Providence parks commission to vote on golf course contract

PROVIDENCE MAYOR Jorge O. Elorza, pictured, serves as Board of Park Commissioners chairman, which is scheduled to vote on a 10-year management contract for Triggs Memorial Golf Course on Wednesday. / PBN FILE PHOTO/STEPHANIE ALVAREZ EWENS

PROVIDENCE – The Board of Park Commissioners is scheduled to discuss and potentially vote on the next 10-year contract for the management of the city-owned Triggs Memorial Golf Course. 

An agenda item for Wednesday’s meeting, scheduled for 9 a.m. at the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center, would authorize Parks Superintendent Wendy Nilsson “to accept [the] bid proposal and negotiate [a] 10-year lease…with FCG Associates,” the private partnership that has managed the course since 1990. 

The city put out requests for proposals in the run-up to the expiration of the current contract, which expires on Dec. 31, 2022. Besides FCG, there were two other proposals submitted before the Sept. 12 deadline, one from Northeast Golf Co. and the other from the nonprofit Rhode Island Golf Association. 

RIGA spokesperson, Bill Fischer, said the association “has a lot of outstanding questions” about the procurement process and the decisions leading up to the recommendation that the contract stay with FCG.

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Triggs features prominently within the city’s landscape, said Fischer, who advocated for greater public engagement and community dialogue.

“We don’t know where public input intersects in this process,” he said, noting that RIGA submitted the highest bid for the contract. “[Our aim] is to build community in a meaningful way. “We just ask for a transparent process.”

FCG, which according to its bid proposal has already made $2.5 million in capital improvements since taking over operations, is moving to renew its current contract, proposing approximately $3 million in payments over 10 years and $1.4 million in capital improvements. 

Among the FCG competitors, the RIGA proposal stood out for its commitment to invest about $8 million in capital improvements over the life of the lease. RIGA received public support from Laborers’ Local 271, who said they would partner with RIGA to create Golf Works Providence, an educational program “to teach all aspects of the golf industry,” according to a press release. 

“RIGA is uniquely positioned to elevate Triggs to the next level,” said Michael Sabitoni, president of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council and business manager for Laborers’ Local 271. “We are hopeful decision makers will look favorably upon the RIGA bid.” 

In response to the agenda release, state Sen. Frank A. Ciccone III, D-Providence, whose district includes Triggs Memorial Golf Course, released a statement that was highly critical of the bidding process. He has formally requested the vote be tabled until more stakeholder input can take place. 

Ciccone went as far as to wonder whether there was political favoritism at play. 

“They have not done anything in the last 30 years over there. And if this is a competitive bid, why are there rumors that it is a done deal?” he asked. “To me, something looks wrong.” 

Ciccone said he was unhappy with the FCB performance to date. 

“If somebody is going to get another 10-year deal, and their performance has been terrible, [then] it looks like a money grab,” he said, adding that he felt the process was being rushed. 

“Give the people an opportunity for a true evaluation and for the residents of the area to speak up,” he said. 

A request for comment sent Tuesday to Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, who also serves as parks commission chairman, was not immediately returned. FCG principal and general manager of Triggs, Karl Augenstein, declined to comment until after the Wednesday meeting. 

RIGA sent out a press release last week stating their assumption there would be public testimony taken during Wednesday’s hearing. However, Nilsson reportedly told local website Golfnewsri.com on Monday that is not the case. 

“The meeting is open to the public, but it is not a hearing,” she said. “There will be no public testimony or comments taken.” 

(Christopher Allen is a PBN staff writer. You may contact him at Allen@PBN.com) 

 

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