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Elmendorf contract signed

The Amsterdam Common Council approved a five-year contract with Laura Elmendorf, concessionaire at the city’s municipal golf course.

A resolution approving the contract was tabled at the Feb. 4 council meeting. Aldermen voted 4-0 Tuesday to remove it from the table, then passed it with the same margin. Fifth Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero did not attend the meeting.

The resolution was amended to eliminate an automatic 3 year extension as well as well as to remove the section authorizing the deputy mayor or city clerk to sign the contract if the mayor refused.

Elmendorf and Mayor Ann Thane signed the contract in the mayor’s office after the meeting.

Elmendorf addressed the council during the public comment portion of the meeting and asked Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis for clarification on some of the contract language. After the meeting, she called the agreement “a good contract” and said she looked forward to another year of operating the restaurant and bar at the golf course.

No further action was taken on a similar resolution to renew the contract of golf professional Joe Merendo, which was approved Feb. 4. Thane said after the meeting that she hopes to meet “in a week or so” with Merendo, his lawyer and DeCusatis.

“Hopefully we can come to some amenable agreement,” Thane said.

Thane said the issue with Merendo’s contract is financial, not personal.

“I’m concerned that this has become a personal issue, when that is never what it was,” she said after the meeting. “I feel very badly for [Merendo]. Political forces have put him in the middle of this. For me, it always has been about the money.”

Council members originally passed a resolution approving the contract with Merendo. Thane vetoed the measure, and the council voted to override her veto. Aldermen then voted to allow the deputy mayor or city clerk to sign the contract if the mayor does not.

Fourth Ward Alderwoman and Deputy Mayor Diane Hatzenbuhler said after Tuesday’s meeting that she will do just that.

“If [Thane] refuses, we’re ready to sign,” she said.

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About John Becker

John Becker is both a Reporter and Consulting Editor for The Compass. He and his wife Pat operate Abbey Farms in Amsterdam NY.

34 Responses to Elmendorf contract signed

  1. Dan Weaver says:

    The mayor has compromised and cooperated by signing the Elmendorf contract. It seems to me it is now the council’s turn to do a little compromising and cooperating on the Merendo contract.

    • Rob Millan says:

      I would hope so, too, Dan. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear they’ll do that, at least according to one council member’s remark.

      It’s truly sad some aldermen are on a crusade to protect a friend while saying it’s for other reasons.

      To date, not a single pro-Joe alderman has ever been able to respond to the questions of his ability to keep his job over the other candidate’s ability to do the same despite the latter having proven results and a far better presentation.

    • John says:

      GD and Elmendorf actually were able to meet and negotiate a contract last week that all parties found amicable, that is why it was signed last night. The Mayors office and the Corporation council need to stop dragging their heels and meet with Joe. They didn’t want to meet with Joe to try and negotiate his contract because she doesn’t want him as the Pro and doesn’t like him on a personal level. Now that Scott has withdrawn his name from the ring its down to Joe which is only why now they are meeting with him to hammer out the details of his contract something that they could have done 6 weeks ago instead of making a circus about it. I guess we should be thankful Gerry was able to put his cheese doodles down and talk with Ms. Elmendorf and get her contract squared away after 6 weeks.

      • Rob Millan says:

        John,
        Scott was still in the running and as such was still an option six weeks ago. That’s why other options were being considered.

      • You comment is untrue, John. I have no personal issue with Joe. As I have stated so many times in the past, THIS IS ABOUT THE MONEY.

        The city should control the money going in and out of a city facility. There should be financial oversight of every city department, including the golf course. It is the fiduciary responsibility of this council. Every resident out there should be clamoring for accountability.

        I have repeatedly offered compromise positons that have been more than fair and hope that the coming negotiation yields a result that works for everyone.

        Leasing this facility must be in the best interests of the city, not one individual. I am acting on behalf of the 18,000+ residents that live here, including the golfers. It is not okay to turn a blind eye to this blatant abuse of our system.

