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Pines golf course could survive budget cuts

Ocean Pines Golf Advisory Committee Chairman Larry Davies discusses budgeting issues and needs at the community golf course during a public meeting last week.

By Josh Davis, Associate Editor

(Dec. 6, 2018) As members of the Ocean Pines Golf Advisory Committee worried further budget cuts could harm golf operations, they received some assurances from leadership on Tuesday that money would be available next fiscal year to maintain the course.

Committee Chairman Larry Davies said about $40,000 was cut from the golf budget last year as part of association spending reductions that totaled more than $300,000.

He said that was done in order to help pay down about $1.6 million in debt Ocean Pines accumulated during the two previous years. Membership dues also were increased $37 last year, which General Manager John Bailey said helped reduce the debt by about $600,000.

“So, we’re paying for that in two ways – we’ve raised assessments and we’re squeezing budgets,” Davies said. “If you look at the 2019-2020 proposed budget, if I’m correct, it looks like a reduction of $490,000 in operating expenditures, across the board.

“I can see what we’re doing. We’re trying to not throw a big assessment [at homeowners],” he continued. “But, at the same time … we’re squeezing operating budgets.”

The problem with that, according to Davies, is more money – not less – needs to be spent to improve the golf course.

“The community got saddled with just the recklessness of the board of directors and [former interim general manager] Brett Hill, giving the guy the keys to the castle, and we got screwed, big time,” Davies said. “And we’re paying for that – and we’re continuing to pay for that.

“My concern is we’re squeezing all the department budgets [and] … we can’t, as a committee, recommend fixing the problems [without funding],” he continued. “There’s got to be some money spent.”

Bailey, during a town hall meeting last month, admitted course conditions were not great, but he blamed a single employee for the problem rather than a previous administration.

“I’ll be blunt – we had one individual on our staff who was assigned to water the greens on [Sundays] during the summer … he watered them once, in the morning, and then he left,” Bailey said at the time. “We burnt. That one thing killed us and we’re still paying for it.”

Because of that, he said, the cost to improve the course would be “chemicals and time.”

Speaking to the committee last Tuesday, Bailey said the board of directors asked him to deliver two plans for further reduce the debt: one to pay off the remaining $1 million negative balance over three years, and one to pay it off over four years.

In either instance, there would be more money available to catch up on deferred maintenance than a year ago. While the community spent $600,000 on debt recovery this fiscal year, it appears either $333,333 or $250,000 would be spent next fiscal year, Bailey said.

“We’re not going to use $600,000 toward the $1 million [deficit],” Bailey said. “You do have a little bit of wiggle room to accomplish some things – perhaps.”

Director Frank Daly said the last time he played on the Ocean Pines Golf Course it was “the worst course that I play on in this area.” He said the cart barn and entire golf campus is dilapidated, and deferred maintenance costs across Ocean Pines is more than $2 million.

In the past, Daly said, board members were not aware of some budget cuts related to golf.

“Those things were cut out of the budget before they got to the board,” he said. “So, tell us what you need to keep the course in prime operating condition … and put it in our camp to say yes or no.

“The only worse thing than having a facility that’s dilapidated, is having a facility that’s dilapidated at the same damned time you have $16 million in the bank [in reserves] to fix it,” Daly continued.

He added all of the problems could not be solved in one year.

“But, can you fix all of it over a two or three-year period of time, using your reserves and doing other things? Yes,” Daly said.

“If you need money to fix it, let us know what it is and put the heat [on],” he continued. “Have the board put on their damned big boy clothes and look at things, and either do it or say they’re not going to do it, and give you a reason.”