2008-12-04 / Front Page

Great Cove's Future Discussed At Ayr Twp. Meeting

Recreation club/golf course continues to struggle financially
By Jean Snyder STAFF WRITER

Ayr Township supervisors met with board members of Great Cove Golf and Recreation Club last week to discuss options for the golf club that has been struggling financially for the past several years.

Board members Bob Peck and Paul Johnston attended the supervisors' regular monthly meeting last Monday evening and updated them on the current financial condition of the club. Although each certificate holder was assessed $250 this year to keep the club afloat, Peck said they still expect to end the year with a $50,000 deficit. Peck acknowledged that the deficit is less than last year's, but more than the club can continue to manage.

Monday night's meeting is the second time the club's directors have approached Ayr Township about the possibilities of the township buying the club and/or partnering with the Parks and Recreation Commission to manage it. The club is located in Ayr Township and the supervisors have, in the past, discussed ways to provide recreation in the township.

In response to Peck and Johnston, "Sonny" Harr, township supervisor chairman, said that in recent months he had talked with various township residents about the possibility of buying the club, and he said, "Not one person I have talked with has said they thought it was a good idea." While Harr said he would not favor the purchase, he did say he felt it should remain a recreational opportunity, but, he said, "I think it should be a countywide thing and not just Ayr Township."

According to Johnston, the club, which is a public, nonprofit organization, has a half-million dollar annual budget. The club operates on annual dues and greens fees but has seen a decline in membership in recent years. Both said they must compete with Majestic Ridge west of Chambersburg and Whitetail near Mercersburg for golf memberships and greens fee players.

Johnston and Peck said that the club wants to explore all possibilities for the future, but stressed that its financial condition, while not good, is also not dire. Johnston said that the course has been appraised at $3.9 million, and the club is indebted for less than one-tenth of that appraisal.

Harr also questioned why the Parks and Recreation Commission did not take over the club and Johnston said the commission is not in any position financially to do so. He said only nine municipalities have signed onto the commission and three of those are school districts. The other municipalities are Ayr, Todd, Licking Creek, Thompson and Dublin townships and the borough of McConnellsburg. Johnston said the commission only takes in about $5,000 in income annually from those nine members.

In further explaining the club's financial condition, Peck said the pool at the course continues to lose money each year. He said that it costs about $8,000 each year just to get the pool ready to open. He said that two years ago, the pool made some money on swimming lessons and 380 lessons were given. He said that the club raised the rates and this year only gave 220 lessons. He added that because of its size, the pool is not covered during the winter months, making it more expensive to open in the spring.

Both men also said they want to continue to have a PGA pro at the course and said that not having a pro would not be an effective way to save money. They said a pro is needed to organize tournaments and to offer lessons and run the pro shop. They said if they didn't have a pro, they would still need to hire one or more persons to direct the club's day-to-day operations.

Peck also said the club pays about $26,000 in taxes per year to the Central Fulton School District and the county, and Harr suggested that they explore asking the taxing authorities to suspend those taxes temporarily to help the club get back on its feet financially.

In concluding, both men said they are committed to trying one more year to pull out of the slump, but both also conceded that the current economy does not bode well for that. Peck said they need to "sell" 25,000 rounds of golf per season and have 220 members to break even or make money. He said 18,000 rounds were played this year and the club had only 188 members. They said they are trying to better market the club by starting a Web page and also by reopening their restaurant in the hopes of bringing in more people.

The supervisors agreed to remain in contact with the club's board and to offer any suggestions they may have to assist with the club's ongoing financial difficulties.

2009 proposed budget

During other business, the supervisors adopted a 2009 proposed budget that calls for expenditures of $310,000 with revenues of $321,531. The township spends about one-half of its budget on road paving and road maintenance.

Ayr Township assesses no taxes on real estate, occupation or per capita. Its only tax revenue is about $160,000 per year from an earned income tax and a real estate transfer tax. The township expects to end 2008 with a $1,441,797 surplus and expects to end 2009 with a surplus of $1,453,328.

The township will adopt a final 2009 budget on December 29, 2008, at its regular monthly meeting.

Regular business

During regular business, the supervisors approved a subdivision plan for Bard/Binder LLC on the former Richards farm. The subdivision will contain eight lots of various sizes with the smallest at about two acres and the largest at 8.3 acres. Six of the lots will front Cito Road while the other two will front Crossroads.

The supervisors also gave permission to state Sen. John Eichelberger to hold a town LEAD meeting at the township building on December 11, 2008, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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