Update: The Flagler Beach City Commission this evening voted to send out a notice-of-default letter to Flagler Golf Management, giving the company 30 days to fix issues at the nine-hold golf course at the south end of town or face termination of the lease with the city. City Manager Larry Newsom said another golf-management company–the one that runs the golf course at Bunnell’s Grand Reserve–is interested in taking over. Details below.
Flagler Beach City Commission Chairman Rick Belhumeur has called a special meeting of the commission this evening at 5 to consider giving Flagler Golf Management, the company running the city’s golf course, a 30-day notice that the city will sever its lease with the company. Commissioner Jane Mealy was the second commissioner agreeing to the meeting.
Belhumeur said he inspected the nine-hole golf course this week in a golf cart and found it brown, unwatered, even though the city paid $70,000 to install a new irrigation system. “It was absolutely deplorable,” Belhumeur said. “It agitated the living crap out of me.” He said Flagler Golf Management wasn’t watering because it claimed not to be able to afford the power bill.
Terry McManus, the principal shareholder in Flagler Golf Management, calls the special meeting “hogwash” and disputes Belhumeur’s claims, with documentation showing that the pump house has been running, and the company has been paying its bills. “I agree it looks brown and we need to do something,” McManus said, but it’s not just about water. “The greens are completely dead.”
The reason, he said, is because of the city’s large stormwater project that tore through the grounds last year and stopped all activity on the course, preventing any revenue from being generated, followed by the contractor failing–in McManus’s view–to restore the grounds to their former condition, as contractually required.
Flagler Golf Management reopened the course two years ago after it had lain fallow for a decade, and after a long search by the city for a management company. The company generated just shy of $200,000 in the first year of operation, McManus said in an interview today, but then the city tore up the grounds for its planned stormwater project, which ran infrastructure through the course. He said he sustained a year-over-year loss of $108,000, with the city compensating $22,000 of that. He is seeking more: exactly how much more is to be negotiated, McManus said. But he is also seeking a $50,000 fix to the course’s greens.
Late Wednesday, McManus hand-delivered a letter to the city, giving it seven days to begin restoring the greens on the course and negotiate further compensation or else face binding arbitration or litigation “for damages and future lost earnings.”
“The gloves are coming off for a fight,” McManus said.
The special meeting and McManus’s letter are the latest, but gravest, turns in a relationship fraying since last October, after Hurricane Irma barreled through and added to the course’s woes. The course shut down in October 2017 and has barely been active since, hampered by repairs winding down and negotiating issues with the city. The two sides held a workshop the following month where they seemed to agree to a reset, with lingering skepticism on both sides.
By January, the commission was ready to end its lease but pulled back, placing the company on probation instead pending agreement over required paperwork and other issues. But disagreements continued even as commissioners seesawed between wanting to give Flagler Golf Management every chance to succeed and growing impatience with inactivity and unseemly conditions at the course.
Belhumeur was actually among the commissioners most inclined to give McManus and Flagler Golf the benefit of the doubt, making his change of heart a significant turn that bodes ill for the company.
Belhumeur said McManus has threatened litigation before. But that’s not what tonight’s meeting is about. The commission agenda is strictly to discuss whether to issue a 30-day notice. “This is not a discussion between the commission and Flagler Golf Management,” Belhumeur said. “This is a discussion among commissioners to decide whether we want to send them a default letter or not, because the attorney wouldn’t do it unless he has the consensus of the board.”
Flagler Golf management will not be at the table. Rather, McManus or his representatives will “get his three minutes like everybody else,” Belhumeur said, a reference to the three minutes members of the public get to speak on items before the commission. McManus in fact does not intend to be at the meeting. He is sending a representative, Patrick Varella, the clubhouse manager, who will testify as to when the course has been watered and for how long “to dispel any notion that we’re not watering the greens,” McManus said. But water, he added, “is not enough.”
McManus called the watering claim “complete BS,” because the irrigation system has been fully operational only for about a month. He documents a July 13 bill from Florida Power and Light showing a $568.67 charge for the meter connected to the pump house, and a $344 charge for the previous month, figures he says prove that the irrigation system has been running.
“It’s not just a matter of water, these greens need to be replanted and re-sodded, that’s the only way they’re going to come back,” McManus said. But the city “caused the misery” through the stormwater project, “and they’ve never brought it back.”
