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Taxpayers Hit for $215,000 to Repair Bunkers at City’s Money-Losing Palm Harbor Golf Club

| August 9, 2016

palm harbor golf club

The bunkers at the Palm Harbor Golf Club. Golfers prefer theirs whiter. (Palm Coast)

Not only is the hemorrhage in tax dollars at the Palm Coast government-owned Palm Habor Golf course continuing. It’s getting steeper.

Palm Harbor has cost taxpayers more than $1.5 million in subsidies they’ll never see again since it opened in 2009. On Tuesday, the Palm Coast City Council, which has accepted the losses as if the club were a city-run park (it isn’t: it costs $28 to $32 per player per 18 holes), gave its approval to yet another major expense taxpayers will assume and not see again: a $215,000 repair bill for the course’s bunkers, which look bad and drain poorly, upsetting golfers. Some bunkers have no draining issues, but “shading issues” from trees, and “leaf debris contamination” from the trees–as the city describes it–are considered a problem.

The cost is striking, relative to other planned capital improvements in the city that affect significantly more people.

Bunker repair costs will be greater than that of several bridge repairs the city is planning over the next few years in the city proper, more than the cost of median improvements on Whiteview Parkway scheduled for next year, more than twice the cost of all planned replacements of traffic-sign cabinets over five years combined, more than twice the cost of planned surveillance camera additions at four city parks and recreation areas, and more than five times the cost of dugout replacements at the Indian Trails Sports Complex, which is used by far more people and players than Palm Harbor, and which isn’t planned until 2019.

A few years ago the city wrote off the cost of the initial acquisition and capital spending on the golf course–$5.5 million, or almost $1 million more than the cost of ongoing renovations at Holland Park, once the city’s busiest park. Renovations at Holland Park are several months behind schedule.

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The work at Palm Harbor will begin Sept. 1 and be completed by Nov. 1 so as to interfere the least possible with golfers, who, city officials say, tend to golf less those two months. But the course itself will not be closed during construction. Only a couple of holes at a time will be closed to accommodate workers.

The city is very concerned about not upsetting golfers. “Be sure that this has to be done by November 1. I don’t want to hear any excuses, I don’t want to hear any it rained,” Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts said. (The city will charge the contractor $1,000 a day if the project is late.)

By spending even more money on the golf course, the administration—and the council—are in effect foreclosing discussions on closing the golf course itself, as they can then argue that it would have been wasted money to repair the bunkers only to turn the grounds either to other uses or to no use at all.

The administration’s presentation proposed that repairing bunkers would reduce maintenance costs and therefore save money. There was no documentation backing up the claim.

The golf course is run by KemperSports, the same contractor that has run it for the city since 2009, when the course opened. Last year the course lost $346,191, which came out of the city’s general fund (itself supported by residents’ property taxes). So far this year, the course has lost $155,000. Kemper is not responsible for capital improvements on the course.

Council members had little to say Tuesday as they heard a presentation on the project, other than which bunkers at what hole could potentially be closed, and to defend the additional expense.

“I remember many years ago when Jim Holland was still alive and on the city council,” Mayor Jon Netts said of the late council member who died in 2002. “One of the issues we kept talking about was the roads, and city council at the time was reluctant to put any money into the repaving of the roads. I remember I made the case and Jim Holland said, you know, the roads we have may not be the best roads in the world, but they’re the only roads that we have, and if we don’t maintain them, I can assure you they’re going to get worse. I think this is the same issue.” (City Manager Jim Landon compared it to replacing the roof on one’s house.)

City roads, of course, are used by all city residents. The golf course is used by a handful of residents, and only at a cost many residents cannot afford.

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31 Responses for “Taxpayers Hit for $215,000 to Repair Bunkers at City’s Money-Losing Palm Harbor Golf Club”

  1. R Sandy Ausbrooks says:

    Note… the article lists a lot of work for the city and compares the cost to repair the bunkers at PHGC to them… I am sure that the article is comparing to EACH one of the projects at a time and not insinuating that the PHGC repairs are more than all of them lumped together.
    Note… which, of all the projects listed, return any revenue whatsoever??? Only PHGC makes any return at all. Not enough return? Something is better than nothing.
    Note… the article mentions only a few people use the golf course. OK, so what? I, and some others, don’t use the bike paths – should we close them because of what they cost to build and keep in repair? I, and some others, don’t use the dog runs at the city parks – should we close them because of what they cost to build and keep in repair? (And don’t forget the dog virus a while back that sickened and killed some dogs – determined to come from the dog park.) I don’t have local kids and gradkids that use the playgrounds at the parks – should we close them because of what they cost to build and keep in repair?
    Note… The City made large capital investments in bike paths, dog parks and playgrounds in city parks and the golf course. All are used by some, none are used by all (that I know of). The fact that I use some, and pay to use one of the amenities, indicates that it must be a valuable asset to the part of the community that uses it and pays to use it.
    Bottom line – everything costs money. Golf isn’t free, bike paths aren’t ‘free’. Dog parks aren’t ‘free’. But we all like one or more of the great things our city has to offer. Keep the bike paths, keep the dog parks and the playgrounds and keep the golf course.

