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 ALBANY, Ga. — Dougherty County Commissioners expressed concern over the financial collapse last week of a local organization that was set up using sales tax dollars, with some indicating a desire to do something to reinvigorate the program.
The First Tee of Albany was a nonprofit franchise of a national organization whose purpose is to teach life skills through the game of golf to disadvantaged, underprivileged or at-risk youths. The local organization closed down last week after more than a decade in operation behind the Albany Civic Center.
First Tee of Albany got off the ground in large part because of the generosity of local voters who chose to use roughly $1 million in sales tax dollars to convert greenspace near the Flint River to an Arnold Palmer-designed course.
District 2 Commissioner John Hayes said the community really needs an organization like First Tee and that the county should do something, even if it’s nothing more than start a conversation among other organizations as to how it can be saved.
“If ever there was a need to develop a program like this, we have it,” Hayes said. “Here’s another program we have asked taxpayers to support, and now we’re rather casually saying it’s away. That has to trouble someone other than me.”
County Attorney Spencer Lee, who was around when the First Tee project was considered for a special-purpose local-option sales tax referendum, said it “served its purpose” in terms of exposing youth to a game that had largely been exclusively for wealthy, white men.
“On a personal note, of all of the programs I’ve seen for youth, this one really served its purpose,” Lee said. “That purpose being to teach people life skills through golf. With a primary focus on girls and minorities, it all helped to teach the game to people who traditionally wouldn’t and couldn’t be exposed at country clubs or private golf courses.”
While no one on the commission spoke openly of trying to fund the $150,000-per-year program, commissioners seemed eager to work with city officials and other community organizations like the Boys Clubs to find donors willing to keep the program functioning.
First Tee Board President Jim Rusin told The Herald last week that rising operating costs and dried-up donations led them to close the facility, which received no funding from the national First Tee organization.
City and county workers went to the facility last Wednesday to pack up and secure the materials that were purchased with tax dollars. Those items are waiting in storage for the next 90 days to pass before county officials will decide whether to auction the items off or repurpose them for other needs.