story by Ryan Saylor
Sebastian County's hopes of possibly leasing out the golf course at Ben Geren Regional Park appear dim as the only proposal from an outside firm for the golf course was a management proposal instead of a multi-year lease.
The management proposal by Cypress Golf Management of Orlando, Fla., comes with large monthly fees. It appears to go contrary to the county's desire to reduce expenditures at the golf course. As reported in September 2013, the golf course loses more than $100,000 a year for the county, which continues to fund operations and capital expenses.
The proposal by Cypress would lock the county into a five year management agreement at a rate of $6,000 per month. The plan would also include travel expenditures of up to $1,700 per month. The proposed plan also outlines how the county will still front costs for the golf course, even though Cypress would be managing the property.
"The Ben Geren Park Golf Course will continue to be responsible for all operating expenses and all approved capital expenditures, just as is the case at present," the proposal reads.
The document also noted that it "will be Sebastian (County's) obligation to insure that there are at all times sufficient funds in the operating account to cover all operating and capital expenses."
Also included in the proposal is an outline of additional fees the county would be responsible for should it hire Cypress to manage the golf course. Among the fees is a project management fee for capital improvements, should any projects costing more than $25,000 be approved by the county.
"In the event that such projects may be authorized by Sebastian County, it is the intent of both parties that Manager will provide project planning and management services, provided that Manager, in Sebastian County, has the professional expertise and management capability required by the project. Manager shall receive a project management fee equal to ten percent of the cost of any project over $25,000 and $100,000, or a fee equal to seven percent of the cost of any project that exceeds $100,000 and $200,000, or a fee equal to four percent on any project exceeding $200,000."
Sebastian County Judge David Hudson, whose office oversees the golf course, said since the bid had only been unsealed minutes before answering questions from the media, he had not yet had time to review its contents or comment on the proposal. But he said a review of the Cypress proposal would happen quickly.
"I'm going to review this with the Park (Advisory) Board and the Golf Stakeholder Committee and develop a report and present it to the Quorum Court," Hudson said, adding that the plan would be made at the March regular meeting.
Asked if he would have preferred to receive proposals that would have spelled out a lease of the property, such as a company leasing the golf course for a set rate, he said the point of the bidding process was to see what was available to the County and then make a decision as to whether contracting with an outside group in some fashion was necessary.
Justice of the Peace Danny Aldridge, whose district includes Ben Geren, was on hand for the opening of the proposal from Cypress and said he was surprised that only one proposal was made as a part of the open bidding process.
"I was hoping for a number of bidders, where we would have a choice that would give us the best opportunities to have good golfing for our citizens and reduced any potential losses that the county might have."
Regardless of what happens, Aldridge said frequent golfers at Ben Geren should have no worries about possible changes at the facility.
"Hopefully we can proceed forward into an excellent Spring golfing season either with county management or some other form."