Carpet golf back on the city agenda

When the City Commission convenes in regular session Monday evening, St Augustine City Manager John Regan reports to Historic City News that he will lead a discussion regarding whether to separate the sales office from the bayfront carpet golf or to allow ventures to operate on an integrated basis.

Tim Fleming, purchasing manager and Deputy Director of General Services, has asked Regan to explain the “Invitation to Negotiate” process to the commission and to obtain “more specific direction”. Before it can issue an invitation to negotiate, the head of an agency must determine and specify in writing the reasons that procurement by an “invitation to bid” or a “request for proposal” are not practicable.

The commissioners have been all over the board on this issue — first deciding to renew the five-year lease to operate the carpet golf course with the current vendor, Ripley’s Entertainment, with the operator to pay an estimated $50,000 in renovations required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Then, it reverses itself, under pressure from Mayor Joseph L. Boles, Jr., because the mayor has a dream of demolishing the golf course in favor of converting the property into a rental property for 450th activities or private weddings. Regan said, “It is my understanding that the Commission is looking for any and all ideas for the location.”

The commission is clearly split on what to do with this St Augustine landmark; however, after already going through the time and expense of a “Request for Proposal” process, where Ripley’s scored slightly higher than Old Town Trolley, the instruction to re-start with a different purchasing method is missing an essential element — “a specific goal” or necessity created to solve “a particular problem”.

Regan is coaching the commissioners by suggesting that the reason an invitation to negotiate would be appropriate is because the City Commission is looking for the “highest and best proposed use of the property that may or may not be a single purpose use”. Currently the property is occupied as a “single purpose use” for carpet golf.

Regan was clear, his view is that the commission is seeking facts that pertain to providing multi-purpose public space.

The idea of eliminating carpet golf on the site raised the ire of many residents and visitors who played the course as children and are now returning to play with their own children and grandchildren. The idea of converting the space to compete with private businesses, that already provide special events rentals, raised the ire of downtown business owners.

“We’re looking at possibly amending the present use — by providing ability to create the public system in conjunction with the marina, seawall and downtown plaza,” Regan said. “We will establish evaluation criteria to be set forth in the Invitation to Negotiate and determine the rate of return and guaranteed financial return to the City.”

If you are planning to attend — the regular St Augustine City Commission meeting will begin at 5:00 p.m. Monday and will be held in the Alcazar Room; on the first floor of the west wing of City Hall, located at 75 King Street in St. Augustine. It will be broadcast live on Comcast Government TV (Cable Channel 3) and is streamed over the Internet.

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