By TOMMY PURSER
The Hazlehurst City Council is still in the process of trying to find someone to bring the city’s Twisted Pine Golf Course back to life.
A committee of representatives from the city, county, school system, tourism and Chamber of Commerce was formed by the city council to study the situation and make a recommendation to the council. The committee came up with three alternatives for the council to consider: keep the course; enter a lease/purchase agreement with Joe Kahn, owner of the Blueberry Plantation Golf Course in Alma; or sell the course to Hazlehurst businessman Olin Wooten who had made an offer to purchase the course.
Gary Evans, chairman of the golf course committee, said Kahn’s proposal was excellent, adding that Mayor Bayne Stone and council member John Ramay, serving as a 2-member committee to work with Kahn, were in favor of it.
At a February meeting, the city council had voted unanimously to lease the course to Kahn.
But that plan fell apart at a meeting with Kahn, Mayor Stone, Ramay and city attorney Ken Smith. At that meeting, Kahn said he was not interested in a lease/purchase agreement because his plans called for spending a large sum of money on the course. Because of that, he needed to own the course rather than lease it.
Contacted by the Ledger, both Stone and Ramay expressed their surprise at the meeting when Kahn told them he was not interested in a lease but, rather, he wanted to purchase the golf course.
“That threw a wrench in the works,” Ramay said.
But it didn’t end the process nor the city’s desire to do what is necessary to keep the golf course operating.
In an interview last week, Kahn told the Ledger that there had been a misunderstanding.
“It may have been my fault or their’s (the committee’s), I don’t know,” he said. “It was a miscommunication about leasing. I don’t want to lease the property, I want to purchase it.”
While Kahn’s plans for reviving the course were well received by the council, by law a public body cannot sell public property unless it goes through a bid process. And city attorney Smith is now working on developing a document to solicit bids.
While posts on social media have claimed that Mayor Stone somehow angered Kahn and Kahn backed out of the deal, Kahn said that was untrue.
“Mayor Stone has been very cooperative with me,” Kahn said. “He wanted (the deal to go through) more than anyone.”
Kahn, who owns not only the Blueberry course but also a golf course in Florida, said last week his plans for Twisted Pine included opening an upscale restaurant in the civic center which would be essential in making Twisted Pine profitable.
“No golf course makes money,” Kahn said. “I want to make money on the restaurant.”
He added that he has a golf course team that can make improvements on the course itself to get it in shape to provide an amenity for Hazlehurst to enhance the quality of life in Jeff Davis County.
By TOMMY PURSER