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October 20, 2011 8:28 am

Golf course seeks additional $55,000 from city

Written by Tessa Schweigert

Low revenues due to cool, wet spring weather are blamed for the Powell golf course’s request for an additional $55,000 from the Powell City Council. This photo shows the view from the tee box at Hole No. 10. Low revenues due to cool, wet spring weather are blamed for the Powell golf course’s request for an additional $55,000 from the Powell City Council. This photo shows the view from the tee box at Hole No. 10. Tribune photo by Toby Bonner

A range of local golfers — from young to old, competitive to casual, wealthy to low-income — crowded the council chambers Monday night, asking the Powell City Council for an additional $55,000 to help the Powell Golf Club make ends meet.

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.”

10 comments

  • Comment Link October 20, 2011 9:20 am posted by 68ford

    I believe in the need to have a golf course, but I don't see how the city can put any more money into it. The city's money is tight and will likely get tighter with the Aquatic Center sucking money out of the general fund.
    Maybe it is time for the golf board to get out and do some fundraisers and benefit auctions on their own. It is NOT time for the city to cough up more money they don't have.

  • Comment Link October 20, 2011 4:15 pm posted by Disgusted taxpayer

    How many times can you people who want..want..want squeeze a turnip for blood? Powell should have never been involved in any silly goof course,If people want to play cow pasture pool,then those people need to pay for it,not the rest of us.I call this POOR MONEY MANAGEMENT and no amount of excuses can CYA.

  • Comment Link October 20, 2011 4:33 pm posted by curmudgy

    Maybe the city could cut down on it's electric bill by dimming the new streetlights on Bent Street

  • Comment Link October 20, 2011 7:15 pm posted by T

    The math shows it does nothing for the local economy.It needs to pay it's way or go.

  • Comment Link October 21, 2011 8:00 am posted by Salty Dawg

    I say those that use this golf course can pay to keep it open if they want it,the rest of us who don't use it shouldn't have to pay for it.Just like the fiasco now over an equestrian center for Cody,those who want it should pay for it,not everyone else.How about people start living within their means and stop pretending there is a bubble over this county.

  • Comment Link October 21, 2011 10:21 am posted by Golfer forever

    Eyes bigger than their wallet? This group is always saying "we just need to get ahead once." Year after year after year.

  • Comment Link October 21, 2011 6:48 pm posted by X-Golfer

    When the membership fee was at a reasonable price,their were many more joining members.Now that the fee is based on business men and women wages not the average hard working man/woman wage,it's impossible for so many to sit down and write a check or throw the plastic down and say "Thank you I'll see you on the course". Golf used to be a relaxing,family oriented thing to do, but now it's just a ? of,SHOULD WE,WOULD WE,or COULD WE justify the cost of throwing a hard earned dollar into maybe six months of golf.Golf was a sport that a person didn't have to question themselves about as to wether they could afford it or not in Powell.To top it all off,the golf course cries each year after year to the city about their financial problems and still remains to raise their membership fee higher each year.The membership fee is why they are not attracting any new members and why the previous members do not return.I'm proud to say, I'm not a gueniss,but it's not hard to sit and figure out the problems of the Powell Golf Course.

  • Comment Link October 23, 2011 5:09 am posted by loveourcountry

    More taken from all to give to the chosen few. When Mr. Mayor and city counsel will you stop this maddness?

  • Comment Link October 24, 2011 8:08 am posted by RB

    RINO's begging for money? Imagine that in big wonderful Wyoming.How about living within your means.

  • Comment Link October 24, 2011 11:45 am posted by Small Town with Big dreams

    I would love to golf in Powell, I can afford to golf in Lovell. Since they are getting public funds, maybe the public should be able to see how they are spending their funds. Salaries, supplies, utilities, etc.. I agree with the option of living within your means. If I try to sell a product to make a living and nobody wants to pay my asking price, either I change my product, my price or go out of business. If rocket science were this easy I would be working at NASA!!

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