Golf Club Wants 5-Year Commitment From OVA

Al Haggerty

The Oakmont Golf Club wants a minimum five-year commitment for any financial aid from the Oakmont Village Association.

This was the position taken by Barbara Robinson, president of the OGC Board, at an informational event sponsored by the OVA June 5 at Berger Center. Intense community interest in the issue was demonstrated by a turnout of approximately 400 residents.

Robinson was joined by fellow OGC board members Rick Warfel and Gary Smith, who took turns answering questions submitted beforehand by Oakmont residents.

Smith quickly squelched a suggestion that the Quail Inn be substantially improved. He said the OGC is “not in a position” financially to make needed improvements such as a new kitchen, an outdoor deck for dining and improved service. He said hiring and keeping help is a “huge problem,” especially when competing with $25-an-hour jobs “stuffing bags” at cannabis stores. These expenditures, he said, “can’t come out of the operating budget”.

Robinson stated the OGC’s need for a five-year commitment in response to a question about how long OVA should provide dues money to the golf course. She challenged the notion that the OGC is seeking “a bailout,” adding that it is “not in desperate need” but that “every Oakmont resident has a stake” in the golf course.

SMITH: “SERIOUS CHALLENGES”

            Smith said that while the OGC “is not failing”, there are “serious challenges.” He said 2017 was “a disaster” from an economic standpoint, but six of the previous nine years were “very profitable” and three were marginal. The OGC has been granted a disaster loan from the Small Business Administration to help cover 2017 losses, about half of it still available, he said.

 

Gary Smith, OGC board member, responds to questions at the golf town hall. (Photo by Michael Reinhardt)

Warfel outlined the financial burden of maintaining the golf course waterways. He said all of Oakmont’s water goes through the golf course and maintenance costs are expected to be $100,000 a year for the next five years. He said OVA has been getting “a free ride;” there “should be cost sharing”.

Robinson said that OGC has provided the OVA board with three years of audited financial data under a non-disclosure agreement. OVA Board President Steve Spanier said in a written statement that providing this information to all Oakmont residents “is simply not ever going to happen” because competitors might “try to exploit the situation”.

“The OVA Board,” Spanier continued, “plans to review all available options and alternatives, including but not limited to the proposed $5/person/month option. We will do this based on all the information we’re collecting from the OGC, from this event and others in the future and will not make a decision without being transparent and discussing these options thoroughly with the community.”

Heidi Klyn, an OVA director, asked in a conversation after the meeting ended if there’s any reason to be concerned after seeing the OGC’s financial data, said “Absolutely there’s reason to be concerned. Absolutely.”

Comments from the audience during a members forum indicated both support for and skepticism regarding a dues increase to support the OGC. Iris Harrell was applauded when she said the answer to whether $60 a year in extra dues for each resident was appropriate is “easy.” Yet John Felton, a former OVA director, said he opposed a mandatory dues increase.

There was a hint of some level of organized opposition to any OVA support of the OGC in a handout widely distributed to those arriving for the meeting. Entitled “OGC Questions for the OVA Board” and appearing over the names of Bruce Bon and Julie Cade, it urges those

opposed to board funding of the OGC to email Spanier and speak at board meetings. The handout addressed the fiduciary duty of OVA directors and legal considerations regarding OVA support of the OGC.

Panel members were positive about some suggestions including one to make the empty lot between Oak Leaf Drive and Highway 12 an emergency escape route. Others, such as making some OGC building space available to the OVA for meetings, were well received.

But A range of suggestions for fixing the golf course problems were quickly rejected as non-starters by the OGC representatives. These include converting the East course into walking trails, the OVA purchasing some golf course property near the Central Activities Center, having residents make voluntary contributions to the OGC and assessing homes on the golf course $50 a month.

Smith said a suggestion to close the East course “doesn’t make sense.” He called it a “rare jewel” and a real asset, especially to seniors who want to play a shorter, par-three course. In addition, he said, six local high school golf teams use the course. Asked about zoning, he said the 225 acres of golf course are zoned for parks and recreation and any change in zoning would require approval from both the City of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County.

(Watch a video of the town hall online at www.oakmontvillage.com/videos/)