CONSENSUS: Keep bayfront mini-golf

Although Historic City News cannot report a final action by the city commission tonight on the disposition of the 1949 landmark bayfront miniature golf course, commissioners did take note of what the mayor described as the only “hot button” issue; based on a show of hands of audience members attending to comment.

The issue was scheduled to be discussed as item 11-B — one of the last topics of the night. Instead, the board agreed to move the staff presentation to item 3 to be followed by public comment.

Assistant City Manager Tim Burchfield made a brief presentation with no revelations of note since it became known, at the last city commission meeting, that the city-owned course has not been in compliance with provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act since last March.

The results of the Historic City News facebook poll and news article were acknowledged in Burchfield’s remarks. City Commissioner Bill Leary, who had received the results prior to the meeting, replied, “Thank you for this valuable input and for making the effort on the city’s behalf to gather it from your readers.”

The city reportedly received over a dozen e-mails and heard from about 10 in-person citizens tonight expressing various concerns. One of tonight’s speakers, Ed Swift IV, Chief Operating Officer of Historic Tours of America, reiterated his company’s interest in participating in any bid process.

Our facebook poll, however, represented 146 answers from readers.

79% of those who voted, 116 readers, said, “Let Ripley’s rent carpet golf for five more years with five-year option; while 12% of those who responded said, “Let Ripley’s rent carpet golf for five more years”.

Only four people expressed interest in the City taking the space back, spending the taxpayer’s money to make it ADA compliant, and then operating it themselves — only nine voted to demolish the miniature golf course to make rentable green space.

Commissioner Leary also told Historic City News, “I greatly appreciate having this much response before deciding.”

But the decision was not as conclusive as the poll results — by consensus, the board turned the issue back over to City Manager John Regan with instructions to compile a report of options to consider, leaving off any options other than to use the space as a miniature golf course.

Commissioner Freeman said she was prepared to vote and decide tonight — citing the fact that Ripley’s lease is soon to expire and with the ADA violation looming, they deserve an opportunity to know they have a lease before spending the estimated $50,000 to complete the upgrade.

Commissioner Sikes-Kline spent her discussion time trying to retract and clarify quotes attributed to her in an interview she gave to a reporter with The Record.

Commissioner Jones was insistent that there is a better use for the public space.

Commissioner Leary was satisfied that the space should remain a mini-golf course.

The mayor seemed to have mixed feelings — announcing that he had no intention of voting tonight and implying other uses were possible.

One thing all seemed to concede was that since it was in the 1990’s the last time the rental agreement was bid, it was time to publish a request for proposals to get a current assessment of the value of the property.

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