Putting Nassau County Florida news in the light.

On Thursday, the city’s Golf Course Advisory Board established new leadership, agreed to regularly review profit and loss reports from commercial management company Billy Casper Golf, and planned to attend — and speak at — City Commission meetings to renew interest in the Fernandina Beach Golf Club among elected officials and the public.

Chris Occhuzio, left, and Grier Newlin, right, ride in a new golf cart at the city course. The carts were purchased for $200,000 with a loan from the city's utility reserve fund.

Chris Occhuizzo, left, and Grier Newlin, right, head to the driving range in one of the new golf carts at the city course last month. The carts were purchased for $200,000 with a loan from the city’s utility reserve fund. “They’re great, we needed them,” said Mr. Newlin.

Resident Mike Meadows, who lives near the course and was the only member of the public to attend the meeting (held at City Hall in the second floor conference room), called for public outreach and suggested that at least one member of the advisory group attend commission meetings.

Mr. Meadows also asked the board to get creative on ways to attract attention. While the Womens and Mens Golf Associations drew about 100 people to the clubhouse for a City Commission candidate forum late last year — many of them non-golfers — he issued a call for more events to showcase the facility, which has a full-service restaurant, pro shop, and public meeting space overlooking the course, as well as 27 holes and a driving range.

“One of the things that’s missing is more advocacy,” said Mr. Meadows. “We have a great golf course here…we don’t have golfers on the (City) Commission.”

City Commissioner Johnny Miller, the board’s liason, did not attend the meeting. There was discussion about changing the time of the meeting to accommodate his schedule. Mr. Miller tends bar during the day at the Palace Saloon in downtown Fernandina Beach. (Note The Arts and Culture Nassau board has held at least one official meeting at The Loop Pizza Grill on Sadler Rd.)

Revenue at the municipal course is down since the start of the Fiscal Year, Oct. 1, due to storms, rain, and cold temperatures, said Manager Steve Murphy in a conversation after the meeting. The budget for Fiscal Year 2017-2018 is approximately $1.35 million, he said.

Mr. Murphy announced new promotions, including a Thursday special — the slowest play day at the course — that knocks $10 off the price of an 18-hole round for a tee time played before 8:00 a.m. He said all promotions must be approved by Billy Casper Golf and that “canned” flyers are offered by the organization’s marketing department.

He said the Golf Course sold eight holiday gift baskets — several to people who live out of town — at $65 each that included a round of golf, lunch, balls, a towel, hat, and marker.

Upcoming Work¬†Mr. Murphy said a “brush hog” is coming next week and work to remove twigs and shrubbery along the course. “It will probably be out there for a month to the annoyance of the golfers but when it’s done they’ll be very happy,” he said.

Mr. Murphy said herbicides will be sprayed on the greens to remove sprouts of rye grass but the effort first requires five straight days of temperatures in the high 60s and low 70s. He said it has been too cold and spraying now would be, “a waste of money.”

At the Golf Course Advisory Board meeting held Thursday in the second floor conference room at City Hall.

At the Golf Course Advisory Board meeting held Thursday in the second floor conference room at City Hall.

There was discussion about sand traps. While Mr. Murphy said he likes them and that “there’s no bounce on the putters,” he understands players seek change. This spring, there are plans to make ‘fluffy sand’ — “that you guys like”, he said.
A report from the Ladies’ Golf Association asked about wet conditions that frequently close the driving range. Mr. Murphy said the water is from Egans Creek. It is dammed and prevents water from flowing, he said, “So it goes sideways.” Mr. Murphy said drains are not clogged.

The LGA also said the outside of the clubhouse needs fresh paint. Interiors, the members messaged, were painted by husbands with supplied paint and, they suggested, perhaps the mens league can take over the exterior work.
Mr. Murphy said he would ask city Maintenance Director Jeremiah Glisson about the project. He also said the clubhouse requires new windows and three new doors.

Can anything be done about the bumpy cart passes? Yes, said Mr. Murphy — for one million dollars.

Mr. Murphy said he has taken over some administrative assignments, including invoicing and payroll, from Superintendent Shannon Wheeler to give him more time to work with maintenance staff on the course. Mr. Murphy said the course employs seven people who care for 27 holes.

Mr. Murphy said Billy Casper Golf has three years left on its five-year management agreement with the city with an option to renew in 2020.

Leadership The board voted Harry Kegler as chair, Phil Jones as vice chair, and Lee Murray as secretary, a post everyone was reluctant to take. Members wanted to know: What happened to the City Hall employee that used to transcribe the meeting? The Independent reached out to City Clerk Caroline Best for an answer. She said by email Thursday:

“Advisory Boards have secretarial positions and staff liaisons. One of these two positions is customarily responsible for transcribing meeting minutes.

Ms. Cathy Sabattini was hired part time (10/08/1999) by (former) City Clerk Vicki P. Cannon to transcribe City Commission Meeting minutes only. Ms. Sabattini worked from home and as she became more proficient she desired more work in order to reach her part-time hour quota. City Clerk Cannon began to allow Ms. Sabattini to transcribe meeting minutes for Advisory Boards with the understanding City Commission Meeting minutes were her chief priority. As the years progressed Ms. Sabattini took on more and more Advisory Board meeting minutes to the point Advisory Board secretaries and staff liaisons forgot that transcribing minutes was their responsibility.

Ms. Sabattini was hired full time (10/19/2015) by City Clerk Caroline Best as a Staff Assistant whose job description did not include transcribing meeting minutes for Advisory Boards. Ms. Sabattini transferred to Facilities Maintenance (11/20/2016) at which time the task of transcribing Advisory Board minutes was shifted to the appropriate Advisory Board personnel.”


The Golf Club Advisory Board members include Claude Hartley, Harry Kegler, Lee Murray, Jane Paige, and Philip Jones. The city number to reach the board is (904) 310-3175.