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LEGISLATURE RAISES GOLF FEES, REFUSES TO DISCUSS SELLING COURSE

Niagara County won't sell its golf course "in the foreseeable future," Legislator Clyde L. Burmaster said Monday.

In fact, the legislators didn't even want to discuss the subject when County Manager Gregory D. Lewis' proposal came up on the Public Works Committee agenda Monday.

A routine motion to bring up the matter for discussion, made by Legislator Harry J. Apolito, failed for lack of a second.

"So it's dead," said Burmaster, the committee chairman.

The committee also agreed to raise the greens fees in 2005 and find a new operator for the golf course restaurant.

Lewis had left the Davison Road facility in his official 2005 budget filed last week, but he wanted the legislators to agree to sell the course during 2005, effective in 2006.

He continues to insist golf is not a "core function" of county government. "We'll continue our function analysis," Lewis said when asked if he'll repeat his recommendation next year.

Apolito, D-Lockport, was no supporter of the proposed sale. He supplied his colleagues with material from the New York Conference of Mayors about how hard it is to sell park land, under which the golf course is classified.

A special act of the State Legislature would be required, and the county would have to come up with equivalent acreage elsewhere to replace the amount sold, Apolito said.

Burmaster, R-Ransomville, chided Lewis for saying in his original budget submission in September that he wanted to "discontinue" the golf course.

"We have to be careful with the use of the word 'discontinue,' " Burmaster said. "It's a scary word to the public and it could affect our hopes of revenue."

The golf course, which is set up as a self-sufficient county agency using no tax dollars, lost an estimated $40,151 this year, its worst performance in a long time. "It reflects the tough year we had this year because of the weather," Public Works Commissioner Kevin P. O'Brien said.

However, the course had a fund balance of $84,634 entering the year, so it was able to use that to cover the loss even after making its annual repayments to the county treasury of tobacco bond revenue spent for a new irrigation system and a fleet of golf carts.

The course pays $41,086 a year for the carts and $53,476 a year for the irrigation system. It still owes $82,173 on the carts and $868,138 on the irrigation.

For 2005, the cost of an 18-hole round will rise from $14 to $16 on weekdays and from $17 to $19 on weekends.

Season tickets will rise $50, with the new rates being $350 for adults, $265 for senior citizens, $210 for juniors, $450 for nonresidents and $365 for nonresident seniors.

The county also will have to look for a new operator for the golf course restaurant. One Eyed Jacks, a Lockport restaurant, signed a two-year contract last year, but the committee agreed to let them out of it.

"It was a bad year for them, as it was for most golf courses," Burmaster said. "It was causing them a severe financial hardship."

The county will immediately seek bids for a new operator of the "19th hole."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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