City Purchase of the Clearwater Country Club Property
By Nick Fritsch
The city decision makers seem convinced that purchasing the clubhouse and property is the only viable alternative to allowing the mortgage holder to take over the property. The CCC board is a group of highly motivated and caring members. But, that is not always the formula for success. Many of us recall the history of the Long Center. Again, a similar kind of folks operated that facility for the city. After years of obvious neglect, the financial curtain closed and management was replaced. City taxpayers were left with a few million dollars in repairs, upgrades, etc. to the rundown facilities.
Once again, the real probability is that the existing board will not be able to rescue the business and succeed given the present and likely future scenario. We have all seen small business failures. Revenues ebb, cutbacks are made in “product” and service, which exacerbate falling revenues, the facility and furnishings wear “thin” worsening the customer experience and the spiral downward continues.
What are some possible safeguards that might limit further taxpayer bailout? The city staff says there are a couple of interested parties who would like to bid on operating the facility. However with due respect, the club board should be invited to bid also. This is the most viable option that would likely be the best win-win for all parties: city, club members and their board and especially we taxpayers. A more positive outcome for all is much more probable.
A far less attractive possibility, would be for the board to continue to operate it with significant modifications to the development agreement. It could be modified with stronger options to protect the city. Something like this. The city would conduct annual in-depth examinations of both the facility and financial records. A 30- day termination clause could be included by the city that could be enacted upon verification of substantial inadequacies in either of those two areas. This would limit the financial burden for the taxpayers when the likely “inevitable” closing occurs. If, we are going out on a limb; let’s try to minimize our injuries when we fall.
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