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Golf course topic of public workshop

Date: 8/8/2014

AGAWAM – While it still seeks to gain a better understanding of the Agawam Municipal Golf Course’s operations, the City Council voted to put the formation of a special committee researching the matter on hold.
Resolution TR-2014-30 to form an Ad Hoc Subcommittee of the council was tabled until a public workshop is conducted to examine the status of the course. The date and time of the workshop was not scheduled at the time of publication. The council voted eight in favor. Councilors George Bitzas, Gina Letellier and Joseph Mineo were absent.
“I think the golf course has become a premier course in western Massachusetts. I see absolutely no need for a subcommittee,” Daniel Michael said. “I think the Golf Commission, which I am part of, is astute enough to lead and guide the principles of high moral ethics and integrity.”
Tony Roberto, general manager of the course, said, “In June of 2014, we improved our bottom line over 40 percent from last June and we are up 40 percent this July from last July.”
Roberto explained that the inclement weather – excessive precipitation and a lasting heat wave – contributed to the loss of sales in 2013. In a progress letter to Mayor Richard Cohen on Aug. 4, Roberto referenced national statistics and noted that 15 golf courses lie within a 10-mile radius of the Agawam Municipal Golf Course.
During the council’s discussion of the resolution, Councilor Cecilia Calabrese, chair of the council’s Community Relations Committee, clarified the use of the word “investigation,” which appears in the language of the item. She said, “The intent is to take a closer look at the enterprise fund itself to see why it, at this time, doesn’t seem to be self-supporting.”
She added that the goal of the research is solely to gather information, not to take action against the golf course. Calabrese informed her fellow councilors that the committee voted two to two, therefore no recommendation could not be offered for the creation of the ad hoc committee.
Councilor Robert Rossi stated that he did not support the resolution because while there were “valid” questions posed during the fiscal year 2015 budget approval process, he did not feel the need for a special committee. Instead, he believed that those answers could be gained with diligent research and possible during executive session.
“I never anticipated that the golf course would be painted with such a broad brush – a negative light. I think the golf course is being treated unfairly. [Our] questions are with the budget,” Rossi said.
Council Vice President Dennis Perry, one of the councilors sponsoring the resolution, explained that the motion was “not against the golf course,” but was meant to create a tool to research the functionality of the enterprise fund that sustains the course to see if it’s still adequately for operations.
“It’s our fiscal responsibility. We appropriate the funding. This is a good golf course, there’s no doubt about it,” Perry said.
Councilor Donald Rheault said the resolution was not meant to be a “witch hunt,” but sought “to strengthen the golf course.”
In its 2013 Golf Facility Supply Update, the National Golf Foundation stated, “As detailed in last month’s Dashboard, the report shows that 2013 is the eighth consecutive year that golf course closures outpaced openings, resulting in a net reduction of 143.5 courses (measured in 18-hole equivalents). This brought the total number of 18-hole equivalents to 14,565, which represents a total facility count of 15,515. To put the years of closures in perspective, U.S. supply grew by more than 40 percent during the golf course development boom between 1985 and 2005. In the eight years of reductions from 2006 to 2013, there has been a cumulative supply decrease of about 3 percent.”