ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES
By a narrow 3-2 vote the Orangetown Town Board has agreed to hire a private company to run its financially beleaguered Broadacres Golf Court for the next three years.
Depending on the success of the public-private venture, the five-member council will then decide in the winter of 2016-17 whether to renew the contract for an extended period of time, cancel it and try to run the court itself once again, or close the course and sell it for private development.
The contract was fraught with political implications and bickerings all evening last Tuesday as council members staked positions on the future of the troubled nine-hole Broadacres course, which the town obtained from New York State nearly a decade ago and has lost a small fortune operating at an annual loss ever since. The deficit is between $300,000 and $500,000 each year, town officials say.
About the only thing all five council members seem agree on is that continued town operation at that level of loss is both unsustainable to the town budget and unfair to town taxpayers who must foot the bill through higher real property taxes.
After more than a year of study, the board decided to issue a “Request for Proposals” document last year, soliciting bids from private companies interested in running the course for the town, and hopefully at a profit, for both themselves and the Township.
Appliedgolf of Millstone, NJ was the only firm to submit a bid. They operate several public and private golf courses throughout the northeast United States, mostly under similar contracts with municipalities or private owners who have run into financial difficulties trying to run the courses themselves.
Applied specializes in turning around financially troubled golf courses and making them profitable. It then turns the courses back to their original owner/operators, continues to operate them itself, or buys them if the owners have lost interest.
Applied officials met with their Orangetown counterparts several times over the past several months, and eventually came to an agreement in December that they would take over the Broadacres course for three years, starting this spring. The firm said it would probably lose money this year, because it is already too late to make many operational changes. They hope to break even the second year, and start to make a small profit by 2016, the final year of the contract. That winter the contract would be up for cancellation or renewal, depending on both parties views of how successful the trial period has been, as well as prospects for the future.
Council members bickered over the contract for nearly half-an-hour Tuesday, February 11 with two members saying they felt Orangetown could have gotten a better deal from another entity than Appliedgolf.
Supervisor Andrew Stewart reminded them that Applied was the only firm even expressing an interest in running Broadacres for Orangetown, let alone submitting an actual written proposal in response to the town’s solicitation.
Democrat Stewart was supported by Republican Councilmen Paul Valentine and Thomas Morr, as well as by Town Attorney John Edwards, Parks and Recreation Superintendent Aric Gorton and Finance Director Jeff Bencik.
An unknown quantity, however, was the town’s Golf Course Advisory Committee, which issued no formal statement about the contract or about the concept of private versus public operation of Broadacres; one of two municipally owned and operated golf courses in Orangetown. The other is the 27-hole Blue Hill Golf Course in Pearl River, about a half-mile from Broadacres on the old Rockland Psychiatric Center campus in Orangeburg. It is the oldest and largest public golf course in Rockland County, and had generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual profits for decades before it too started losing money about a decade ago.
In other votes at last week’s Town Board meeting the council voted unanimously to:
- Deny an application from Rockland County for a waiver of a building permit fee for a storage building the county wants to construct in Orangetown. Building Inspector John Giardiello said the fee is $2,776, and he has not issued the permit pending the board’s decision. Board members noted they have denied similar requests from churches, religious institutions and other non-profit organizations throughout Orangetown for the past 18 months, and did not feel they should exempt the county either. Stewart was the lone holdout, saying he felt the town and other municipalities should try to cooperate with each other wherever possible. When he realized the other four council members were intent on enforcing the permit fee, however, Stewart reluctantly went along for the sake of unanimity.
- Grant a 10-year tax abatement through the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program to a firm that wants to construct an indoor athletic facility on vacant land at 10 Corporate Drive in Pearl River, on the border with neighboring Rivervale.
- Authorize the New York State Department of Transportation to pave a portion of the Joseph B. Clarke Rail-Trail in Orangetown, as part of the state’s Palisades Trailway from Ft. Lee to Bear Mountain, at the state’s expense and at no cost to Orangetown. In return, the town agrees to maintain the trail in perpetuity, at its own expense. The paved section will run from South Greenbush Road to Western Highway; and will include a bridge over the CSX railroad, construction of a parking lot at the north end of the trail off Western Highway, drainage improvements, signing, landscaping and the installation of bike racks, benches and retaining walls where needed.
- Award a contract for $546,736 to reline a century-old sewer pipe in Nyack which has severely deteriorated. The contract was awarded to En-Tech Corporation, the lowest qualified bidder.
- Award a contract for geese control at Veterans Memorial Park and Blue Hill Golf Course for $19,200 for the 2014 season to Hudson Valley Wild Geese Chasers of Nyack.
- Contract with Dr. Stuart Rasch as the town’s medical director for the purpose of instructing town employees and the public in the use of defibrillation equipment stationed at various town parks and other locations. Dr. Rasch is not charging Orangetown anything for his service, which the town must provide as required by the Hudson Valley EMS Council and the New York State Public Health Law.
- Authorize the use of the town’s portable “showmobile” for the Gay Pride Rockland celebration in Nyack on June 8. Sponsoring agency VCS will pay Orangetown $350 for use of the large outdoor stage.
- Authorize the highway and parks departments to support the Lt. John G. Bellow 5K run/walk on April 12 by providing trash barrels, barricades and portable toilets.
- Approve a new map of the Central Nyack Fire District, which includes a slight adjustment to the boundary lines between Route 303 and Greenbush Road in West Nyack. While the majority of the fire district lies in the neighboring town of Clarkstown, a tiny spur juts into Orangetown near the Rockland Center for the Arts and Buttermilk Falls County Park. The Central Nyack Fire House is in downtown Central Nyack, in Clarkstown, but is much closer to the property in question than neighboring Blauvelt, whose fire officials agreed with transfer of responsibility.
- Re-appoint John Edwards as the town attorney for two more years, at a salary of $110,000 for full-time work of 35 hours per week.
- Re-appoint Teresa Kenny as first deputy town attorney for two more years of part time service.
- Re-appoint Sylvia Welch as the town’s official grants writer at a part-time salary of $55 per hour, with an annual maximum of $12,000. The board also added a clause to her contract, specifying that she is not to start work on any grant application, at the request of any town official, until and unless the application is first submitted to the council for approval.
- Authorize Highway Superintendent James Dean to attend the Grassroots Advocacy Campaign’s local roads and bridges conference in Albany on March 4 & 5 at a cost of $284.
- Cancel a public hearing scheduled for Feb. 11 and re-schedule it for March 25 at 8 p.m., on a request by the town’s Traffic Advisory Board to change parking regulations in Pearl River.
The Town Board’s next meetings will be a workshop session at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 25 and a business meeting on Tuesday, March 4 at 7:30 p.m. All meeting are open to the public and are held in the auditorium of Town Hall at 26 Orangeburg Road, at the corner of Dutch Hill Road.