Fernandina Beach Golf Course Oversight – One more time – An opinion

An opinion submitted by Jim Powers Golf 15            

The decisions and comments that were made during the City Commission meeting on April 16 demonstrated, in my  mind,  a lack of understanding on the part of the City Manager and several of the Commissioners when it came to the golf course..   Why do I say that?  That one little word with such a big meaning,  “Oversight.”

I am glad that Commissioner Filkoff asked where oversight responsibility lies when it comes to the City’s responsibilities for the golf course and Billy Casper Golf, the  management contractor.   When asked, the City Manager looked at the Casper people present at the meeting, and said   “ These guys are mine. Absolutely.”  That comment made me wonder why the City Manager hasn’t been spending more time with “these guys” during his term if he fully appreciates the importance of “oversight” of municipal contracts, especially when he is talking about one of the key City facilities.

Rebuilt Tee on South 9
Rebuilt Tee on South 9

The RFP lists many detailed “requirements” placed on Casper by the City, as does the contract itself and the Casper proposal.  The RFP and the  proposal are included as part of the Casper contract by reference.   

How does the City Manager expect to perform the oversight responsibilities he says are his ?   That is a question that should not be carelessly brushed aside with a comment such as, “These guys are mine. Absolutely”   Does the City Manager really expect to personally oversee all the detailed “requirements,” stated in the contract and associated documents,  or does he — at some level — expect the  contractor to monitor and evaluate itself?   Not a good idea nor a good business practice!!  

This opinion piece is not meant to be a tutorial on management of municipal contracts, but perhaps a few comments taken from an Advisory written by the Massachusetts Inspector General (MA IG) in June 2009, might  be informative — and insightful.  Some of the IG’S key  findings are cited below.

 “Golf courses and other public enterprises must be operated with a high degree of oversight, transparency, and integrity.”

 “Contracts or agreements without adequate monitoring and oversight are not guaranteed to operate effectively.”

“Municipalities must ensure that vendors comply with all contractual requirements.”

“Trust but verify.”

 “Municipalities have a responsibility to:

(a)  protect a public asset, the golf course,

(b)   ensure that contracts are adhered to, and

(c)   ensure that taxpayers get what they are paying for under the contract. 

“Municipal officials  have a responsibility to ensure this compliance. Not doing so is the equivalent of paying for goods never received.   A responsible official would  not knowingly do this!”

This article’s basic  focus is on the golf course management contract with the city of Fernandina Beach — and the oversight of it.  The  Massachusetts IG,  in its advisory report,  broadens the scope of oversight to include ALL municipal contracts — and the oversight thereof.  (In our town, that includes the Marina and  the Airport.  

The words above may offer some of our readers the first opportunity  to see  the total of what the City Manager has taken upon himself.  He has added   the oversight of the golf course contract, the oversight of the marina contract, and the actual managership role at the airport on top of what he was hired to be:  the full time City Manager of Fernandina Beach.   No one person can fulfill all those roles. 

Even if Mr. Gerrity were  a manager with 30 years  experience running a city our size, he would still need to hand off much of the day-to-day  oversight to someone else who would report back to him.  Mr. Gerrity — and the Commission who hired him and apparently expects him to take on all these oversight tasks in addition to his baseline job — need to hear from our citizens who appreciate that Mr. Gerrity can’t do it all.    No one person can!

Jim PowersJim Powers is a two-term member of the City of Fernandina Beach Golf Course Advisory Board, and was vice-chairman of the Golf Course Evaluation Committee .  The Evaluation Committee selected Billy Casper Golf as their recommended choice for management of the Golf Course.  The committee looked at several options:  management by the City or conversely, choosing from a variety of contractual opportunities.  Jim, himself, spent  several months researching the various possibilities — and the pro’s and con’s experienced by municipal courses around the country — when it came to managing their city golf courses.

April 25, 2013 11:00 a.m.