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Interim City Manager Rings in the New Year with Bad News for the MIF Albright Golf Course

By Erica Madison

“If you choose to keep it going where will you get the money to maintain it?” Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant said to City Council during a four hour debate on closing the MIF Albright Golf course.

In May 2009, City Council decided to reopen the MIF Albright par three golf course (MIF) for 6 months. During those 6 months City Council wanted to see if finances proved it was best to close the MIF.

The Interim Operator has looked at the MIF for seven months and was given $50,000 for operating capital.  $31,000 was spent to bring the MIF into working condition.

During those six months the MIF brought in $72000. This exceeded expectations, because it was only expected to bring in $36,300 for the spring.

However the MIF did not break even. The costs to run the MIF exceeded this profit by $21,000. Gallant also reminded City Council that none of Alameda City’s overhead was included in the cost.

“If we continue to operate the MIF in perpetuity these costs would increase. At a national level there has been a decrease in the demand for golf since 2000,” said the Interim Operator representative.

On the local level, the MIF is down by 15 percent.

According to the Interim Operator there has been 3 percent decrease regional in golf playing since 2000. 140 courses have been closed nationally.

“If the MIF were to close there are ways to temporarily meet the demands by having people play on the south course,” the interim representative.

Unfortunately this news led to an uproar within the audience. No one welcomed this suggestion. If the Par 3 course was moved it would not be available to senior citizens and junior players during peak playing times. This would also lead to a need to increase staffing levels. However, there is no money for additional personnel, so the south golf course will have to rely heavily on volunteer staff.

Council member Tam pointed out, closing the MIF would not end the City’s financial problems.

“Even if we close it, this is a city asset and we have to maintain it”, said Council member Tam.

The Interim Operator’s representative estimated that it would cost $1500-$2000 a month to maintain. Unfortunately he was not prepared to say this was an accurate estimate.

Vice  Mayor deHaan also pointed out closing the MIF would exclude senior citizens from playing on the south course.

“Putting nine holes on the south course changes the play rate and physical requirements,” said deHaan.

Unfortunately the only solution is to give senior citizens a golf cart, which robs senior citizens of the exercise benefits. The MIF provides a short course, which could be played in under an hour without the need for a golf cart.

On the bright side the south course would make $7500 gain if the MIF was moved.

The City Council members did float other alternatives for keeping the MIF open, such as opening the MIF seasonally. Unfortunately if the MIF was open for six months and closed for six months the MIF would need to make $30,000 to break even, which would cover the $21,000 needed for start up costs.

If the MIF was closed the course would need $18,000 for non-operation maintenance.

Suggestions for raising fees on the MIF were also discussed.

“Raising fees on the MIF wouldn’t improve the situation”, said the Interim Operator.

The reason being, that there have been no capital improvements made to the golf course. Without the capital improvements there is no reason to justify increasing playing fees.

In its current state the MIF is rather rundown.

Vice mayor deHaan asked what it would cost improve the MIF, but the Interim Operator couldn’t provide council with an estimate at the time.

“What happens if we do nothing to the golf course?” asked Mayor Johnson.

“We will continue to drive down the general fund balance” said Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant.

According to Gallant there is no capital to invest.

The meeting ended with Council member Tam’s suggestion of having staff find out if the MIF could become a non-profit.

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