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City may provide $50,000 to golf course

On Tuesday evening, Powell Golf Course members Paul Dearcorn (kneeling), Brian Bentley, and Brian Morse (on the right in green shirt) watch as Wade Hernandez rolls in a birdie putt on  the Par 5 16th green at the golf course. On Tuesday evening, Powell Golf Course members Paul Dearcorn (kneeling), Brian Bentley, and Brian Morse (on the right in green shirt) watch as Wade Hernandez rolls in a birdie putt on  the Par 5 16th green at the golf course. Tribune photo by Toby Bonner

Golf course must match $25,000

To receive more city dollars for the Powell Golf Course next year, local golf supporters must chip in some matching funds.

City councilmen tentatively agreed to provide up to $50,000 toward the Powell Golf Course next year — but half of that money hinges on the golf board raising $25,000 on its own.

The city owns the 18-hole golf course, clubhouse and some other buildings, but the independent golf board manages the facility’s operations and budget. For the past several years, Powell City Councilmen and golf leaders have wrestled over how to fund the cash-strapped golf course and address its lingering debt.

The Powell Golf Board of Directors requested $70,000 toward the course’s operations for the 2012-13 fiscal year beginning July 1.

“We can’t afford $70,000,” Mayor Scott Mangold said during a budget session last month. “I want to know if there’s any future plans — are they changing at all or are we encumbered for $70,000 every year. Are we stuck with that?”

Councilmen went back and forth about how much money to give the golf course, whether a certain amount should be matched and how much should go only toward paying off debt. The mayor and council eventually agreed on a proposal for $50,000. Of that, $25,000 is unencumbered money that can go toward the golf course’s operations, and up to $25,000 is matching funds toward debt reduction.

“All of our match has to go to the debt,” said Councilman Eric Paul.

Councilman Don Hillman said deciding how much money to give the golf course is difficult as the city faces a tightening budget and cutbacks in departments.

“It’s pretty tough for us to sit here and give away thousands and thousands of dollars and then go to John Q. Public and say we need an extra 1-cent,” Hillman said, referring to the proposed 1-cent tax for infrastructure and maintenance that will be on the November ballot.

Of the course’s $415,944 operating budget for next year, the city’s funding only accounts for about 15 percent of the course’s total budget, noted Susan VandenBoom, the board’s secretary/treasurer, in an email. By comparison, she said, the city provides 100 percent of the parks department funding and more than 40 percent of the aquatic center’s overall budget.

The council makes its final decision on the 2012-13 fiscal year budget Monday night.

Second time around

This is the second time in less than a year that councilmen have asked golfers to match city funds. Last October, the Powell Golf Course Board requested an additional $55,000 to cover a budget shortfall after a dreary season dampened revenues. The council agreed to give up to $50,000 in matching funds — providing a dollar toward every dollar the golf board raises by June 30, the end of the 2011-12 fiscal year.

As the end of the current fiscal year approaches this month, the golf board is nearly there.

“We have a couple of checks still outstanding, but we believe we will raise the $50,000 we set as our goal in the next two weeks,” VandenBoom said in an email.

City Finance Director Annette Thorington said the golf board was $3,175 shy of its $50,000 goal on Tuesday.

VandenBoom credited individuals and businesses for the golf board’s success in raising the funds.

“The golf club members and community all came together in different ways,” VandenBoom said.

That included business sponsorship of tee markers, donations toward the debt reduction and raffles that raised money for matching funds, she said.

“You told them to go out and raise money this year, and they did it. They raised $50,000 on top of the $50,000 we gave them, so they’ve shown they’re willing to go out and work and invest in the course,” said Councilman John Wetzel, who serves as the liaison to the golf board.

If the city provides the full $50,000 match, its total contribution toward the golf course in 2011-12 will be $112,250. The council had approved $62,250 for the golf course in regular funding during the current budget, which took effect July 1, 2011.

Dealing with debt

Being in the hole financially has resulted in continued fiscal struggles for the golf course.

