... Will secret meetings decide how the money will be spent?
2016 could be a banner year for our Mount Hood Golf Course. Thatís because the bond that paid for the Big Dig dumping damage done to the park and golf course will be paid off in 2015.
To pay for the Big Dig bond the city increased the cost of playing golf to the golf community in 2001. In 2016 the bond costs will be gone but the golfers will still be producing the revenue for a cost that no longer exists. It should not be expected that the city will reduce the price to play golf after the Big Dig bond is paid off.
This leads to the question, what does the city plan to do with the freed-up $100,000 that the golfers will be continuing to pay in greens fees every year?
It was with this in mind that the Melrose Mirror reporter asked the Park Commission at its March 11 meeting if it knew of any committees that may have been formed to address this question. The Commission said no and responded with the same answer when it was asked if any of its members were part of any committee established to address this issue.
The reporter, who is also a long-time member of the golf community, asked if any consideration had been given to using the freed-up money for major improvements to the golf course. Bill Gardner, the Commissioner who was conducting the meeting, said that it was not considering any projects that far ahead.
Consultants develop course options in 2009
The question was not meant to be rhetorical. The reporter referred to the improvements to the course that were developed by Beals and Thomas the consultants. The company was retained by the Park Commission in 2009 to prepare recommendations to expand athletic programs at Mount Hood. The $20,000 fee came from golfer revenues.
The recommend improvements were alternatives, once one was selected the others would be eliminated. The July and August 2009 issues of the Mirror show the graphic plans of the improvements. The recommendations included expansion of some golf holes and adding a driving range. Other alternatives were an athletic field with a running track and a field without a track, if the track was too expensive.
The reporterís point to the Park Commissioners was that significant improvements to the course had been considered in the past and the improvements were to be paid for with golfer produced money. With the Big Dig bond paid off the golfer revenues that have been paying for it will be available to be spent on something else. Significant improvements to the golf course should be considered, especially since the Park Commission has already paid Beals and Thomas to do this.
In its 2009 Feasibility Study Beals and Thomas proposed a modification to Mount Hood's 17th hole which would make it 140 yards longer and elevate its tee box. Study was funded by golf coursemoney.
....on the other hand..
The freed-up money could be spent on other sports-related projects that have nothing to do with the golf course. The reporter said that he would be disappointed to learn about such a project on the same day the Mayor proposed it and the Alderman voted to enact it.
This is not an unreasonable apprehension. That was precisely what happened when the new athletic-field complex plan was approved in 2010. It was implemented by an arrogant, dismissive city government that would not tolerate objections to what it wanted to do.
The city made sure the objections didnít occur. It kept its plans secret, there was no time for any citizen to digest and ask what was going on when the mayor announced, and the Aldermen voted, to approve the plan on the same day.
Money the city would use to pay for the new complex would come from Mount Hood golf revenues. The city would limit this money to the development of athletic fields. Nobody had the opportunity to question this limitation. Why could the money only be spent on athletic fields? Who said so?
Special Legislation hides intention of law it set aside
The Aldermen enacted Special Legislation that not only established the limitation but also set aside a portion of a State law that said money generated at Mount Hood could only be spent at Mount Hood. The cityís Special Legislation identified this law but kept concealed what the law said.
Even though the mayor and the Aldermen had copies of the Special Legislation earlier it would not be revealed until the October 3 meeting when the Aldermen approved both the Special Legislation and the athletic field complex plan which the mayor had only announced on that same morning.
Until October 3 no public announcement had ever been made about building an athletic field complex, no public announcement had ever been made that it would be financed for the next 20 years with golf course money, no public announcement had been made that Special Legislation would be needed to do these things.
Öand bad things happen
A sneaky procedure like this one denies citizens both knowledge and the opportunity of participation, both things to which citizens have a right and their city has an obligation to provide. When these rights are eliminated it can result in some drastic consequences.
The dressing rooms, showers and spectator stands that were all necessary to the new fields at the high school were not possible for the school track teams exiled to Pine Banks. Despite this, the city built a million dollar running track there, anyway. Itís the cityís response to the Bridge to Nowhere.
The process, unfortunately, has already occurred. It could be said that there is no point in continuing to talk about it. Maybe it would be a good thing to keep in mind when attempting to publicly discuss what will be done with the soon to be freed-up money at Mount Hood.
Joe Sullivan is a Melrose Mirror reporter and has a Senior Membership at Mount
April 4, 2014