Council votes in favour of golf course transfer

Tom Sasvari

The Recorder

GORDON—Gordon-Barrie Island council has voted unanimously in favour of the Manitoulin Island Country Club (MICC) being transferred to the township.

“I’m behind this, we will take a try at this,” stated councillor Lee Hayden, (prior to council’s vote on a resolution for the transfer), noting council is committed to making sure the takeover of the Manitoulin Island Country Club (MICC) will not be subsidized by taxpayer money.

“As you are all aware, the township is about to take over, or talking about it,” said Leo Brunet, one of two residents who made a delegation to council at a meeting held Tuesday. “One question I have is how much information has been given out to all the taxpayers, and I think the taxpayers’ dollars should be going into things like roads, culverts and bridges.”

Mr. Brunet acknowledged, “I am sorry to see the golf course is not doing well, it is certainly not because of Jane and Art Pummell, they are doing a great job. But taxpayer money should not be used in this, and I don’t feel enough information has gotten out the residents as to exactly what is going on. I feel more consultation should have taken place to explain to taxpayers what is taking place.”

Reeve Jack Brady told the 20 members of the public at the meeting, “My thought on this sort of thing is when you call a public meeting most time no one shows up. To be sure we would get people to attend (township clerk Carrie Lewis) contacted people randomly in the township to attend these meetings.”

It was pointed out by Ms. Lewis the meeting dates and times were posted on the township website as well.

“It seems that some people seem to have the impression that this whole process has all been done in a rush,” said Mr. Brady. “But this has been in the works for awhile now.”

“There will be no taxpayer money involved in this transfer and our taking over the course,” stated Mr. Brady. “If we take it over we would buy it for $1 dollar and take over the liabilities, which amount to three loans, and the three persons involved have indicated they don’t want to be reimbursed until the course gets back on its feet.”

Mr. Brady further explained Ms. Lewis, “looked at the finances of the golf course and she picked up two areas we could help out. One is to do with insurance, which is costing the MICC $12,000 a year, and if we take over it would be under our insurance coverage and would run in the order of $4,000 as part of our overall insurance policy. And the golf course is only looking at an overall deficit of $400-500 in 2011,” although he acknowledge in the past the MICC has had some larger yearly deficits.

“Another reason we are looking at this is we feel to get the best way to get the golf course back on its feet is with the municipality taking it over,” continued Mr. Brady. He pointed out although there are funding agencies, golf courses can apply for funding, “they are not held in high regard for these grants.” However, “as a municipality we have a wider range of funding agencies to tap into, so we could possibly access government money if it is needed.”

Mr. Brady pointed out, “if we decide in the future we don’t want to continue owning the golf course, the current MICC board has suggested, in fact they would like first right of refusal before we looked at selling it to an individual or group.”

As well, Mr. Brady said a board made up of MICC board members and members of council would be set up to oversee operations of the golf course. “Much like other committees we have they would oversee the golf course budget and finances and would have to adhere to the budget.”

Mr. Brady said having received a letter from Mr. Brunet, with questions, answers have been provided and will be forwarded to him. “There was no intention of hiding the truth or information, this was definitely not the case,” stressing again, “rest assured there will be no taxpayer’s money going into this. The budget will have to be adhered to and recommended by the committee to council for their approval, and it will have to balance or it will be sent back.”

Mr. Brady encouraged the public to continue asking questions on the whole initiative, and told the meeting, “if council passes the resolution tonight to take over the golf course, our legal eagles will be looking at the agreement to make sure we are on the right track.”

The second public delegation was made by Gordon resident Willis Campbell. “As you know I just live down the road from the police station, and I could walk to the golf course. I’m not a golfer, but (his wife) Jane and I were charter members of the club because we believed in the course and still do.”

Mr. Campbell has lived in the township for 60 years and has paid taxes locally for 40 years, he told council. “My two concerns are if the course went to a private owner they might increase fees to the point of forcing local golfers out the door. My other concern is if it went to an individual or a group and they run it into the ground, which has happened with other businesses in the area.”

It was pointed out by Mr. Brady the MICC has been in existence for over 30 years, “and it is a good draw for the municipality. And it is a requirement of a municipality to supply recreational opportunities for its residents, especially in this day and age when so much emphasis is made on exercising to stay healthy.” He said that is why the township invested in the new parks on Barrie Island, for example.”

Mr. Brady also pointed out a question had been raised taking on the liabilities it will assume from the MICC. However, if the municipality decided they didn’t want to maintain ownership of the course, the MICC board, “would take it back in the same condition. And if they don’t accept it at that point we could divest or sell the course. But I am confident that we along with help from the club members-board and volunteers can make a general effort to grow membership, especially getting more young people involved in the course.”

Mr. Campbell asked, if council passed the resolution for the transfer, whether it would be for a one year period, three or five years.

“We are waiting for some input from our lawyers, but regardless to take over for a year and let the course go would not really be fair,” said Mr. Brady.

Mr. Hayden pointed out council had discussed the possible transfer at a meeting on Monday. “We had a lot of discussion and I thought the meeting was very productive, and my concerns were addressed. The way the resolution is written, it satisfies a lot of the concerns that have been raised, one of the main ones being that taxpayer’s dollars would not be used to subsidize the golf course. We are committed not to use taxpayer’s money to subsidize the golf course. And in the process we’ve identified options for us to consider if we can’t make a go of it.” He added the agreement “will not be for one year, it might be for two or three years or maybe become an election issue for the next council.”

“I’m ready to vote,” said Mr. Hayden stressing, “I’m very appreciative of all the calls I’ve received from residents, with your concerns and questions. In the interest of preserving the golf course, and our interests, I’ve appreciated all the input I’ve received from local residents.”

The resolution voted in favour by council states in part the MICC would be transferring the assets for liabilities of MICC to Gordon/Barrie Island, and it stated the township has a commitment that it will not be a burden on taxpayers.