  2. r&r says:

    The bunkers are not player friendly. When the course was rebuilt by the city it was done by some company that has never golfed. The money was approved a year ago so LET’S GET IT DONE. Many of them should be removed.

  3. Lin says:

    How out of touch these people are with those they serve. What %age of the PC citizens use the golf course?
    But we all have to pay?

    This is why there is little hope the old guard Netts and Landon and Netts’ favored successor, Holland will change anything for the better. Landon doesn’t see a difference with needing a roof on one’s own house and Netts providing roads versus a low-usage, money-losing, repair-needing golf course. Sad. And as for those others who were “quiet” — thanks for your service.

  4. Patrick Williams says:

    I believe we need a golf course for community outings, business dealings and more…our population is growing and so will the income….for now the course is like our beautiful landscaping in the city…its worth the cost instead of billboards and junk . give it time,,,,it will be an asset even if it just breaks even

    Patience please

  5. robjr says:

    @R Sandy Ausbrooks
    “Only PHGC makes any return at all. Not enough return? Something is better than nothing.”

    NEWS FLASH. The golf course does not make a return, it has been losing money since its inception. For example, it takes in $100 and pays out $150. That is defined as a loss.

    The current elected officials don’t give a f bomb and the only candidate who has given any consideration and who has indicated he won’t throw taxpayer money around like it was blades of grass is Dennis McDonald.

  6. PalmCoastPioneers says:

    As a Palm Coast Pioneer I / we were pledged this Amenity when it was first called ‘ The Palm Coast Golf Club’. I / we helped pay for it the first time around – from 1970 onwards as the first purchasers of ‘ The Palm Coast Project’ even before ‘ The Palm Coast Project’ opened. I / my family were the first to play the Front Nine – I am Steward of the first Golf Clubs that we used. It much later officially opened with much fanfare and visiting dignitaries. When the Federal Governemt was brought into ‘ The Palm Coast Project ‘ , the largest ‘…planned community in the Nation…’ and ‘…the largest New Town in the World…’ they ascertained we warranted ‘ Consumer Redress ‘ for me / us. A ‘ Consent Agreement was put in place by the Federal Trade Commission of the United States. It is F.T.C. Docket C-2854 along with the Federally ORDERED ‘ 15 Year Compliance Report ‘. The Palm Coast Golf Club is many times a Federal Exhibit within this and encumbers it along with the other ‘ Four Sisters ‘ Golf Clubs – Matanzas Woods Golf Club, Cypress Knoll Golf Club, Pine Lakes Golf Club, Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club, the ‘ Players Swim Club and Tennis Club’ and so much more, all listed as Federal Exhibits. Almost all of these Amenities are also listed as ‘ Community Milestones ‘ for ‘ The Palm Coast Project’. The ‘ Palm Coast Golf Club’ later became known as ‘ The Palm Harbor Golf Club’ when the next of the ‘ Four Sisters ‘ opened – The Pine Lakes Golf Club. It also was the ‘ HOME ‘ Golf Course for Golf Legend Nancy Lopez – very History and Heritage rich.
    This area has been eligible for Official Historic Heritage MARKERS. When we in the Levitt & I.T.T. Showcase Golf Course Community were working on Dr. Merys’ Official State of Florida Historic MARKER
    we had to contact Billy Casper Golf for confirmation that Casper Drive was the first residential street for ‘ The Palm Coast Project ‘ and named after famous Golfer ‘ Billy Casper’. During this discussion with Billy Casper Golf they many times said they evaluated this Golf Course and were interested in it. The evaluation provided ‘….it will make a modest profit, not like a Trump Course Profit ….but modest profit…’ ‘…I have played that Course many, many, many times and am very familiar with it…’. Sadly, we can’t do anything until the City asks for Bids.
    This G.C. most probably will be eligible for a Historic MARKER and the Grant$$$ that would go along with it with add’l contributions and donations; later it would most probably would be eligible for the Official State of Florida Historic Golf Trail.
    I brought this to the attention of the City – non – responsive.
    I even asked bill mcguirwed , before he departed, if he would provide a ‘ narrative ‘ about what he accomplished about Palm Coasts’ Heritage and History – non responsive.
    The STate of Florida Historic Preservation Officer – has stated that we are elibible for MARKERS – even stating MARKERS for Florida Park Drive Area – Brigadeer Generals’ Jose Martins Hernandezs’ third Sugar Mill Plantation – St. Josephs Plantation – I brought this to the City attention – non responsive.
    We Palm Coasters deserve this; it is Tourism Dollars; it gives Palm Coast ‘ a sense of place ‘ and ‘ being’.
    We also feel there also should be, to accompany all these MARKERS – acknowledgement for out Police Officers and Firefighters ; does anyone else feel this should be finally done ?
    Thank you.

