Council gives mayor green light on golf pro


During its first meeting of the year, the new Amsterdam Common Council passed two resolutions authorizing the mayor to reinstate contracts with Joseph Merendo and Laura Elmendorf.

Merendo was the course's golf professional until his contract expired at the end of October, and Elmendorf was the course's concessionaire. Her contract expired the first of the year.

According to the past three filed annual update documents, Amsterdam's Municipal Golf Course has underperformed, having had the city bail it out on at least one occasion by transferring money to the commission account from the general fund.

In hopes of reiginiting the course's production, the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course Commission, under instruction of the Common Council, implemented a three-prong system to open the golf professional, concessionaire and maintenance department positions instead of renewing the contracts already held with the city.

Chairman Michael Bucciferro released requests for proposal and received six responses by the late November due date. Those include: Merendo, Elmendorf, Jonathan Hines, Richard Scott, Shawn Bond and Darren Graf.

Bucciferro had said he intends to hold interviews with them shortly after the new year, but if the mayor brings Merendo and Elmendorf back, the positions those who responded to the RFP for will have been filled.

Merendo had been contracted as the course's golf professional for more than 30 years and there have been several efforts to retain his job, including filing a lawsuit against the city and commission, speaking out at public forums, and holding a "Rehire Joe the Pro" fundraiser which attracted hundreds of people.

Elmendorf's resolution acknowledges she submitted an RFP to the Golf Commission and proposes that her contract be for five years, beginning Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2019, with an automatic three-year extension. The resolution says that a contract will be drawn up and presented at the next Common Council meeting, but gives Elmendorf the security to book future banquet dates.

Merendo's resolution, attached to a contract between he and the city, simply proposes Merendo return as the golf professional.

The resolutions passed do not bring the pair back to the course, but allow Mayor Ann Thane to sign the contract if she wishes, which would do just that.

However, Thane said she was "blind-sided" and had no knowledge of the resolutions until the meeting.

"I would have appreciated being part of that discussion," Thane said. "I have to go back and take action on my end. So we'll see where we go with that."

Elmendorf's contract will include a lowered fee that she pays to the city each year by about $10,000.

"That I don't have an issue with, especially when she had made the council aware as to what her investment is," Thane said. "We want to work with her."

Thane's priority, she said, is the length of the contract proposed.

"My concern would come with the length of the contract that's being offered, because it's five years with a mandatory three-year extension," Thane said. "With that, I cannot be so certain is in the best interests of the taxpayers. I have to look at that. I have to think about that one."

Thane has the authority to not sign the contract.

"The mayor negotiates contracts and I haven't had a discussion with Ms. Elmendorf and perhaps she would accept slightly tweaked terms," Thane said. "So I first and foremost will talk to Laura and see if we might get some more reasonable terms that work for her and the city."

After the meeting, Elmendorf said she is excited to possibly return to the course.

"I'm just hoping for a good golf season," Elmendorf said. "I hope the snow goes away soon so we can get back out there."