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Orangetown Town Board, Public Debate Fate of Broadacres

Thursday's Orangetown Council meeting drew a large crowd to discuss the suggested closing of Broadacres Golf Course.

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?"

Maureen March 30, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Bill: I dealt with 'ALLOWED' above under "gullibility! Here is the agenda. http://www.orangetown.com/residents/march_29_2012_-_rtbm.php You will note that the only 'agenda' item for Broadacres was to fund the head greenskeeper position which had been eliminated by a previous administration. Those who leaked an internal memo of the Board created unnecessary alarm, rumor and concern.  Were they trying to create a riot? The item on the agenda says it is resolved 'to keep Broadacres open in 2012' NEW BUSINESS -  Broadacres Resolved, To keep Broadacres open in 2012 by using General Fund fund balance to cover the anticipated deficit of about $200,000 including, specifically, the immediate transfer of  $117,936 from the General Fund to the Broadacres budget to cover the cost of the head greenskeeper position, for which funding was eliminated in the 2012 budget, and without which Broadacres cannot function safely. (Updated information about Broadacres budget and costs of closure to be provided) Nothing is more dangerous than people who wander aimlessly in the fields of unfounded rumors than the brutal facts (Winston Churchill). Now back to my original question - Who is the 'Judas' on the Board who betrayed the Supervisor's confidence? Someone should ask each Board member at the next Town meeting if they released the internal memo.   They are under oath when they serve in public office and answer questions while performing their duties. 
Evelyn M Beckerle March 31, 2012 at 05:33 PM
I have been reading the above comments with great interest.  As someone who attended the Workshop Meeting about RPC/Broadacres and had the opportunity to speak, I left the meeting feeling that we had had a good discussion and exchange of ideas. I too believed that the Town Board was in unison about keeping Broadacres open for a year while it came up with a comprehensive plan about what to do with RPC.  However, I'm very disappointed that an email exchange between Andy and the Board has created such a firestorm and I'm also seriously concerned that this memo was apparently leaked by a member of the Board.  Surely, all of this energy in the press with talk of betrayal etc and criticism of Stewart could be better targeted toward getting something started in the way of a plan about what is to be done about RPC/Broadacres.  The derelict buildings and the lovely little golf course have been neglected since its purchase 10 or so years ago. Andy's platform in the last election clearly stated the issues he was going to address and the community elected him to address those issues.  RPC/Broadacres was on the top of the list. Given that may I suggest that the TB focus on the these issues and since you are business men bring in other like people to your workshops to give you more ideas so you can get a win-win for everyone in the community. Stop whining about Andy's memo and get on with what the people elected you to do!
Mike March 31, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Why was the comment from the gentleman who spoke about the use of the OMM fields removed? His comment was civil and pointed out the the league pays the costs associated with the lights and upkeep. He did not mention, that it also serves some 2000+ families in our community, including support of the ARC and Buddy Ball programs. Why did editor censor this commens?
Jimmy April 01, 2012 at 03:55 AM
Mike, My comment wasn't censored. I removed it myself. I decided not to waste my breath on people who have nothing better to do. I will still be at the fields though.
gmarkiet June 18, 2012 at 04:26 PM
this land is a gold mine nothing like it exists anywhere in rockland, a private company should come in and expand the course to 18 holes, build a real clubhouse maybe even a resturant. I realize green fees will go up but it could still offer a resident discount. I hate to say this but anything municipalities run will lose money. With all those abandoned buildings there is so much potential, we need someone with vision and experience to create something beautiful there.

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