The City of Bremerton’s rush to give its world class golf course complex at Gold Mountain over to a company managing the local conference center is nothing short of a leadership failure of the Mayor’s Office. It’s a failure that some believe will turn the well known and respected city golf course into another Bremerton Marina, unknowingly managed and subsidized by the many for the benefit of a few.
All was lined up for Wednesday night’s Bremerton City Council vote, under the urging of Council President Jim McDonald, to affirm Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent’s plan to contract the golf complex to Columbia Hospitality, a company with no golf experience.
In the last decade, particularly since the beginning of the “new economy” following the Great Recession, golf has lost millions of players. Many in the industry say the game’s shrinking demographic continues to dwindle as they search for new and innovative ways to appeal to people with less time and money for the game.
While there is no record of Columbia’s ability to manage a golf course, one thing known is that the city already subsidizes the one city enterprise fund that Columbia Hospitality manages for them. Each year the city automatically gives $155,000 in Lodging Tax collected locally under a law designed to fund local tourism marketing, more than one third of the total collected annually.
Councilmember Greg Wheeler has been the one questioning voice on the Bremerton City Council opposing the idea of the no-bid contract going to Columbia under the current plan. He promised to vote no on principle.
Ridiculous is Council President Jim McDonald’s response to warnings of catastrophe at Gold Mountain by insisting that saving the jobs of two city employees should receive any weight whatsoever in the multi-million dollar decision to keep out at least two interested golf course management companies, with municipal course experience, over the idea that they may or may not replace the golf pro or course superintendent.
With only a $36,000 margin of error between Gold Mountain producing a profit or its need for subsidies in the proposed 2013 budget, McDonald’s claim that the city can later pull out of the contract with Columbia, if they fail, suggests a continuation of casual laziness regarding the financial future of the city that’s barely afloat and trying to figure out the new reality of the post-recession economy.