City may take swing at golf business

In recent years, the city of Enumclaw has taken over operations at the local swimming pool and the former King County Fairgrounds. This year, the city agreed to put on the county fair.

Now, it appears the city is poised to operate the local golf course, at least for 2010.

The city’s direct involvement with the course goes back just a few years. When King County’s cash-strapped Parks and Recreation division was looking to shed itself of certain properties, the city agreed to take ownership of both the swimming pool and golf course; the thinking was that the golf venue, which made money, could subsidize the pool, which traditionally operated in the red.

The city sponsored a competitive bidding process and selected Scott Galbraith to operate the course. He assumed nearly all the risk and the city collected a portion of the profits.

With his contract set to expire, Galbraith has elected to discontinue his relationship with the city. So, Enumclaw started the process to find another operator, had five legitimate suitors and interviewed each.

Making up the local search team were two members of the Enumclaw City Council, city Parks and Recreation Director Larry Fetter, a city employee, representatives of the men’s and women’s clubs at the golf course and the Enumclaw High golf coach.

After all options were reviewed, it appeared each asked the city to assume too much risk, said Jeff Beckwith, one of the council members participating in the process. As a result, Fetter is being asked to come up with a business plan that would allow the city to take control of the operation, he said.

Also, timing is a factor, Beckwith noted.

“We’re at a point right now where it would be hard to get anyone in there,” he said, pointing out that Galbraith’s responsibilities end with the close of the calendar year.

City Administrator Mark Bauer added that the financial situation has changed with the city first became involved. The pool operation is turning the corner, he said, and did not require a subsidy from the golf course during the past year.

“We’ve been successful with all the other things we’ve taken over,” Bauer said, explaining the apparent willingness of the city to tackle the golf course.

Fetter’s proposal is expected to reach city council members by their first meeting in September.

“At this point, we’re willing to give it a try,” Beckwith said, adding that the city could operate the golf course for a year or less, then decide to restart the process of looking for a professional operation to run the course.

Bauer said the city has staff with the expertise to maintain the grounds, but would likely have to added an employee familiar with things like running a pro shop and handling golf lessons. Most courses have a club pro, he said.

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