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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 11:21 AM
What organization in its right mind runs an operation that is losing nearly $1500 per day (375,000 per year) Are there are no other needs in Orangetown that could not use $1500 per day?   Mr Wrafter, give the $1500 per day to Brest Buddies and Rally for the Cure, Meals on Wheels, Hospice or People to People! Betrayal, Mr Troy? How about giving $1500 per day back to seniors as tax relief on their property taxes?  They are subsidizing people to go and do what? ...... play golf!   That's betrayal! What other Town in RC has 36 holes of golf, 9 at Broadacres and 27 at Blue Hill that are both losing money?   Closing Broadacres you will still have a 27 hole golf course facility, the largest in RC and those playing at Broadacres will go and play at Blue Hill and make that profitable.  After all you just spent $1M to improve its bathrooms. Once you close Brodacres it can be developed to make a profit. More tax relief.  Mr. Troy betrayed us in sticking us with this lemon.  He needs a change of brain! A note to the CSEA you are pricing yourselves out of the market!  Everywhere!   When you turn up to work on Saturday and Sundays in your '5' day work schedule because of time and a half on Saturday and double time on Sundays you are milking the system. You play!  We pay?    Not in my backyard!! Quit the prattling nonsense talk!  While you are at it fix the problem with Rockland Psychiatric Center!    Andy Stewart is not the problem.   He is the solution!!
John Roache March 30, 2012 at 11:28 AM
I watched on TV.. That guy who said to clean it up a bit is right. It looks dilapitated. Send a crew from the town over to clear the brush and downed trees on the Convent road side. Put up some signs like Blue Hill has to let people know it is there. Advertise a bit. Try to drum up some new business. If you are not going to put any effort into developing the business, it will never turn a profit.
Mike March 30, 2012 at 11:34 AM
It's a losing proposition and time to cut the losses. The Town has 27 other holes at Blue Hill for Pete's sake! It's just so frustrating reading these stories and realizing that year after year, whether it's the Dems or Reps in charge, we the citizens and taxpayers get the same results. It's been how many years since the Town bought the land at RPC? And has anything really been accomplished other than all sorts of studies and plans that have cost us even more money? Doing nothing has a real cost to the taxpayers in this Town. I don't care what party you are in, but I want these council people to get off their collective butts, put a business plan together, and start to run the Town in an effective and efficient manner. Stop playing politics with everything that comes across your desks.
John Roache March 30, 2012 at 11:39 AM
How many nights have I driven past the OMM fields that the town is paying electric for and every light in the complex is on and no one is there? Where is the outcry about that? You want the definition of a sweatheart deal, delve into that hush hush one.
Mike March 30, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Now, are your sure your not talking about Town Hall? I often think the "lights are on, but nobodies home there" quite often, especially when they are meeting! I don't think anyone is looking to create a situation where we take away from one group to give to another. However, demanding that the Town be operated in a efficient manner that uses our tax dollars wisely is part of the job that we demand from our Town leaders.
NoName March 30, 2012 at 12:05 PM
I would suggest putting some money into the place whereby an even could be run on the corporate end. No Liquor , no food, so who would essentially want to run a corporate event there? Advertise it as that. A place where business in NJ and other local states can hold a corporate or fundraising event. If you didnt live here, you would never know it existed and finding it is another story unto itself. It's Like travelling into a time zone in a creepy horror movie just to get there.
John Roache March 30, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Whats your point Scatman??
Bill Lee March 30, 2012 at 01:35 PM
"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. So, based on this statement our newly elected Town Supervisor allowed an internal email to become public and then allowed it to be added to the agenda, and he thinks we are that gullible?
Bill Lee March 30, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Andy is the solution you say, based upon what? He said publicly that he sent an internal email to his colleagues seeking input, which somehow became an agenda item and a public issue. What thought did Mr. Wonderful put in to this when he allowed this item to become an agenda item? What options are being considered by Mr. Wonderful to address the issues surrounding Broad Acres other than simply firing the staff and closing the facility? Instead of causing turmoil how about he takes the time to think about what are the options and open the topic to discussion, before putting on the agenda a vote to close the facility. The manner in which Mr. Wonderful decided to bring up this issue was poorly done and hopefully will not be an indicator of how he plans to conduct the Towns business going forward.
Bill Lee March 30, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Scatman, the budget was reviewed and approved by the Board as a whole, I agree that there appears to be a glaring oversight and yes the elder members should have been aware of this oversight, but the Board has a whole should be held accountable.
Bill Lee March 30, 2012 at 01:50 PM
As a follow up to the poor manner in which Mr. Stewart chose to bring this up, let's not forget the poor manner in which his predecessor conducted himself and what happened to him! It would appear Mr. Stewart has not learned to play well with others and is trying to go off on his own and create controversy, instead of trying to work with his colleagues. I agree that the matter of BA needs to be discussed the issue here he is the manner in which he did it.
Bill Lee March 30, 2012 at 01:52 PM
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. Really, no one noticed this was missing from the budget? This is definitely something that needs to be addressed, how did this get overlooked?
Scatman March 30, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Bill, I will try to give folks leeway when appropriate. The budget was approved before PV, TM and AS were elected. If the 2011 Board and involved Dept head intended all along to reintroduce the greenskeeper cost in 2012, I question the integrity of the budget. Question being the key word, perhaps a local news service will allow those involved to give thier input and then we can decide how we feel.
Scatman March 30, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Good shot JR, I wonder how much if any contribution the travel soccer leagues contribute to the town for thier use of the "OMM" fields. I think their are summer camps run on those fields too, is a contribution given back to the town then?
Maureen March 30, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Dear Mr Lee or should I say Mr Wanderful? You wander so easily from the sublime to the ridiculous.   Let me give you an elementary course on reason and logic!   You point out that:  "Andy sent an INTERNAL email to his colleagues on the Board, seeking input, which SOMEHOW became a public issue".    So if the memo was 'internal' who leaked it?  Since it was received by only four people one of them leaked it! One board member, Dennis Troy, yelled 'betrayal'.  OK, I know we are coming up to Holy Week but before we crucify anyone shouldn't we ask who is the 'Judas' on the Town Board? Who was on the Board before Andy arrived and did nothing about this leaking money spigot?  Troy got us into the mess by purchasing Broadacres.  He says it is a 'jewel'.  Some jewel that costs taxpayers $1500+  per day!    And what can we say about Diviny - he seems to wish the whole thing would go under some mystical Persian rug because he fears CSEA repercussions.   Valentine is ready to tackle the problem - he just arrived on the Board and Morr is also the newbie and wants to review the finances.  And Andy?  He is apologizing for the whole lot of them. So Mr Wanderful here is my question?   Who is the Board's 'Judas'? He has certainly got a lot of golfing disciples!
Maureen March 30, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Here we go again!    Mr Lee has wandered off another cliff  by saying: "Our newly elected Town Supervisor ALLOWED an internal email to become public and then ALLOWED it to be added to the agenda, and he thinks we are that gullible?" Mr. Lee, the answer to the question you pose is obviously:  "Yes".   You do appear to have gullibility in its most extreme form by believing Andy 'allowed' the email to become public!      Some people can be trained to be less gullible but you may be stuck with gullibility as a chronic condition. 
Maureen March 30, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Bill: Might I suggest you ask the two Town experts on 'jewels' and 'Persian rugs'?
Bill Lee March 30, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Maureen, who put it on the agenda?
Bill Lee March 30, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Maureen, why would Andy allow this to be on the agenda? He saw the agenda prior to the meeting. He himself stated that his memo was not well thought out. My issue is with his cavalier approach to a legitimate issue.
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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