  7. Knightwatch says:

    This city golf course is a critical part of the ambiance of Palm Coast. Whether you play golf there or not, this course adds beauty and an important amenity to this city, not only adding to our property values, but attracting visitors that spend money in our restuarants and stores. And then they buy homes and build businesses here, adding great value to our city.

    $215,000… a drop in the bucket compared to the long-term value the Palm Harbor Golf Course delivers to us all.

  8. dave says:

    Get with the times and see golf is a dead sport that makes no money. Very few palm Coast citizens play golf.

  9. R Sandy Ausbrooks says:

    In that it makes a return was not a ‘profit’ return, but an income stream… what money does bike trails bring in? Dog parks? Play grounds? Any of those charge a fee for use??????????? NO!

  10. Jay says:

    Cmon now Mr. Netts, give me a break! You don’t want to upset the golfers?? 1000 dollar fines everyday its late?!? Has to be done on time? How about finishing the park on Florida Park Drive thats ages behind schedule? Any rush to get that done? Thats not upsetting plenty of people? Crock of shit around these parts!

  11. Heather says:

    The counter to this is Matanzas Wood Golf Course. The homes around Palm Harbor have seen a nice little bump in pricing since 2010. The homes around the dangerous weed patch that was once the MWGC can’t say the same thing.

    I shutter to think of the morning I check Flagler Live only to see a child wandered off and fell through one of those dilapidated bridges only to be found in the pond below or some teenager is assaulted in the ruins of the former club house.

    I certainly don’t like losing money as a taxpayer but I am glad we saved that neighborhood the financial burden and blight being experienced by Matanzas Woods.

  12. theevoice says:

    R Sandy are right on the money..and what kind of county with 100,000 residents doesn’t have a golf course, as it upgrades the look and feel of our area.

  13. Ws says:

    Let’s close all the dog parks, bike paths etc since I don’t use them and I don’t want to pay for them. Stop the whining about the Palm Harbor Golf Course. Dog parks and bike paths cost lots of money and it pays nothing in return!, Do the math people.

  14. Flatsflyer says:

    What a crock of shit, neighbors have been bragging about paying $19.00 with a cart for 18 holes, $38.00 per couple for the last several months. I think there needs to be an investigation because it appears that the City is trying to lose as much money as possible on this money pit. The more they lose, the more they need, follow the money, I think something stinks and I will be looking to see which City Officials get new cars.

  15. Outsider says:

    Go ahead and close the golf course and watch that area turn into the same crap patch that Matanzas Woods has become. You will have more darling gang members and shooters to adorn the front page that Matanzas has. Thank God I got the hell out of that rectum.

  16. PalmCoastPioneers says:

    FYI – A while ago ‘ The Smithsonian ‘ asked me for documents about Levitts’ ‘ The Palm Coast Project ‘. to include the Master Developer pledged Amenities promised me / us which we paid for the first time around. Time and finances permitting I send a packet to ‘ The Smithsonian ‘ Collection about Palm Coast. Below is the location:

    Hi George,

    The materials are at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, Division of Home and Community Life, Room 4127.


    William H. Yeingst

    Chair, Division of Home and Community Life

    National Museum of American History

    MRC 615, P.O. Box 37012

    Washington, D.C. 20013-7012

  17. PalmCoastPioneers says:

    Garfield is the Palm Coast Projects’ Mascot and SpokesCat. A while ago I contacted PAWS, Inc. the owner of ‘ Garfield ‘. PAWS was kind enought to prepare a packet titled ‘ Garfields Bicycle Tour of Palm Coast’. PAWS send the original copy to ‘ The Smithsonian ‘ with a CC. to me. It is really a nice presentation. As an aside, PAWS had a flood in their basement; many of the documents about Garfield and Palm Coast were destroyed. Because of this I sent PAWS all the ‘ Garfield ‘ documents I had to restore their loss. Amongst these documents is a Garfiel Poster about Palm Coast. Hopefully in the future this will be duplicated and hopefully placed in the City Hall for you all to see.

