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Management contract for golf course is hacked; City leaders decide to start from scratch

October 13, 2016 • Local News

After facing an apparent defeat, the Roswell City Council tabled, and voiced intent to later officially reject, a proposal from a national firm to manage and maintain the city’s Nancy Lopez Spring River Golf Course.
The City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to table approval of the proposal from KemperSports of Northbrook, Illinois, to take over management of the 144-acre golf course when the city’s long-held contract with HcB Enterprises of Roswell expires in March.
City Councilor Caleb Grant cast the dissenting vote. City councilors Jeanine Corn Best, Tabitha Denny, Barry Foster, Juan Oropesa, Jason Perry and Savino Sanchez Jr. voted to table the proposal. City councilors Steve Henderson, Natasha Mackey and Art Sandoval did not attend Tuesday night’s meeting.
Denny initially motioned at Tuesday’s meeting at the Roswell Museum and Art Center for approval to direct city staff to move forward with negotiations, cost analysis and contract terms for finalization to have KemperSports operate and maintain the municipal course.
KemperSports was one of five companies that submitted proposals to assume management of the municipal golf course, beginning March 1. KemperSports, which manages resorts, conferences and golf courses nationwide, received the highest score from a committee of city officials that reviewed the proposals from KemperSports, HcB Enterprises, Milestone Management of Roswell, Oliphant-Haltom Golf of Madison, Wisconsin, and Landscapes Unlimited of Lincoln, Nebraska. KemperSports also expressed an interest in maintaining the muncipal course, which is open year-round.
The City Council’s General Services Committee, which Denny chairs, has twice recommended moving forward with negotiations with KemperSports, despite numerous objections from local golfers, who have raised concerns about the possibility of increased greens fees, diminished course maintenance and putting current city employees out of work.
In early September, the City Council first tabled the proposal, by a 7-2 vote, and referred it back to the General Services Committee.
After several local golfers again spoke against the proposal Tuesday night, and a majority of city councilors also raised concerns, Denny offered to withdraw her motion to approve the proposal. She then motioned to table the proposal and start the golf course management proposal process from the beginning, resulting in the 6-1 vote to do so.
The city’s current golf course operations contract with HcB Enterprises expires in March after seven years. Presently, the city maintains the municipal course, while HcB Enterprises, owned by H. Carlton Blewett, has managed the course’s day-to-day operations. The city is looking for a new four-year management contract, with options for one-year renewals.
Tim Williams, director of the Parks and Recreation Department and a member of the city committee that interviewed all five firms that submitted proposals, told the City Council Tuesday the targeted goal was to reduce the golf course’s annual costs to the city by 20 percent in two years, from $363,771 currently to $292,016.
The city’s 2016-17 budget allocates $635,808 to maintain the municipal course, one of three golf courses in the city. The golf course reaped about $276,000 in revenues in the most recent fiscal year, when it was budgeted about $648,000, resulting in a net loss to the city of about $372,000 last fiscal year. The golf course’s annual revenues have declined by $80,000 in the last four years. The City Council this summer approved allowing the sales of beer and wine at the course in hopes of cutting its annual deficit. An alcohol vendor has not yet been chosen.
Under the current contract with HcB, HcB collects fees for lessons, greens, the driving range and putting green, cart rentals, and revenues from the sale of merchandise and concessions, while groundskeeping is performed by the city. The city receives a 22 percent portion of golf cart rentals and all of the greens fees.
Williams said senior golf rates would not necessarily be raised by KemperSports, and any approval of fees would have to be approved by the City Council, which would have to sign off on the negotiated terms. Williams said proposed course fees would be based on a market analysis.
Williams said the intent was for the city to continue maintaining the course, with the possibility of KemperSports also assuming maintenance over time.
Grant said the City Council never approved soliciting bids to take over the course’s maintenance. He also said he wants to see at least two golfers on a new committee to evaluate proposals.
“The good thing about this is I do feel we have time to go out and do this, and start over, and make it very clear from the beginning,” Grant said.
“My big objection too was the maintenance,” Foster said.
Oropesa said the idea that has been floated that city employees would work under the direction of KemperSports would not work, particularly since the golf course’s maintenance employees are unionized.
“I can’t envision city employees working for a nonprofit organization, if indeed they are a nonprofit organization, or another entity,” Oropesa said. “I really can’t see how that arrangement can work. If I was a city employee, I’d be pretty upset to be placed under that kind of arrangement, to be honest.”
Perry said the City Council had not been given enough information.
“I had no prior knowledge of maintenance going into that (request for proposals),” Perry said. “That was a concern of mine. I’m just concerned that much of the basis of the scoring was based on the abilities of these folks to make not only management, but maintenance also.”
Perry also suggested starting the process from the beginning.
When a majority of the seven city councilors present Tuesday had spoken against moving forward with contract negotiations with KemperSports, Denny withdrew her motion for approval, and motioned to table the proposal and re-solicit bids to manage the golf course.
“I’m listening to the concerns from our citizens, as well as our council. I do believe that it does need to go back,” Denny said. “I believe that it’s going to be in the best interests of the city. Will it probably be a pain? It probably will be, but I believe that’s going to be the best thing to make sure we’re clear and that we don’t have any issues moving forward.”
After a procedural discussion, Mayor Dennis Kintigh said the KemperSports proposal would be placed on the agenda of the City Council’s meeting in November so that the City Council could have the opportunity to vote to officially reject it.
Senior Writer Jeff Tucker may be contacted at 575-622-7710, ext. 303, or at reporter01@rdrnews.com.

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