By ALISSA SCOTT
The chairman of Amsterdam's Golf Commission claimed Wednesday that "Joe the Pro" has said he has no interest in returning to the city's golf course once his contract expires Oct. 31.
This morning, however, Joseph Merendo, who has been the professional at the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course for decades, said he's never said any such thing. However, he wouldn't say if he plans to bid on a new contract.
"How can they take words out of my head?" Merendo said. "Not even out of my mouth; out of my head."
The commission has decided to open up the golf course's professional and other contracted positions to an open bid competition. Because of what has been described as the under-performance of the course, the commission has considered restructuring its framework based on a three-prong system: Replace the professional, replace the concessionaire, and replace the maintenance department.
While Merendo's contract ends at the end of the month, a recent addendum to the document extended the deadline for bids until Nov. 20.
Many golfers have expressed their support for Merendo -- popularly known as "Joe the Pro" -- and are upset not only that he may not be rehired, but that he has to bid on his position.
Commission Chairman Michael Bucciferro said the move against Merendo is not personal, and that if he wishes to be involved with the course, which Bucciferro said Merendo told him he does not, he must submit a request for proposal.
"I know these are tough times," Bucciferro said. "Believe me I know it. ... It's something I think the committee is committed to and we truly hope that this will sustain the golf course for a long, long time and I truly think it will."
Merendo said he has decided to pick up an RFP and doesn't know where the commission gets its information from because they haven't "interviewed" him.
Merendo said because the deadline has been extended, he has more time to pick up an RFP. He isn't sure if he will return it to the commission once he reads it over, however.
Merendo first worked at the course in 1972 when he returned from serving in the Vietnam War, and aside a brief, four-year hiatus during which he switched courses, he's been there ever since.
During his contract with the city, he has built relationships with course members. Many of those, according to various "Joe the Pro" supporters, will follow Merendo to his next course if he isn't re-signed.
Dave Putman, commission member, noted that Merendo was not present at the meeting, nor has he been at any in the past.
Mayor Ann Thane sent Merendo a brief letter dated Oct. 4 confirming the expiration of his contract.
"Effective Oct. 31, 2013, your contract with the city of Amsterdam is completed," the letter reads. "I am sending this notification to you to cancel your contract in writing based on paragraph 28 of the contract. Thank you for your years of service to the Amsterdam Municipal Course and its members. The city has recently issued a request for proposals regarding various aspects of the golf course operations, I invite you to submit a proposal for consideration."
Paragraph 28 of the contract cites a carryover provision that transforms the contract into a month-to-month agreement until it is canceled in writing.
Thane is the only one with authority to sign contracts, or in this case to renew a contract, council liaison Gina DeRossi said.
With Merendo's contract expiring Oct. 31, but the commission accepting bids until Nov. 20, some are concerned about what happens at the golf course starting in November.
Several members of the public who attended Wednesday's meeting asked what would happened to the course while there isn't any supervision, citing possible "turmoil" and a "free-for-all."
Bucciferro said he doesn't think it will come to that, but because the carts belong to Merendo, golfers without carts will be unable to rent them.
"After Nov. 1, they'll just walk the course," Bucciferro said.
The RFP is currently displayed on the home page of the golf course's website, amsterdammuni.com, and the commission will soon be uploading its expense and revenue reports as well.
According to yearly reports provided by Bucciferro, the year end total for April 12 through Nov. 30, 2011 was $503,148.50; for March 17 through Nov. 30, 2012, the total was $505,976; and for April 1 until Oct. 1 of this year, though the season has not yet finished, the total is $487,248.90.
The commission set its next meeting for Nov. 20, the date the RFPs are due, to begin its review.