The Duluth (Minn.) City Council voted 7-0 May 22 to table action on three resolutions that would have approved contracts for the project, citing concerns about a concurrent plan to temporarily reopen Duluth’s only other municipal golf course at Lester Park. First District Councilor Gary Anderson said that while his concerns persist, he is generally supportive of the contract, especially in light of the opportunity for the city to pay for part of the project with the help of federal pandemic relief assistance. Noah Schuchman, Duluth’s Chief Administrative Officer, says action on the resolutions could be postponed until the next council meeting without jeopardizing the bids.
Enger Park Golf Course in Duluth, Minn. could become a busy work zone this fall, if city councilors sign off on $5.5 million worth of work, focused primarily on the replacement of a failing irrigation system, the Duluth News-Tribune reported.
But Duluth City Council voted 7-0 May 22 to table action on three resolutions that would have approved contracts for the project, citing concerns about a concurrent plan to temporarily reopen Duluth’s only other municipal golf course at Lester Park — a move that’s expected to result in a loss of $600,000 for the year, the Duluth News-Tribune reported.
The Lester Park Golf Course ceased operations in 2020, when Mayor Emily Larson announced its closure as one of the city’s pandemic cost-cutting measures, the Duluth News-Tribune reported. It has remained closed ever since and is slated to be permanently decommissioned in the face of repeated financial losses, although city officials had aimed to temporarily return it to operation while work was in progress at Enger during the 2024 season.
Several council members expressed reservations about the project, including First District Councilor Gary Anderson, who questioned the wisdom of moving ahead with such an expensive undertaking when only one contractor had offered a bid, the Duluth News-Tribune reported. The largest single component of the proposed project would involve a $4.65 million contract with Commercial Irrigation, and Anderson said he felt uncomfortable awarding such a large contract without the opportunity to consider competing bids.
However, the city has now put the project out to bid twice with the same result of a single respondent, said Jim Filby Williams, Duluth’s Director of Parks, Properties and Libraries.
Anderson said that while his concerns persist, he is generally supportive of the contract, especially in light of the opportunity for the city to pay for part of the project with the help of federal pandemic relief assistance provided through the American Rescue Plan Act, the Duluth News-Tribune reported.
“There’s an opportunity we have here with ARP funds to utilize some of that money to help move along this project so that it doesn’t just become a can that’s kicked down the road further, where construction costs, like everything else, keep rising. So, while there are so many good ways we could use this ARP funding, I have come to a place where I am okay voting for these resolutions tonight,” he said.
“I still have discomfort with the largest one, where we only ended up with one bid. But I understand from Director Filby Williams we did the best that we could and the staff supporting this project do believe this is the best bid that we will have. Therefore, I would recommend approval of all three of these resolutions,” Anderson said.
However, 3rd District Councilor Roz Randorf asked if any hardship would arise if the resolutions were tabled until the council’s next meeting, June 12, to allow for more discussion about whether Lester should be reopened or if work at Enger could be orchestrated to allow for limited play at that golf course while renovations are in progress, the Duluth News-Tribune reported.
Filby Williams suggested the latter alternative could significantly reduce anticipated losses during the renovation period but said that must also be balanced with commitments previously made to the local golfing community, the Duluth News-Tribune reported.
Noah Schuchman, Duluth’s Chief Administrative Officer, said action on the resolutions could be postponed until the next council meeting without jeopardizing the bids.
According to the Duluth News-Tribune, Phase I of the proposed project would: result in the creation of a new pond; remove and replace irrigation lines and pumps; and install new controls and sprinkler heads serving 18 holes at Enger. City officials say they currently lack the financial resources necessary to extend the improvements to the final nine holes of the course, which would tack an estimated $1.5 million more onto the project cost.
The intended funding sources for the proposed $5.5 million Phase I renovation of Enger are:
- $2.5 million in American Rescue Pan Act pandemic-relief funding;
- $2 million in bonds to be paid off by future golf revenues;
- $0.5 million in the form of undedicated excess 2022 tourism tax collections; and
- $0.5 million from the city’s general fund reserves
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