Last week, Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart brought the closing of Broadacres Golf Course up for discussion at a town board workshop. He made a public argument in favor of the closing.
The discussion ended with most of the board agreeing to keep the golf course open for 2012, but keep the idea on the table for future years.
Earlier this week, word got out of a potential resolution to close Broadacres this year making it onto the agenda for Thursday night's regular town board meeting, drawing a large crowd which mostly spoke favor of keeping Broadacres open.
Councilman Denis Troy said that the primary agenda for Thursday's meeting included the closing of Broadacres and laying off employees that worked there.
"I saw that as a betrayal of what we did last Thursday night," Troy said. "It was something up for discussion out of the blue last Thursday and it popped up on the agenda for tonight to close it. I don't think that's how Orangetown government works or how it should work."
Stewart said it was actually an email to members of the board, which became public.
"It's a fair criticism," Stewart said. "It could have been the devil on my shoulder that sometimes tells me to stir things up. It was intended as an internal memo and it got out. I apologize for saying that. It wasn't carefully considered and it was not intended to be on the agenda. It was intended to get the feedback Mr. Troy and other members of the town board have given me. I apologize. That email was improperly worded and not thought through in terms of its potential for causing confusion and inconvenience."
Councilman Paul Valentine applauded Stewart for bringing the issue up for discussion.
"It's not something we want to do," Valentine said. "It's something we have to consider in the big picture. It would be nice to get an outside vendor to come in and run the golf course and allow thee public to stay there. It took a lot of courage to put it out there."
Councilman Tom Diviny questioned the numbers Stewart presented in his proposal to close the golf course last week. Councilman Tom Morr called for more work to be put into trying to find ways to keep Broadacres from losing money, which it has done every year since the town began running it.
"Nobody has done the due diligence to see what we can do to make it work," Morr said.
"The question I put before the public was not the question of can we make it at least break even," Stewart said. "The question was what it would cost to close it. I think we do need to know the answer to that question. It may need to be."
The closing of Broadacres was not on Thursday's agenda. The resolution regarding Broadacres was to use fund balance to pay for the head groundskeeper at the golf course. That funding had been left out of the 2012 budget. The board voted unanimously to approve the $117,936 expenditure, which includes salary and benefits.
The public comments still included many speakers against the closing.
"I have a sense of the pulse of the community," resident Thomas Finnell said. "I believe your view is distorted on it. I do appreciate your attempts to save the community money. I don't think you are on the right track with this. You say you aren't closing it (this year), but it is on the tip of your tongues. It is on the tip of your pens. The people are here to show their despair about this."
Pearl River resident Marty Fogarty argued that more should be done to try to make the golf course profitable, including better marketing. He suggested clearing the brush to allow people to see the course from the road, as they are able to see Blue Hill Golf Course.
"If you open it up so people can see it, you might get more interested," Fogarty said.
He also pointed out that the economy and last year's bad weather should be taken into account when evaluating the finances of the golf course. He also took exception the presentation of union rules as a hindrance to improving the situation.
"Every time there is a problem in the town, the CSEA gets thrown under the bus," Fogarty said. "Just because the golf course doesn't make money, I don't think the guy who cuts the grass should be thrown under the bus."
Clarkstown resident Melanie Powell, who is the vice president of the Broadacres women's league, said she never knew the course was there until last year and presented that as proof that an attempt to market it better needs to be made.
"It gave me the opportunity to meet 60 women I would not have met otherwise and make great friends and form bonds," Powell said. "I'm 31. I will be playing there a long time if you don't close it."
Pearl River resident Joe Wrafter has managed Broadacres for eight years. He pointed out how much the course is used when compared to other nine-hole courses. He said that in 2010, there were 22,000 rounds played at Broadacres and that the average for such courses in the United States is less than 12,000. He argued that Blue Hill would not be able to accommodate those rounds, so the business would go elsewhere.
"I am very disheartened by the talk of closing Broadacres," Wrafter said. "The town of Orangetown needs Broadacres. The town has nothing to offer adults in the form of recreation. To close Broadacres makes little or no sense now or in the future."
Wrafter pointed out that many people who use the course would have nowhere to go in town, including those who play in leagues and high school teams that play and practice there.
"What about the outings held annually that generate money for worthy causes such as Brest Buddies and Rally for the Cure?" Wrafter asked.
Some residents did speak out in favor of at least considering closing the golf course.
"You cannot run a business and ask the town of Orangetown to fund something we control at a loss," said resident Eileen Larkin. "We can't afford it."
Pearl River resident Robert Tomkins said he did not envy the board the hard decisions it has coming regarding its budget. He said that those supporting keeping Broadacres open must realize that it will force cuts to be made elsewhere.
"I think it is great that we have a golf course," Tomkins said. "I would love to have it break even. If you can find a way, do it and keep it open. But at the same time, what decisions does the board have to make? Will you support the board if they say they have to cut a couple of police officers? If they have to cut parks and recreation?"