Susan Hardee Steger
Members of the City of Fernandina Beach Golf Course Advisory Board (GCAB) along with commissioners Arlene Filkoff, Ed Boner, Vice Mayor Charlie Corbett, and new general manager Chad Barhorst met to discuss golf course conditions and the role of the GCAB going forward. Chairman Bailey asked, “If we are not wanted as an advisory board, why are we here? We spend a lot of time and effort on this.”
Bailey’s question was the result of an April 2 regular meeting of the city commission when Vice Mayor Charlie Corbett’s motion that local resident and long time golfer Tommy Shave form a committee of five golfers and bring back reports on the state of the course. His motion was approved 4 – 0. (Commissioner Filkoff was not present for the vote). Corbett requested that the committee be separate from the Golf Course Advisory Board. (Click here for previous Fernandina Observer article.)
Commissioner Ed Boner acknowledge that the decision to form a committee was “awkwardly handled,” and informed the advisory board that the commission will clarify the decision at the next commission meeting. Chairman Bailey responded to Shave’s appointment with an invitation; “We have an opening on our board and I encourage Mr. Shave or other citizens concerned about this [golf course] to get on our board so we can operate in the sunshine.” There is no indication at this time that Shave’s committee is required to operate according to Florida’s open meeting laws (Sunshine Laws).
Board member Jim Powers voiced his concern that”the City’s oversight [of Casper contract] is a big issue for me.” Powers spoke to the email sent by City Manager Joe Gerrity to city commissioners and advisory board members in which Gerrity said, “I don’t have any involvement with the GCAB. The only Board I directly interact with is the AAC [Airport Advisory Commission,] because I am also the airport manager.”
“This has got to be resolved. I’m going to send him [Gerrity] a message. He needs to clarify that because he definitely does,” says Powers. “The GCAB charter specifically states the advisory board not only advises the commission, but the city manager.”
According to Bailey, during the last month the board became more concerned about Billy Casper’s coming forward with critical information. The GCAB suggested to the city manager that Billy Casper be put on notice and hire a USGA agronomist to survey the course. Gerrity did follow through with their advice. But Bailey says, “We as a board feel we are pretty much like a toothless dog. Suggestions we make are not being implemented.” In addition, the board, “doesn’t feel a lot of engagement from the city manager who is actually in charge of the whole process in terms of the GCAB board and the golf course,” says Bailey.
When the conversation returned to golf course conditions, Commissioner Boner directed a question to Chad Barhorst golf course general manager.
“Are you getting enough money within your budget to do what you should be doing with the course?”
“It depends upon what your expectations are with turf quality and consistency of the grass.” answers Barhorst. “I believe the course is underfunded. The amount of money in your budget makes a huge difference on the maintenance side and on the result you are going to get.” Barhurst expects to complete a long range plan by April 18. A rough estimate to redo bunkers, greens, tee boxes, and “surrounds” is 1.5 million.
New to the conversation concerning the grass conditions is use of environmentally friendly weed and mole cricket chemicals in order to be certified in the Audubon Sanctuary Program. Weeds, and mole crickets are becoming resistant to the chemicals, according to Barhorst. There is no indication the Amelia River course holds the Audubon Sanctuary designation. However, the Golf Club of Amelia, and the Amelia Island Plantation courses are involved in the program, and the designation is touted on their websites. According to comments from area golfers, the weed, cricket mole problems at the City course have not appeared at other area courses.
Those in attendance then directed comments to General Manager Barhorst.
“We are not a training ground.”
“We are not here to teach people to grow grass by trial and error.”
“Does Casper know what it needs to do to be successful in Fernandina Beach?
“Do you understand what is expected from you [to the general manager]?
“If you knew this was coming a heads up would have been appreciated.”
Editor’s Note: The following individuals are members of the Fernandina Beach Golf Course Advisory Board: Doug Bailey, Chair, Jane Paige, Women’s Association Representative, Bruce Smyk, Vice Chair, James Powers, Gary Farnsworth, and Michael Hentigan.
April 11, 2013 6:22 p.m.