St. Paul Town Council held a special Council Meeting last night, October 29th, and came to the hard decision to close the golf course after it was discovered that the course was $300,000 in debt, as of September 30th. Mayor of St. Paul, Glenn Andersen, explains the course is run by a non-profit society; which had the land leased to them from the Town.
“The golf course is a society in itself,” explains Mayor Andersen, “when it comes to societies, there’s a board of directors and they govern everything.” Much like a business, but non-profit. This is typical of golf courses. “The society had a lease with the Town for our land for their golf club. When we started questioning the financials, we didn’t like what we saw and they have to account for that. We didn’t have faith in their fiscal responsibility.”
“It was a town decision to terminate the lease on the land.” -Mayor Glenn Andersen
The society initiated financial conversations with Town Council after approaching them in September for a $100,000 loan to cover, what the Town believed was $60,000 in debt. However, it was discovered that the course owed $300,000. The Town decided it would set a bad precedent for non-profit societies and decided not to bail them out.
“We had to make a decision, because the direction they were going wasn’t positive; when it comes to financials.” Mayor Andersen says the Town has been worried about the bad finances for some time, “it’s been progressively worse and the society has to realize that and [Council] is not sure they realize that yet.”
“Ultimately, the board is fiscally responsible to run the society.” -Mayor Andersen
Mayor Anderson explains the society must undergo an audit process, “they were warned by their auditor, that they couldn’t keep going like this. It shows from 2012 to 2015, it’s getting progressively worse and they hadn’t had a plan on how to deal with it.”
The golf course differs from a Town ran recreational facility, like the arena or swimming pool, in that it is operated outside of the Town by the society. Andersen explains, “no recreational facilities make money, none. It’s very tough to do. [In the case of the arena] it’s paid for by the community, and we know we don’t make money, we maintain. That’s what people accept for the operation of their community.”
Mayor Andersen explains a better comparison for the golf course, is the curling rink, “a society runs it in the winter and the Town gets it back in the summer. The curling club has the rink for six months of the year and the Town has it for the other six.” How that relates to the course is both lease from the Town; the building in the case of the curling rink and the land in the case of the golf course. The Town has no authority over who manages the business aspects (the board of directors) of the curling club or the golf course.
“They govern through a society that’s part of Alberta’s Liquor & Gaming. We have no control over the decisions they make or who’s appointed to the board.” -Mayor Andersen
Mayor Andersen says the society hasn’t proven to the Town that they are willing to change thing on a board level; ie. appointing new board members and changing financial practices. “As it is right now, the Town is going to forge ahead. Find out the commitments made, itemize the commitments they have for people renting the facility, gift cards and pre-paid memberships. We want to find out all that. Then hold a meeting to determine what direction we will go next.”
The Tin Cup Restaurant was ran by the society, and is very unclear whether it was profitable. Andersen explains, “we’re getting varying answers. One person will tell us they’re making money and doing really well. Another will tell us they don’t make any money. We’re getting conflicting messages, we’re not sure the board really knows.”
“We don’t get those numbers, it’s basically the society telling us and we don’t know what’s accurate. Council has to go off the information we have and we had to make a decision.” -Mayor Andersen
At this time there are no future meetings on the books for Council regarding the Golf Course.