Council debates muni restaurant operations, Riverlink canopy expense

Council members Dave Dybas and Irene Collins both expressed concern at Tuesday’s meeting about the idea of the city operating the restaurant at the municipal golf course this season. In previous years, the restaurant was rented to Laura Elmendorf who operated the facility independently. Since her contract has recently expired, the city now plans to hire staff to run the restaurant directly in hopes of generating additional revenue for the course, which has accumulated a $772,059 operating deficit over the past several years. The city currently faces a total $8.3 million in fund balance deficits including the golf, general, and transportation funds.

The issue came up as the council considered a resolution regarding the city’s application for a liquor license. Businesses typically have to give a 30 day notice to the city when applying for a license. The resolution would wave the notice period, given the application was for the city itself.

Dybas questioned whether the city should be increasing expenses by hiring more staff given the city’s large fund balance deficits. He warned that the action may not stand up to scrutiny by New York State officials, who may have to approve deficit borrowing for the city in the near future.

Collins also said that she felt the city was going “too far” in taking over restaurant operations.

Alderman Jim Martuscello said that he believes the restaurant will increase revenues for the golf course fund, although he did not have a projection of revenues and expenses with him at the meeting. He cited the previous years of operation by Elmendorf as evidence that the restaurant was generating a profit.

The resolution was finally passed 3-2 with Dybas and Collins casting the no votes.

Collins also took issue with a resolution to spend $4,975 to replace the canopy at the Riverlink Park restaurant facility, because the expense was proposed to be funded by revenue from code enforcement fees. Those fees have already already exceed the budgeted amount for the fiscal year which ends in June. Collins said the extra revenue should go against the general fund balance. Both Dybas and Collins said that the extra expense should come out of the recreation department’s budget.

Martuscello said that there was no specific budget line for Riverlink Park expenses, and that he felt it was safer to use extra revenue from the code enforcement fees, which have already exceeded the budgeted amount, rather than offset the expense from recreation department revenues or cutting other department expenses given there is still five months left in the fiscal year.

The resolution was passed 3-2 with Dybas and Collins casting the no votes.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.