Fate of city’s golf agreement uncertain

Published 10:51 am Wednesday, November 28, 2018

During Monday’s Franklin City Council meeting, Councilman Greg McLemore made a motion to do away with an agreement between the city and the Cypress Cove Country Club that had allowed Franklin residents to play golf on the club’s greens at a reduced cost. However, the motion failed in a 3-3 tie vote.

The original agreement, enacted in November 2017, had been among the city, the country club and Southampton County. It had required each locality to contribute $30,000 to the country club, and in return, its residents were allowed to play golf for $25 per round. The Southampton County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 on Monday with one abstention to approve a modified version of the agreement, which is now just between the county and the country club, allowing Franklin to renegotiate its own agreement separately. The Board of Supervisors’ new agreement reduces the county’s contribution to $25,000, with the per-round cost to residents increasing to $27.50 for weekdays and $32.50 for weekends.

Voting with McLemore to terminate the agreement were Councilman Bobby Cutchins, who had seconded the motion, and Councilwoman Wynndolyn Copeland. Voting against were Vice Mayor Barry Cheatham and Councilmen Linwood Johnson and Benny Burgess. Mayor Frank Rabil abstained on the grounds that he serves on the country club’s asset board, though City Attorney H. Taylor Williams IV said he did not feel this would necessarily be a conflict of interest, since the club’s operating board, not the asset board, handles the agreement.

“We tried it, and it didn’t work well for us,” McLemore said. “So, I don’t see why we have any obligation to do it again.”

Data provided by the country club to each locality in October indicated that Franklin and Southampton County residents have collectively played a total of 1,124 rounds of golf from the date the agreement went into effect through Sept. 15 of this year. A discussion of the matter during the Southampton County Board of Supervisors’ October meeting revealed the number of rounds played by just Franklin residents to be 246, or roughly 21.8 percent of the 1,124.

Cheatham said he felt the agreement was beneficial to the city in that it “keeps an asset here” but said he did not feel that Franklin should pay as much as Southampton County. Burgess said he would like to see the city’s Parks and Recreation Department put forward a plan to get city residents to take advantage of the agreement if it is renewed.

Despite the failure of McLemore’s motion, no one made any motions to re-enact or modify the agreement either. As a result, Franklin’s participation in the original one-year agreement will still terminate automatically at the end of November, unless the council takes action between now and the end of the month.

The existing agreement also allows area high schools to field golf teams for practice and matches at no cost. Travis Felts, principal of Franklin High School, said in October that without the agreement in place, his school would have had to pay the country club $500 this school year to field its team.

That said, the 2018-2019 school year is the first time FHS has fielded a golf team since 2015. In 2015 and prior, the school only had to pay the country club a $100 driving range fee. This year, FHS’s golf team has four players, while teams at Southampton High School and Southampton Academy each have 11 players.