Aug 22
SOUTH HADLEY – It’s a volatile issue, but Ryan Bagley, chairman of the Ledges Ad Hoc Review Committee, said his group has made progress on resolving what to do with the town’s public golf course, The Ledges. South Hadley already has a Golf Commission, but the “ad hoc” part means that this committee is a special, temporary group formed to consider a specific problem. The panel includes the commission as well as appointees from the Selectboard and Appropriations Committee. The Ledges, which opened in 2001, broke even or better for several years, but has been losing money recently. The golf commissioners say the course started going downhill as soon as the town, in the form of the Selectboard and Town Administrator, stopped accepting recommendations from them last year. The Monday meeting allowed them to vent old frustrations, but also to work on future directions. “Everyone has a real, vested interest in improving the situation of the town,” Bagley said. Selectman John Hine came to the meeting with a list of possible solutions, and invited the group to winnow it down. The first choice, selling the course, was quickly eliminated as a serious option. Even though people are always asking why the town doesn’t sell it, those familiar with the history of the golf course know that the grants that made it possible came with restrictions. Even if the restrictions could be broken, it would come at a terrible cost to the town, both financially and in terms of attracting future state money. The second option Hine read, closing the course, was no more popular, as the town would have to continue paying off its mortgage, or bond, at the rate of $385,000 a year until 2031. Another option, continuing to let the town run the golf course, was voted down. Everyone seems to have concluded that running a golf course is no job for amateurs. The group decided the two best options were leasing or outsourcing the course to a golf management company, as long as it keeps control. The group wants “full transparency” when it comes to where the money’s going, whether in the food, maintenance or management areas. Committee members said it would also help if they could start getting financial statements from the Ledges on a regular basis right away. “We don’t know what the numbers are,” said Ira Brezinsky. The ad hoc committee also agreed that a consultant was essential in locating the kind of management they need. The town has arranged for the first two candidates for the consultant position to be interviewed by the ad hoc committee on Aug. 22. Committee members said that in previous meetings they received valuable information from state Rep. John Scibak, who talked about the state grants, and Mary Jo Maydew, former vice president for finance and administration at Mount Holyoke College, which owns the successful private golf course The Orchards in South Hadley..." View the article.