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Chicopee Woods Golf Course completes shake-up of oversight committee
Group reduced from 9 to 5 members
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New Greens Committee 

Member                      Term

Jerry Adams                 3 years

Keith Morris                 3 years

Tom Sexton                 3 years

Mark Montgomery        2 years

Tony Tankersley           2 years

The shake-up of an oversight committee for the Chicopee Woods Golf Course was completed Tuesday, the latest move prompted by poor conditions and slipping revenues at the 600-acre course in Gainesville.

In May, golf course officials dismissed the director of golf, Jim Arendt, and took ownership of the pro shop.   

The reconstituted Greens Committee will now have just five members, down from nine, and takes over beginning today. 

Several long-time committee members, including Chairman Wayne Strickland and Vice Chairman Terry Clegg, will no longer serve.

Most of the members of the new committee have either previously served or will carry over their terms.

Course officials said the change will help provide greater transparency and efficiency as they try to address financial woes.

“Obviously, there’s been some financial stress on the golf course and we just felt it was best to get some fresh perspective on how to go about running it,” said RK Whitehead, chair of the Chicopee Woods Area Park Commission. “Everybody wants what’s best for the golf course.”

The park commission was established by the Georgia General Assembly in 1980 and modified in 1988 to oversee the gift of 1,800 acres from Johnson & Johnson off of Atlanta Highway, where the Chicopee golf course is located. The commission was created as a political division of the state and a public corporation, and is self-supporting.

The golf course is a division of the commission and accounts for all its revenue. Part of that revenue goes toward park maintenance and helps support the Elachee Nature Science Center.

While course officials said they believed former committee members had acted in good faith and worked hard to restore Chicopee, the many personalities and differing opinions among the nine members warranted something akin to a culture change.  

“I think that it makes it more efficient,” said Chicopee commission member Tom Oliver. “We think Chicopee is a great asset for this county, and we need to make sure it remains a great asset.”

The course ran into trouble this year after poor maintenance and harsh winter storms deteriorated the condition of fairways and greens.

For example, the course had a total income of about $123,000 in April, with an operating debt of about $37,000.

Eliminating the director of golf position and taking over the pro shop is expected to increase cash flows, according to course officials.

But the trouble at Chicopee sparked fears that the course would be unable to pay off debt on capital improvements, potentially leaving taxpayers on the hook for these costs.

In 2013, Hall County agreed to back more than $3 million in bonds on capital improvements at the golf course, with the debt to be paid off with course revenues.

Major improvements included refurbishing course greens, irrigation and cart path repairs.

The intergovernmental agreement between the Chicopee commission and Hall County allows the county to assess a tax of up to 0.25 percent of a mill on the county’s tax digest if necessary to make the payments.

The course pays a semi-annual interest, and annual principal, payment on the bonds, depositing about $15,000 every month into a fund to ensure payments are made on time, according to Whitehead.

Whitehead added that the course, which still owes close to $3 million, has never missed a payment.

Officials said the course operated in the black for May and they expect June’s finances to be strong.  

“The financials were a direct reflection of the renovations,” said Hall County Commissioner Scott Gibbs, who is also a member of the Chicopee commission. “When we did the bonds, we knew that revenue would go down until (renovations were) finished.”

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