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Meadowlakes mayor creates task force to reform recreation budget

Hidden Falls golf course

Meadowlakes Mayor Mark Bentley wants to create a task force to address a recurring shortfall in the recreation budget, which includes the operation of the Hidden Falls golf course (pictured), restaurant, tennis courts, and pool. Staff photo by David Bean

Newly elected Meadowlakes Mayor Mark Bentley announced Dec. 2 in “The Mayor’s Corner” column of the city’s newsletter that he would be assembling a committee to address the recreation budget shortfall. 

The budget includes maintenance and operation of the golf course, tennis courts, restaurant, and pool.

This year, the recreation budget is projected to take approximately $192,000 in supplementary cash from other income sources to keep it in the black.

“That is more now than I’m comfortable with and I want to address it, and that’s why we’re forming a task force,” Bentley said.

The Hidden Falls Golf Club, which the city owns, has been showing a profit for a number of years, Bentley said. However, club membership numbers have dropped as fewer people are renewing. 

The course has been seeing a great deal of non-member green fee players.

“We’ve almost doubled the number of green fee players,” Bentley said. “The golf course is probably going to be a little bit better without having to do much at all. The restaurant is a different story.”

The Hidden Falls Restaurant is located at the golf course and is owned by the city as well.

The restaurant manager, head golf pro, city manager, City Council, and past consultant reports will all be resources for the task force.

“What I would like to do is give these people enough time to study the accounting figures, to study the mood of the neighborhood, to see what their neighbors think,” Bentley said. “I’ve also got people with restaurant expertise on the task force who can probably share their experiences, too. That will help us out considerably.”

The task force consists of nine members recruited for their diverse backgrounds, experiences, and points of view. 

“We’ve got a lawyer, a doctor, people with restaurant experience,” Bentley said. “I think we’ve got a pretty good cross-section. One of the things I specifically looked for was for people that wouldn’t always see eye to eye, that would disagree. I think it’s very good to have that kind of mix. They have to then justify whatever position they are.”

This task force differs from some of the previous ones assembled to tackle the same problem in years past because it doesn’t consist of consultants, but residents. That, and it will be in close communication with the community, Bentley said.

“Everyone needs to stay involved in it and not let the task force just go out on a tangent and come up with an answer that really doesn’t have any support at all,” he said. “You’ve got to have support from the stakeholders in order to come out with a satisfactory product.

“We’re just going to have to put a pencil to things and make sure we’re doing the right things there. We’ll see what we can do, but I think we can bring this back into better shape,” he added.

The task force will not meet openly to the public but will provide regular reports to the City Council and mayor’s office.

alex@thepicayune.com 

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