Currently, the golf board faces $198,745 in debt, VandenBoom said. The debt was accumulated through equipment purchases and years when golf rates were too low to support the operating costs. The course’s budget for next year designates $37,000 toward debt payments. In the past year, the golf board has paid about $57,000 toward its debt.

For years, the golf board has struggled to get ahead. They would borrow money from the next year to get through the rest of a season.

Though the city’s funding plus golf board’s fundraising could total up to $75,000 for next year, VandenBoom noted that the majority of that money — $50,000 — will likely be raised slowly over months through the June 30, 2013 deadline (the end of the next fiscal year). Only the $25,000 in unencumbered funding from the city would be readily available for the current golf season.

Without the city’s $70,000 commitment as the golf club had requested, they must wait for matching dollars to come in over the next year, VandenBoom said.

She said golf board members were hoping for another $50,000 match “so we could further reduce the debt. We would have liked to see at least a three-year match to further the debt reduction.”

The golf course likely will face further cuts this season in a budget that’s already scaled back, VandenBoom said.

“Our purpose in approaching the city for $70,000 is that’s what’s needed to complete our budget. We have not replaced the position of greens superintendent, because there’s no money in the budget for that position. We are going to have to trim the budget by $45,000 if we are to finish the season with this year’s money,” VandenBoom said. “Our problem in the past was having to borrow from the next year to get through the winter. We had hoped the matching funds this year would take care of our cash flow problem, but cutting the $45,000 will put us right back where we were.”

Golf leaders and councilmen have said they want to see the golf course get ahead, rather than struggle from year to year.

“Do you feel there’s a new paradigm out there?” Councilman Paul asked. “Or is it just, we’re going to do this to Band-aid it up and then go kinda back to business as usual?”

“No, I feel there’s a paradigm of people who came forward and said that if you’re making an effort to retire that debt, we’re on board,” Councilman Wetzel responded. “We need to say, ‘X amount of this money has to be matching toward debt ... because if we don’t retire that debt, we’re right back where we started from.”

Even though the city’s match toward the debt is capped at $25,000, Councilman Paul said golf board members don’t have to stop there in how much they raise.

“Our match is going to debt, but if they want to go out and raise $100,000 — great,” Paul said. “There’s nothing stopping them from raising more.”


As in the past, city councilmen also discussed the golf course’s rates when looking at its funding contribution for next year.

“People think our rates are high, but in order to maintain the budget and pay our bills, we need income generated to match our expenses,” VandenBoom said.

The golf course went into debt from years when the rates were too low, she said.

This season, the course has 185 paid memberships, brining in $185,100. By comparison, the course had 173 members last year, totaling $168,550 in revenue.

Most of those memberships are sold at family rates, VandenBoom said.

For daily rates, the golf course previously offered only a $49 rate for 18 holes, which included a cart and the driving range. Councilman Wetzel said that during weekdays, the course should offer a reduced rate for local golfers who don’t want a cart.

On Tuesday night, board members did just that.

Golfers who show their identification proving a Powell residence will be able to golf for $25 for nine holes and $35 for 18 holes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays. Those rates are for walkers only, VandenBoom noted.

The special rate for Mondays still is $35 for 18 holes. Weekend and holiday rates remain at $39 for nine holes and $59 for 18 holes. Those rates include a cart and the driving range.

“The only way for us to offer further rate reduction would involve additional city support,” VandenBoom said Wednesday.

As in the past, some councilmen questioned the golf course’s future.

“Maybe it’s time to retire it then if you’ve got no money for it,” Councilman Jim Hillberry said at last month’s budget session.

“I don’t think you can let your golf course go,” Paul responded, “unless there’s just absolutely no other choice.”


