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Grantwood explores money-saving options
Grantwood explores money-saving options
By SUE REID
The possibility of Grantwood Golf Course funding its own capital improvements without a subsidy from the City of Solon was one of the considerations addressed in a five-year business plan presented last week to City Council's finance committee.
Gary Mazzeo, director of golf operations, said the plan represents only ideas, and nothing set in stone. "This business plan is merely a guide. Adjustments have to be made each year to the income and the expenses." He said the plan is based on no growth whatsoever moving forward.
"Golf is going through tough times, as anyone else," he said.
Mr. Mazzeo presented options to the committee stated in the plan to help cut costs and to increase revenue.
One such option would be the possibility of having the course be run without a pro shop or golf professional, Mr. Mazzeo said. "Certainly, that will have side effects." Players at Grantwood have come to expect the shop and what it offers, he said. "We have had one for so long that people rely on it." However, there are golf courses that run without them, he said.
Another cost-cutting option would be to lease the snack bar, which is basically a "break-even service" now, Mr. Mazzeo said. "If properly done, this could be outsourced and shared in a lease that would be financially beneficial to both parties. More research needs to be done, but the results, if done right, will provide an additional source of revenue."
The potential for timbering for the 200 acres in the back reserved for natural settings is another option for cutting costs, Mr. Mazzeo said. "This is not wholesale clearing of land. This is a process that could take place in the winter months for the least amount of disruption."
The idea of a wetlands land bank also was presented. "At one time, we were approached about the possibility of developers buying land from us to use as wetland mitigation," Mr. Mazzeo said.
He said another cost-cutting alternative is for the city to pursue the retire-rehire situation for his position. "This could save another $30,000 by making the position revert back to a starting director salary, without the loss of experience needed to guide operations," he said.
Mr. Mazzeo said, in the area of cost cutting going into 2010, he would propose no wage increase for Grantwood employees, which would save about $17,000.
Councilman and committee member Lon D. Stolarsky said they are city employees and entitled to wage increases like everyone else.
A new venue option he presented involved the possibility of the addition of an upscale miniature golf course on a piece of land Grantwood has that is unused.
"Not only is this an ideal location, but it is easily accessible from the clubhouse where tickets could be sold with no additional building needed," Mr. Mazzeo said. He said he researched income levels from these types of courses and they range between $110,000 and $130,000 from April through October. Also, this type of upscale course would attract people of all ages, he said.
"If we were to do something like this, I would plan on doing the entire site and prep work and utility work in-house," Mr. Mazzeo said.
Mr. Mazzeo said his capital-improvement plan for buildings and equipment and the grounds shows a significant decrease in funds needed moving forward. This year, the purchase of new golf carts was not expected, Mr. Mazzeo said, but it was "the best deal." Those carts and other new equipment amounted to approximately $500,000 this year. "That trend will not go into the future. It drops down substantially.
"It keeps going down every year as we get caught up and make these improvements," Mr. Mazzeo said.
Councilman and committee member William I. Russo told Mr. Mazzeo he would like to see revenues for each department compared with expenses. "I want to make sure I'm looking at this appropriately," Mr. Russo said. He also said that although this has no reflection on the people running the course, wages for Grantwood employees are exceptionally high compared to the competition.
Mr. Mazzeo said that many of the course's employees have been at Grantwood for some time and with their longevity and expertise comes the cost. Grantwood has six full-time employees and the part-time staff varies but stays around 35 to 40 employees.
As far as the suggestion for a miniature golf course, Mr. Russo said he does not believe the city should be putting additional capital into another business venture.
"I don't have a problem leasing it out to an entity, but it is not the City of Solon's place to do that," he said.
Mr. Stolarsky said that Mr. Mazzeo's plan helped get the "wheels turning" as far as thinking of other ways for the course to generate revenue.
"This is a great start," Councilwoman and committee member Susan A. Drucker said of the plan. What is important for everyone to understand, she said, is that with the vote last fall to have Grantwood fall under the city's auspices came with the realization that it will take time to make Grantwood work.
With some of the recent capital improvements came "sticker shock," she said, but those were expected.
"It's our responsibility to give you the resources necessary to see if you could make this a go as a golf course," Mrs. Drucker said to Mr. Mazzeo.
She said she agrees with Mr. Stolarsky with regards to employees getting the same wage increases as others in the city. She told Mr. Mazzeo that the city appreciates that the employees were willing to forego their raise, "but we have to be fair across the board."
Mrs. Drucker also said another option if Grantwood would continue to suffer moving forward is having a management company for golf courses brought in. "It behooves the administration to at least look at that," she said. "If Grantwood continues to struggle we have to see what they have to offer.
"I no means want to offend you," she said to Mr. Mazzeo. "You do a great job, but it is an option to look at."
"We have to be realistic," Mr. Mazzeo said. "Grantood is a business. I'm sure there would be various options a management company would take."
Human Resources Director Thomas Cornhoff said the mayor has asked his department to do a management study and that should be ready for the committee by later this summer.
As far as the miniature golf course, Mrs. Drucker said, "To me it meant more dollars," but she said she likes that Mr. Mazzeo is looking at creative options to improve Grantwood.
"My hesitancy is that I would not want to build something that would save Grantwood, but rather have Grantwood survive on its own," Mrs. Drucker said.
Mr. Russo asked the committee if it has considered a cap moving forward in the area of capital expenditures for the course.
Mrs. Drucker said she would hate to put an exact number out there, but would like to remain flexible.
"Voters made the decision to make Grantwood a city deparmteen," Mr. Stolarsky said. "You are either in our you're out."
"The amount of money going into Grantwood will be significantly less in the next five years," Mr. Mazzeo said.
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