Spending for Martin County (Fla.) GC Gets Increased Scrutiny

By | October 10th, 2018

County commissioners have directed the Parks and Recreation Department to scale down proposals for upgrading the Stuart, Fla. property’s 36-hole course and to plan for only a “modest” new clubhouse and pro shop. The course now does under 60,000 rounds annually, less than half its peak at the beginning of the millennium, and lost over $625,000 last year.

 

How much should be spent—if anything—on a golf course upgrade and new clubhouse for Martin County Golf Course in Stuart, Fla. has been the subject of an ongoing debate among county commissioners, reported TCPalm.com

In March, the Martin County Parks and Recreation Department approached the Board of County Commissioners with a $12.2 million plan to upgrade the course and build a new clubhouse, TCPalm.com reported. That was deemed too extravagant, and the department was directed to come back with a scaled-down proposal.

At the commissioners’ latest meeting on October 9th, TCPalm.com reported, a new plan that would make major improvements to the golf course itself while building a more modest clubhouse and making other upgrades was unveiled, with a cost of $5.5 million.

But some commissioners continued to argue that the clubhouse, because it was all but guaranteed to lose money, should be pushed to the back burner, if not deep-sixed entirely, TCPalm.com reported

“You need to put money into the course itself, that’s why people come,” said Commissioner Ed Fielding, who along with Commissioner Sarah Heard endorsed Commissioner Harold Jenkins’ suggestion that Martin County’s 36-hole course be downsized to 27 holes, TCPalm.com reported

Noting that the clubhouse alone could cost up to $2.7 million, Heard said: “That’s a whole lot of money to spend on an asset we know is a money loser.”

The Martin County course currently has no clubhouse, TCPalm.com reported, after an existing building was torn down some four years ago.

Commissioner Ed Ciampi, whose father was a country club golf pro, contented that any golf course needs a clubhouse—an air-conditioned place where, however modest, golfers can get a beer and a burger after a round.

Moreover, Ciampi objected to the miserly approach, TCPalm.com reported. The course, he said, is a public amenity, and the county doesn’t worry in the same way about its pickleball or basketball courts being a financial burden for taxpayers.

“It’s about philosophy,” Ciampi said.

Just under 60,000 rounds were played at the Martin County course last year, down from more than 145,000 rounds in 2001-02, TCPalm.com reported. That’s prompted some officials to make the argument for downsizing the golf course and selling land to an adjacent airport, or using it to house public-works facilities.

The gap between revenue and expenses last year—the county subsidy—was $626,781, TCPalm.com reported.

After all the discussion, commissioners voted 3-2 to move forward with plans to improve Martin County GC’s Red and White courses and to also build a “modest” clubhouse and pro shop. Those plans will are now scheduled to be presented to the Board again in January, TCPalm.com reported.

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