      • John says:

        Mayor Thane, I understand what you are saying but how does it benefit the taxpayers to add another city employee, stock the pro shop, and lease around 100 golf carts? What was the true plan behind using a 5 year old study? Was there any more to date research? I think that the council honestly didn’t think the old report was really valid in 2014 since as we all know, a lot of stuff has happened in the last 5 years. There wasn’t a comprehensive plan in place with your “compromise” besides you getting your choice in there and being able to fire Joe. Is there a place online anywhere to go or something to get a copy of Ms. Elmendorf’s contract to read over besides $18,500 for 5 years. I am sure there are provisions that bar her from doing somethings and others, etc. I think all of the tax payers would like to see. Back on topic to Joe’s contract. Honestly Ms. Mayor, Mr. Scott was never a candidate since you know Joe has friends on the council whose main goal was to get him another contract and they wouldn’t betray him like you wouldn’t ever betray Mr. DeCusatis and appoint someone else as corporation council regardless of how the common council felt. Since the current councils stance on the golf course has been the course is sustained by the golf fund. All the money earned by the course goes into the fund, and the fund pays for everything at the golf course. I would like to look over the golf fund to see how much money the course is losing a year and how much the taxpayers are having to make up. If the course is making enough to just break even without a profit after paying everything, wouldn’t that mean the golfers should be catered to since they are paying for everything through memberships and greens fees. Also all of the ideas to raise attendance at the course could and I am sure will be added by Joe when his contract is signed. This is a win situation for you Mayor. If the course fails miserably under Joe and the golf fund is exhausted and the taxpayers have to foot the bill, that could be a big I told you so for the republicans of the city and used to bolster your re-election campaign next year of you wish to run for a third term and it would discredit the Republicans trying to maintain a super-majority on the council in 2015 also. I am confident with that pressure on the Republicans they won’t sit by and let the course fail since this was the first big issue of their term. This will set the term for the next 2 years, they are going to make sure the course improves and this is what you want, the course to do better so the golf fund doesn’t exhaust itself and keep taxpayer money out off the golf course. Just signing the Joe contract will benefit both sides of the isle.

  2. Alayne says:

    Accountability? Really? There has not been accountability in city hall in the last few years, or our finances would not be in the shape their in. Where is your concern over the money our city is losing in the contract with the concessionaire at The River link Park? In not sure you can make an argument /excuse based on accountability. Can we please move this city forward????

    • Rob Millan says:

      Alayne,
      The other contracts have nothing to do with the Muni ones. They’re totally different and should not be held to the same standard. We shouldn’t consider them all as the same, rather individually. I think most reasonable people in any municipality with the same scenario would agree.

  3. Alayne says:

    My point is ALL facilities should be held accountable! How much revenue has the city generated from the cafe at Riverlink Park? Just wondering?

    • Rob Millan says:

      Alayne,
      That doesn’t seem in line with the definition of ‘accountability’. The Riverlink Cafe and Shuttleworth contracts, which by and large appear to be held accountable in that they’re run responsibly, are distinctly different from the Muni, whereby we have four lawmakers dead-set on saving one man’s job, regardless of whether or not that person has been held accountable to the covenants set forth in his contract.

      I really can’t believe that this has only now become an issue, despite years of declination.

    • Tim Becker says:

      Rogo, I can take my family any day of the week to Shuttleworth , Riverlink, Veteran’s field etc, and enjoy the use of those facilities at no charge, or in the case of the pool or Mohawks game, for only a few dollars.

      Only a few hundred people use the golf course. There’s a difference in purpose here and I think everyone needs to acknowledge that.

      The golf course is a *business* and as such it should be expected to generate a return. I don’t see why some people get offended at that idea.

      But that being said – yes – let’s get numbers on all the parks. If there are reasonable measures that can be taken to improve revenue, then let’s consider and debate those ideas.

      The argument that “we didn’t scrutinize Riverlink so we can’t scrutinize Muni” – lacks principle.

