Westwind Weekly News
The Town of Magrath has a proposal to purchase the land on which its chronically indebted golf course sits, according to Mayor Russ Barnett.
The town held a public meeting at the Magrath Museum on Feb. 7 to consult residents on the course’s future and gauge the level of public support for its sale.
“Probably, the writing’s on the wall,” Barnett said of the course’s current financial position, although he acknowledged that the club has never defaulted on its loans.
The town re-assuming ownership of the course isn’t a viable option from council’s perspective, the mayor added.
“I don’t want the keys back,” he said. “If you think you’re going to get the same product that you have today if you hand the keys back to me, you’re not.
“The town doesn’t have the money to subsidize that course, to put it in the shape that it may need to be.”
Barnett said that the town has been approached by a “very interested party” to purchase the course, but couldn’t provide specifics, as the proposal is under negotiation.
The town wanted to consult the public prior to deciding whether to put the course out for tender, he said.
Some members of the course in attendance floated a proposal for them to get together and purchase the course, which Coun. Brian Oliver said would have to occur during the tender process, along with any other bidders.
“We cannot just pick one person and say, ‘You get to buy it,’” said Oliver. “That’s how any municipality has to sell an asset like this.”
The town’s golf board also has a first right of refusal, meaning it can refuse the sale of the course to a third party.
Another attendee suggested that the public interest would be better served by selling the course.
“It obviously doesn’t benefit the majority,” he said.
“We should prioritize who (the town) support(s). They represent the people of Magrath, not the golfers of Magrath.”
Allen Tollestrup, the course’s treasurer, presented details about its financial position.
He provided attendees with charts that show the course’s net income and losses from the year 2009 to 2017, as well as its long-term debt from 2011 to 2017.
“We kind of hover around a break even,” Tollestrup said. “Some years we have positive net income and some years we have a loss.”
According to the data, the course’s worst year by far was 2014, with a net loss of $196,000.
“We had really bad weather,” explained Tollestrup. “We had bad weather on the weekends — April, May and June. We had bad weather on the long weekends and that just really hurt our green fee.”
The long-term debt peaked after 2014 at about $320,000, with the golf course receiving an additional loan from the town to help pay its expenses for the next year on top of its previous loan from First Choice Credit Union.
“When it hit 2014 and we had that really hard year on us, the club went to the Town of Magrath and we asked for more money because we couldn’t pay our payables,” he said.
The debt has since decreased to about $290,000 in 2017, which resulted partially from the club selling the irrigation piping it had previously purchased but not installed.