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Thu, Sept. 19

Council rejects golf course study contract

PRESCOTT - Despite an apparent move two weeks ago toward a revamped study of the Antelope Hills Golf Course, the Prescott City Council nixed the entire study idea this week.

At their regular meeting Tuesday, council members rejected a contract for a $16,000 to $18,000 study on the economic impact of the municipal golf course ($16,000 would have covered the study cost, while an additional $2,000 would have been added to have the consultants travel to Prescott to make a final presentation to the council).

The decision conflicts somewhat with the direction a majority of council members appeared to be heading on Sept. 11, when they balked at the original study proposal, and urged city staffers to rework the scope of the study.

At that time, most of the council members favored changing the study's scope to focus more on the economic impact the golf course brings to the community, and less on the operations of the course.

During the past two weeks, city staff members renegotiated the study contract with National Golf Foundation Consulting Inc. to look largely at economic impact.

The proposal that went to the council this week involved a study that would have cost $7,000 to $9,000 less than the original $25,000 study.

Even so, council members again balked at spending thousands of dollars for a study.

"I am against spending $18,000... to take us off the hook," Mayor Marlin Kuykendall said. "Sometimes I think that's what we're looking for."

After the meeting, he said the issue came down to council members being reluctant to spend as much as $18,000 for information that is already on hand.

"The conclusion was that we already feel we know what we are," Kuykendall said, maintaining that it is apparent the golf course provides an economic benefit to the community. He added: "It just boils down to - we are not willing to spend the money."

Even as council members rejected the study idea, they made two other golf-course-related decisions that could have long-term effects on Antelope Hills.

For instance, the council asked city staff members to begin compiling the information for a request for proposals (RFP) for private management of the golf course restaurant.

Although not yet final, the decision appears to follow through on a consensus the council reached in late August that the city should not be in the restaurant business.

After the meeting, Deputy City Manager Alison Zelms said city staffers would begin putting together a strategy for the restaurant RFP, including what should be required in the proposals.

Zelms estimated that the information could be ready to take back to the council within 10 to 12 weeks.

On another matter that has generated considerable debate, the council supported a change in the way the city handles finances for Antelope Hills.

Under the current arrangement, the golf course operates as an "enterprise fund" - a separate account that the city expects to be self-sufficient. Over the past decade, however, the golf course annually has failed to break even, and the city's general fund has subsidized the Antelope Hills fund by a total of about $3.7 million.

Councilman Steve Blair has repeatedly questioned the current system, pointing out that other city services such as parks and recreation and the public library are under no such financial obligation.

Ultimately, the majority of council members appeared to agree. In a 5-2 vote, the council supported the concept of eliminating the golf course debt. Councilmen Chris Kuknyo and Charlie Arnold voted against the motion.

The financial issue also will go back to the council for further discussion at a future meeting. Zelms said city staff would work to develop a resolution for the council to consider that would outline the financial policy for the golf course. She estimated that resolution would go to the council for a decision within the next two months.

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