July 3, 2012 10:11:15 AM
It was the best plan 14 months ago.
It remains the best plan today.
Those who have followed the plight of the Columbus Country Club recall that 14 months ago East Mississippi Community College was poised to solve the 89-year old club's terminal financial woes by purchasing the property. Ostensibly, EMCC would have used the facility not only to enhance its hotel and restaurant and culinary arts programs but to create new areas of such as a turf management program.
No sooner did that glimmer of hope emerge than it was snuffed out. On April 25, 2011, two weeks after EMCC's Board voted 6-5 to make an offer for the club, the Board reversed itself. It was a unanimous vote, which means a half-dozen Board members got religion in a hurry. What transpired within that two-week span is left to conjecture, although one Board member said at the time that there was some mood among the school's constituents that buying the property would be tantamount to "bailing out the fat cats.''
There was not then, nor has there ever been, much support for bailing out bloated felines.
In some quarters, there was a sentiment that it would be best to let the Columbus Country Club fall into ruin, more or less out of spite. The idea of the privileged few who, for years, lorded it over their less affluent neighbors getting their come-uppance is gratifying to that portion of the populous.
But the flaw in that sort of reasoning is obvious. First, letting the Country Club sink in ruin does nothing to damage the perceived "fat cats.'' If they were ever inclined to sneer at the great unwashed (a dubious proposition to begin with), they can simply do it from another vantage, perhaps from the verandahs of their great estates. Second, in letting the club decline into an eyesore or be truncated to the point where it converted to an apartment complex, the residents of Columbus lose what has the potential to be a great resource of the community.
The idea that the EMCC Board was persuaded to have a change of heart because of an anti-elitist groundswell is probably overstated. Most likely, there were other considerations that came into play. The very close nature of the original vote (which came down to the president's vote) may have given the Board pause. Perhaps that subsequent unanimous vote against making a bid for the country club was not so much a "no'' as it was a "not yet.''
This view gains credence as talk begins to circulate the EMCC may be considering another possible purchase of the property. EMCC President Dr. Rick Young spoke without reservation about the school's interest in the country club during Monday's Lowndes County Supervisors meeting.
It makes sense for EMCC, whose dynamic growth puts it in a position to acquire a valuable asset in what remains very much a buyer's market.
It makes sense for the money-hemorrhaging Country Club, whose amenities would be preserved.
But most of all, it makes sense for the residents of Columbus, who would have access to those amenities that were once the exclusive domain of those you-know-whats.
Even the most spiteful of residents have to like that.