Thursday, August 6, 2009

Information Obtained as Council Member Used to Package a Proposal to Manage Countryside Golf Course

Countryside Golf Couse

Countryside Golf Couse

As the contents of two of three proposals make the rounds to golfers and the Countryside Golf Course neighborhood, it becomes more apparent that Roanoke City is mismanaging this procurement for services. The neighborhood, golfers and even the responders to the Request for Services are becoming increasingly frustrated and caught in the middle while Council fumbles with indecision.

Scott Beasley the VP of Operations for Florida’s Meadowbrook Golf the current operator and former owners of Countryside said in an email, “It has been like pulling teeth trying to get any information from the City.”

Following the dissemination of former Council member Alvin Nash’s proposal on behalf of Silverstone, golfers are speaking up for Meadowbrook Golf. Beasley in another email expressed disappointment saying, “You know I do find it interesting that a lot of what is in Alvin’s proposal about the things they want to do and bring to Countryside were taken straight out of my correspondence with him back when he was on Council. I was surprised to say the least when I saw what they had proposed.”

Meadowbrook Golf Makes Their Case for Countryside Golf Course Management – Video

Three management proposals have been submitted to Roanoke City for management services for the City-owned Countryside Golf Course in Northwest City. The Ellis Maples course has been in operation since 1967 and cultivated golfing professionals who had found Country Clubs too expensive. Some say Countryside (formerly named Arrowood) formed in an era of segregation.

Since 2005 Roanoke City has been unable to find a developer for their $4.1 million purchase, as was the original intended purpose. A real estate assessor said that the City would be lucky to sell it for half of what they paid for it.

Several years ago retired maintenance personnel who installed the irrigation system divulged that it contained asbestos. Countryside’s Manager, Bobby Kidder said he also has heard the same thing though no tests have been conducted on the system. If the asbestos is disturbed for development it would cost a “mint” to remove it properly. Parts of the swimming pool was also suspected to contain asbestos. The pool building is down and swimming pool has been filled in. Neighbors watched workers in hazmat suits work during demolition of the pool building. It makes one wonder just what kind of due diligence and environmental study was done on the property.

Liability Concern: During our phone conversation Wednesday Kidder said he has repeatedly tried to get the City to replace the nets for the driving range. The nets are down and balls can hit passing vehicles or pedestrians. It is a lawsuit waiting to happen. The lease agreement has the City responsible for improvements over $1000.

Council has put themselves in a position to be the “deciders” on who manages Countryside Golf Course (if anyone). The solicitation for proposals closed on June 1. Council has had one closed session with a summary of the proposals (without names attached).

But Council members have a good idea who they are since former Council member Alvin Nash submitted a letter to all members separately out of concern that they were not getting the full story from City Administration. Nash has had some experience with this scenario.

Besides a group that calls itself Silverstone where Nash would serve as marketer/promoter Meadowbrook the current operator and former owners have also submitted a proposal with two options for consideration.

One option asks the City to invest $1.2 million for a new irrigation system and golf cart path repair with payments to the city at the greater of 7.5% of total revenue or:

Year 1 = $30,000

Year 2 = $50,000

Years 3 – 10 = $100,000 per year

The second option eliminates the $1.2 million in repairs. The City keeps all the profits but pays Meadowbook an operation fee of $7500 monthly.

Meadowbrook has even provided a video that has been emailed to golfers and neighbors.

According to Bobby Kidder Meadowbrook offers to perform the irrigation and cart path repairs but the City may instead put it out for bid. Valuable time is ticking away. Kidder says it is difficult to get the City to return a phone call. (I have heard this so many times from other businesses and other jurisdictions – I hope that City Council takes note.)

Kidder also said there is a lot of misinformation being spread about the golf course not being profitable. He explained that just as any business operates they project a budget that includes the expected profit above the cost of operation. Kidder said clearly that Meadowbrook makes a profit otherwise why would they continue to offer their services – what business sense would that make. He offered to open his books for scrutiny if I wanted to see them.

This golf course could be a bonanza for the City said Kidder. He would like to see a new clubhouse build in place of the small building beside the old swimming pool that would have an area for students to hold their proms. Building on top of where the pool would not disturb any asbestos under it. Then he thinks a pool could go in above where the tennis building sits. He suggests that the tennis building would easily make a good maintenance building because it is structurally sound.

Meadowbrook reported $87,500 in profit in 2005, $79,800 in 2006, and $43,200 in 2007. They have always made a profit – it is just that the profit did not meet the budget projections. Kidder acknowledged that play is down partly due to the economy but in large part it is also due to the City’s own indecision on the use of the property. A year to year lease and negative media attention has left many golfers not realizing that the course is still in operation.

Maintenance of the fairways and greens has deteriorated Kidder admits. With a year to year lease and the one year extensions coming on the cusp of  last minute reprieves left Meadowbrook in a quandary as to whether to perform expensive course maintenance only to have the course closed. Last year less than a month before the course was scheduled to close the lease with Meadowbrook was extended another year. The tenant of the tennis building was lost due to the delay. The city refused to rent the tennis building directly to Mike Johnson and Meadowbrook was not in a position to rent it without a lease. Now no one leases it and there is no revenue stream from it.

Kidder in a phone call also made note that Meadowbrook is very aware that they were told by the City that the airport property they leased for fairways would not be renewed in 2008. Meadowbrook received a memo to that effect. They would not have sold it otherwise. Strangely (or more aptly not so strangely) the Director of the Roanoke Regional Airport, Ms. Jackie Shuck and the Airport Commission have now awarded the City a 10-year lease. (FOI documentation from 2002 indicates a “planned” denial of the airport property to force the sale). This memo was the first in a series culminating in the memo to Meadowbrook.

Kidder who has returned as manager of the golf course is in a personal quandary. He has a home and family in Richmond with a child that needs to start school somewhere.

Related Articles: One Countryside Golf Course Management Proposal Looms Large for Council Monday

Three Monday Morning Interviews for Countryside Golf Course Management

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Roanoke City Politics, Video

Tags: , , ,

Comments (4)

Hank Bostwick

August 6th, 2009 at 9:44 AM    


VG,

SCH reported on asbestos removal last year, but it was denied. Good work finding out about that impending problem.

What are the potential remedies and the cost for containment or removal?

Thanks for staying on that crucial issue.

Hank Bostwick

August 6th, 2009 at 11:14 AM    


Excellent stuff. SCH linked this story:
http://starcityharbinger.com/2009/08/06/trfp-keeps-environmental-issues-at-countryside-in-public-eye/

Val

August 6th, 2009 at 2:28 PM    


A member of the maintenance crew who works at Countryside put the original irrigation system in and told us back in 2005. It was passed to Council and City Administration but fell on deaf ears.

The only new news here is that the manager has repeated it. According to the DEQ if it stays buried it will be OK. A new system would be installed leaving the old.

Val

August 6th, 2009 at 5:56 PM    


I just recalled the older gentleman’s first name who installed or helped install the irrigations system … Ike.

He no longer works at Countryside due to poor health. It was several years ago I contacted the Asbestos Division of the DEQ to understand the implications – only if the system was unearthed would there be a concern.

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