On Monday night, the Powell City Council is slated to consider extending the club’s agreement. The city of Powell owns the 18-hole golf course, and the club manages it.
“We need the extension. Our members are saying, ‘Why would we pay for next year? We don’t even know what’s going to happen,’” said Susan VandenBoom, the golf board’s treasurer/secretary, during a work session with councilmen last week.
Management and funding for the course have become points of contention for the council. As the city faces its own budget woes, councilmen have grappled with how much money to provide for the municipal course.
“What we’re trying to figure out ... not what we can do with the golf course, but how we can help the golf course,” said Mayor Scott Mangold. “We’re running into a situation where, as the city, the finances aren’t looking that good. And the golf course needs financing, and we may not be that person anymore.”
During a last week’s work session, councilmen and golf leaders discussed the course’s tight budget, the possibility of lowering rates, improving marketing efforts, management, maintenance and the uncertain future.
Councilmen want to see lower rates for local residents, but golf club leaders said previous discounts have resulted in lower revenues, further dampening an already cash-strapped course.
The golf club is already operating on a thin budget and depends on donations just to purchase fertilizer, said Greg Toland, board president.
“I just want you to know, we’re not going out and spending money frivolously on anything that we need. We’re making do with what we have, and have been for quite a while,” Toland said
With uncertainty in funding this year, “We’ve revised our budget three times ... it’s been rebudgeted and rebudgeted and rebudgeted. What we have is nothing left.”
Toland said the golf club could try lower rates, as councilmen have requested, but asked if the city would help if new rates resulted in lower revenues.
“We’d be willing to try it, but if we are short — which is what we’re concerned about — will you make up the difference? Would you cover that?” asked Toland.
He said the safest option for the course is to stay at its current rates, but said the club may be willing to risk lowering its rates if the city helped back them up. On the flip side, Toland said if the club made money by lowering rates, then — under the city’s direction — would give money back to the city or use it toward reducing debt.
The state doesn’t provide any guarantees in funding for municipalities, City Administrator Zane Logan noted. Councilmen again expressed concern about the city’s operating budget and future. Councilman Don Hillman said the general fund reserves have gone from $3 million to $1 million in the past four years. He said if it gets worse, then city services could go down.
“I want a golf course just as bad as anybody. I want an 18-hole golf course. But I can see us getting into a wreck down the road. How are we going to do this?” he asked. “If the city doesn’t have money ...”
Hillman added that he understands the golf club is trying and is struggling.
“We still love to run the golf course, we still think the golf course appreciates all the stuff you have done,” Toland said. “But what it came down to, is we don’t have any cushion (in the budget). We really don’t.”
Mangold encouraged the golf club to look at doing things differently. He suggested doing more to market the course by hosting events or brainstorming new ways attract more Powell people there.
“Once they get out there, I think that’s the hook. You’ve got a beautiful product,” Mangold said.
Councilman Myron Heny asked why the city’s website doesn’t provide a link to the Powell Golf Course’s site, noting it’s a free marketing tool.
Mangold said some citizens in Powell are upset that the city is subsidizing a course for only a few members.
This year, the course has 326 members, mostly through family memberships, VandenBoom said.
Toland said the club seeks to involve a variety of residents from throughout the community.
The Powell City Council meets at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 20 at City Hall.