CONNIE SWINNEY • PICAYUNE STAFF
UPDATE: The Meadowlakes City Council on April 25 approved by a vote of 3-2 to dissolve the public facilities corporation that manages and operates the Hidden Falls Golf Course in the heart of the community. Council members who voted for the dissolution were Mike Barry, Alton Fields and Jerry Drummond. Those who voted against it were Barry Cunningham and Clancy Stephenson. The process will take about two to three months to finalize, officials say.
MEADOWLAKES — City leaders on April 25 will consider dissolving the public facilities corporation that manages Hidden Falls Golf Course and taking over its operations, officials said.
The PFC, created by the city of Meadowlakes, has managed the course, a bar and grill, a swimming pool and tennis facilities since 2009.
“It’s marginally self-supporting, having lost several thousands of dollars in prior years. That seems to be the issue,” City Manager Johnnie Thompson said.
The golf course and club — in the heart of the community of about 1,000 households — has five full-time employees and a dozen part-time employees.
Should council members dissolve the PFC, supervisors would report to city officials instead of a five-member volunteer PFC board and a paid chief operating officer.
On April 22, the city received a a copy of a resignation letter from PFC vice president Rob Paul, one of the volunteer board members.
“I think the city is making a mistake,” Paul said in a phone interview April 23. “The PFC has run the course diligently for several years with very little city help.
“All the golf courses that are surviving today are doing so with municipal money,” Paul added.
With a budget of about $800,000-$850,000, coming from memberships and outside customers, the PFC’s main expense aside from personnel is golf course maintenance, officials said.
The course uses the city’s treated effluent to irrigate.
“Since we created it, all the assets and liabilities fall back to the city,” said Thompson about the proposed dissolution. “The employees will transition back into city employees.”
Recently, the PFC acquired $40,000 in debt due to a lease-purchase agreement with the Meadowlakes Property Owners Association for a tractor mower.
Course officials also pay more than $2,000 per month in a golf cart rental agreement with a private contractor, according to figures provided by the city.
Other expenses include turf and maintenance of the swimming pool, tennis courts and restaurant operations.
“There’s a considerable amount of investment that will have to be considered by the council in regards to replacing some of the existing (golf course) maintenance equipment, which is about six or seven years old,” Thompson said. “It’s a considerable amount of money probably in the ($200,000) to $250,000 range that may be done over a couple or three years, just depending on the condition of the equipment.”
Mayor Mary Ann Raesner said she supports dissolving the PFC.
“They have a budget, but they don’t have any way of making money beyond golf or people using the facilities,” she said. “They worked very hard to bring in more business, players for the golf course. It’s been useful for this period of time.”
Officials said they want to consider giving the course and club an image makeover, including possibly changing the name.
“The golf course has done a pretty good job of promoting, but we still see we have an identity problem within the local area,” Thompson said. “With golfing (locations) being very competitive, you have to really market to a smaller and smaller number of golfers.
“Hopefully, the identity is a public course open to anyone and not a club,” he added.
PFC board president Larry Upton did not return phone calls. PFC Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilson was unavailable for comment.
The Meadowlakes special meeting is 3 p.m. April 25 at city hall, 177 Broadmoor.