City: 5 weeks for Salmon Run

By Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer April 09, 2013 11:09 pm

The Brookings City Council has drawn a line in the sand trap regarding the immediate future of Salmon Run golf course.

Council members agreed Monday to give course manager Ed Murdock five weeks to formulate a business plan for the course with three other investors he hopes to line up to come in and save the course’s bottom line.

Murdock, who had hoped to have the investors together before the city council meeting Monday, said the extra time would allow him to finalize details in the negotiations.

City councilors, however, are becoming increasingly frustrated with the failure of the current owners, The Claveran Group, to make the golf course profitable.

The Claveran Group again missed a Feb. 1 deadline to pay its $35,000 lease to the city. It asked the city council for an extension to May 31 as it “does not have sufficient funds to make any lease payment” until then.

The city agreed to table that question until its first meeting in May – giving Murdock enough time to finalize his plans. That assumes that Steve Muir, the primary shareholder of The Claveran Group, wants to divest itself of Salmon Run, and Murdock would like to take over its lease.

Councilor Kelly McClain said he didn’t think the city would see a lease payment regardless of a due date extension and wondered why Murdock believes his investors will make the golf course financially viable when The Claveran Group has been unable to.

City Manager Gary Milliman told council it had several options.

One option was to terminate the lease, as The Claveran Group is now in arrears, and enter into a short-term lease to give the city time to find an alternate solution. Another was to continue the lease to May 31 as The Claveran Group requested and continue golf course operations for another year — business as usual.

 A third option was to do nothing and see if The Claveran Group pays the lease by May 31 — and if it doesn’t, terminate the lease.

Whether that solution could include other golf companies is unknown.

The five weeks granted to Murdock will give The Claveran Group time to possibly pay its lease and the city time to determine where to go from here.

The council seemed divided on the options.

“What’s going on with Ed is separate from the Claveran Group,” noted Councilor Jake Pieper. “I don’t see waiting on it just because another group is looking to buy out the Claveran Group. They are in a material breach of the agreement. We should extend the date or terminate the lease.”

The golf course management and its finances have been a sore spot for the city since the $6 million facility was built, with council after council allowing The Claveran Group to skip lease payments, annual lease increases and even late penalties for years.

“They are in a serious breach of contract,” Pieper said. “The city pretty much upholds all the contracts we enter into – with the exception of the golf course. I don’t think this sends the right message to the community.”

Councilor Brent Hodges doesn’t see the harm in waiting a few more weeks.

“To keep the course operating at this time of year is pretty crucial to the success of the golf course,” Hodges said. “If we terminate the lease and they vacate, we’re looking at horse pasture in two months.

“Other options might come up,” he added. We’ve been in a breach of contract situation for 14 years. If we wait a few weeks, it won’t be any more problematic than it is now. But we’ve got to make a move one way or another. Make it happen or not happen.”