Falmouth assistant town manager Heather B. Harper and town manager Julian M. Suso went before the community preservation committee last night seeking $800,000 to upgrade the town-owned golf club’s irrigation system.
The town purchased the course in 2005 for $15.8 million and signed an agreement with Billy Casper Golf to operate the course. That lease is up for renewal at the end of this year.
Ms. Harper said part of the strategy back then was to create a capital fund, but was unable to because “the bottom fell out of the golf market.”
She said the town recently conducted a marketplace analysis that looked at past performance and gave future projections.
“Five courses have opened in Plymouth since we purchased the club, and the number of golfers that were on an upswing fell sharply shortly thereafter,” she said. However, she said, there is a potential for growth.
During her presentation, Ms. Harper said the overall capital need for the country club is $1.9 million, the irrigation system being less than half of the total capital needs. She said Billy Casper will pay for the majority of the remaining projects if selected in the procurement process.
Both the town and the management company have said they would like to continue the agreement.
The town’s yearly debt service for the property is $600,000 until 2035. On average, Billy Casper Golf pays $400,000 in rent annually. The remaining $200,000 is paid for by a 300 Committee contribution. Ms. Harper said unless the golf revenues increase, The 300 Committee fund will dry up in 2020 and the town will have to find alternate funding.
Ralph E. Herbst, CPC chairman, asked why the project is not on the town’s seven-year recreation capital improvement plan. He said the seven-year capital plan spreadsheet was developed two years ago with software paid for by the town and CPC. It is used to rate the condition of each town-owned recreation facility, and to prioritize and assign fiscal years to fund projects between $25,000 and $1 million.
“We discussed it, but we were working under the assumption that a longer term lease with a golf management company would be incentive enough for them to fund the capital improvements,” said Ms. Harper. She has since learned it would cost the town $140,000 per year if the management company pays for the irrigation system.
“They would incur costs that they would pass to us. It’s better for the town to plan for it.”
She said the town will submit the irrigation project, in part or in full, to this November’s Town Meeting.
Ms. Harper said it will cost between $800,000 and $1.2 million to replace the 40-year-old irrigation system that currently serves the nine-hole course and part of the 18-hole course. Through the years, it has been patched and parts have been replaced, but course staff say it has outlived its life.
Correction August 7, 2014 at 1:51 PM: The contribution from The 300 Committee was for the land purchase.