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Enumclaw Golf Course management back on the City Council table

The Enumclaw City Council has spent the past few weeks and meetings wrestling with proposals for the future management of the city-owned golf course.

The council directed city staff to send out a formal request for proposals for management of the 18-hole course in November. The course has lost about $40,000 in each of the past two years, with the deficit made up from the city’s general fund.

King County transferred ownership of the golf course to the city in 2004.

Scott Galbraith, a private manager and operator, ran the course from 2005-09.

According to a 2010 Courier-Herald news article, Galbraith elected not to continue as operator when his contract expired. The city interviewed five applicants but decided each was asking the city to assume too much risk and the city elected to take over the operation of the course.

When the city first took possession of the course from King County it was a profitable venture while the pool was thought to be a financial problem. In 2002 John Wise, the mayor of Enumclaw at that time, reported the course was making about $115,000 and the pool was losing between $150,000 and $180,000, according to a Seattle Times article.

Since at least the Great Recession the opposite has been the case, with rounds dropping for the golf course and the pool carrying its own financial water.

The requests for proposals sent out by the city at the end of 2012 attracted two applicants from private parties.

One proposal came from Bob Gelinas, a resident of Bonney Lake who operates Swiftwater Consulting and Management.

The second was from Peter Erickson, the owner of Performance Physical Therapy located in Enumclaw and Bonney Lake.

Swiftwater

Gelinas described himself in the cover letter of his proposal as an experienced “golf facility and restaurant manager with hands-on golf course maintenance experience who has led public facilities to success without exception.”

He stated in his proposal he has been a local “PGA Class ‘A’ Professional since 1997” and has spent 14 years as head golf pro, facility and restaurant manager.

Gelinas stated during a Feb. 11 City Council meeting he has operated numerous municipal golf facilities including Sumner Meadows, Tapps Island Golf Course and the two Everett municipal golf courses. Gelinas said he improved number of rounds played and revenues at each of the courses.

Gelinas said he expected to pay himself about $18,000 per year and would be at the course five days a week.

Erickson

Erickson said in his cover letter what “sets me and my plan apart is that I am a 20-year resident of Enumclaw. I grew up on a farm in the Northwest and understand the economic drivers and need for hard work to be successful…. I have a passion for golf, kids, my neighbors and the success of this golf course that you will not find anywhere else.”

Erickson’s proposal stated the course would “be run by a non-profit organization or hybrid ‘for profit/not for profit’ organization to  minimize tax liabilities.”

Erickson said he does not expect to draw a salary “until the golf course is self sustaining and a certain level of capital improvement has been obtained.” He stated he would hire a manager to run pro shop on a daily basis and he would work mornings, evenings and Thursdays.

Nuts and Bolts

Gelinas’ proposal stated he will operate the course and pay the city an annual lease payment of 5 percent of greens fees and 5 percent of all golf cart rental revenues.

The Swiftwater proposal described a “sanding and drainage plan will be developed in the operations budget to improve year after year off season playing conditions.” He also described some capital improvements on holes No. 2, 11 and 18 including draining improvements and new tees.

Gelinas outlined an operation plan for a well run course, with a marketing program.

The Swiftwater proposal guaranteed $50,000 of “facilities improvements over the five year lease term.”

Erickson proposes to set up an advisory board made up of the president of the Enumclaw men’s and women’s clubs; Enumclaw High golf coach Bob Kilmer; Van Hardy, past president of the Sahalee golf men’s club; and Jim Pike, director of golf operations of Sahalee Golf Course in Sammamish.

Erickson plans to use the Enumclaw men’s and women’s club to “perform tasks such as tax preparation, legal services, septic pumping, excavation, etc.”

Erickson proposes to address the drainage problems on holes 11 and 18 “With the advisory board, a decision will be arrived at and a plan agreeable to all as well as fiscally responsible will be implemented.”

He stated a citywide gold tournament would be established to raise money for capital improvements.

He also plans to seek grants from the United States Golf Association.

Erickson also proposed the city “grant, donated, lease or make available in perpetuity an area sufficient to maintain a driving range perpendicular to 288th Ave. SE and adjacent to SE 452nd St.” The area is commonly known as the bone yard.

At the Feb. 11 meeting Erickson said if the driving range was off the table he would continue to be interested in operating the course.

Erickson’s lease proposal outlines a $1 lease payment for the first year, from year two through five, 2 percent of gross over $400,000, 5 percent over $450,000 and 7 percent over $500,000.

Erickson proposed to make $100,000 of capital improvements during a five-year lease period. He stated the funds include in-kind donations and labor.

Last and Best

Two letters sent to the city concerning the applicants were read by Councilman Glen Jensen during the Feb. 11 council meeting.

Kilmer wrote in support of Erickson.

A email from Dan and Jean Winkel was read representing the Enumclaw men’s and women’s golf club stating some at the previous meeting appeared to believe the clubs were supporting one applicant over another. The letter stated the clubs were not supporting either and expect the council to make a decision based on the proposals and statements provided by Gelinas and Erickson.

City Recommendation

The city staff had previously recommended the Swiftwater proposal.

During a Jan. 28 meeting the council requested that staff seek a “last and best” offer from the two applicants.

Councilman Sean Krebs said at that meeting (Jan. 28) he had received an email from a community member who was upset believing the city already made a decision picking Gelinas.

Public Works Director Chris Searcy said the city does not choose an applicant but provides a recommendation for the council. Only the council can choose to approve a proposal to operate the golf course.

Councilman Mike Ennis at the Feb. 11 meeting asked City Administrator Mike Thomas if the city’s recommendation was the same following the presentation to the council by the Gelinas and Erickson.

Thomas said the city continued to recommend Gelinas.

The members did not come to a decision at the meeting. Krebs said he wanted to think about it and hear from the community. Jensen said he also wanted more time to consider the issues.

Councilman Darrell Dickson said he was supporting Erickson, but suggested a recommendation could be requested from the Parks Board.

Councilman Chance La Fleur said he would still like to consider the option of the city continuing to operate the course.

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