Howard Village Board rejects golf maintenance contract
Trustees also approve greens fee hikes for 2018
By Kevin Boneske
HOWARD – After more than a half hour of discussion Monday night, the Howard Village Board unanimously rejected a recommendation from Chris Haltom, director of administrative services, to enter into a three-year contract to have Reliable Property Services provide maintenance at the Village Green Golf Course.
Haltom informed the board the village had been contacted by Reliable, which maintains eight golf courses in Wisconsin and Illinois, to provide golf maintenance services for 2018 and beyond where the company would be able to cut grass for the fairways, greens, tees and roughs, as well as provide routine maintenance to equipment and ponds and purchase chemicals needed for fertilizer and fungicide.
Haltom said the company has a level of expertise in maintaining golf courses that the village currently does not have, while the best way to maintain the course’s 500 new members and expand that membership would be to focus on the greens.
“We had issues with the greens – speed – for a number of years,” Haltom said. “They are experts in this area, more so than our own staff. I mean, this is all that they do.”
Though the proposal Reliable presented is more expensive than what the village currently pays to maintain the golf course, Haltom said the company would also be spending more money than what the village spends on chemicals for the greens as well as on cutting the greens more frequently.
“The cost increase is pretty much a direct result of more maintenance that they are going to provide than we currently provide,” he said.
Haltom said the golf course had $131,000 in maintenance expenses for 2017.
Under the terms of the proposed contract, Reliable wanted to charge the village $152,000, plus applicable sales tax, in 2018 with the price increasing to $153,400 in 2019 and $154,800 in 2020. Under that agreement, the village would still be responsible for major repairs to the equipment, which the village would maintain ownership.
Marc Davison, who spoke before the board on behalf of Reliable, said the company would provide all the staffing for handling the grounds maintenance.
“We’re strictly grounds maintenance,” Davison said. “We do not get into the clubhouse for food and beverage, pro shop. We stay out of the clubhouse.”
When asked by Trustee Ray Suennen about the effect the company’s services could have on the golf course, Davison said he felt the course’s condition could be improved.
In response to a question about staffing by Trustee Chris Nielsen, Davison said the company would look to hire locally and consider prior seasonal staff used by the village with the course having a superintendent and four seasonal part-time employees.
It was noted at Monday’s meeting the village has hired seasonal staff to maintain the course in the past.
Unlike using a private company for municipal garbage collection, Haltom acknowledged the village wouldn’t be “saving a ton of money” by entering into a contract with Reliable, but it would be “stepping up the service level from what we currently have today.”
After the board suspended the rules and opened the meeting to public comments, the issue came up related to golf course’s financial standings, in which the golf operations earned about $32,200 with the restaurant reporting an operating loss of almost $40,000 for a net loss of $7,809 last year.
“Being a nosey guy, it was finally told to me that the golf course is not losing money,” said Jim Zawlocki, Howard resident. “But because the golf course is considered as one entity with two separate subunits, there’s one subunit that’s not holding its own.”
Trustee Adam Lemorande said what Zawlocki stated “captures everything.”
“We have 500 new members. The golf course hasn’t lost. I think it’s great that we did that,” Lemorande said. “Why would we invest $20,000 more if those members are buying into a concept that they’ve already bought into?”
Lemorande noted the golf course could never stand alone as its own business. He said the village “should work on the restaurant over the course.”
New greens fee
In contrast to the time the board spent discussing the proposed golf maintenance contract board members present rejected, it took them only a few minutes to unanimously approve greens fee increases for this year, the first time since March 2016 fees at the course were increased.
The nine-hole regular daily greens fee is increasing by 75 cents to $17.25, while the league/senior rate will be going up by 50 cents to $15. The resolution approved by trustees also sets the membership fee for 2018 at $250.
The estimated fiscal impact of the board’s action is to raise an additional $9,375.