The city of Warren, Ohio has a contract with a management firm to operate the 90-year-old, 129-acre property through the end of 2019. But a city council member reported that equipment has been removed from the course and employees have been told of impending layoffs.
The Safety Service Director of Warren, Ohio, Enzo Cantalamessa, was blindsided at the meeting of the Warren city council on October 10th, the Warren Tribune Chronicle reported, when several council members suggested that the operator of the Old Avalon Golf Course in Warren has removed all of his equipment from the course, and another council member said a golf course employee told him all the employees will be laid off as of Friday, October 12th.
Councilman John Brown told council members at the meeting that an employee of the course asked him the previous day whether the city could sell Old Avalon GC, the Tribune Chronicle reported.
After learning from Law Director Greg Hicks that the city could sell the property, Brown said the employee told him the next day that workers were being laid off, the Tribune Chronicle reported.
In October 2013, Cantalamessa negotiated a deal to operate the city-owned golf course with Avalon South Management Co. LLC , which is owned by Larry Petrozzi, an accountant, the Tribune Chronicle reported. The contract with the city is through December 2019, with the city having the option to extend the contract by an additional five years.
The contract required Avalon South Management Co. LLC to pay $34,154 per year for the first three years, and then an increasing amount every year, the Tribune Chronicle reported.
“If he is looking at walking away, the operator of the course is still obligated to honor the contract he signed,” Cantalamessa told the Tribune Chronicle. “At the time the contract was written, we verified that he has the personal financial ability to fulfill the terms of our agreement.”
Cantalamessa said he recently was approached by one of the bidders who sought the contract to operate the golf course in 2013 about whether the city would be willing to allow him to operate the golf course.
“I told him that whatever agreement he might have with Petrozzi, the city’s position will be that Petrozzi is the one that is responsible, since he is the only person the city has a contract with and knows he has the financial wherewithal to operate the course,” Cantalamessa said. “We made sure he showed us his assets. He will not be able to walk away.”
A message left at a number listed as Petrozzi’s office was not immediately returned, the Tribune Chronicle reported.
Cantalamessa said the management company is practically up to date on its payments. “If it is behind, it is by a very small amount,” he said.
At the time the contract was negotiated, city officials were debating whether it would be more beneficial to allow an operator to manage the course for the city, or simply to sell it, the Tribune Chronicle reported.
The contract with the previous operator of the golf course, OAG LLC, was canceled in early 2013 due to a disagreement between the city and its operator regarding rental payments, the Tribune Chronicle reported. At the time, the city said the management company owed it $320,000 in back rental payments.
John Kouvas, whose OAG LLC operated the public course from 2006 until 2013, said the city was notified in 2012 about an estimated $100,000 worth of capital improvements that needed to be done before the beginning of the 2013 golf season, the Tribune Chronicle reported.
The two sides sued one another in court, and the lawsuits were later dismissed, the Tribune Chronicle reported.
Petrozzi said previously that he spent more than $100,000 to better the course, including improvements to the fairways and greens, the Tribune Chronicle reported.
The 129-acre course opened in 1928.