Golf course concerns

By Baker City Herald Editorial Board December 04, 2013 09:02 am

Quail Ridge Golf Course needs to open as usual next spring.

The city-owned 18-hole course is an important amenity not only for local residents, who have helped keep the course going with their tax dollars over the years, but as a tourist attraction.

That said, the city needs to be exceedingly careful in negotiating a contract with Bill Tiedemann, the only person to express an interest in managing the course and its restaurant and bar.

The City Council voted 6-0 on Friday to have City Manager Mike Kee negotiate with Tiedemann.

We won’t see a detailed contract proposal until they’re finished (the City Council has the final say). But what we know of Tiedemann’s proposal gives us reason to worry.

Specifically, he is suggesting that the city guarantee him an annual payment of $75,000.

The former course manager, Billy Cunningham’s Seven Iron Inc., had no such guarantee.

In fact, for most of Cunningham’s several-year tenure, he was required by contract to pay the city an annual lease fee of up to $22,500.

The city used that money to help make annual payments, with interest, on a loan from the city’s cemetery fund. That loan covered the debt the city had incurred from building the back nine holes in 2000, and from operating losses at the course before Seven Iron Inc. was hired.

And that’s precisely what the city must avoid — having to spend general fund dollars, which also pay for the police and fire departments, among other services — to subsidize the golf course.

Kee said that although negotiations are continuing, he will insist that any contract with Tiedemann would allow the city to reduce the contractor’s fee if, for instance, revenues are well below projections well into the golf season.

That’s wise.

The city simply can’t risk a situation in which revenues lag but the contractor continues to spend, in effect ensuring that the golf course itself won’t generate any profit, leaving the city to make up the difference. The general fund, which includes property taxes, would be the likely source.

That’s not acceptable.

In his report to councilors last week, Kee wrote that under Tiedemann’s proposal, “Most of the risk of this proposal is with the City, Mr. Tiedemann has very little risk.”

We hope Kee can negotiate a contract that reverses that.

And we urge the City Council to reject any proposed contract that could require the city to use general fund dollars to subsidize the golf course.