      • rogo says:

        The biggest issue i have is people saying the golf course is using city funds to operate. I will argue the numbers anytime with anybody. I really could’t care less about what shuttleworth or riverfront costs but the golf course is just the same an amsterdam park, NOT A CASH COW

  4. Alayne says:

    Thanks to those four aldermen, our city has progressed more in the last month and a half than it has in the last 6 years!

  5. Tim Becker says:

    Oh c’mon Alayne, that’s a little like awarding Obama the Nobel Peace Prize, don’t you think?

    I give them solid credit for one thing so far – agreeing to fund the land bank. But what else have they done?

  6. Alayne says:

    It has to absolutely kill some people to watch this council actually work together, show cohesiveness and take control of the reigns or should I say reign. How can you condone the nonsense that has gone on in the last few years, by the mayor, general counsel, controller, and prior common councils? It was a joke! The land bank situation would have taken months of watching Dave Dybas grandstand, it would have been tabled, others would not know how they wanted to vote or if they wanted to vote on it, and we would be spinning our wheels months later! The taxpayers witnessed nothing but dysfunction every other Tuesday night for the last few years! These four like minded members have the ability to get things done.

  7. Tim Becker says:

    “Reign” – you said it, not me 🙂

    The only thing that “kills” me is to see valid ideas for improving the golf course and increasing revenue for the city get steamrollered by people who ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility.

    Karl Baia, who is obviously no fan of the mayor, even suggested implementing some of her ideas as part of a compromise. Even Barone admitted that the way the course was being run was “lackadaisical”. But yet the council has yet to suggest their own viable plan for improving the course. You call that leadership? You call that fiscal responsibility?

    Public debate is not “dysfunctional”. If your definition of a “functional” government is one where council members simply shoot down ideas for political reasons without any plan of their own, and then refuse to compromise, leading us down the path of potentially going into a court battle – I really don’t know what to even say about that.

  8. Alayne says:

    Tim,
    The so called political debate stopped progress. It was a three ring circus for the last two years! With all the things that are messed up in Ansterdam this hikding up the golf pro contract only makes the mayor look petty. Our finances are in complete disarray, and have been for years, and this is what everyone is so freaked out about? I’m just baffled on what seems to be in the top of her priority list!

    • Tim Becker says:

      Alayne – who made the golf course their very first, #1, top priority at the beginning of the year? It was the **common council**, that’s who 🙂 The mayor and golf commission had been working on their ideas for some time. The common council made it their *first* priority to squash the progress right out of the gate without offering any sensible alternative themselves other than to keep things *exactly* the way they always have been. You call that progress? And you blame the mayor for that?

      I’m also baffled as to how you think that somehow the previous common council “stopped progress” when they’ve also been accused of giving the mayor everything she wants. So which is it?

      The previous council made plenty of progress, not the least of which was finally putting into place a solution to the accounting problems. But of course, we all see what we want to see, don’t we? 🙂

  9. Diane Hatzenbuhler says:

    Tim, like all in the city, I will be glad when this is resolved. We have a very serious budget season coming up that is going to require some serious concentration. That being said, something that I have asked of the recreation director Spagnola, is a listing of all his expenses for each and every park we have in the city. Currently that is not done. I am hoping that when that information is completed, it will be easier for the council in the future to sit down and determine what it costs to operate one of our parks. Once that is completed, I feel in the future we can look to more equality among all the contracts, as there is very little right now. You say the city is making out ok on the other contracts, but I would have to disagree, knowing the little that I know now. I feel confident that Laura will do an excellent job as the concessionaire and I look forward to Joe’s contract being resolved in the near future. Our parks were not made to be bled dry by an administration that is looking for every penny of revenue they can come up with to offset the doubling of our bond debt in the first 5 years of their administration that had no revenue to offset the expense. (Per both the state and a CPA report.) Going after the golf course is unfair unless all parks and costs are looked at simultaneously, and that has never been done. The water increases in the past two years are also impacting individuals, specifically the car wash on East Main. Again, this upcoming budget will not be easy, but the council is prepared to move forward for our city in a fair and equitable manner for all concerned. Thank you.

