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Compass Inbox

Compass_Inbox_Article

It is time for the mayor and common council to transcend the norm of Amsterdam politics for the good of all the citizens in our city.

We have a number of pressing issues that plague our city. We have infrastructure that needs to be maintained in an affordable manner. We have tax and user fee increases that are challenging to our businesses and residents.

We have increasing debt in our city’s government, and a lack of job opportunities for our residents.

I urge the council to make a balanced offer to the mayor on this golf course issue. The study from Union College cited by the mayor is outdated but not unuseful. Just because the contract for the pro is due does not mean we should move forward on a new, three-year contract, citing five-year-old, outdated statistics. Sign a one-year contract with the current golf pro, Joe Merendo. Use that year to gather more information regarding the golf course.

We should conduct a new competition pricing analysis. We should implement some of the marketing strategies from the study cited by the mayor. Attract youth by providing youth camps and programs. Attract new customers by holding marketed tournaments at the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course. Offer discounted long-term membership rates for golfers coming from other golf courses.

All of these good ideas can be implemented without changing the overall structure of the golf course.

Since we are all interested in increasing usage of the golf course, let’s take some good ideas from both sides and meet in the middle. Implement these changes, look at their effectiveness over the next year, and revisit the contract next year. For the time being, leave the idea of purchasing and leasing golf carts out, and let Joe Morendo continue as pro.

If both sides can agree to meet in the middle and move on, we forego a drawn-out court proceeding. Move on to more important business.

Karl Baia,
Amsterdam

If you would like to submit a “Letter to the editor” to The Mohawk Valley Compass, please send an email to inbox@mohawkvalleycompass.com. Please include your full name, location and any other title or information that helps to qualify or identify you. We reserve the right to edit for length, clarity, civility and accuracy. We will send you the edited version before publication if there are any significant changes. If your letter is selected, we may try to reach you to verify your identity. 

5 Responses to Compass Inbox

  1. Diane says:

    If there is a lawsuit, the council members should use their own money to pay the fees. If they use taxpayer dollars, we should unite as a city and recall them all.

  2. As seems to be the rage of the day, there are several fallacious premises being tendered when discussing this golf course situation.

    Starting with the letter from Karl, we continue daily operations at City Hall, managing public safety, water/sewer maintenance, road repair, snowplowing, emergency response and the myriad of responsibilities government is charged with including oversight of our finances. Just because the golf course has become the topic du jour on FB, blogs or talk radio, do not mistakenly think this is the sole concern of this administration. Infrastructure has undergone a tremendous amount of strategic and “affordable” upgrades in six years (see my State of the City addressES at http://www.wildthane.wordpress.com) through the millions of dollars of grants we have secured. We’ve also advanced numerous projects and initiatives that have changed the physical landscape of our city. We continue with this work.

    The user fee increases were implemented by the prior council to offset the heavy cost of the water and sewer distribution systems that our property owners were carrying. This shift allowed us to lighten property taxes for our city taxpayers and more fairly distribute water/sewer costs to outside users and not-for-profits. This has been good for city taxpayers.

    The increase in debt had come about because we replaced aging equipment and funded long overdue capital projects that had been put off to the point of being hazardous to employees and residents. We also bonded in anticipation of revenue we would receive as reimbursement via grants. This has been good for our employees and residents.

    Population has increased in our city and six industries have expanded operations here. We have a $20M assisted living project on the south side that will bring 75 professional jobs and an $5M industrial prospect at the Esquire site that will bring several dozen good paying jobs, both slated to launch this Spring.

    The letter posits that the Golf Commission has based their recommendations on an outdated study by graduate students from the Masters in Business program at Union College. The study had served as a foundation for the Commission’s work, but they’ve spent the past three years doing additional analysis, talking with the PGA, golf professionals, cart rental firms, and doing comparative analysis of surrounding golf course operations. Working with the former Council, with Gina DeRossi serving as golf liaison and attending most commission meetings, the Commission put out a Request for Proposals to regional golf professionals to elicit workable, innovative ideas that may carry this facility into the future. This was done publicly and with the expectation of fair consideration.

    The current Council has chosen to ignore all of this work and instead award the contract (albeit, removing performance measures such as financial statements, business plan or marketing strategy), refusing to acknowledge the failings of the course or the promising compromise I had offered that would have straightened this out weeks ago. The proposed changes we propose pay for themselves as indicated in the report submitted to the Council from the Commission.

    Mr. Scott’s hiring would allow us to attract a whole generation of new golfers as he already has an agreement with the school system to teach golf to thousands of children through his “Cover the Distance Golf Academy” program. He also has a plan to spend twelve months of the year actively marketing our facility via traditional outlets and the internet (another failing of the current operation.)

