By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(Nov. 8, 2018) Conditions at the Ocean Pines Golf Course and estimated costs to improve it and the golf and country club became the subject of some debate during a town hall meeting last Thursday.
After fielding a volley of questions from former Director Dave Stevens about the rationale of renovating the country club and the estimated $1.2 million cost to do so, Director Frank Daly pivoted to the state of the course itself.
“Our course is not in great shape,” he said. “And that … should be alarming to everybody, because we spent a lot of money to get the course in great shape – and it’s not there right now.”
Daly said he plays with a group of golfers at several area courses and “Ocean Pines is, by far, in the worst shape.”
“We have to protect the investment,” he said.
On plans to renovate the country club to add new meeting space, Daly indicated he was of two minds.
“There are times, in fact, when this association is hurting for meeting space,” he said. “This board, which has now been in place since August, has had to move four meetings because there were other things going on.”
Daly added a “community-centric [approach] is fine,” but he did not agree with concepts that would consider additional food and beverage operations, including an upstairs bar at the club. He went on to say the board directed General Manager John Bailey to provide a business plan for all Ocean Pines amenities “that show a break even or better” bottom line, and that living in an “amenitized community” meant paying for depreciation related to amenities – but not for operational loses.
“What I didn’t sign up for … is to subsidize the cost of my hamburger at the yacht club or my greens fees at the golf course,” Daly said. “These amenities have to, on a net operating profit basis, carry their own weight. And that’s what this discussion is all about and that’s what the business plans are all about.”
He said there is about $2.2 million worth of deferred maintenance in Ocean Pines.
“Our amenities have been permitted to deteriorate into absolutely crappy condition. And they need fixed and this board is going to be committed to fixing them,” Daly said. “But, in exchange, I want business plans that show these things to be run like profitable businesses that protect your investment.”
General Manager John Bailey said the cost to improve the course was essentially “chemicals and time.”
According to Bailey, “three months ago the conditions of the golf course were great.”
“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. “We burnt. That one thing killed us and we’re still paying for it.
“It takes time and some chemicals to fix that. You’re not going to get a whole lot of grass growing in November, December and January. Next spring, we’ll be fine,” he added.
Bailey several times said the focus of the renovation was to create more meeting space.
“The plan is to have some additional golf outings to create some additional golf revenue, however the main purpose of that upstairs in community-centric,” he said. “We need space for meetings, both large and small.”
Bailey said the second floor is unusable and added that community members several years ago made the decision to renovate rather than replace the building.
“Then we made another decision to spend $380,000, plus labor … on the lower level,” he said. “We still have this upstairs that is just dead and we have a roof that’s been a persistent problem and has gotten worse.
“We have to do something with that upstairs and that’s where the debate has been as a community – how far are we going to go with that upstairs?” Bailey added.
Again, he said the plan is to create more room.
“It’s being built for use … by our clubs and our organizations, by the board members [and] town halls can be had there,” Bailey said, adding the building would not end up being “a Taj Mahal.”
Also during the town hall, Bailey provided an updated renovation timeline. He said a new request for proposals for the second-floor remodeling would be issued Nov. 16 and due Dec. 14, and the board could consider a contract during its Jan. 5 meeting.
Director Slobodan Trendic said the board would base its decision on the numbers.
“We don’t always agree on everything,” he said. “At the end of the day, what’s going to drive the decision is the data. We’ll get bids, we’ll find out what the renovation is going to cost, we’re going to look at other options, and then we’re going to try to make a decision that’s fiscally responsible and sound for what we think is in the best interest of our community.”