The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Michele Smith
The Times 

Commissioners Evaluate Golf Course

Board and golf club members discuss cuts to help the facility break even


November 30, 2017

Justin Nix

DAYTON – The Columbia County Commissioners and the Dayton Country Club Golf Board have been meeting to discuss contracts and agreements and to establish policies to satisfy state requirements that the county not gift public funds to the golf course operations.

The county's maintenance department manager, Dave Finney, summed it up: "The subsidization by the county is too much. What is the responsibility of the county and stakeholders, so it is not so burdensome to the general taxpayer? We need to offset fixed costs."

Finney said it is reasonable to use some tax dollars to support tourism through recreation. He said the strategy going forward should be to keep things simple, make sure golf course operations remain revenue neutral, and that the process is beneficial to all parties.

Commissioner Mike Talbott said, "We want the best deal for everybody, to keep the place open."

Last week Commissioner Norm Passmore told golf club president Mike Himmelberger, vice president Bill Savage, and members J.E. McCaw and Laurie Withers, that the state wants to see better reconciliation of cash register receipts and full collection of all daily greens fees by the concessionaire at the restaurant. The state auditor has also said buildings should be leased at fair market value, he said.

Passmore had several proposals for the golf club. He said the cart sheds generate revenue, and fees should be collected from them. Installing a video system at the restaurant, along with better signage, would go a long way in providing security and monitoring of daily greens fee collections, he said.

There is a huge need for a functioning irrigation system at the golf course, and Passmore said there should be a dedicated fund for capital projects.

"We can't expect increased revenue without adequate greens," Himmelberger said.

"People are coming here to retire. You can't overlook that sort of thing," said J.E. McCaw.

McCaw said the greens were rehabbed two years ago, and were in as good condition as they have been in five or six years. But they are currently in bad shape because of an irrigation failure in June. He also said there is no manpower to maintain the failing system.

Passmore also broached the subject of having the golf club provide volunteers to take the pressure off county resources. For instance, volunteers could tend to mowing needs and provide labor for installation of the irrigation system when that becomes a reality, he said.

While the golf club already operates as a non-profit organization, Passmore encouraged the golf club board to seek 501-3C nonprofit status to tap into local grant dollars to help with projects.

At the end of the meeting it was agreed that the golf club board will lease the cart sheds and the restaurant building from the county for fair market value. The golf club will take over the utility bills, to be paid by the restaurant concessionaire and the clubhouse. The county will pay the golf club for providing services.

Yet to be determined is how membership and handicap fees will be collected, because the state auditor has said the county cannot make those collections as they have been doing.

The county has been looking to reduce $80,000 from the current expense budget. Passmore said that can be accomplished by not replacing Parks and Recreation Manager Roger Trump when he retires, and by eliminating one additional part-time position that has already been budgeted in 2018. Trump and his crew have been providing some day-to-day maintenance at the golf course.

Passmore said by pulling all the labor out, the golf course operations will break even, which is the goal.

"It's a reasonable start to this whole thing," said Passmore. "We'll look at this in 2018 and see how all of it looks."


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