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At Oak Hills meeting, it’s golf by the numbers

Oak Hills Executive Director Shelley Guyer delivers a financial report Thursday.

NORWALK, Conn. – From the nine-hole question to the 10-ish percent of Norwalkers who golf, numbers were in the air Thursday night at the Oak Hills Park Authority meeting.

Acting OHPA chairman Clyde Mount took a little time to refute a Paul Cantor email (see separate letter) suggesting that the smartest thing to do would be take Oak Hills from a standard 18-hole course to a nine-hole course, and golfers Gene Scarangella asked just how many people use baseball fields in Norwalk. Oak Hills Executive Director Shelley Guyer said that rounds were down in December but revenue stayed even, thanks to a Christmas-oriented promotion.

Scarangella said it was true that “golf does not benefit every Norwalk citizen.”

But, “Neither do public schools,” he said. “Why don’t we get rid of them? … A dog park? Who does that serve? One percent of the population?”

If 10 percent of the population plays golf, how many play baseball, he asked.

“About 3.2 percent? Yet we have baseball fields all over the town, maintained by the city,” he said.

OHPA member Ernie Desrochers said that 11.8 percent of Norwalk citizens play golf.

Guyer said that Oak Hills’ 144 acres is about 11 percent of the total park land within the city of Norwalk. “Seems to line up with the golfers,” he said.

called herself an “elitist golfer,” as did an earlier speaker.

Sylvia Scarangella, Scarangella’s wife, said, “I don’t drive a Mercedes. (The course is) for everyone. There are people there from all walks of life.”

“If (the proposed driving range is) going to be around the sixth (hole) don’t bother. It’s going to be a detriment. People aren’t going to use it,” she said.

Two out-of-town women were talking to the golf pro recently and were lamenting the lack of a locker room at the course, she said.

“Our course is one of the most beautiful ones around,” she said. “They have done a beautiful job. … Do we have a facility that the poorest courses in the area have? No.”

The couple have lived here for 43 years, she said. It was a golf course when they arrived and it should stay a golf course, she said.

“It was called a park because we needed the federal funding,” she said. “It was always a golf course. Let’s maintain it as that.”

Cantor’s lengthy email, printed as an opinion piece here, was sent to all Common Council members and had clearly made its way to OHPA members.

“Reducing the 18-hole course in Oak Hills to nine holes is in the interest of the majority of taxpayers of Norwalk including most golfers,” Cantor wrote. “It is in the interest of golfers because a nine-hole golf course is more likely to be financially sustainable.  And it is in the interest of all taxpayers because it would free up land for many other uses appropriate to a public park.”

Mount said that only 11 percent of the rounds played at Oak Hills are from people choosing only to play nine holes. Guyer said they do it first thing in the morning and after 4 p.m.

“You’re not going to make half the revenue,” Guyer said.

“Turning away the 89 percent of the golfers that play the 18 rounds wouldn’t be the smart thing that anybody on this authority could ever think about,” Mount said.

Guyer delivered a financial report.

December’s rounds were down 43 percent as compared to last year, when there was good weather, he said. But December deal (five rounds for the price of four) brought in about $6,000, meaning the actual dollars brought in was about even with last year, he said.

For Fiscal Year 14, from July to December, revenue rounds were up 10.6 percent, he said. Golf revenue is up 14.1 percent. Non-resident rounds are up 23 percent up. Nine-hole rounds are up 40 percent. Junior rounds are up 13 percent.

“Residential adult rounds, which have been down most of the year, are only down 3 percent,” Guyer said. “So we’ve been catching up. So I’m pretty confident over the next six months we can get that number back up compared to the prior year again.”

For the calendar year, January to December, total revenue rounds were up 3.6 percent, he said. Rounds of golf were down 3.6 percent state wide, Guyer said.

“In fact on a national basis, municipal golf courses in general were down 3.6 percent, all over the country” Guyer said. “That’s from the National Golf Foundation numbers. We were actually about 7 percent better than anybody else. Taking the minus 3.6 plus the 3.6 we were up.”

There were more than 34,000 rounds played at the course last year, the first time in three years it’s gotten that high, he said.

There are 25 golf events scheduled, he said. Of those, about 60 percent of the groups go to the restaurant, he said.

As of the end of December, OHPA had just under $127,000 in bank, he said. But the “ag and chemical inventory is $100,000 lower than it was a year ago.”

It was explained that a large amount of chemicals were delivered in December 2012 but not recorded as a liability until February.

“It looks out of whack, it’s really not,” Guyer said.

Superintendent Jim Schell has been using chemicals that were on hand and not replacing them, he said. Schell is using fewer chemicals and the actual cost should be $45,000 less this year than it was last year, Guyer said.

“My understanding of how it works is we don’t actually charge ourselves on the P&L until we actually use the chemicals,” Guyer said. “So when we purchase them there’s an expense but it’s offset because we put it into inventory. So basically it’s kind of a flat transaction.”

Things are looking up, he said.

“Our revenue is way up, our expenses are under control,” he said. “The forecast for the next six months is promising.”

Comments

10 responses to “At Oak Hills meeting, it’s golf by the numbers”

  1. Oldtimer

    The restaurant is already there. There was a time when a smaller restaurant on the course featured regular entertainment and drew pretty good evening crowds. I don’t know the numbers, but I assume the park got some of that revenue, and that was part of the reasoning behind building a bigger restaurant.