  18. Born and Raised Here says:

    Perhaps they should increase the green fees to help offset the cost. I’m sure the golfers wouldn’t mind paying extra fees if they knew they would now have good bunkers. If not shame on them.

  19. r&r says:

    The city has put up signs directing people to the Pine Course course, I suppose this has a big financial return.

  20. larry krasner says:

    Yeesh! That’s less than $3 per capita. How much for playgrounds? Dog Parks?

  21. CLS says:

    In the meantime, in a 100,000+ populated county which is part of metro Atlanta (and where I lived for 34 years):

    Tuesday, August 2nd, was a good financial day in Douglas County as the Board of Commissioners voted to roll back the property tax millage rate and the bonds for the Adult Detention and Law Enforcement Center were retired.

    Douglas County now has no short-term or long-term debt, an accomplishment few – if any – other Georgia counties can claim.”

  22. r&r says:

    What the hell does Douglas County have to do with the golf course??????????????????????????

  23. Jim Bob says:

    It sounds like the polyester slacks crowd is in an uproar over its sand traps. I can’t help but think of Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack.

  24. palmcoaster says:

    I am a Palm Coast taxpayer and I am not a golf aficionado but I sure do not resent them and to the contrary I am very proud of having the court that they enjoy making these beautiful surroundings for us in the city and keeping the value of our homes. What it cost now and even if higher in my taxes is worth every penny…I am retired and don’t have children in school but I still glad pay the high school taxes for our students and all the funds needed to build and sustain our many parks, bike paths and otheir sports courts around the city. I applaud the common sense reponses above from Sandy, Knightwatch, Larry, Thevoice, Pioneer and others. I am all for paying the needed taxes for preserving our Golf Course and the value and beauty that gives to our city and homes. Thank you Mayor and Council.

  25. Sandy Ausbrooks says:

    @palmcoaster… Thanks for your response. Appreciate your support for our WHOLE community!!!!
    Another, BIG reason to support PHGC – BOTH high schools in Palm Coast now call this “home” for their golf teams. An amenity they get to enjoy, practice at and play tournaments… building athleticism, character and sportsmanship. Happy that all four teams can be there – 2 women and 2 men’s teams from each school. And the kids camps there that go on for most of the year, a great asset to our community – even kids from prior non-golf households.

  26. palmcoaster says:

    I omitted by error to also appreciate Mr. Patrick Williams above for his comments as he is also so right. I would like all to keep in mind that none of us opposed our taxes used to build and support the new LaCrosse facilities built by our city for the school students competitions, to the contrary all of us golfers and non golfers supporters were very much in favor as we continue with the City of Palm Coast Sports Alliance with our schools;
    So please stop attacking our taxes geared to sustain our Palm Harbor Golf Course and instead fight for its preservation as indirectly benefits us all or most in this city. We would deeply appreciate it if you all do.
    A city that funds and supports all sports and outdoors facilities is a very much family oriented enjoyable place to live in.

  27. PalmCoastPioneers says:

    @Sandy Ausbrooks
    Do you think the H.S. Students would be interested in researching if the ‘ Four Sisters’ were the only Golf Clubs to be Federally ORDERED by the Government of the United States to be built ?
    Thank You very much

  28. snapperhead says:

    I’m supportive of the golf course and my taxes going towards it, however $215,000 sounds like a lot of money to repair bunkers. Pioneer i know you mean well but I doubt what was Federally ordered amenities 40 years ago as part of a development plan means that the community is obligated to maintain it forever. Only as part of a 15 year development plan.

  29. PalmCoastPioneers says:

    F.T.C. C-2854 *encumbers* it pursuant the terms and conditions of the Federally ORDERED ‘ Consent Agreement’ – it, in original total remains either a Golf Club or a public Recreation area / Park – not private condos. Parts of this Federally ORDERED public Recreation area was strangely *bartered* or *traded* off for condos and private housing/shelter units. The other parts were labelled a *Gift* and Doc. Stamp Tax exempt – Tax Evasion / Fraud
    Palm Coasts’ first public Childs Neighborhood Park and Playground was ‘…lost, sold, and transformed…’ – that is Land Fraud for starters –
    Public Items listed and identified within a Federally Ordered ‘ Compliance Report ‘ can’t be ‘…lost , sold, transformed..’ and changed for private housing.

  30. t says:

    Close it down noone wants to pay for that

  31. GJD says:

    Kemper Golf is the reason Palm Harbor looses money. Kemper has a director of golf, a bookkeeper, a golf pro and assistant, an events manager, and a head chef for a kitchen that serves fast food. The PHGC is also responsible for the tennis club and another director of tennis and a pro.
    Get rid of Kemper and the overhead, keep the pro’s to run each facility and you’ll save 200K.

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