City to seek proposals for management of both golf courses

The city’s golf courses have been operating in the red for years.

City officials are moving forward with a new plan to address the two public golf courses that have been a drag on the city’s budget for years.

City Manager Greg Doyon has directed Park and Recreation Director Steve Herrig to develop a request for proposals for management of both city courses, Eagle Falls and Anaconda Hills.

Depending on the responses, the city could move forward with private management of the courses while still maintaining ownership, or discussions on closing or selling one or both courses, Doyon told commissioners during meetings over the last week.

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The golf fund owes the city’s general fund roughly a $1 million and that has been the case since at least 2013. That figure doesn’t include any of the deferred maintenance at the golf courses. The proposed park district includes no funding for the golf program.

There are two full-time grounds/maintenance employees at each course and one full-time golf manager who oversees both courses.

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A number of things have been attempted in the city’s effort to increase revenues, but according to the city’s budget data, those attempts have been largely unsuccessful.

For this season, the golf director brought back the Cyber Card and told commissioners it would help drive revenue. The previous Park and Rec director eliminated the card and increased golf fees.

This year’s golf revenues are down more than $200,000 over this time last year and expenses are up, according to the third quarter budget review presented to commissioners on Tuesday.

Some of that is weather driven since March is typically the top month for selling season passes, but this March the weather didn’t encourage anyone to think about golf.

Last week, Doyon told commissioners he wanted staff to pursue the RFP unless they had any strong objections to it. No commissioner expressed any opposition to the idea during a Friday budget meeting or Tuesday’s work session.

“This fund needs to be resolved,” Doyon said.

The losses hinder flexibility in addressing other needs, Doyon said.

“If we can’t recoup the losses in golf, it has to come from somewhere, probably the general fund,” he said.

If the general fund has to cover the $1 million loss in golf, that significantly diminishes the reserve and any contingency funds and reduces the city’s ability to pay for other major capital improvement needs.

“Something really needs to change in a drastic way,” Doyon said.

He’d been telling commissioners about the problems with the golf fund for years and had initially planned to give Herrig, the new park and rec director, time to get familiar with the program and then make proposals for change.

Now, Doyon told commissioners that once the park district vote is completed, Herrig will turn his attention to developing an RFP for the golf courses.

There had been internal discussions about closing Anaconda Hills for a while but maintaining the course so it could be reopened. Just mowing and watering would cost an estimated $14,000 so that option was deemed suboptimal.

Doyon said he believes golf is a program that should be self-sustaining, meaning user fees should cover expenses versus being subsidized by taxpayer funds. Over the years, the city has subsidized the golf fund in an effort to reduce the loses, but that has also proven unsuccessful.