• Golf consultant presents report, asks some hard questions

    By Marge Ann Jameson

    In May, 2011 the City Council, anxious to put to bed questions about how to best run the municipal golf course, decided to hire an outside consultant to look at the operation. City Manager Tom Frutchey, at the time, said he thought it was pretty obvious that the City wasn’t expert at managing the property and restaurant, so outside help was sought. After a request for proposals, Golf Convergence, Inc. was hired in September to begin the study.

    The anticipated report is in and with it some hard questions, and not a little backlash. Jim Keegan, principal of Golf Convergence, presented his full findings first at an emergency meeting of the Golf Links Advisory Commission on Mon., Nov. 28 and again at an emergency meeting of the City Council on Tues., Nov. 29. He suggested the City Council consider whether the golf links is a subsidized amenity for the citizens – and how much should the General Fund (i.e. taxpayers) be willing to kick in to keep it running if improvements are not made – or is it a self-sustaining treasure, and how can it be made profitable.

    The golf industry as a whole, he said, is down 2.3 percent nationwide – exactly the percentage dip that Pacific Grove is suffering.

    In the interim the golf course has reported a loss of more than $413,000 reported in September, 2011. The Golf Enterprise Fund, which had been sitting at $625,658 was reported down to $143,658 at that time. Bills, said the Finance Department, were paid without dipping into the General Fund, but that wasn’t going to last long without some relief strategies, whether they be revenue enhancement or cost-cutting or some combination of the two.

     

    Golf Enterprise Fund

    As of October 31, 2011

    Year to date revenue: $1,101,373

    Year to date expenditures: $1,135,948

    Net loss (year to date): $34,575 (Approx. 3%)

     

    Keegan’s 45-minute presentation boiled down to a few suggestions:

    • Examine privatization of golf course management

    The average municipal course pays out 3 percent of golf operational costs in indirect administrative costs, such as human resources, accounting, payroll, legal etc. We pay 12 percent. Keegan recommends we cut it back to 6 percent. He suggested that a Request for Proposals be issued soon.

    • Place a general manager on-site

    Currently, the ostensible general manager is also the City Manager

    • Clean up the golf course to provide a better experience for golfers and look at extending it by 542 yards to attract major tournaments

    Golf Convergence pinpointed several trees and bushes which they felt should be trimmed or removed, as well as some unattractive and useless fencing. Keegan also showed photos of some run-down restroom facilities on the 16th which he said “no lady would use.”

    • Get rid of free golf for city employees, former councilmembers and Coast Guard members

    • Retain the discount Monarch Card, but sunset the Lighthouse Card and do not issue any more annual discount cards

    Calling it a “culture of entitlement like he has seen nowhere else,” Keegan pointed out that the cost of a round of golf is $45.09 and he could see no sense in issuing punch cards which allowed play for $10 at prime tee times.

    • Charge no-shows

    A number of individuals, many of them repeat, make a reservation and then don’t show up or cancel, so that the tee time can be given to someone else. The loss to the Links was estimated by Golf Convergence, who had examined all the pertinent records, at some $75,000 per year.

    • Upgrade the marketing system to use Point Of Sale automated email to attract existing and repeat customers more often.

    Keegan said that the number of one-time-only customers could be improved significantly by the use of a simple emailed invitation, with no discount or other incentive needed.

    • Reduce the role of the Golf Links Advisory Commission

    Because they are not experts the City relies perhaps too heavily on their advice.

    • Examine the branding and vision statement of the Golf Links

    Keegan pointed to the difference between saying “Golf as it should be” and “Golf as it was meant to be.”

    Results had apparently been discussed earlier, when the City Council agenda report was written, because a representative of the City’s General Employee Association (GEA) and a UPEC union representative were also scheduled to make presentations addressing one small part of the consultant’s recommendations – that of examining privatization and the salaries and benefits of employees. Ellis Miller, Business Agent for the United Public Employees of California, made a plea to retain City control and city employees. A letter from Steve Allen, the union negotiator who had recently worked with City management on the labor agreement, was read into the record. The letter struck hard at Golf Convergence’s report, accusing the consultant of conflict of interest, lack of data and credibility, lack of local references for its data, and “slanted” survey questions.

    The City Council, like the Golf Links Advisory the evening before, did not made a decision on the spot. Mayor Carmelita Garcia asked to form a committee to examine the report and come up with recommendations to be made at the second City Council meeting in January, 2012. On the committee will be Garcia, Councilmembers Ken Cuneo and Rudy Fischer, plus a representative from the GLAC; with staff support. The committee will review the document in detail and provide recommendations on implementation, prioritize goals and set timelines.

     

     

    posted to Cedar Street Times on December 2, 2011

    Topics: Current Edition, Front PG News

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