Numerous golfers spoke about the course’s benefits to the economy, school system and community as a whole. After also hearing about the financial struggles facing the golf course, Mayor Scott Mangold said he wants a committee to examine the golf club’s funding request and operating budget in more detail.
Made up of councilmen, city staff and golf board members, Mangold tasked the emerging committee with looking at ways to cut costs, brainstorming promotional ideas and considering the city’s role in funding the golf course.
“If you’re doing everything you can to help yourself, I think the citizens of Powell would be more receptive to having some of their tax dollars go out to help the golf course,” Mangold said.
The city owns the 18-hole golf course, clubhouse and some other buildings, but the independent golf board manages the facility, said Annette Thorington, city finance director.
From its current budget, the city approved $60,000 for the golf course in June — half of the golf club’s original $120,000 request. Also in June, councilmen provided an additional $5,000 from the fiscal year 2010-11 budget, bringing its total contribution for the golf course to $55,000 in last year’s budget cycle.
Strapped with financial woes following a dreary spring, the golf club needs additional funding to make it through this year, said Greg Toland, golf board member.
“We have no other choice. We have $15,000 worth in bills that we’re not going to be able to cover at this point in time,” Toland told the council. “In previous years, we’ve always borrowed money from the year coming to pay the final part of the year that we’re in … our goal was to bring that down, but the problem was, this year we had that spring that wasn’t financially viable for us.”
In April, the golf club’s revenue was down 63 percent from the previous year; May numbers declined by 26 percent, Toland told councilmen earlier this year.
The one-time request of $55,000 would get the golf club through the end of the year, he said.
“Previously, we were able to go to the bank. That’s not an option anymore. What I’m asking for is that money to get us through this,” Toland said.
The golf board readjusted the budget several times to make up for the dreary spring’s financial loss, “but our budget was already so lean as it was,” Toland said.
Toland said the golf club board wants to break the cycle of borrowing money from the next year’s budget, something that’s happened over the past five or six years.
“Once we get caught up, the goal is, obviously, never to get behind again,” Toland said.
Mayor Mangold and councilmen asked golfers how they could bring operating costs down at the course. The mayor pointed to the course’s high electricity bills, while Councilman Jim Hillberry questioned the unemployment fees given to staff.
Mangold suggested talking to Garland Light and Power about doing an energy audit and looking at the operating budget in more depth to see what can be cut. Every year at budget times, Mangold said he looks at what other cities and counties in Wyoming contribute to golf courses.
Incidentally, the golf request on Monday night’s agenda immediately followed the city’s audit report. Though given a clean bill of financial health, the city’s general fund — where additional golf funding would come from — is down from the previous year.
“We just heard our budget report, and we heard that our general fund is down, that it’s stressed,” Mangold said, then added, “we want to see the golf course continue to be successful.”
Around 30 area residents also interested in the course’s success came to Monday night’s meeting in support of the Powell Golf Club’s funding request.
Dr. Mike Bohlman said a golf course is a key amenity to attract new people to the community. When he was interviewing at Powell Valley Healthcare, his recruitment dinner was hosted at the golf club. Bohlman noted that he had a choice of where to go as a doctor, and “if there wouldn’t have been a golf course, I don’t know if I would have moved here. “I think a golf course is a big pull for a community.”
The golf club also makes an effort to attract visitors and host tournaments to bring in golfers from around the region, which helps the local economy, Bohlman said.
Two members of Powell High School’s state championship team spoke to the council about how much they value and appreciate the golf course. It was the first Class 3A state title in the school’s history.
“Having a good facility to practice on really helps our team,” said Brian Morse, a PHS senior golfer who earned All State honors this season.
“We’d like to keep it that way,” he added.
The course’s condition is appreciated, and other teams comment that Powell’s course is better than others in the state, said Bowen Prestwich, who claimed top individual honors in Class 3A.
PHS coach Troy Hildebrand told the council that the golf course is accommodating and welcoming to student athletes.
During the spring season and fall seasons, the golf club allows PHS teams to practice for free, Hildebrand said.
Paul Prestwich, Northwest College president and Bowen’s father, called the course a great asset for the college and Powell community. Tim Fagnant, who teaches at Powell Middle School, also said the golf course is valuable to his students, who are getting exposure to the lifetime sport at a young age.
Jerry Linsdau said there’s a misconception in Powell that only rich people play golf.
“I have to charge it to my credit card every year,” he said, noting he played more than 80 rounds of golf this year. “It’s something I really enjoy, and I hope we can keep it going.”
Hildebrand said the golf board has worked hard to get ahead, but said so much of the course’s revenue is dictated by the weather.
He also added there are various promotions to attract new members to the golf club.
“If we could get one step ahead of the ball for a change, I really think it would put us in a good position,” he said.
Hildebrand added that all of the town’s amenities, such as the Powell Aquatic Center, Plaza Diane and parks, are great for Powell.
“We tout the benefits of a golf course on the council,” Mangold said. “We know the benefits. We know it is an amenity for the community to have a golf course.”
Mangold said the council didn’t have enough information to act on the $55,000 request Monday night, but said when the committee comes back with a recommendation at the next council meeting on Nov. 7, “We should be able to tell you yes or no.”