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GREENING GOLF COURSES WILL WAIT FOR NO LAWMAKERS

With every day of sunshine, the greens on Erie County's golf courses grow greener and the pressure mounts on officials to figure out a way to get them ready and players on the fairways.

The pressure will go up a few notches Monday when Elma town officials present their plan to take over the Elma Meadows golf course and park to the County Legislature's Energy & Environment Committee.

The town says it can operate both the course and park on a break-even basis without raising fees from last year's levels if the county is willing to turn the property over for $1.

"It's a 208-acre hole in the middle of the town," said Elma Supervisor Michael P. Nolan. "We've got to get this park open."

Meanwhile, County Legislator Timothy Wroblewski, D-West Seneca, says he's almost finished a plan that could open Elma Meadows and the county's other golf course, Grover Cleveland, without a fee increase.

County Executive Joel A. Giambra has proposed reopening the courses with fee increases, but sources said the fee increases don't have enough support to pass the Legislature.

Nolan and the town councilmen accompanying him to make the sales pitch Monday face an uphill battle to convince legislators that turning over the golf course to the town would be a smart decision.

"It would definitely violate the collective bargaining agreement, and it would require approval by the state," said Giambra. He also called the $1 offer "laughable," saying Elma Meadows had a monetary worth of between $4 million and $7 million.

Likewise, John Orlando, head of Local 1095, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees -- the union representing many blue-collar county workers -- has no use for the plan.

"We have exclusive bargaining rights at Elma Meadows and every county park," Orlando said. "We're not about to give that up."

Wroblewski said that based on conservative estimates of the number of rounds played, he thinks the courses could be reopened with county employees as a "revenue neutral" venture.

"My concern is from the time standpoint," Wroblewski said of the Elma plan. "My understanding is that in order to have the county sell property, it needs state approval and several county and state votes need to take place.

"If the course is going to be opened up this year, it's going to take work starting like next week."

Wroblewski said he would like to have a vote sending workers back to the courses as soon as April 8 or 11, with a goal of opening the courses as soon as the last week of April.

If the courses aren't maintained, he said, he has been told it could cost as much as $25,000 to $30,000 per hole to repair any greens that are destroyed.

Giambra said he was willing to work with Wroblewski, but "I don't think you can do it without a fee increase."

Daily greens fees last year ranged from $12 to $15, with cart rental at $20. Giambra proposed increases of $2 for greens fees and $4 for cart rentals.

Orlando said he was open to either Wroblewski's or Giambra's plan.

""All I want to do is get my people back to work," he said.
e-mail: eploetz@buffnews.com

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