Donald Hood, of the Dougherty County Facilities Management Department, loads golf clubs used from the now-defunct First Tee of Albany into the back of a county truck Wednesday. County officials moved much of the equipment at the location away to offsite storage until it's determined what will happen to the downtown location.
ALBANY Dougherty County Public Works Department employees were moving equipment from the offices of First Tee today following the organization's announcement that it is closing due to financial reasons.
County Administrator Richard Crowdis said workers were moving golf clubs, vending machines and other equipment from the First Tee facility on Mercer Avenue near Albany Civic Center.
Albany City Manager James Taylor, who was on the site today, called the closing "regrettable" saying it was a sign of the tough economic climate.
Burkett Carver is executive director of First Tee. The organization sought to develop life skills for at-risk youngsters through golf instruction and principles.
President and CEO of the First Tee of Albany Board, Jim Rusin, said that maintaining the facility had simply become economically unreasonable.
We came to the realization that, with the way the economy is, our corporate sponsors have quit giving, our grant money is gone, and we could only raise so much, it just wasn’t enough," Rusin said. "When you're able to raise $30,000 but you're budget is $150,000, it's just not going to work."
Rusin said that he had met with county officials at the site Wednesday to point out the things that were purchased with SPLOST dollars and the things that belonged to First Tee. Crowdis said that he's not yet sure what the county will do with the items that were bought with tax dollars, saying that for now the items will be secured in county storage facilities.
Carver appeared before the Albany City Commission on June 7, 2011 asking for funding assistance and warned commissioners that without help, the organization's future was uncertain.
"Mr. Carver said that ... with the downturn in the economy and other local non-profits chasing the same philanthropic dollar, donations have dried up and they have cut everything they can cut. This is the first time in their existence that they have reached out to the City for help, otherwise they will have to vacate the property, which becomes a 15 acre eyesore and short changes the youth," the official minutes of the Albany City Commission state.
First Tee of Albany was established in 1999 after funding was approved by the voters on a Special Local Option Sales Tax referendum. At that time, the Albany chapter of First Tee was one of 145 complexes to be built across the nation.
The now defunct, 16-acre site will officially revert back to the city of Albany in 90 days. City officials have not said what they intend to do with the site, although the city's Recreation and Parks department is working on a plan for the facility.
There is also talk of the site being another possible location for a controversial multimodal transit center. When asked about that Wednesday, Taylor said he had no immediate comment.