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Eight of 14 Public Comment speakers address golf course issues

And, I think city commissioners spent more than half their deliberation-time dealing with the inevitable death of one of the city's two 9-hole golf courses. Their brave decision was essentially to kick the can down the road: Keep Normandy Oaks open for 2014 and create an ad hoc committee to explore options. It was a 5-2 vote, with Sharlan Douglas and Mike Fournier voting No.

In terms of tone, it was an interesting meeting. Fournier was more sharply focused than he was at the previous CITCOM meeting. In fact, he seemed to challenge Mayor Jim Ellison a couple of times. And there was a bit of to-and-from between Peggy Goodwin and the mayor about the presence, or not, of promotion of the city's golf courses, especially on the city's website. Kyle DuBuc said "This is transparency" referring to the open dialogue. Ellison advised keeping Normandy Oaks open until a decision is made to bring any re-purposing decision before the voters. Pubic Service Directory Greg Rassell advised against any attempt to shut the course temporarily, pointing out that restoring it to playable condition would be very costly after a season of "just mow it every 2 or 3 weeks." David Poulton, referring to a pertinent document, suggested that "one season of losses is not reason enough" to close Normandy Oaks. There is a need to develop a long-term strategy, he said. Fournier worried about there being a better use of city money when "golf rounds are dropping." And he mentioned the competition from better golf courses in the area. Douglas wondered whether there is an "escape clause" for involved contractors if operations are non-profitable. Somewhere in there Ellison raised the issue of the need to seek residents' approval to repurpose a golf course. DuBuc raised the issue of the need or not of the city's maintaining one golf course or two. Fournier -- politely acerbic -- said he appreciated "all the sentiment, but financially . . . "

Oh yes, there was some other business attended to. CITCOM also Approved an agreement with Miss Dig; Adopted an extension and update of the Grand Slam Lease; and Approved creating and filling two new Administration positions: An Economic Development Manager and a "Community Engagement Specialist" (read, Public Relations gal or guy).

And, the six Public Comment speakers who did not opine re golf courses touched on the Memorial Day Parade, the fate of Barnes & Noble, vendor problems at the Farmers Market, having any Economic Development position report to the Downtown Development Authority or at least have the job description reviewed by the DDA. One speaker pointed out that maintenance of golf courses "pollutes and contaminates" the course and nearby areas.

