No surprise golf course is having financial problems

Published 9:20 am Wednesday, January 16, 2019

To the Editor:
No one should be surprised that the Elizabethton Golf Course is still having financial problems that started in 1992-1993 when the then club board of directors (some weren’t even city or county residents) obligated the city with a $1,000,000 debt obligation to completely “redo” the existing course without sufficient cash flow to fund the payments or interest. City statutes were violated by not requiring a performance & payment bond from the contracting firm which bid $200,000 lower than the largest golf course construction firm in the United States located in, yes, Bristol, Tenn. The Texas firm couldn’t finish the project.
Initially the golf course was a private club founded by a board of directors who used federal government labor to build their golf course. They “got caught” and it was either deed to the city or fines and jail. The club continued to be operated separately with a board for years with no costs to the city.
For twenty (25) years Tommy Horton, the Club Pro with his assistant Herman Roland and Don Kyte, the greenskeeper with his assistant Louie Hopkins (current greenskeeper) with the help of Carmen Dugger, the Parks & Recreation Director, provided an excellent golf facility at reasonable rates with no costs to the city. The majority of the members and fee players liked the old golf course and saw no need to spend the additional money and to obligate the city when, other than minor improvements, were not needed.
Then in 1992-93 when Mr. Horton (Tommy) was dismissed and the new construction began, the problems started. The course was one (1) year without revenue.
If the city wants a golf course, the only option is to put the management of the club under the Parks & Recreation Department to share employees with the city including the current course staff and to hire a golf professional as a city employee to run the pro shop. In defense of the new golf course, it is a nice facility (should be at the costs) and a benefit to the community.

William Prendergast

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