Sumner leaders are a step closer to settling the fate of the city’s cash-strapped golf course after the City Council voted 6-1 Monday night to authorize the mayor to begin marketing the links for sale.
In the short term, the city may renegotiate its contract with the course’s private managers, Billy Casper Golf. The resolution also authorized the mayor to continue negotiating “in good faith” with Billy Casper.
“How this whole process comes down has yet to play itself out – whether it’s quick, whether it’s slow, whether (a sale) happens at all,” Mayor Dave Enslow said. He added that he expects the 18-hole golf course on the city’s north end to continue operating for now.
The city hasn’t received formal offers on the course or land, but there’s been interest, Enslow said. The council would have to approve any sale.
Sumner Meadows Golf Links opened about 17 years ago. Although use has rebounded some recently, Sumner officials say the city doesn’t make enough money from the course to cover the debt incurred for the land purchase and construction. Sumner still owes about $5.77 million for the land and construction, including this year’s amounts. It also must pay back about $900,000 in internal loans.
The city has been subsidizing Sumner Meadows – something it can’t afford to keep doing without raising taxes or cutting city services, they’ve said.
Sean Silva, a regional manager for Billy Casper Golf, said Monday afternoon that he’s presented the city with an amended contract that would be “more favorable (financially) to the city in the near term” than the existing pact. He declined to specify the new proposed terms.
Alternatively, Billy Casper has offered to help replace the clubhouse that was destroyed in a 2009 flood in exchange for a 10-year contract extension. Silva said the loss of the clubhouse has contributed to a drop in income, although city officials have said the course didn’t generate enough money to cover all the debt even with a clubhouse.
The city currently retains 98 percent of the greens fees, and Billy Casper keeps 2 percent; the management company also collects other fees, such as golf cart rentals, and receives an annual operations payment from the city, which was about $630,000 in 2011.
In a recent city survey sent to Sumner mailboxes, a majority of the 350-plus people who responded indicated they wanted the city to pursue selling the course even if it meant the land would be developed.
That has the potential to be lucrative. The city owns about 280 acres on and around the course, about 172 acres of which are considered developable. Selling about three-quarters of those acres could yield $35 million, city officials have said.
Deputy Mayor Steve Allsop said Monday that a sale could help reduce sewer rates, pay for parks improvements and bring other benefits. “I think it’s very exciting. And I’m really pleased that this potential is there,” he said.
Councilman Randy Hynek cast the no vote. He said he rejected the resolution in part because he doesn’t want to see all of the property sold.Sara Schilling: 253-552-7058