Commission says Muni memberships down


The Amsterdam Golf Comm-ission determined Monday that because of a pending court case and local golfers who have already switched courses, Muni will see a decrease in membership this season.

One commissioner, David Putman, said it could potentially put them at a $35,000 deficit.

"This year is going to be a waste," commissioner Pam Ritter said. "It's basically whatever gets salvaged, gets salvaged."

New golf commission chairwoman Michele Russo said a pending Supreme Court decision is a big variable in how the Muni season will unfold.

"At this rate, we just have to wait for the judge to make a decision on a dispute between the mayor and the Common Council," Russo said.

The commission recently recommended the council hire Richard Scott, the golf pro at Fox Run Golf Club in Johnstown, as the pro at Muni. Instead, the council chose to reinstate Joseph Merendo. He has been the golf pro at the course for more than 30 years and several aldermen ran for office on the promise they would help retain his job.

Mayor Ann Thane, however, has sided with the commission in its recommendation and refused to sign Merendo's contract. The aldermen passed a resolution that allowed Deputy Mayor Diane Hatzenbuhler to sign it instead and the parties are now in court over the matter.

The case affects the golf course because the golf commission isn't sure where the golf carts will come from.

Russo said they're prepared either way, however.

If the decision lands in Merendo's favor, the course will utilize the carts he owns.

If the decision ends in the mayor's favor, Thane has already proposed to set aside $35,000 to lease golf carts. The transaction is projected to bring in $80,000 of revenue to be used to bring professionals to the course and increase staffing and marketing.

Russo said they can even operate without a pro if it comes down to it.

"Oh yeah," Russo said. "Definitely. We can operate without a pro. If the council approves the resolution for golf carts, we can use that. We can use cashiers to take over responsibilities of the pro and we'll have the ranger."

But without Merendo, Putman said, "realistically," they're going to see a decline in their already scarce fund balance.

"We could have had an $11,000 surplus if we didn't lose members," Putman said. "But, realistically, we're going to probably lose 5 percent of our members. With the negative publicity, we'll probably collect 20 percent less of our greens fees."

Russo added it might as well be a private golf course.

Laura Elmendorf, contracted concessionaire at Muni, said that to help retain members the commission should consider dropping rates.

Though Russo said the commission's final recommendation to the council is to keep rates the same, board liaison and 1st Ward Alderman Edward Russo said the Common Council may consider lowering them.

One seat remains to be filled on the five-person commission. Michele Russo was voted chairwoman during the meeting and new member Ritter is now vice chairwoman. Rodney Wojnar was also appointed to the commission.

Michele Russo said there has been some interest and she will be speaking with the mayor to discuss the last seat.

Montgomery County Supreme Court Judge Joseph M. Sise is scheduled to issue a decision on the court case Tuesday, April 1.

The commission scheduled a meeting for Monday, April 7, at 6 p.m. in the annex building. However the case is decided will determine the commission's next step.