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County leaders concerned about collapse of First Tee

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.

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, 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.

Comments

Cartman 1 year, 11 months ago

Did any of these "concerned" commissioners contribute their personal money or time? Or are they only concerned enough to think about spending more taxpayer money? BTW, I'm not slamming First Tee. It was a good cause. I just don't think public funds should be spent for projects such as this, in either good economic times or bad - but especially in tight times.

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chinaberry25 1 year, 11 months ago

Minority children will rarely ever be able to afford golf. When this first started I raised my eyebrows. They are still there. As far as a special sales tax, Good Lord.

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LuLu 1 year, 11 months ago

I never even heard of it until this made the news in the last week or so. It doesn't sound like they put very much effort into fund-raising.

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kjd 1 year, 11 months ago

I am so sorry. I am a white male and according to Spencer Lee I spend all my time at the country club and it is all my fault that minorities IE: black kids do not get to play golf. There are a number of public golf courses and I do not see any blacks flocking to or even attending them. Maybe if you spent your money on a basketball court and stop blaming white men for others shortcomings you may actually accomplish something. I cannot afford to be part of a country club and I do not play golf. So far in 58 years I don't think it has been a disadvantage to me. But what do I know, the liberals are always standing by to tell me how my life should be and that I am not capable of making my own decisions.

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DoctorDorite 1 year, 11 months ago

Very Good Post !! I still say, VOTE"em OUT !

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Albanite 1 year, 11 months ago

Another SPLOST lie. Why do so many of the projects that are touted to get us to vote for SPLOST turn out to be miserable failures?

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whattheheck 1 year, 11 months ago

Another case of government getting into something it should have stayed away from. We are too involved in touting social issues and social programs. SPLOST lists should be voted on by individual item so the marginal programs can be eliminated. In this case, the program was not well thought out from the operational funds perspective just as many others have not been--ACRI and Riverquarium the "biggest losers" to go soon unless funds can be extorted from somewhere. Every venture we undertake has a requirement for continuing funds--think now about the multi-modal--which folks seem to "gloss over" since emphasis is on getting started not keeping going. Short sighted to say the least.

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dingleberry 1 year, 11 months ago

I suggest John Hayes get the bank he works for to sponsor this program withits money--not ours. Those leaders who want it continued should "pony up" with funds from non-public sources or just shut up.

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ittibittime 1 year, 11 months ago

I am an "At Risk Taxpayer,"...I'm a white minority female at risk of running out of money that is being used to fund stupid stuff like this....

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mr_nobody 1 year, 11 months ago

The time to save a program is not after it shuts down, rather when it's risking shutting down. While the efforts to save what appears to be a good program are needed, it looks to me like it's more about politics and public image than it is helping minority kids.

What I'd like to know is, since it was included in the article and appears to be relevant, why did the Albany First Tee not receive funding from the national organization, if they do indeed fund local chapters? Or, does the National organization not fund local chapters and is this a dig at them?

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43cop 1 year, 11 months ago

J.D., hope you read this one along with the days off article for county employees. I rest my case, wasted money instead of helping the people that actually work for the county. The concept was a good one, but one million dollars for tax monies, a total waste. Get your contributors together or get "Bodine", Richard and Lamar to chip in one million.

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Justice4Moma 1 year, 11 months ago

Here we go again with the race thingie.I am so tired of This comming up,it is where black people have more rights than anyone else.Well i am diabled,and dangit i have rights to. When does anyone in Albany do anything for the Disabled.I am not talking about all the taxpayers,i am talking about our so called Leaders.I did not ask to become disabled.And i would let anyone walk in my shoes right now,and see not only how i have been treated,but others that are to scared to say anything about it.Most people talk about SS,well if our Leaders would not have started this thing in the first place,and money was not taken to go in the SS,and us being told when we get older,we will have that to count on.Look around at the stores,who is spending money,who is eating good,who has more rights than most?It is not the elderley,not the disabled.They wanted to give me 16 dollars a month food stamps,well i told them to keep them.It would take that much money to go to the store in gas.I know alot take advantage of the system,but what some of you dont know,is the system takes advantage of us sometimes.We did not ask to be this way.But we are.And we need help.Tthere are some elderley black people that need help,for they are diabled,so dont call me any names because i am disabled.I dont ask for pity.I ask for all our so called leaders take a look at the diabled,the elderley,and the Vets,that are here and need help.Dont let Greed get in the way of helping us.And dont let your good ole boy system put us down.Stop the hate on Race.Most disabled do not say anything,for the reason some people think we are trying to get something for nothing.No you dont owe me anything.But our Leaders do.They took it from us all.And now disabled people are scared to say anything for the fact that so many abuse the system,and we do have feelings when we here people putting us down because we worked,but no longer can. Now put that in your race pipe and smoke it.

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