevarre nor his son have been out to The Patch since the city took it back over several months ago.

"It's pretty comparable, not much has changed. Not a lot different than it was before," he said.

Which also means there haven't been any improvements since the city took over management. Just last week, commissioners voted 5-3 to keep a private management group from Virginia from taking over.

"It's a bad deal, it's a bad thing. We haven't even seen a contract yet," said Commissioner Bill Lockett.

But Commissioner Joe Bowles doesn't agree, which is why he asked the mayor to call a special meeting Thursday to take another look at the decision.

"I think it was my final gasp at trying to save the taxpayers money, and I was going to work until my last day in office to do that," he said.

Commissioners voted 6-2 at the special meeting to grant the private group, Virginia Beach Golf Management, the lease agreement.

The deciding vote came from Commissioner Grady Smith who was in the hospital during last week's meeting.

However, the special meeting didn't sit well with some commissioners.

"It just doesn't smell right, it just doesn't look right," said Commissioner Alvin Mason.

Commissioner-Elect Marion Williams agrees, saying, "Anybody with two eyes can see they're playing the 6-4 game."

But Joe Bowles says it's really just about one future commissioner in particular, saying, "That person is coming back on this commission, and I'm not going to see this city become stagnant again."

A direct call out to Williams, who will be stepping back into a commission seat the first of the year.

"He said he's not going to change his behavior, and I didn't want to see the citizens at risk for him to abstain from a vote," Bowles said.

Bowles says the maneuver often keeps the mayor from casting a tiebreak vote.

"Joe Bowles' conduct hasn't been the greatest himself, so before we start talking about other folk, we probably have to look at our own conduct," Mason said.

The deal is a 10-year lease agreement with Virginia Beach Golf Management paying the city $250,000 over the course of 10 years to operate the course. As of now, the city will be paying all of the utilities, but the final contract still has to come before the new group of commissioners for approval.

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