  10. Tim Becker says:

    “You say the city is making out ok on the other contracts,” – I’ve never said that Diane, I don’t know what you are talking about.

    You talk about pennies Diane, but you are the one who suggested that city hall consolidates their paper purchasing to save a few pennies, even though you admitted it wouldn’t save much, but that we “had to start somewhere”. But obviously you don’t apply that same approach to the golf course, do you?

    As a taxpayer, I do not want the *city* bled dry by an underperforming golf course. It is *not* like the other parks which can be utilized by anyone for free. It is a *business* owned by taxpayers, not the golf course customers, and it should generating a consistent profit.

    Diane, I believe your efforts to squash any ideas to improve the course has been a great disservice to this city. You ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility, but you have selectively abandoned that cause in regards to the golf course. It’s a step backwards for the city, not forward!

  11. Alayne says:

    I guess you are right, we all see what we choose to see. I see a park which my tax dollars pay for that should probably be renamed to Spagnola, and not Shuttleworth, I see a cafe at the Riverlink which my tax dollars pay for and which someone else profits! Explain the difference please! If the only difference is you don’t take your kids there, feel free to take your kids sliding, x-country skiing or snowshoeing on the golf course, IT IS ALSO FREE!

  12. Michael says:

    This golf course issue is nothing new, the course has been bleeding the city budget for the last 30 years. They have gutted the recreation budget and allowed parks that everyone can use, become disrepaired and crudded up. There used to be a host of programs for kids and jobs for college students but now we worry about 1 pro and 350 golfers….give me a break. Hell the amount of blacktop that was robbed from the roads program over the years would have paved a couple of longer street.

    • rogo says:

      email me about numbers if you want. No bleeding only city greed. what is $90,000 for admin fee????

      • Michael says:

        Maybe just a true pay to play course…no memberships just a flat rate for 9 or 18 holes plus a cart fee. Just like we charge the little kids at the pool to swim for the day.

  13. Tim Becker says:

    If there is a business model at work, then I am all for going over the numbers and all factors to make sure we are getting a good deal. I said that plainly at the beginning of this comment thread, take a look 🙂

    It’s only the die-hard Joe the pro supporters who are defensively saying we shouldn’t analyze the golf course numbers because … Riverlink….Shuttleworth…just leave us alone you mean mayor!!! lol!

    Let’s get all the numbers for any park with a business model including the golf course. I’m all for it. That’s what fiscal responsibility means.

    Yes, it’s nice I can take my kids to the golf course within the time frame of a few months when there is snow on the ground. But that’s hardly it’s main purpose 🙂

  14. Alayne says:

    That is exactly what I stated in my original post! Let’s be consistent, if not it comes across as cronyism! The city should not be losing money from any of the contracts with concessionaires! The city should, at the least, break even! Right? Again, this goes back to running the city as if it were for profit business, not a charity!

  15. Tim Becker says:

    Great, we’re all in agreement then, I think?

    Yes, Alayne I agree that where there is a for-profit business operating, it should at least break even, or if it isn’t there should be a solid plan to get there, or at least show what the business adds in terms of quality of life, property value, benefit to other surrounding businesses, etc.

    Rogo – the city needs revenue. Every year it’s a struggle to balance the budget. I don’t think it’s greedy to see if a publically owned asset like the golf course, or any other asset – can perform better. Even Baron admits the running of the course has been “lackadaisical”.

    All our tax money should generate a return of some sort – whether it’s revenue, quality of life, services, etc… I don’t think it’s greedy at all to expect that.

  16. Alayne says:

    At this point everything has to be scrutinized. This involves an enormous amount of work, my hope is this council will do their due diligence! I think they will! (Fingers crossed and ten hail Mary’s)