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Twisted Pine Improving; Advisory Committee Resigns En Masse

During last Monday night’s workshop of the Hazlehurst City Council, the white elephant in the room that won’t go away raised its trunk once again.
The city-owned Twisted Pine Golf Course has been on the agenda myriad times since the city took over the course from the county several years ago, primarily because it continually loses money.
Stone began that part of the meeting by praising Tony Parise, who now manages the golf course, saying that when he took over about three months ago, “All sorts of things were dumped into his lap.”
“I have never in my life had a man to come on the job and put his whole life into it,” said Stone of Parise. “It hasn’t been an easy task. It’s been monumental. We have a viable golf course, but just a lot of ‘TLC’ is needed in a lot of places.”
Parise cited “mismanagement” for the golf course ending up in disrepair, stating that its bylaws were “convoluted at best.”
“Golf courses are not cheap,” he said, specifically pointing out that when he took over, only 60 percent of the irrigation system was viable, with the rest, in his words, “buried underground underneath grass and dirt.”
The locker rooms, Parise said, were dirty and unkempt and the lights didn’t even work.
Ward Two Councilman John Ramay told Parise that he appreciates what he’s done for the golf course, but still the city is losing about $100,000 a year to keep it open and he would like to at least see it break even.
“We need the golf course for an attraction, for our people, and our community, and our school system needs it for the golf team,” said Ramay. “But we do not need, as a city, to lose $100,000 on the golf course to maintain it for other people. We’re in a hole we don’t need to keep digging.”
Parise suggested raising the price for a round of golf from $10 to at least $14 to help maintain the course.
That’s when Ward One Councilman Dywane Johnson asked if the golf course advisory committee was “staying abreast” of the situation.
Stone then told the council that he had recently received a letter from Linwood Truitt, chairman of the golf course advisory board, that the entire committee had resigned because of what he termed “confusion and misunderstanding.”
“I think we have all acknowledged our neglect,” said Stone. “Linwood Truitt said that we have been more of a golf club more than we’ve been in the details such as chemicals and finances. And I, as the mayor, have neglected the golf course. I’ve had other things going on and then found out things were not run correctly.”
Then he said of Parise, “I think we can put it back on more sound financial footing with him.”
Ramay called getting the golf course back on track “a major challenge.”
But Johnson turned his focus back to the advisory committee, “We formulated a board to run the golf course. If that board wasn’t capable of doing it, I would hope that they would say, ‘Guys, we’ve got a tiger out here and we can’t tame him.’ The board should have talked to the mayor, and the mayor should have talked to us.”
Stone then asked Rhonda Walsh, who was one of the members of the advisory board who resigned, to speak on their behalf, but she declined, saying that she would speak only on her behalf and that her views were not necessarily those of the committee.
“We were not to run the golf course,” she said. “We were an advisory board only and we came up with ideas such as tournaments. We never got involved with herbicides and stuff like that … we never wanted to take over as their boss. Linwood would go out and solicit donations and corporate memberships. He was the backbone of coming up with the idea of getting the county involved, the schools involved.”
Johnson said he was under the impression that the advisory board was taking care of the golf course, admitting after hearing Walsh that the council had the “wrong concept” of the board and what they were supposed to do.
Stone then admitted, “The advisory board didn’t do what they needed to do, and the mayor didn’t do what he needed.”
But Stone did end that part of the meeting by saying that with Parise, things are back on track once again, adding, “I think the golf course will be in the best shape it’s been in two or three years in another four months.”

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