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City Council members say goodbye; Bradford Creek contract OK'd

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Mayor Kandie D. Smith accepts a plaque of recognition for outstanding service during her last City Council meeting Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. (Juliette Cooke/The Daily Reflector)

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By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

In the last meeting of City Council before newly elected officials take over, members of the council and city took time to honor officials who would be stepping down in December. 

At-Large Councilman Calvin Mercer, District 1 Councilwoman Shawan Barr and District 3 Councilman McLean Godley are all stepping down from the council before the Dec. 11 meeting. Mayor Kandie Smith also will leave her post, but will resume her previous role as councilwoman for District 1. 

For Mercer, who opted to run for mayor instead of seeking reelection to his at-large seat, Monday night marked the end of a 10-year stint in Greenville government. Mercer was defeated by District 5 Councilman P.J. Connelly, who will take over the mayoral position from Smith at the beginning of next month.

In his closing remarks, Mercer urged the new council to continue advocating for smart growth and transparency in government. He said that he cherished his years in government for the invaluable experience it has afforded him, and said his involvement in Greenville is far from over. 

“It has been one of the most profound privileges of my entire life to serve this community for the past 10 years on city council,” he said. “Greenville citizens are good people, they are generous people and my life is so much richer for having known so many of you in the context of this public service.”

Barr, who was appointed onto the council in August to take over Smith’s position when she was appointed as mayor to fill the vacant seat left by former mayor Allen Thomas, said she appreciated the dedication and work of her fellow council members, and was deeply changed by her experience on council. 

“This is great council, and I’m going to miss you all,” she said. “But to just know people that are stern and firm can have such an impact, it’s a great feeling. So I thank District 1 from the depth of my heart.” 

Godley, who decided to not run for reelection in order to pursue a master’s degree at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, could not attend the last meeting because of a scheduling conflict. In a written statement, he said he will never forget his experience serving the city. 

“It’s been a true honor to serve the great people of Greenville on the council over the past two years,” he said. “From passing initiatives that help to create a more welcoming business friendly environment to activating our Town Common, this experience has been one I will never forget. Greenville will always have a special place in my heart and I look forward to watching it grow and prosper. I want to thank everyone who has shown me support over the last few years and I look forward to watching the incoming council to continue to build off the great progress we have seen in our community over the last five years. Thank you Greenville!”

Council members also approved a contract with Billy Casper Golf. The item was placed on the consent agenda, meaning council members agreed to approve the item with no discussion or presentation regarding the subject.

The contract approval came after the council unanimously approved a motion on Oct. 13 to contract Billy Casper Golf for the private management of the Bradford Creek Public Golf Course. The decision came after a year-long effort by Council to lessen the cost of the course to the city.

The city purchased Bradford Creek for use as a public golf course soon after flooding from Hurricane Floyd in 1999. The failure of revenues to meet expenses at the course has been a regular concern for some city leaders and residents since then.

The contract between the city and BCG stipulates the firm will take over management of the course beginning on Jan. 1 2018. The contract will expire five years after the day, unless it is extended no later than 120 days before the expiration date.

The contract grants control of the course to BCG, but stipulates the city maintain control of several key factors of the course, including a provision that states the city has to have final approval of the hiring of “key employees to include: General Manager, Head Golf Professional, Superintendent and Sales Director.”

The contract also guarantees that BCG will have to “create, direct and implement an annual marketing plan”.

In order for the city to keep track of the effectiveness of BCG management, BCG is required to prepare and deliver regular monthly and annual financial statements regarding the operations of the course. The city also maintains final authority over the the annual budget and program.The city maintains the final approval for contracts over $10,000 or those longer than one year, that BCG wishes to engage in for the management of the course.

Additionally, the contract states “(Bradford Creek) shall be a daily-fee public facility unless otherwise provided and agreed to in the annual budget and program.”

Councilman P.J. Connelly, who initiated the discussion to bring in private management, said expenses at the course last year were about $969,000 while revenues were about $719,000, so the city subsidized the operation to the tune of about $250,000.

The agreement reached with Billy Casper Golf is expected to result in a return of revenues to the city that will reduce the amount the city has to pay the firm and result in an overall savings compared to cost overruns incurred under city operation, according to a presentation by Assistant City Manager Michael Cowin at the Oct. 13 meeting.

The estimated loss for the city in year one of the agreement will be $44,859, with a not-to-exceed clause of $100,000 spelled out in the contract, Cowin said. The second year the city is expected to lose $11,144, with a not-to-exceed amount negotiated at $75,000.

Billy Casper is expected to return the city a profit of $23,614 in year three, $38,481 in year four and $46,886 in year five, but that’s not guaranteed. The city is protected with a not-to-exceed clause of $50,000 for year three, and $25,000 for year four and five.

According to Cowin, the course lost $223,000 last year, and is projected to lose about $150,000 this year. In addition to the not-to-exceed clauses, the city negotiated a clause requiring Billy Casper to develop and market junior golf programs for ages 4-18, Cowin said.

The company is required to continue the Starting New at Golf program (SNAG) and the PGA Junior League, Cowin said.

The contract also includes an incentive clause that returns 15 percent of any profits to the company, not to exceed $25,000. It also includes a clause that allows either party to end the contract after two years with no penalties, provided that one year notice is given.

Some advocates and patrons of the course worry private management will reduce the level of service and value at the course and said they believe the city should provide such services. The presentation to the council did not include information about changes to fees at the course.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting:

  • The council received an update from the Public Works Department and Greenville Police Department on implementation of increased LED lighting and security cameras throughout the city. 
  • The council heard a presentation from city staff and Uptown Greenville on beautification efforts and challenges throughout Uptown Greenville. 
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