  2. Taxpayer Fatigue

    Where does the “11.8% of Norwalk Citizens play golf” statistic come from? Just made up?

  3. Joe Optimistic

    11.8% of Norwalkers play at Oak Hills? Does the OHPA think we are all fools? That would mean over 10,000 residents of Norwalk play golf there. All you have to do is look at the number of resident ID cards they sold last year which I think I remember hearing was around 2,500 making it more like 3%. With the enticive pricing they have made for all the non resident surrounding town players the taxpayers of Norwalk are now subsidizing golf for Darien, New Cannan and all the other local other towns without public golf courses.

    Mr. Guyer states that the OHPA has $127,000 in the bank with 3 long months ahead of golf season is that really enough? What’s the difference what the ag and chemical budget is? Once the $127,000 is gone it’s back to the taxpayers for money, but glad to hear your chemical budget is low.

  4. Don’t Panic

    I wonder if the annual audit includes an analysis of the number of rounds being sold at full price vs. The discounted rounds. If there are more discounted rounds than full price rounds, they are not honoring the statute under which their rates are set. Buffing the numbers by lowering the rates through continual discounting comes with real risks.

  5. Joe Optimistic

    Did Mr. Guyer ever think that the only reason they may be up 3.6% over last year is because they had such lousy numbers last year?

  6. Suzanne

    No where in the courses expenses is the loan servicing mentioned. Why not? Are they honoring the loans taken from the City of Norwalk for course maintenance, upkeep, drainage and the restaurant. If so, how much and how often? If not, why not?

  7. Joe Optimistic

    @Suzanne:
    The last time I looked at the OH financials, which was a while ago since the OHPA does not post them anymore with their minutes, they show up on the BET agenda, it looked like it was listed and they are current.

    But, If what Mr. Guyer says is true, that OH has $127K in the bank, after what they think was a great year, they have BIG problems. Friends of mine in Westport who play golf, explained to me that OH got very lucky this season with the closest public GC, Longshore in Westport in dire straights because the grass on the greens died, sending much of their play to OH. Once the grass at Longshore comes back, as it will, grass grows, OH will lose all that play they gained this season. Then what? another “loan” from the 97% of Norwalkers that don’t use the place? and yes Mr. Derocheres it is only 3% of Norwalkers that use OH, not the 11.8% you keep boasting. The town of Norwalk now has a great golf course for all our friends in Darien, New Cannan, Wilton and last year, Westport too.

    As I’m sure you can guess, I’m not a golfer, and I’m sure the place looks great, as the OHPA keeps drumming over and over again into the heads of all who will listen and I’m also sure all the employees are working very hard to get it to look good, but with all the financial problems the OHPA currently has and has had over the last few years, do you think it’s wise to hand out a bunch of raises to the employees as they did at a special meeting in November? What a coincidence how it happened the week prior to the election too.

    I also read on NON about multiple leaking oil tanks on the property, sounds expensive… but I guess $127K is more then enough to fix this environmental problem and pay all the operating expenses of 144 manicured acres, or will the increase in my property taxes this year cover that?

    Is anyone on the Common Council awake? or are all our elected officials just scratching their heads, crossing their fingers, hoping and praying that this all just goes away with the dream of the magic driving range in the middle of a residential neighborhood, far away from any major roadway or corporation, that will be used by 3% of norwalkers and 97% of people who pay taxes to other towns who don’t allow money losing golf courses or driving ranges.

  8. Suzanne

    Every time I hear of a “financial report” from the OHPA, I feel like they are hanging on by their fingernails and have no long term strategy to manage the course or the finances to support it. This is a well-founded feeling because financial reports are so rarely forthcoming, are inconclusive for the long term, do no include a complete picture, in this case that would be the loan servicing and, as so correctly cited above, the environmental remediation costs for the leaking oil tanks on the properties. I am loathe to get into complimentary rounds when there are larger concerns in the picture and this happens to be a topic ALWAYS addressed by the OHPA. It is not a responsible approach in terms of finances on behalf of the town. If the OHPA would just be truthful by divulging the entire picture to the taxpayers then sit down and figure out, as I mention, a long term strategy then, perhaps, all of this angst and rancor could be alleviated. Sometimes I think the OHPA just likes the chaos. The course, BTW, IS beautiful and they can be proud of that but that is like “not seeing the forest for the trees.” The infrastructure and upkeep are an ongoing concern and the report of this meeting makes it no less so.

  9. TG

    I’m just starting to understand the Oak Hills situation (see my comment on Mark’s article “A hole-y debate…), going over old articles to figure it out, and this one seems to give me some of my missing info. My only thought here is is did Scarangella actually compare the public benefit of a golf course to the benefit of public schools? And comparing it to a dog park? Did he make up that number? Only one percent? First of all a dog park (even when you add up all three in Norwalk) does not require a a fraction of the acreage – nor maintenance- that a golf course does, and I’m fairly certain the numbers are higher than the percentage of Norwalkers using OH. Not to mention that these parks are not exclusively for the use of dogs- they remain open to everyone. Whenever someone must resort to hyperbole as their persuasive technique, it appears they are lacking in true support.

  10. Jin Perkins

    Clyde:

    Found 1! Ernie DeRocheres, still on the OHPA right? states 11.8% of Norwalkers play golf. Maybe he did not take it in context?

    https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2014/01/at-oak-hills-meeting-its-golf-by-the-numbers/

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