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Sue Fabian February 19, 2014 at 08:09 AM
As to the fate of RO Golf Course, I'm heartened to see a focus on long-term vs short term planning. That alone is spectacular. The idea of a one, nine-hole course along with a re-purposed recreational use has strategic appeal--it continues to serve the desire for a community course along with lessening monetary losses and offering additional recreational attractions. Good job! Sue Fabian
The Duke of Royal Oak February 19, 2014 at 12:02 PM
What with all the physical activity promoted by health care professionals, why would the city leaders ever dream of selling land, let alone a gold course. They are bloody out of their minds for a CHEAP fix to financial issues facing the city. Perhaps one should consider the $20,000.00 the city leaders paid for the new city logo, which and second grader could have done. The original logo was just fine. VERY POOR LEADERSHIP!
The Duke of Royal Oak February 19, 2014 at 12:04 PM
CORRECTION: WHICH ANY SECOND GRADER COULD HAVE DONE.
Joey K. February 19, 2014 at 02:16 PM
Wow, Duke. Chill. Your comments here on Patch used to be witty and insightful. Now it seems you've been influenced by the anti-HRO folks and only post negative comments.
Debbie Campbell February 19, 2014 at 05:56 PM
I have some questions about the Parks hysteria that has been going on for the past month:--- *Who came up with the Parks “Hit List”—The list of neighborhood Parks deemed to be under-utilized? *Was the Parks and Rec. Advisory Board asked for their input concerning the Parks that were placed on the list--was the list even discussed with the Advisory Board? *If in fact RO Golf LLC struggled all last summer to the extent that Normandy Oaks realized a 100K loss in one season—Why did City Administration fail to bring this issue before the City Commission for discussion months ago?? *Are we to believe that City Administration was just recently blind-sided with this information about the 100K loss—How could this be the case when the RO Golf LLC. Contract stipulates that regular financial reports will be presented to City Administration?* Why was this “failing” golf course not discussed with the Parks and Rec Advisory Board months ago?? Why have elected officials or a Citizen Advisory Board if City Administration leaves them in the dark about such important issues???
Rick Karlowski February 19, 2014 at 08:27 PM
So, after City Manager Johnson once again whined about not having a 20 mil property tax like surrounding communities to generate the funds to tend to the parks, the ROCC votes to hire as a permanent, full time employee a "Community Engagement Specialist". Even if the position will not get a defined pension and health care in retirement, with pay and benefits this has to be near a $100,000 yearly outlay. Just want to be clear - we don't have money for park maintenance, but we do have the funds to hire what I'm sure will be some politico to do ??????. If operations at city hall are so cumbersome and frustrating to the citizens that we need to hire an Ombudsman, maybe we need to clean house. Commissioner Fornier claims this was an "investment" in Royal Oak. Really? Investments usually pay measurable dividends. What measurable parameters are associated with this position beyond Facebook notification of snow emergencies?
Geof Vasquez February 20, 2014 at 08:32 AM
Investment as defined in the Royal Oak City Commissioner dictionary: Give bar owners what they want, receive campaign contributions in return.
Geof Vasquez February 20, 2014 at 08:50 AM
Royal Oak's City government's financial position (including pension & OPEB liabilities) are proof it doesn't possess the expertise manage even its operations in a financially sound manner. So why would they think they can now manage golf courses? The course should be sold for the development of single family homes. This will create more tax revenue for the city and there will be two fewer money losers for our city leaders to fumble around with.
Sue Fabian February 20, 2014 at 09:02 AM
First, I disagree with the sale of this green space in favor of housing development. In my view, this is short-sighted and lessens the long-term value of our community. Land full of structures and no green space might as well be an inner city. There are other recreational uses of this land that would alleviate the city from financial losses of operating a golf course. Even the suggested combined use, i.e. keeping one 9-hole course and re-purposing the other into more appealing recreational uses. Finally, I am saddened by the cynicism and attacking nature of many comments. It's harder for me to focus on the underlying message that the sender really wants to be heard. I'd like to see explanation of the underlying rationale for the proposed legitimacy of these positions. Sue Fabian
Geof Vasquez February 20, 2014 at 09:53 AM
The underlying rationale is simple; eliminate the golf courses & their financial losses; create a development that produces tax revenue. Perhaps someone with more historical knowledge can recall how well the courses did before the management company was brought in including the costs of the lawsuits. I would ask the repurposing folks; what will it cost to reconfigure & maintain the golf courses for their new use? Where does that money come from? Will the new use have a sustainable financial model?
Debbie Campbell February 20, 2014 at 10:23 AM
Rick I see the “Community Engagement Specialist” position as essentially being the hire of a Political Propagandist who will work full time to bathe the dysfunction of the city’s leadership in a favorable light--Not surprised Fournier would view this as being quite an “investment”—
Joey K. February 20, 2014 at 10:49 AM
Wow. Cynical much?
Sue Fabian February 20, 2014 at 03:53 PM
Geof, your repurposing questions are good questions. I don't have any ready answer. I continue to disagree with the proposition of selling off more green space as in my view, a healthy community must have recreational escape opportunities nearby.
Laura Harrison February 22, 2014 at 12:20 AM
A little golf course history. Don Soper opened the 13 Mile 9 hole course and signed a 15 year contract to run it. It was so busy that when the above contract came up for renewal, he talked the city into opening the Normandy Oaks course. Mr Soper managed both and the late Mayor Cline stated that opening the second half was the best thing the city did. Normandy Oaks was mainly for the high school leagues from Kimball and Dondero and for other leagues and beginner golfers.

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