By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Another bogey on golf course
Placeholder Image
Forsyth County News
Every time county officials tee it up for discussion, the proposed purchase of Lanier Golf Course seems to find a different way into the rough.

After last month’s town hall meeting, there are still more questions than telephone numbers in Tiger Woods’ little black book.

Rather than pulling all of the clubs out of a bag full of uncertainties, let’s focus on one. How did the county get to the point of having a negotiated agreement with a private company to operate the course if it ultimately becomes public property?

Normally when governments enter into agreements with private companies to operate taxpayer owned property, they do so in a very open, legally precise process. A set of operational criteria is established, competitive proposals are solicited and reviewed, and a decision is made on which proposal to accept. Along the way, publicly accessible documents are generated to show that the process was followed.

That isn’t happening here.

Instead, individual commissioners acting with no formal authority from the full board joined with residents living near the golf course to find a company to run the course. And that company’s proposal is now being considered as an integral part of the decision on whether to buy the property. The mental image is of someone opening the Yellow Pages to “golf course management” and playing eenie-meenie-minie-moe.

County attorney Ken Jarrard has opined that no formal bidding process was required in the preliminary negotiations, which he described as being more of a “joint venture.” Yet the proposed lease agreement specifically says this is not a “a partnership or joint venture.”

From a responsible government standpoint, it’s hard to accept that any individual commissioner, no matter how well intentioned, should have the authority to decide the acceptable parameters of any such transaction,  negotiate terms and willow out competitive companies behind closed doors.

Commissioner Jim Harrell has said that residents in the area approached three companies about operating the course. But those residents aren’t elected to represent the people of the county, and they have a financial self-interest in the process that would pose an ethical conflict for any elected official.

So how do we know the offer by Affiniti Lanier is the best deal the county can get? In fact, we don’t.

At last month’s meeting at least one other company expressed interest in working with the county on the golf course, but debate to this point has centered solely on the signing of a lease with Affiniti Lanier, LLC. In fact, we don’t even know for sure who the principals are in the company.

Regardless of the company involved, we have trouble with any board of commissioners signing a 99-year lease for the use of taxpayer property, in effect shackling future administrations from doing anything with the land.

The county government has in the very recent past had trouble making the numbers balance in a single year’s budget, which makes it a little hard to believe there is an infallible crystal ball that allows county officials to accurately assess economic conditions a century into the future.