Sebring considers new golf carts
JOE SEELIGSEBRING The city is looking into purchasing 65 new golf carts for its Municipal Golf Course to replace an aging fleet, 51 of which are between 8 and 11 years old.
Published: August 4, 2012
Published: August 4, 2012
When that will happen still remains to be decided.
Twenty-three of its carts are currently out of service. It would cost about $50,000 to fix them.
During its 2012–2013 budget workshop Thursday evening for its enterprise funds, the consensus of four council members was to go ahead and budget about $220,000 for the purchase, after shooting down repair and lease options.
Councilman John Griffin was absent.
The estimated cost of the carts was about $250,000, but the estimate included about $28,000 in trade-ins for its existing carts.
Although the enterprise is losing money, selling the golf course is not an option, City Administrator Scott Noethlich said Friday.
"It was deeded to the city for recreational purposes," he said, adding that happened on June 9, 1927.
If the city was to stop upkeep and maintaining the land for recreational purposes it would revert back to the family of John O. Wilson and his wife Oreila E. Wilson.
"Theoretically you could lease it as long as it was being leased for recreational purposes or you could get somebody else to run it," Noethlich said.
"All of this is subject to either a formal (Request For Proposals) or piggyback or a government service contract, he said. "We may get better pricing than this."
During the budget workshop Councilman Andrew Fells said the golf course itself was in pristine condition and the complaints he's been hearing were about how terrible the golf carts were; and that he was playing too slow, he joked.
"There have been times I've been out there playing and I had to call the pro shop and tell them to bring me another cart," he said.
Eight of the carts have gone down in the last month, he said.
"At this point, especially considering how old these golf carts are, it's definitely not worth throwing $40,000 for golf carts that are 11 years old," Fells said.
Most of the repairs are for batteries, computers and tires.
Purchasing the carts was the only sensible option if the city was going to remain in the golf course business, said Councilman John Clark.
"Fixing them is folly," he said. "Leasing them is folly. Buying means we're going to be in the golf course business for a considerable amount of time, perhaps…"
However, Clark insisted that the money coming out of the general fund would have to be considered a loan to the golf course enterprise fund.
"There needs to be some system to pay it back," Clark said. "It is the taxpayers' money and not necessarily of those swinging clubs."
Payback would take about 3.5 years, estimated Finance Director Mike Eastman.
But Clark wanted to give a fare shake to the struggling enterprise, which lost $136,122 last year. The city recently made a major investment in fixing up the course.
"I do believe we've turned the corner on the product, which is the course," he said.
The new carts may be just what it takes to sell golf memberships.
"During the peak economic times it came pretty close to a break-even or a profit," Noethlich said Friday.
The city has not had in place a system where it would rotate the old carts out and bring new carts in, he said.
Clark suggested the golf course management should try to sell a lot of memberships.
But the money to repay a loan to the golf course would come from small increases on golf cart fees, according to Kim Darrow, who is the pro-shop manager and golf pro.
A yearly membership currently costs $1,950 plus tax for a single. That price includes unlimited play and trail fees, she said Friday.
Many members own their own carts.
Members without carts are currently charged $5 per play in the summer and $8 in the season. The cart rental would go up about $3 to recoup the loan.
The price per round is currently $16, which includes the cart and would go up to $19. In season the price is now $30 but could go up to about $35, she said.
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