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Commissioners discuss golf financing

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POLSON — Financing the irrigation project on the Olde Nine at the Polson Bay Golf Course, a new fleet of golf carts and a golf cart storage building was a hot agenda item at the July 6 Polson City Commission meeting.

City and golf course management have been looking at replacing the irrigation system on the Olde Nine for several years. They plan to refinance the existing $400,000 bond with new debt in the form of revenue bonds to pay off the existing debt, $204,173, and fund the irrigation project. The project was bid, but due to non-conformance by the lowest bidder who failed to bid the whole package, it will need to be bid again, which will delay the approval of a finance package. Golf Superintendent Pat Nowlen is researching ways to reduce expenses.

Since interest rates are low, management decided it would be a good time to replace the aging golf cart fleet. The 60 new carts would cost $161,000, if the commissioners acted on July 6 so the 2015 prices could be honored, and they would get a $100,000 trade-in allowance. 

The golf cart storage building was bid out at $181,000, and approved at a June 1 commission meeting.  

Polson City Manager Mark Shrives and Cindy Dooley, City of Polson Finance Officer, recommended a six-month loan to the city’s golf enterprise fund from the city’s sewer enterprise fund in the amount of $342,700 paying one percent interest, which would generate $1,713.50 interest.

The sewer enterprise fund’s balance is currently at $1,470,724 so the loan “should not hinder the wastewater treatment plant project from moving forward with cash deposits that will need to be made on equipment,” the agenda item read. 

Commissioners discussed the idea. 

“Is that legal?” Commissioner Stephen Turner asked. 

Dooley assured him it was.

Other questions included how much would the revenue bond be — $1,115,000, which broke out to $204,173 for the loan payoff, $161,000 for the golf carts, $705,000 for the irrigation project, $12,000 for the Baer Design Group, which did the engineering, and $9,000 for bond counsel.

When questioned about that large amount of debt, Dooley said the golf fund usually takes in $135,000 to $136,000 in revenue, and the payments would be approximately $115,000 per year. 

The piping on the Olde Nine irrigation system dates back to 1975, and the sprinkler heads and controllers are from the 1980s. Nowlen said it needed to be replaced before it failed in the middle of the season.  

The golf cart storage building cannot be included in the finance package with the irrigation and golf carts because the building would also store private carts.

After much discussion, the commission passed the resolution with Turner voting no. 

Since she serves as the city staff member on the Economic Development Council, Dooley was on deck again to fill the commissioners in on the council and its work on a resort tax to present to the voters in February of 2016. The first meeting seeking public input on the resort tax will be Aug. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at Linderman School. 

The council is looking at a 3 percent resort tax with a sunset date. They are considering 10 years, after which the electorate would have to vote the tax back in again.

Fifteen percent of the tax raised would go to property tax relief; 80 percent for street updates, such as curb and gutter, sidewalks and storm water and 3 percent for administration. 

The council is still working on what goods are considered luxury items, Dooley said. 

Everything would be taxed at bars, restaurants and lodging facilities, but the group is still defining the businesses that would be subject to tax, including non-profits. 

Currently the council is working on their presentation for the public. 

In other business, Mayor Heather Knutson swore in Clint Cottle as Polson Fire Chief. 

The commissioners accepted the bid for golf carts from Johnson Distributing, Great Falls, Montana. 

Although the bid from Masek Golf Car Company was lower, the golf carts comfort analysis test, the fact that Johnson Distributing dealers come through Polson on a weekly basis and a year more warranty won over Shrives and Roger Wallace, Polson Bay Golf Course manager. 

Commissioners also accepted a donation of 1.7 acres by the Morehead Trust. The land was donated to the City of Polson Park and Recreation Department in memory of Shirley Morehead. Located off South Bayshore Drive, the area will be used as a picnic area and as a parking area for people using the Carol Sherick Trail.

The commission’s next meeting will be held on July 20 at 7 p.m. at Polson’s City Hall.

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