Meadowlakes council members take aim at lifetime golf memberships

CONNIE SWINNEY • PICAYUNE STAFF

MEADOWLAKES — A lifetime golf club membership agreement with dozens of residents survived another budget cycle after the Meadowlakes City Council voted down by a slim margin an attempt to suspend the program connected to Hidden Falls Golf Course and Country Club, officials say.

However, the green-fees waiver for lifetime memberships is expected to be reviewed again before the end of the year.

With the purchase of Hidden Falls Golf Course and Country Club in 2007, the City of Meadowlakes inherited about 40 lifetime memberships allowing exemptions from monthly greens fees.

The motion to suspend-greens fees waiver failed by a vote of 3-2 with Barry Cunningham, Alton Fields and Gary Hammond voting no; Clancy Stephenson and Mary Ann Raesner voted to suspend the fees.

Raesner said in her research, she found many members of the previously private-owned club paid $10,000 for a lifetime membership, while others might have traded goods or services for lifetime memberships, and still others sold their memberships — subject to a $5,000 transfer fee — to other residents.

“I’ve never been able to get receipts for that because it was from owners before the city took over. They don’t sell them anymore,” she said. “It isn’t appropriate for a city to sell lifetime memberships. It’s giving benefits to potentially one class of taxpayers that another one cannot get.”

Since the city purchase, Meadowlakes drafted an ordinance to honor existing lifetime memberships (which have dwindled to 25) but to prohibit any new ones. Lifetime memberships still can be transferred to children under 21 years old living in the household, according to the ordinance.

“There was some discussion that we might lose some of these members to other golf courses (if the council were to suspend for the upcoming fiscal year existing lifetime memberships),” Williams said. “They felt it was in the best interest of the city and the golf course to maintain the membership as it is.”

Raesner believes budget concerns should supersede the waiver, subject to review each fiscal year.

“The club has to operate and maintain services,” she said.

Raesner estimated the city could receive about $3,800 more per month if lifetime members paid monthly greens fees.

“If the club is running on a tight budget, it seems to me, by now, these folks haven’t had to pay a monthly greens fee for a long time,” she said. “It seems these people had a reasonable return already. Those lifetime members still pay other fees, such as trail fees, unless they choose not to use golf carts during play.

Williams said some of the issue needs more review.

“Not everybody agreed with her figures. The residents felt like they entered into a bargain. They paid cash,” Williams said. “It was a contract, and now the city is trying to take it away. I’m hoping we can find a solution, so everybody is happy.”

connie@thepicayune.com