“Talk about BS, the irrigation was probably 90-plus percent done back in April, April and or May,” Belhumeur said, noting that the course had added help from “monsoon-like” rains. (The St. Johns River Water Management District, which includes Flagler, reported last week that the district has received above-average rain for nine of the past 12 months, with areas of unusually high rainfall in parts of Flagler and a district-wide 12-month rainfall total is 13.5 inches above average. But Flagler County had the highest 12-month rainfall total, with 72 inches.)
Belhumeur said the city has run out of patience. But whether it has any appetite for litigation may become apparent at this evening’s meeting.
“I doubt that they want to litigate,” McManus said. “The root of all this evil right now is the condition of the golf course and no one in their right mind can suggest that the condition of the golf course is due to anything but the course being shut down due to the stormwater project.”
The special meeting is at 5 p.m. (not 5:30, the usual time when the commission holds its meetings) at Flagler Beach City Hall, 105 South 2nd Street.
I played on that course. The course is in better shape now than before McManus took over.
I wonder if there is a developer in the shadow to turn this recreational land into housing development?
Terry McManus says
Thank you very much. A lot of my family’s money and hard work have gone into that place. It is a marathon, not a sprint.
Concerned Citizen says
I’m going to go with Lou on this one.
The city can’t wait their hands on this property. Why? Golf is pretty much a dying sport. The course might be in better shape but still a lot of work to be done.
If the City can grab this property back they can then develop it and put yet more condos on there. As if we need more condos in the area.
Someone stands to get a lot of money off of this though. Even in a small town like Flagler Beach there are kick backs involved. I’m surprised the city doesn’t use imminent domain.
Born and Raised Here says
Have they ever considered sand greens, less expensive and maintenance. It’s only a 9 hole executive golf course.
Most here in the neighborhood surrounding the golf course initially supported and argued on your behalf.
But living a distance away does not give you an accurate picture of what has gone on there, or rather not gone on there. The water has been on for about a week. Last night ironically was the first time I’ve seen a head operate on a fairway more than a minute, last night it was on 10 minutes, a first. Ask yourself what happened to the volunteers, why did they depart? Those volunteers were the ones who literally kept your operation functioning. It has taken about a year for your operation to destroy the good will you fostered. We all can agree that the drainage project was a horror show. But since the project finished you folks do nothing? It is going to take more than water to make this a success. One guy running around on a lawnmower just won’t cut it. No pun intended. thinking about it if the grass does grow one guy on that little mower won’t be able to do the job. The restaurant is a joke and nothing more. You can’t serve crap and expect people to return.
Why would imminent domain be used on property the city owns?
@ Lou, and Concerned Citizen
The course had to get better, it had been abandoned and overgrown for 8 years. Regards development With the drainage project done there isn’t enough build-able acres available to make development profitable..
Oh my gosh do I so agree with you Mothersworry: the original manager, no the new one, refused to turn the water on, he even locked the pump house so no one else could. As far as the machinery they are a joke, the maint man can’t even do the job that needs to be done because first of all there is barely anything to maintain and the equipment is junk.
The original manager wants that course to go under, he is doing all of this on purpose and now for the last 2-3 months hired another man so everything falls on him. Mr McManus has no clue as to what is really going on over there he is never around so how could he. There is so much more that this course needs besides water, maybe someone that knows how to run a business in the first place might be a start in stead of fighting with the city all the time. The one commissioner was there almost everyday so he saw the disaster that course is in, with no fault from the city.
Flagler Female says
We too used to be supporters of McManus and his team. However, we live near the 5th hole and the grass is so brown it’s almost black with weeds and sandburs. The sprinklers on this hole are not working and we have not seen it on in weeks. When McManus’ son was here, he played golf more than we ever saw him working (with a loud group of friends who liked to let the expletives fly while they played.) And, if a storm came through the leaves and palm fronds would be on the ground until my husband went out and picked them up. The palm trees are still leaning over from Hurricane Matthew!
The excuse of the hurricane is just that at this point. An excuse. After the hurricane, hole 5 was green until recently. It almost seems like this is intentional sabotage for whatever reason…to get out of the lease, to litigate and get a windfall from the City – who knows!? I DO know every day the grass dies a bit more and the property value of the homes sitting on the course continues to decrease. I wish someone would start thinking of others because your actions have a domino effect. It’s not just about you.
I’m not sure if either side is wholly at fault here. It looks like there’s some negative impacts from the City’s actions and some responsibility due to the management’s decisions. I’m not sure why this stuff rises to the City Council level. Typically these types of issues are worked out between City staff and the company holding the lease. A little negotiation and working towards solutions can go a long way.