  • posted by laurie

    June 25, 2012 11:40 am

    When is the city of Powell going to fix the large hole at Washington Park? It's at 2nd & Douglas in the grass, its nearly invisible, several inches deep & wide. The parks dept. Knows about it, they temporarily placed hazard cones & its in the police report. I am still disabled from my ankle broken in 3 places after stepping in it. And, yes I know my terrain, I'm a hazards Geologist

  • posted by Shawn Stingley

    June 23, 2012 7:57 am

    NO NO NOdonating anymore money to the pool or the golf course..They are both money pits like a car that needs one thing after another..And im gonna tell you now, about 1/3 of the residents of powell use or benifit from the poll and the golf course..Our kids dont even have a place they can call a hang out and more money to the golf course? And yes i have been to the golf course on many occasions and all i got from there was the long stare down a snobby nose enviroment, felt out of place and walked right back out..Im not paying for the rich side of the community to go out to the golf course and get drunk and drive golf carts around. We have other priorities to try our donations at..The pool and the golf course have succeded as money pits and is now time for them to make due with what they have.How much is it gonna be in another year, another 25,000? might as well start a tax to the community to keep the pool and the golf course afloat..Let those who actually use the golf course pay these extra fees and we will see how long the golf course last, it wont be such an important factor anymore when they have to start payin an extra hundred on memebership to cover cost but as long as the city is gonna keep giving donations the money pit may jus be ok..but after how many? I mean use ur commaon sense, have they come forward wuth 25,000 to match yet? Well proly cause its not there, if you gotta keep diggin for cash to keep somethin goin, that means its not makin nothin and ur headed toward a total loss or debt...Born and raised in Powell, 31 years old, I see and hear and know how this town works so u cant fool me. Do i wanna leave? NO, never. I love Powell but man we have some messed up priorities as far as budget and spending.

  • posted by Ron Lytle

    June 19, 2012 5:23 pm

    I am a retired person who lived in Powell in the 1960s and come back to retire here 10 years ago. We own our home and plan to live out our lives in Powell. Outside of the many friends we have in the area, the golf course was one of the considerations that made the decision to retire in Powell desirable. My wife and I live on social security and small pensions and not by any standard are we wealthy.
    Powell has always been a generous place providing a balanced environment of recreational opportunities for all it's residents. Opportunities that quietly assure all it's residents and visitors alike that this is a first class city--one that we are proud to be a part of. The Powell golf course is not a snobby country club but a city owned facility that is open to and used by people from all economic means. If you haven't stopped for dinner and a drink, please do so. The foods excellent and it's the best view from your table in the Basin. Again this is a city owned facility open to all people.
    Ron Lytle

  • posted by Ryanasaraus

    June 18, 2012 8:56 pm

    i think they should close down all these places and just stop funding anything... the golf course, the pool, the boys and girls club, the library, the rec district, Homesteader Park (not Woods Park, that park rules)... I mean I am just sooooooo tired of having too much to do here in Powell, and having too many places to spend some free time. Its about time we start cutting our opportunities for fun around here!!! whos with me?!?!?!??!

  • posted by Ryan

    June 18, 2012 12:26 pm

    Name the better option around 18-1!! Foster gulch in Lovell??? ha!! laughable!!

  • posted by 68ford

    June 18, 2012 11:31 am

    It's about time that Powell use some common sense when it comes to spending money. The city is in financial trouble and they are still giving money to the golf course and over $300,000 to the swimming pool. At least with the swimming pool the voters OK'd it, even if they were not told real figures about what it was going to cost to operate.
    I wonder how many people would vote to give money to the golf course if it was put to vote of the people.
    It is things like this that is going to make it difficult to pass another sales even if it is needed.

    Cleanup some of the waste and then ask for more money.

  • posted by clipstein

    June 14, 2012 3:52 pm

    Mismanagement and broke and still wasting money

  • posted by 18-1

    June 14, 2012 3:08 pm

    The city needs to stop bailing the golf course out, maybe if they weren't so damn overpriced more people would go. There are better options around for a better price. The Powell course is to concerned with making exclusive to the local rich and now getting what they deserve!

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