Monday, February 13, 2017

Guest View-Diane Peters: The “Heck of a Job” Council

An interesting event took place during the January 18, 2017 Town Council Meeting when the following agenda item came up for discussion: “Discussion and Possible Direction to Staff regarding future Community Center elements.”

Why is this interesting? Because whenever former Councilmembers Zinkin, Garner, and Burns requested to discuss possible options for dealing with the abysmal Community Center financials, they were repeatedly shot down with cries of, “It’s too early to discuss changes” and “This is a 5-year plan.” Suddenly, at just the 4th meeting of the new council and just over 1.5 years into the “5-year plan,” the new council wants to discuss options!

Councilmember Hornat gave the following presentation:
“Councilmember Rodman and I have talked through this a couple of times and it was our intention to put this as a direction to staff…and it’s finally time, we’ve got some history now. We know what the golf business is. We think we’ve got a handle on the restaurant. But none of us are experts in either one of these and to the best of my knowledge, no one on the staff is either.

So one of the things I’m going to ask Council tonight is for a consensus to direct staff to hire a consultant to review the options on our restaurant facility and also the configuration of our golf courses. Ask them to prepare an RFP (Request for Proposal), solicit bids, and then report back to Council as to what the cost of that would be and also eventually what the plan would be and if it’s anything different than what we’re doing today.

What we’re doing today is the best job we can and I think were doing a heck of a job. As we’ve heard earlier from the Director of Finance, we are improving, just not fast enough to close this the way we want to, so we’re going to take a little more aggressive action.”

Councilmember Snider responded:
“I can support this, Joe, because when we decided to make this acquisition and go down this road, we said that we would watch it carefully and that when we discovered adjustments that may need to be made, we would be wiling to look at those and make the decisions.”

Hornat continued:

“It’s time. We have the history and I think we’ve seen what a year and a half to two years of both operations – certainly our recreational facilities are doing very well. There is no argument there. We’d like to improve that, too, but that’s not going to be part of what this is.

I think we’ve done all that we can with the knowledge that we have and now its time to get some outside view on this. Someone who can take a look at it – a professional – and give us some ideas on what we can do and can’t do.”

No vote or consensus was taken, but the Town Attorney stated that the staff understood the direction they were given.

Council, your dinner is served. Would you like some wine with your crow? What happened to the 5-year plan? Didn’t Vice-Mayor Waters chastise the naysayers to “Get on board!” Now, just two months into the reign of the new council and they contract for a feasibility study?  Where was the study PRIOR to the purchase?

They made a horrible miscalculation when they bought this property. They ignored the pleas and valid arguments of Councilmembers Zinkin, Garner, and Burns for over a year. Now they’re swimming in debt and they’re looking for a way out.

Rest assured that whatever the outcome, they will take credit for all of it and never mention that all of their “new ideas” are actually recycled ideas stolen from Zinkin-Garner-Burns.

We know what you said last summer
During the candidate forums and in newspaper interviews, Pina-Rodman-Solomon were asked what they felt was an appropriate length of time to evaluate the property’s financial performance and how they would handle the growing losses.

Their responses:

PINA: “Golf, technically, is a seasonal business, so you have to look at trends, and trends don’t just come from looking at one quarter or two quarters. It’s trending for at least, I would say, a couple of years. So to answer the question, for time, I think the year that we’ve had was a little volatile. Let’s give it another year and maybe another year after that…you have to look at trends year over year over year.”

RODMAN: "Initially it was a 5-year plan and it wasn't intended to make money during that period of time, so all of this uproar about trying to make a decision now is probably premature."

SOLOMON: “For a project of this size, I would give it 5 years and I would really start giving it a close look in years 3, 4, and 5. But obviously, we have to keep a close watch on the expenses while we take into account, the revenues. So once again, 3-5 years.”

A Timeline of their Misguided Beliefs 
When they bought this property in December 2014, they told us that it didn’t matter that the council and the town staff weren’t experts in the golf or food and beverage industries because it would all be managed by Troon, a professional golf management firm, and they were the best in the business. Not to worry.

In 2016, when the golf and restaurant financials were still not meeting Troon’s projections after more than a year in business, they told us that it was too soon to consider other options because they needed to watch “trends” over a “5-year period” and how “it wasn't intended to make money during that period of time.”

Now in January 2017, we’re being told that we need to hire “a professional” to “give us some ideas” because “none of us are experts.” Wasn't Troon supposed to be the professionals and the experts?

How quickly they have backtracked on their convictions. All of this points to the fact that the Town Council should never have approved the purchase of a business in which they and the town staff admittedly have no expertise.