    The competitive analysis (I think that is what the letter mean by “competition analysis”) has been done, as well as comprehensive scrutiny of our operational failings. The key components missing at the course are managerial oversight, a defined business plan and a marketing strategy. This was also the finding so many years ago in the Union report. If the current contracts are awarded again, nothing changes and we will continue the spiral of decline. To date, we’ve experienced a 43% loss in membership, escalating costs, flat revenues and a decline in the physical condition of the course. Meanwhile, the council wants to award the contract worth well over $100,000 to the current golf pro for seven months of work instead of controlling those revenues for the betterment of the course. How does this action serve golfers or our city taxpayers? The course has unlimited opportunity to generate direct and indirect benefit to this city.

    Everyone sees this for what this is: a flexing of political muscle for special interests. Until we overcome this unscrupulous behavior, this city cannot move forward. I work for over 18,000 people that include the 390 golfers at Muni. I have everyone’s best interest in mind. I hope that the Council puts special interests aside and starts acting for all of our taxpayers and not just a few. It would be ridiculous of them to force this into court.

  3. I challenge this current council to tell me how awarding the current contract works financially for the city. I want to see their financial analysis.

    • rogo says:

      If the numbers in golf fund are corrected ($95,711, $79,092 for 1 person health ins. also $38,916 for 6 months of of 1 person health ins.). Also retirement went from$6,509 (for 6 employees) to $21,958 (for 2 people). Also revenue is now only one line item, is it all there including restaurant fee of $28,000??? Also again what is admin fee expense of $90,000 for and why does no other department have it??

  4. Karl Baia says:

    This letter is in response to the Mayor’s response to my Letter to the Editor regarding the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course (The Recorder, February 8, 2014).

    Ann,

    I am in receipt of your letter dated February 9, 2014 on your blog. At least I think I’m the intended recipient as your post starts “to Karl or whoever wrote this.” Could you please clarify? Actually, I need several clarifications.

    I will respond to your letter in two parts. For now, let’s stick to the issue at hand. Once again, I read the January 10, 2014 report you issued with the Golf Commission. In your letter to me, you continue to cite information that may not exist since it has not been shared by you or anyone else. As you have chosen to bring this argument to the public, I simply request that you share the information on certain important areas.

    Both the Council and the public should be able to verify the research that you and the golf commission supposedly possess. Therefore, I am asking that the following information is provided to the public and the Council:

    The names of the golf professionals the Commission has spoken to and their findings.
    The names of the golf cart rental firms that the Commission has spoken to, the pricing information, and when the prices were obtained.
    The comparative analysis you stated the current Golf Commission completed along with the reason for your delay in providing this information.
    The documented investigation of market analysis that supposedly supports your proposed marketing strategy and an explanation as to why hasn’t it been included in your supporting information to the Council or the public. Also, the actual marketing strategy.

    I see that your report doesn’t suggest that this change would pay for itself, it makes an assumption that this will happen. But golf course usage has decreased nationwide, Ann. This decrease suggests that it’s not what we haven’t done at the golf course that is in question. Under your proposed plan, what if membership continues to decrease in-line with national averages? How would the increase in costs you propose affect the situation? Why haven’t you included this important scenario in your report? If you haven’t included all this information (or the information doesn’t exist), then how can you call your scrutiny “comprehensive”?

    You suggest that there is a decline in the physical condition of the course. Can you please provide us with specific details? What are you referring to? Your statement is generalized and overbroad. Right now this appears to be a blind statement.

    You also suggest that if nothing is done, the downward spiral will continue. It doesn’t have to come to that. Under the current structure, the Golf Commission and a liaison from the Common Council can work with your office to implement new marketing strategies and a scenario that works, without a change in the structure at the golf course.

    You repeatedly ask how awarding Joe Morendo the golf pro contract helps golfers and our city. Well, Ann, the people who use the course are quite satisfied with Joe’s service. As you may recall, a well-attended fundraiser was held for Joe.

    The golf course is self-sustaining, so the taxpayers haven’t footed the bill for Joe’s contract or the golf course, have they? Right now, it’s a non-issue that can be avoided if you can learn to work with this Council in a way that makes the Council responsive to your ideas. An effective strategy might be acting as a professional and not speaking to Council members as if they were young children. That might elicit a positive response and help reverse a potential downward spiral without changing the structure of the golf course. Not every small issue has to turn into a three-ring circus, Ann. You just can’t seem to help yourself though, can you?

    Of course, you completely ignored the purpose of my Letter to the Editor. I suggested working with this Council and implementing marketing and program strategies to reverse the current trend without changing the structure. Did you miss that part?

    I made a good faith suggestion to both you and the Council. You completely ignored it and continued to press the fallacies of your incomplete argument and unsubstantiated studies. You continue to play politics rather than looking for a solution for everyone involved.

    COMPROMISE: Settle a dispute by mutual concession.

    Can you do that, Ann, or are you going to continue to cite incomplete studies and accuse others of playing politics, while playing them yourself?

    Based on past dealings, I doubt you will provide the information requested, even though the residents of this city and the Common Council have a right to know. As a result, my original assertion that your studies are incomplete is correct.