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Photo by: Tim Freed - Golf course improvements could be funded by rising tax receipts.
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Sep. 10, 2015 5 years ago

Winter Park prepares to tap reserves for golf course renovations

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Taping reserves for renovations
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

Winter Park has set aside money to renovate the Winter Park County Club, though from a controversial source.

The City Commission earmarked the city’s reserve fund during its Aug. 31 budget work session to help pay for renovations to the city’s historic golf course, a source of money that has remained untouched for the past six years.

The $1.2 million renovations would focus on the course itself, putting new turf on most of the greens and fairways. A study conducted by the Club Managers Association of America with the help of the Professional Golfers Association of America and the United States Golf Association shows that greens on a golf course should be replaced every 15 to 30 years and fairways every 20 years. The Winter Park Country Club, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last September, has only replaced two greens in a span of 50 years and only one fairway in the course’s history.

“This is our largest single historical asset,” Mayor Steve Leary said. “There’s no way this community would stand for another property or a house that was in such disrepair as this golf course.”

“It needs to be redone.”

Leary said that he would rather not use city reserves to fund the renovations, but that the project takes precedence.

“We’re making difficult choices, folks,” Leary said. “I think that’s why we put money aside in our contingency fund and into our reserve, to pay for items like this.”

“This can’t wait another year.”

McMacken suggested that the reserves could be a funding source until the city sells the Progress Point property located at the six-way intersection of Orange Avenue, Denning Drive and Minnesota Avenue. Money from the sale could then be put immediately back in the reserve fund.

The city has already received an offer of $4.5 million for the property, City Manager Randy Knight said.

“I could live with that,” City Commissioner Tom McMacken said.

“[The golf course] should speak to Winter Park and it doesn’t at the moment.”

The city has steadily grown its reserve fund over the past several years, building a “rainy day” fund for emergencies and important projects out of the city’s general fund – money earned from taxes, fees and other charges. From 2001 to 2007, the city’s reserves were drawn down to pay for capital projects, the 2004 Hurricane Charley cleanup and starting up the city’s electric utility.

The reserve reached a dangerously low level of 4 percent of what the city needs to operate for six months in case of emergency by the end of 2007, when a goal was set to grow the reserve back up to 30 percent.

The city is closer than ever to reaching that goal, sitting at 25.7 percent reserves, or $11.4 million, Knight said during the Aug. 24 City Commission meeting.

City Commissioner Carolyn Cooper said during the same meeting that she was opposed to using the reserve fund for the golf course, questioning why Leary was suggesting it.

“I was surprised to hear us start talking in your first year as mayor about spending our reserves,” Cooper said. “I hope we don’t go there.”

“I’m not sure that putting new turf on the golf course should take precedence over reaching the goal for our reserves.”

Some residents said the reserve fund could be spent in better ways, like preserving the city’s tree canopy.

“Getting dead tress down first seems like a higher priority,” resident Nancy Shutts said during the Aug. 24 meeting

The City Commission will conduct a first reading on Sept. 14 on the proposed budget before making a final vote during its Sept. 28 meeting.

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