One thing is for sure, the City should get Public Information Officer that speaks on it’s behalf. Council should stay out of the day to day details and remain neutral until the issue is brought before them for their consideration. Trying the case in the paper is not a good thing.
I for one don’t want to waste my taxpaying dollars on litigation unless it’s absolutely necessary.
I’d want the commissioners involved ok’d they signed an agreement that is so tilted towards the operators that it’s laughable. The person or person’s that drew up the agreement and told the commissioners it was good should be paid by the operators and not the city.
It just might make more sense to buy the operators out of their contract rather than go to court. It appears the relationship between the city and the operators is so fractured that it is pointless to continue this drama. Cut your losses, learn from this and never let the same people draw up a lease agreement for the city.
As to who is at fault? Well, to run a golf course you first must show up[.
This may be an Unamerican suggestion in today’s polarized American society.
After determining if we want, can afford a public recriational facility, if the answer is yes, all the stakeholders sit down and come to a COMPROMISE wher everybody is a little bit unhappy!
I live on that golf course and it is now an eyesore!!
Terry McManus says
Thank you all for your opinions. Yes, we have made some mistakes in a new operation. We learn from it. Here is a big factor that none have mentioned. We dug this golf course out of a Jungle on our dime. We were the only ones willing to pay the cost of restoring it. We made it playable within a 12 month period of opening despite the hurricane. Then, after 12 months of growth and operation finally getting to a level that we wanted. The City and its contractors come in and dig up the entire golf course and leave us with depleted or zero revenue. The course was without water for 6-8 months. They were to restore the course to the pre-project condition. Instead, they did nothing for the greens that had no water for months. They were to compensate us for loss of revenue. They have given $20K out of $100K lost. How do you suggest we operate without income. Should we be required to dig into our own pockets and spend $100K to restore the golf course just like we did 24 months ago before the stormwater project. This area is loaded with gossip and inaccuracies. Whoever is posting that I had a son playing golf there with his friends instead of working is one of those types. My Son is a US Marine protecting your freedom and does not play and has never played golf. You are misinformed.
Flagler Female says
We were told that “Craig” was your son. If he is not, that is our mistake. But, Craig DID play golf and played often. We LIVE here and observed it first hand on more than one occasion. We didn’t form an opinion based on gossip.
As for the problem with the City – unfortunately you signed a lease stating you were going to operate and maintain a golf course (I have a copy of the Lease and have gone through it line by line). That means it is your business and you alone are responsible for the conditions and repairs. If you can’t maintain it for any reason, you are in default.
I’m not saying someone shouldn’t reimburse you for any damage however, until such time you are reimbursed, you need to make the course playable. If for no other reason than so you CAN make a profit. Waiting around for the City to make it right has obviously not been the best strategy. It appears as though you are trying to punish them until they pay you what you say they owe you. You forget that you are also punishing those of us who live on the course.
Now that the sprinklers are working, we never see them on. We were told it is because there isn’t any money for the electric bill. We saw them testing the sprinklers the other day and the sprinkler on hole 5 doesn’t work.
If you no longer can afford to operate this business, cut your losses and get out. There are other companies that are interested in taking over. You don’t live here and do not seem to care about those of us who do. You are only alienating those of us who used to be your supporters.
I don’t live in Flagler Beach but had high hopes for thisGolf course. It does have great potential. On July 27,2018 I went to play the course as I haven’t been there for awhile. My thoughts were that it may have improved some. My mistake. This course was absolutely the worst condition I have seen in the past 18 months.
Having played there early in the year I could see progress was being made. WHAT HAPPENED ! As it is now my guess with a big effort maybe in six months it might become playable. For the sake of the people living around the golf course, the city of Flagler Beach and all concerned thing come together and this gem in disguise comes to be. Good Luck.
@Terry McManus says:
Funny you should mention “inaccuracies”. Most of the “inaccuracies” were promoted by you at your presentation to the city. Foolishly, the citizens bought it. No pro shop, no pro, no lessons, a 5 star restaurant that now I read has become a rooming house, I could go on and on.
You mention “we” did this and “we’ did that. You sir haven’t shown up. The couple of workers and a bunch of volunteers cleaned up that golf course. You were not there. Please don’t make it sound like you were involved at all in the daily running of this operation. You showed up and continue to show up only to put out the fires.
It should be obvious to everybody and you, that your ability to manage, run operate, from a couple of hundred miles away isn’t getting the job done. If I am wrong you leave me no choice but to figure you are okay with somebody living in the restaurant, since you are so hands on.
For those comments regarding the guy that wasn’t your son. He was the one positive in your operation.