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Sunday, October 26, 2014
Amsterdam, NY ,
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Letter to the editor

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 - Updated: 7:44 AM

What's best for Muni?

To the editor:

Having read the deliberations at recent Common Council meetings surrounding the future of the city's golf course, I'd like to thank the golf commission volunteers for their work the past several months in your effort to rectify the serious financial problems the golf course faces.

Having reviewed the golf course's financial statements for the past several years, the golf course's financial situation is dire. It is a critical time for the golf course and, therefore, necessary that the council fulfill its fiduciary responsibility and reconsider options put forth by the Golf Commission to change how the golf course operates.

"Staying the course," as the council voted to do at last week, will likely yield continued operating losses which means a bad outcome for the golf course. The golf course is a gem but lack of financial resources hasn't allowed desired repairs to occur despite excellent efforts by the maintenance crews.

Now, this great asset is showing noticeable signs of decay which, if left to continue, could deteriorate to a point from which it might not recover.

The fact is the golf course continues to lose money and expenses can only be cut so deep. At a minimum, the course needs to generate a small surplus. In that regard, the RFP responses submitted by interested candidates showed the business plan put forth by PGA professional Rich Scott would result in the best outcome for the golf course by getting it back to generating a surplus.

Staying the course is simply bad for taxpayers and the golf course.

A council member remarked in this newspaper how the golf course is "self-sustaining" and is not costing the city money but if the "golf fund" has insufficient funds to conduct needed improvements and the city has to bond improvements, a golf course that continues to lose money won't have the money to repay the city. Accordingly, who else but the taxpayer ends up paying?

The solution to the golf course's financial woes is, therefore, revenue generation.

While the golf population has declined throughout the country and at Muni the past several years, there are still plenty of golfers looking for a good course to play in our area. Attracting those prospects requires aggressive new ideas, a tidy golf course and a pleasant golfing experience.

The RFP process was deemed "illegal" by the current council and can be ignored by the council as is their prerogative. However, the results of the RFP cannot and should not be ignored.

As a golfer and taxpayer in the city, it is frustrating the commission's course of action, based on hundreds of hours of interviews and guidance from PGA Section experts with decades of successful experience in operating golf courses, isn't being embraced ... or even considered by the council.

Again, it remains the council's fiduciary responsibility to do what is right for taxpayers and the golf course.

Finally, I appreciate the emotion surrounding those preferring to not see any changes with course operation and to also retain Joe Merendo as the pro. Joe has been the city's pro for decades and he has been great to my young son who also plays at Muni.

Respectfully, the desire to "take care of Joe" is understood and important, but not the priority here. The council's desire to take care of Joe is a matter which could be handled separately.

The decision as to who can restore this long-standing, but deteriorating, asset to profitability is the decision that's paramount if the golf course is to survive.

In that regard, I ask the city's elected officials to choose to collaborate and not ignore the results of the RFP which show a candidate exists in Mr. Scott who can restore the golf course to generating a surplus and also grow the game.

Otherwise, there may not be a golf course in a few years over which to deliberate. The future of the golf course cannot afford an incorrect decision here. Please get it right.

Jim Phelps,

Amsterdam

     

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