Non-profit golf operation has its own watchdogs

As the Carson City Municipal Golf Corp. operates the former city-run Eagle Valley Golf courses, Robin Williamson has been watching its finances closely.

Williamson was the only Carson City supervisor to vote against refinancing the golf course's debt from a seven-year payback to a 20-year loan.

"I just think that, if they're supposed to fly on their own as a private corporation without much accountability or open records, they shouldn't be coming back to the city for help," Williamson said.

"They started off with the reserve funds from the city and they are not paying as high of salaries. I didn't think Carson's taxpayers need to continue helping them."

At the time of the refinancing vote in August 1998, Williamson said she was uncomfortable with extending the repayment period from seven to 20 years, because the city would be responsible for repayment if the course should fail.

Former city supervisor Janice Ayres said she had her doubts from the beginning about the city giving up operation of Eagle Valley's two 18-hole courses.

"One reason they gave was that it would be less political. I laughed at that. I've worked with non-profit corporations for years and there's plenty of politics involved," said Ayres, who directs the area Retired and Senior Volunteers Program.

Ayres said she did her own research on the other golf courses run by non-profit corporations that were given as examples. Some had taken over courses as military bases shut down, so were not direct comparisons.

"And I contact the one where a city had transferred the operation to a non-profit. They said they had only been going for 30 days and had no idea how well it would work out," Ayres said. "I was mad to find out that had been cited to us as an example of a successful non-profit course."

Ayres said she has not followed Eagle Valley Golf operations closely since she left the board of supervisors a year ago.

"I guess they're doing well. I hope so. But I always felt it was a city course and so the city officials should remain accountable for its operations - that was our job," Ayres said.

Greg Smith, who was one of the main proponents on the board of supervisors of turning the course over to a non-profit corporation, said it is good that Williamson and other officials keep a close eye on the operation.

"It is the public's course and the goal was to maintain affordable golf for Carson City," Smith said.

"I think the board of directors understands that people here are concerned about these courses and want to know what's going on with them."

He said that original golf board chairman Wes Myers and current chairman Mark Sattler have been good about providing information about the non-profit corporations operations, including monthly financial reports to the city.

"Some of the longtime golfers also liked to pay attention to the politics of the golf course and I think they feared losing that in the transition," Smith said.

"The non-profit's board knew they would face some of these challenges. I think most of that's behind us now and that the board members have done pretty much what's been expected of them."


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