The following was submitted to the editor by LCN reader, George Parrott, of St. Paul, Alberta. This letter has not been altered from the author’s original content and is an opinion piece submitted by Mr Parrott. Views & opinions expressed below do not reflect those of this publication or its affiliates.
Open Letter Regarding the St. Paul Golf Course
March 10, 2016
The purpose of this letter is to inform the public the real reason the golf club was unable to meet its fiscal obligations this past year. It is the first time it has happened in our 62-year history. During these years it has been the only self-sustaining sports facility in this town. ie. there was never much financial assistance from the town. We leased the land from them for 50 years.
How do I know? I have been involved with the golf course as a volunteer from its inception in 1953 until the present time. I also served as a board member abd president off and on for many of these years. In lights of this I feel I am qualified to enlighten the public in a truthful manner as to the operation of this facility.
The debt began in the late 1960s when the board decided to install grass greens, an irrigation system, and reconfigure some holes. The club managed to make these debt payments. The heavy debt load began in 2002 when the board decided to expand the course to 18 holes. To raise instant cash they decided to sell 10-year memberships.This decreased our revenue for the ensuing 10 years, In addition to the construction costs the club had to almost double its equipment and hire more staff to maintain it. The load increased by about $900 000.
About 7 years go our clubhouse was in extreme disrepair. There was black mold found in the basement, the kitchen was not up to code, and the building was not handicap accessible to name a few problems. The club had the choice of spending about $400-500 thousand to repair the current building, or build a new facility. The club received $500 000 in grant and donation money, mainly from the provincial government, to build a new recreation facility for the community. The turnkey contract for this construction was $1.3 million. We extended our mortgage to 20 years so that our yearly payments remained similar to what they were previous to the building of the new clubhouse. Both of these ventures brought our debt load to about $1 million. To date the club’s mortgage has been brought down to around $800 thousand.
A few years ago the club approached the mayor requesting assistance in paying the club’s utility bills. (Worth about $50,000 a year.) The town refused to help with this bill. At that time our accountant told us that we needed more traffic/golfers on the course or we would not be able to continue the way we were. The restaurant and proshop facilities continued to help offset the costs of maintaining the golf course.
In the 2013 and 2014 golf seasons due to late, cold and wet springs (delayed almost one month compared to normal) and many rained out weekends during the summer months our revenue decreased from that of 2012. Every lost weekend cost the club between 15 and 20 thousand dollars. I don’t know how many weekends we lost these two years, but losing only 10 of them would account for a loss of roughly $200 thousand. During the 2014 & 2015 season, the ground’s maintenance expenses increased significantly, by about 50-70 thousand dollars a year, compared to that of 2012.
In order for the town to be able to continue to boast such as asset, as the golf course, community assistance would be required. A town representative, who had been attending our board meetings, assured us that is the town assumed the operations of the golf course, it would be a gradual procedure. This representative advised us to create a committee and meet with a town committee so arrangements could be negotiated for the transfer of the community facility.
Instead, some mental giant from the town office authorized a hostile take over, sending over a security guard, and a locksmith to change the locks on the clubhouse. This was done while patrons were still dining in the restaurant. This was totally unexpected, unnecessary and completely illegal. This action was based on the individual referencing an old lease agreement from 1998, assuming no current lease agreement was in place, when in fact we had renewed a lease agreement in 2002, for another 25 years. This action of cancelling our lease agreement was reported to our bank, the bank then in turn froze our accounts. I assume they did this because they were no longer confident in the club’s agreement with the town, who had cosigned our accounts because we are a non-profit society on town-leased land. This action prevented us from paying our employees in a timely matter, and ruined this long-standing St. Paul establishment’s good reputation.
So now the town is the proud owner of a multi million-dollar recreation and dining facility that was built and operated by volunteers for 62 years. Other jurisdictions would have commended and thanked volunteers for so many years of their work and dedication. Instead we were threatened with lawsuits and treated like criminals.
The saddest thing about this mess is that we have lost our sense of community where people help each other in times of need. In closing I will quote an old saying, “there are none so blind as those who will not seem nor deaf as those who will not hear.”