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Port District stays the course

Despite steep losses, Banks Lake Golf remains open for season


Port District 7 commissioners decided to continue operation of the Banks Lake Golf Course even though the agency has lost over $100,000 in the past four months.

Only a handful of citizens turned out for a meeting held at the airport office last Thursday, called after commissioners learned of the extent of the losses July 26.

David Comrie asked commissioners, “Who is the port district accountable to?” The response was that the port uses taxpayer money to operate.

New Commissioner Jerry Birdwell expressed the attitude of the board when he said, “We made an agreement with 82 members that we would keep all 18 holes open for play this year.”

Commissioners are placing their hopes on five proposed tournaments between now and the end of October to keep the golf course solvent. Yet no one could project how much money the tournaments would bring in.

The port has been spending from $25,000 to $30,000 per month to keep the course open.

Commission Chair Orville Scharbach said there would be some reductions in pay for employees and that one employee leaving in mid-August would not be replaced.

Scharbach started the meeting by thanking the many volunteers who have worked hard to help keep the course open.

Then he got serious and asked, “Where has the money gone?”

He answered with a rundown of golf cart and mower lease expenses (over $47,000) and how costly it has been to try to bring the course back from its condition in April when the port took the course over and promised golfers that it would remain open this year.

“We never knew how to run a golf course,” Scharbach told the group. Because of the course’s condition, the port cut membership costs nearly in half.

After Scharbach went down the list of expenses the port had paid, Comrie stated, “It looks like the handwriting is on the wall.”

But if it was, no one was reading it.

The district has put in over $100,000 of its funds to keep the golf course open, and its own resources have dwindled to about $49,000. And costs continue.

Scharbach said the port will continue to try to keep the course open for the rest of the year, “but it’s going to be difficult for next year.”

Diane Babler, speaking on behalf of her husband, Airport Manager Bob Babler, who could not attend, asked if the port was going to have the matching money necessary for a snowplow that is still being considered.

“If the port isn’t going to have the $16,000 necessary for its matching portion, then it should let others know,” she said.

She also asked if anyone had done a business plan for the golf course.

“It looks like we are wandering around in the dark,” Scharbach responded.

Comrie told commissioners that the port has made improvements to the course this year, and that is appreciated.

The port, Scharbach noted, has placed its hope for next year on finding an operator who would come in and take over the course.

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