Members vote in favour of sale of MICC golf course to Manitoulin Transport

GORDON-BARRIE ISLAND—Current and charter members of the Manitoulin Island Country Club (MICC) have, by a very large majority vote, decided not to exercise their first right of refusal and allow for the sale of the MICC with the condition that it be sold to a Manitoulin Transport entity.

“We want to thank you for all coming out to this meeting,” said Brian Bainborough, facilitator of the meeting, which was attended by approximately 70 people. “As most of  you know, this is part of the annual  general meeting to give consideration to exercising the members’ first right of refusal or allowing for the sale of the MICC to a prospective purchaser.”

Mr. Bainborough noted that in the fall of 2012, the MICC members met where a motion was made to transfer the golf course over to the municipality of Gordon/Barrie Island, with approximately $70,000-75,000 in loans outstanding.

”We are not here tonight to discuss if the township has done a good job in operating the golf course or not,” stated Mr. Bainborough. He explained, “When we transferred the course, one of the stipulations was for the opportunity to consider the first right of refusal if the township did not want to continue operation of the golf course and the membership would have the option of buying it back.”
Mr. Bainborough  noted the agreement is for a term of 15 years, starting from 2012. The township recently gave its notice on the intention of selling the course to a potential buyer. As he was one of the last members of the board when the course was transferred to the township, “I was approached (by the township) as to what needed to be done if this was the case, and I was told there was a potential buyer, Manitoulin Transport. I said at that point before we talk to the  members we needed to talk to the potential purchasers. I talked to Gord (Smith) (of Manitoulin Transport and asked him two main questions: will they (Manitoulin Transport) keep the golf course public, and he said yes. Secondly, I asked if a first right of refusal would remain in place if they purchased it and he gave a guarantee of five years.”

With what is owing to the township, the MICC assets in terms of property, buildings and equipment, Manitoulin Transport would purchase the MICC for $211,000.

“I know this (potential sale) is an emotional thing,” said Mr. Bainborough, “there are people here that have put in more than 30 years into this course.”

The members were told they have options they can vote on. They could decline the first right of refusal, but would  need $100,000 to pay the township and at least another $100,000 for working capital. “And this would mean having to install another board and managing the course.

“What I’m concerned about is that in a couple of years, the course could be sold from under us,” said one person at the meeting.

Gordon/Barrie Island Reeve Lee Hayden said, “I have verbal and texted confirmation (from Mr. Smith) that they will guarantee at least five years, but as for the first right of refusal after that, I doubt we would get this. When I talked to Gord about all of this he said we were overcomplicating things. They (Manitoulin Transport) are committed to continue to run this as a golf course. Look what they have done in the town of Gore Bay. The Smith family has the best interest of everyone on this.”

“And it was Gord who first approached me and asked how they could help the golf course,” said Mr. Hayden. “We asked Myrna Thomas (clubhouse manager) and Dave Carr (course superintendent) what would be needed in capital over the next five years, and they said between $250,000-300,000 over five years, so $60,000 per year.  It was at that time Gord said, what if we buy the place. He initiated the discussion. He and his family are interested in the long term viability of the golf course.”

“When Manitoulin Transport asked about purchasing the course, to help keep it viable, our council was unanimous in supporting this sale,” said Mr. Hayden.
“How long would it be viable?”asked Lynn Sanmiya.

“We  have a guarantee for sure for five years,” said Mr. Hayden. “And look at the commitment Manitoulin Transport has  made to Manitoulin and the community.”

Joyce Foster questioned what the policy of the township is on dispersal of property, and Bill Baker, a Gordon/Barrie Island township councillor told the meeting the township interim clerk sought out legal advice on this issue as to if the MICC would have to be advertised for sale, and was told it doesn’t.”

“Manitoulin Transport is interested in not only the community, but interested in getting more people to work for them here. A golf course would be another piece to make it more saleable for people to come and work on the island,” offered Paul Purvis.

“We’re all here for one reason,” stated Dave Carlisle. “The betterment of the course and its long term viability. Most of us were here in 2012, and we know we couldn’t continue to run it with a board and that the better solution was to transfer it to the township. Now we have a very strong community business here that would take it over.”

“I think we would be doing the best for the club if we took their (Manitoulin Transport) offer,” said Sally Zahnow.

“I can’t see a sale going through anyone else, at this time,” said Mr. Hayden, noting the Manitoulin Transport option is the only one that has been considered by council.

“If in five years they sell the course, we’re done,” said George Purvis. However, he said, “Manitoulin Transport is the best community citizen we have and as long as they remain here locally, we’ll be good.”

Those at the meeting voted in favour, except for one vote in opposition and two abstaining, to                                not exercise their first right of refusal and allow for the sale of MICC with the condition that it be sold to a Manitoulin Transport entity.