Updated, 4:17 p.m., comment from Mayor Harry Rilling.
NORWALK, Conn. – The Oak Hills Park restaurant is behind on its rent payments to its city of Norwalk landlords, creating a cash deficit when compared to revenues a years ago, Oak Hills Park Authority members said Thursday.
Events at the OHPA’s monthly meeting included a minor dispute over protocol, thoughts on Saturday’s golf course opening and a homework assignment for new member Joe Kendy, the only lawyer on the authority.
Park Executive Director Shelley Guyer presented a finance report.
“Our cash position is not exactly where I would like it to be,” Guyer said. “According to this we are about $10,000 behind where we were last year. That is primarily because of the restaurant. As of today I think it’s two months. … If they were up to date we’d actually have about $60,000 in cash.”
“They said they’d be caught up by April 1,” OHPA Chairman Clyde Mount said.
Mount suggested the numbers were low in comparison because the authority was loaned $150,000 from the city last year. But Guyer said the loan had not come in at the time with which he was comparing the figures.
“When we get the March numbers, our cash will be way behind where we were last year because we’re not getting a loan this year. At least I hope we’re not getting a loan this year,” Guyer said.
“Nope,” Mount said.
The chairman pointed out that the accounts payable situation is much better than last year: It was $241,000 last year and $97,000 this year.
“On the P&L (profit and loss) side, we continue to run well ahead of last year,” Guyer said. “On the revenue side, we’re $117,000 positive vs. a year ago. Our expenses are slightly higher. Our net ordinary income is $34,000 higher than where we were a year ago.”
Guyer said sales of ID cards are 68 percent higher than they were a year ago, thanks to a promotion. The early season sign-up was $65 instead of $70. As of Tuesday, there were 605 sold, compared to 345 a year earlier, he said. Those are not necessarily new cards, just people renewing earlier, he said, but “People that I have talked to, a number of them, had not renewed last year but have come back and renewed this year.”
Other comments about numbers and finances included promotions around the number “45,” as it is Oak Hills 45th anniversary. That includes ID cards for $45 on April 5 (4/5) and a $4.50 lunch special at the restaurant that day.
Guyer said the authority had gotten a $2,500 check Wednesday from Groupon, the first result of a marketing campaign through the company. Golfers get to visit the park one time only through Groupon, Mount said. “We’ll get them here and then they’ll come back,” he said.
Course Superintendent Jim Schelling said he expects to be “killed with people” on Saturday, opening day for the season. Guyer said they won’t be able to use carts as it is too wet.
The park’s cashiers will be using touch screens for the first time this year, which makes processing golfers much faster, Guyer said.
The legal committee report was very short: “Welcome!” Mount said to Kendy.
As the meeting ended, the newly appointed member asked for a copy of a statement read at the beginning of the meeting by vocal driving range opponent Paul Cantor. Kendy said Cantor had raised issues he wanted to look into.
Cantor said he was surprised by “the facile manner in which the (proposed master) plan redefines your mission as one of becoming ‘the recognized market leader in providing high quality golf rounds, and practice and golf lesson services’ to a ‘target market.’”
He said, “That, of course, is not the mission you were given by the public. The mission you were given by the public was to see if you could manage a golf course in Oak Hills Park so green fees paid primarily by golfers in Norwalk would cover its maintenance and operating costs.”
Another statement read at the meeting caused a bit of controversy.
New member Elsa Peterson Obuchowski, a member of the Friends of Oak Hills Park, said during the public speaking part of the meeting that she wanted to read a letter for Diane Cece, who she said was ill.
Mount let her do it, stopping her at the customary three-minute mark. Bill Wrenn, a Friends member who is not on the authority, finished reading Cece’s letter, which concerned the process of developing a master plan.
Obuchowski asked if she could read another statement on behalf of someone who wasn’t there, and Mount objected.
“I think it’s inappropriate that you are reading statements,” Mount said. “If you want to get up and talk then you should get up and talk but reading other people’s statements? I find it inappropriate.”
Obuchowski said she had talked to Mayor Harry Rilling about it.
“He told me to do exactly what I did. You can take it up with Mayor Rilling,” she said.
“I have no problem with you reading that as your statement if that’s what you want to do, if you want to talk about it,” Mount said. “But picking and (reading statements) for “people who are not even in the room. … She didn’t even get here to sign up.”
“I understand what you are saying,” Obuchowski said. “I apologize if that was out of line but I didn’t know the correct way to do it. I asked Mayor Rilling and this is what he told me to do.”
Minutes later, Mount had a positive comment for the authority’s members.
“I am beginning to see a very active Oak Hills Park Authority and that is what the park needs. I appreciate that and I just want to thank everybody,” he said.
The meeting ended with an executive session regarding the restaurant’s lease.
“I want to get it on the table,” Mount said. “I want to talk about what we talked about and then see where we go.”
Rilling confirmed Friday that he had talked to Obuchowski. “I said as an Authority Member I felt she had the right to read a statement from a person who was ill and could not be in attendance,” he said in an email.