Monday, October 5, 2009

Countryside shutdown – employees being wooed by another group

SmallsignSETUP FOR FAILURE? If you thought things could not get worse well think again. With council members consistently absent  there never seems to be enough council members to move things along. The same thing happened with the capital improvement bond vote on September 8. There will be no smooth transition from one management group for Countryside Golf Course to another group.

There were only five members of Council present at the 2:00 meeting Monday. Mayor David Bowers stalled as long as he could waiting for Council member Anita Price to show. Vice-Mayor Sherman Lea was in Richmond on business. Bowers had to adjourn the meeting to go into executive session and asked the members of the Countryside neighborhood to wait until after executive session when he (with the concurrence of the other members) hoped Price would arrive for a vote. She arrived almost immediately after adjournment so they reconvened.

The vote was 4-2 with Council members Court Rosen and Gwen Mason voting “no.” To pass the resolution required a 5 vote majority so it will not come to council again until the next meeting on October 22 for the second reading. City Manager, Darlene Burcham noted that several Council members are expected to be absent then as well. She tried to convey the urgency to award the contract for there to be a smooth transition to new management. It fell on deaf ears. The earliest the contract would be awarded now is October 23. The lease with Meadowbrook ends October 31.

With comments today from Burcham it became apparent that Meadowbrook the current golf course operators may be left holding the bag. Burcham offered her version of why the golf course was in poor condition. The previous owners (again Meadowbrook) had let it deteriorate said Burcham. There was no mention that Burcham and Director of Roanoke Regional Airport, Jackie Schuck had made it clear to Meadowbrook owners as far back as 2003 that the lease of the property owned by the airport commission would not be renewed when it expired in 2008. Knowing that they would lose the lease Meadowbrook saw no reason to invest into the course. What business sense would that make?

In a phone call this evening with Scott Beasley, VP of Operations for Meadowbrook in Florida, he again reiterated they had no choice but to sell to the city as they would have no golf course without renewal of the lease where many of the fairways reside. “We didn’t have any intentions of selling it at all,” said Beasley.

That was one of the selling points of the city because the [city] was in the best position to get an extension to save the golf course so Meadowbrook thought. 

“I can’t imagine how they can have a smooth transition,” said Beasley. “We own all the equipment – we own everything there – the place will have to be shutdown for a couple of weeks. I can’t imagine between [Oct.] 22nd and the 1st of November that they can go out and purchase golf carts, furniture and fixtures, and install a point of sale system.”

In the same phone call Beasley said he had also learned that anonymous calls are being made to Countryside Golf Course staff in an attempt to obtain phone numbers of their employees and woo them to come work for Geary Leathers, another responder to the request for management services. Leathers once held Beasley’s position with Meadowbrook and was the Vice President at the time of the sale of the golf course to the city. According to Beasley Leathers is a consultant out of Richmond and as far as he knows Leathers has no people or equipment – “not even a corporate office,” said Beasley. However, he is not aware of what Leathers proposal contained.

With it becoming clear that someone changed their mind on award of the contract Beasley will immediately make plans to remove Meadowbrook’s equipment. The equipment includes golf carts, furniture and fixtures, mowers, and the point of sale system. Basically everything except the clubhouse itself. According to the anonymous caller Geary Leathers and Roanoke City Assistant Manager, Brian Townsend have been negotiating a contract for at least the last month.

I asked Beasley if he “might challenge the award” under the assumption that Geary Leathers would be the recipient. Beasley said, “possibly … I’m not sure what good that would do … somebody’s got to run the golf course.”

Beasley also said that he really did the city a favor by leasing the golf course for another year because originally they only wanted to extend it for 6 months until winter (November/December). They lose money in the cold months and besides Meadowbrook’s fiscal year ends October 31. “You just can’t operate on yearly deals … that’s just not how you do business,” said Beasley.

The other group who responded to the RFP was headed by former council member Alvin Nash.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Roanoke City Politics

Tags: , , ,

Comments (7)


October 6th, 2009 at 2:26 AM    

From Facebook:

Thaddeus Henry Hale Jr.This has “wrong” written all over it. Nothing about this story gives the impression that a positive conclusion is about to come to the citizens of the Countryside community.


October 6th, 2009 at 2:27 AM    

From Facebook:

Kenny Saunders: Sounds like another underhanded deal by the city council or the city of Roanoke. BONEHEADS!


October 6th, 2009 at 2:28 AM    

It boggles the mind.


October 6th, 2009 at 11:06 AM    

I would love to know what is in the Contract negotiated by our lame duck City Manager. I pray this is not a “set up to fail.” If Leathers is the choice, I do dislike the way our City Manager has strung Meadowbrook along (for years). Let’s hope that Leathers has a major golf course backing him in this opportunity.

Keep it open

October 6th, 2009 at 10:25 PM    

Trust me no one has strung Meadowbrook golf along. They do not get involved in any business unless there is money to be made or an angle to be had. For instance, if they needed to operate x number of courses to broker a better deal on retail items, bump up their impression of the courses managed or an opportunity for quick returns with minimal investments. When they placed their manager you can bet they didn’t tell him it was a temp position.
Running a golf course is no different than running any other business. The staff all currently work for a third party employer (it is on their paychecks) so they could stay employed by them and run the place without a management company. With commercial golf equipment sales deeply declining, something Meadowbrook is well aware of as they own a golf equipment leasing and sales division, a couple of phone calls can lease what you need or you could even test it out for a couple of month. There are several point of sale companies that can make an easy transition and that are more functional and user friendly than IBS. Additionally, thousands of courses across the country run without a POS system every day. With colder weather coming walking the course is ideal.
There are really two points of interest here; the employees and access to golf. If Meadowbrook really cares about furthering the game of golf they will see to a smooth transition and reel Mr. Beasely in and if the city is running their own little underhanded scheme let this serve as a firm warning.


October 6th, 2009 at 11:09 PM    

Keep it open:

Thank you for your post – you really added value here.

Feeling secure that the course continues without interruption is very important.

Trust in city administration (a fired city manager and her lingering staff) is just not there.

Purchasing Countryside for development in 2005 was the city manager’s idea as far back as 2002 – it leaves the question does she want to make her point that it will fail. She is determined not to be wrong. That leads to uneasiness in her selection of a management team.

I hope I’m wrong but the citizens have experience and reason for distrust.

A new city manager will have a challenge in building back the trust.

Keep It Open

October 7th, 2009 at 11:09 PM    

Val – You should get with Todd; the current GM. Meadowbrook (MGGI) has nothing to offer him as they keep loosing properties so he would be a great place to start. You may want to look at setting up a nine hole course with driving range and school. This may better serve the community, could provide for greater profits and if the course is operating should they develop the land at the airport for liability purposes.
Let me know where you can be contacted if you want more ideas and direction.

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