Finances the first issue for golf course committee

Rhonda Silence

“ We need some sort of guidelines, some kind of mission. EDA Chair Mike Littfin ” “ We need some sort of guidelines, some kind of mission. EDA Chair Mike Littfin ” Although the beautiful greens and tees of Superior National at Lutsen golf course are covered with snow, management and finances of the course continue to be hot topics. In response to a question asked at a county board meeting earlier this month, “Who is managing the golf course?” EDA Board Member Mark Sandbo said, “We need to make it very clear. The EDA is running the golf course.”

However, the EDA is asking the newly-formed golf course committee to oversee golf course activities and to bring forward recommendations that will make the golf course successful.

EDA attorney Baiers Heeren was at the December 14 EDA meeting at the request of the EDA board to discuss what needed to be done to establish the new golf course management board. The first thing, said Heeren, was to consider not calling the entity a board. He suggested that the new board be called a committee to differentiate it from the EDA board.

Next, he stressed that the committee would have ministerial duties only. Heeren said it can carry out decisions of the EDA board and/or act as an advisory body, but the EDA board must retain its decision-making powers, including the authority to enter into contracts, incur debts, and otherwise manage the golf course. He likened the committee to a planning and zoning commission, which brings recommendations to a city council or county board. “Whether the recommendation is pro or con, it is ultimately the decision of the city council or board,” he said.

Impact on operations

Jim King, a member of the new golf course committee and a member of Friends of Superior National, asked how this would impact the golf course hiring process. He said the golf course hires approximately 40 part-time seasonal people each summer. “In the past this has been handled by the golf pro and golf course management,” said King.

Superior National Grounds Supervisor Mike Davies said that also concerned him as it would slow down getting workers. King asked if Davies and golf course manager Greg Leland could still hire on a provisional basis, as they have been, bringing staff on in May or June. Davies said they have always brought staff on in stages. “We’ve always stayed within budget or under,” he said.

Heeren said Davies and Leland could review applicants and make conditional job offers and the golf course management committee and the EDA board could approve the hiring after-the-fact.

Davies also asked how this would affect the golf course relationship with vendors. Heeren said the golf course could still make purchases and bring the information to the board on the consent agenda for approval. “It will take awhile to work out all the kinks,” said Board Chair Mike Littfin. “But thanks to Baiers, we have a framework for this committee.”

Littfin asked Heeren if policies and procedures needed to be written for the new committee. Heeren said no. “If you have a golf course mission, they should follow that. But I don’t think policy and procedures are necessary, since the board doesn’t have its own authority,” he said.

Littfin said, “We need some sort of guidelines, some kind of mission.”

EDA Board Member and County Commissioner Bruce Martinson agreed, “I would recommend that the first task of the golf course committee be to come up with the responsibilities of the committee. We should make a list, such as at our first meeting we’ll look at the 2011 budget.”

Golf course and the 1% money

Finances, and whether or not the golf course would be receiving funding from the county-imposed 1% sales tax, were discussed as Davies and Leland gave their monthly golf course status reports. Davies said he and golf course maintenance man Jim Zunker are in “winter repair mode.” He asked for direction from the EDA board about how to proceed with some repairs, noting that there was some equipment that should be replaced. He questioned the wisdom of continuing to expend funds to repair equipment that would be replaced if 1% sales tax monies were received.

Chair Littfin replied, “I think you have to. The 1% money is still up in the air.”

Leland asked why the golf course could not receive some of the money that had been proposed for the golf course during the run-up to the sales tax referendum. At that time, Superior National was included as a potential recipient of $900,000 of the 1% sales tax funds. “We can’t parcel it out?” he asked. “We need a new roof.”

EDA Treasurer Jim Hall said before any 1% funding is allocated to the golf course, the county wants to see precisely what the money would be used for. Jim King agreed. “We need to specify the needs—by job, by project—then prioritize those needs,” said King.

Chagrined, Davies said, “We’ve done this 10 times,” and Sandbo agreed. Sandbo said he would bring the information gathered by the golf course subcommittee in the past to the first meeting of the new entity.

As spokesman for the new golf course committee, Jim King asked about the status of the county’s proposal to hire a golf course consultant to review golf course operations. Martinson said the consultants who responded to the request for proposals (RFP) for a golf course consultant were concerned about meeting the February 28, 2011 deadline. He said most of the consultants wanted more time and wanted to see the golf course in the summer before issuing a final report. Martinson said the people who met to review the RFP (county board members, golf course committee members, and Mike Davies) were split 3-3 on who to hire. Because of the inability to reach a consensus, Martinson said it was suggested that ORB Management, the firm hired to oversee development of the community center, look over the RFPs as an independent party to assist with the selection.

EDA Board Member Hal Greenwood said the legislation that authorized the sales tax listed the golf course as a beneficiary of the tax and questioned why the golf course had to wait for a consultant’s report before receiving funds. He said none of the other projects had this requirement. “Thisis a stall tactic,” he said.

“What is the cost for this consultant?” asked EDA Board Member Don Davison. Informed that the average cost of the proposals received was $18,000, Davison said, “And this money is coming from the 1% tax? Thismoney could go to some other worthy use.”

“Is our receipt of the 1% sales tax money dependent on the results of this study?” asked Littfin.

Martinson said he believed so, and Littfin vented his frustration. He said he didn’t disagree that the study was necessary for long range planning, but said there are immediate needs that should be addressed and should not be held up by the study.

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