Despite untold hours of work and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on repair and maintenance, Brookings’ Salmon Run golf course is still losing money, and “that cannot continue,” said City Manager Gary Milliman in a workshop report this week.
The city council will discuss changes to its agreement with the Early Management Team (EMT) that currently manages the public course. The workshop will take place at 4 p.m. Monday at City Hall on Elk Drive.
Val and Gary Early knew the problems they set out to tackle a year ago had existed for a long time. But neither the couple nor the city realized the extent — and last winter’s torrential rainfall didn’t help.
The city has invested more than $206,000 to resolve past debt and repair facilities, Milliman said. Those expenditures don’t include city staff time addressing problems with the potable water system. Another $40,000 is budgeted this year for capital improvements — a budget that does not include funding for maintenance, such as roadside mowing, ditch-cleaning, well-monitoring and repair, and repairs to the clubhouse and other facilities.
The city has a lease-purchase agreement that EMT pays for a fleet of new golf carts. It has an agreement with the restaurant operator there to pay 50 percent of the clubhouse utilities as “rent.”
The course needs to be repaired to address years of erosion, lack of maintenance — or “possibly improper initial design,” a city memo reads. The lack of maintenance in the past has resulted in sod overtopping sprinkler heads by as much as a foot, which in turn caused areas to flood. Standing water prevented people from playing for many days this winter.
There are still problems with the irrigation control system, EMT has been making repairs to the facilities that are actually the responsibility of the city, and turf maintenance equipment is old and much of it is beyond their serviceable life.
Membership lags, at 70 golfers, when a year-round number should be closer to 100 to break even, the Earlys told the city.
At least those members are happy, the Earlys reported.
“They’ve done an excellent job,” said City Manager Gary Milliman. “Club membership has contributed volunteer hours, expertise, equipment and materials. They’re very happy with the progress since EMT assumed management.”
The city council will evaluate the current agreement with the husband-wife team and have its public works department work on drainage and grading needed to fix the flooding problem.
The city hopes to develop a greens-keeping equipment plan and help EMT secure a membership recruitment consultant, as well.
“Finally,” Milliman said, “the city should allocate Transient Occupancy Tax revenue to market the golf course. The only way to avoid having to deal with potential closure or increased subsidy of the course is to increase the number of rounds.”
He recommends the city prioritize that bed-tax revenue to the course to market the facility. A video producer will also attend the work session to make a presentation about possible marketing of the golf course.