Compromise reached on annual pass for green fees

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Lewisburg's leaders have reached a compromise to settle a dispute with an attorney and other golfers who were miffed over the increased price of annual green fee passes.

The compromise was to have been finalized Tuesday night during a special called session of the City Council. A week earlier, agreements were announced, but couldn't be concluded because the subject wasn't on the agenda. It was last night.

In an unrelated development, councilmen decided against changing the schedule for city elections. It would have saved the city $12,000 every other year by transferring the cost to Marshall County. Federal, state and county elections in August and November of even years are funded by the county. This city's elections are in May. Longer ballots, voter confusion, and hot weather leading to August elections were among reasons to drop the idea.

As for the cost of annual passes to play golf at the city-owned course - accessed at the Lewisburg Recreation Center - Mayor Barbara Woods confessed, "I'm the golfer."

With that announcement, Woods reintroduced the subject for council's consideration on July 13 since the price for an annual pass went up twice this spring.

Using one example on how annual golf passes are sold at the nine-hole, par-36 course, Rec Center Activities Coordinator Jane Tilford said as April changed to May this spring, the passes were to have been sold for the old rate of $200, but the council decided to increase the rates by $25.

Several weeks later, as budget constraints became more troublesome, according to Woods' explanation of the chronology, the council decided to increase rates again, this time by $100, for a total increase of $125.

Golfers with the annual pass purchased for $225 balked. In a scathing, two-page letter to the "Recreation Center," with concurrent copies to the mayor and City Manager Eddie Fuller, Lewisburg-based attorney Drew Davidson pointed out that he and others had a legally enforceable contract, so they were not obliged to pay anything more.

However, Woods explained that after the $25 price hike and before the $100 increase, the council had called for "an addendum saying the price might go up again."

She acknowledged that some employees at the pro shop in the Rec Center might not have fully reported the entire chain of events when a golfer was being called to the first tee.

"I just went to Eddie (Fuller,)" the mayor reported, "and said, 'Is there anything we can do?'"

The city manager researched the situation and talked with the people involved, she continued.

Fuller advised Woods of a potential compromise and she called Davidson, saying it was an equitable solution.

The solution is to adjust the period of time for the annual passes so they expire June 30 which is the first day of the city's budget year and two months after May 1 when the current passes started.

So the affected golfers get an additional two months on their passes and that was deemed acceptable even though the second increase at $100 was buying only one sixth of the year at an annual rate of $325.

"Our intent was not to cause confusion," Councilman Ronald McRady said during the council meeting last week. "But we approved it (the $25 increase) with the intent to go back (and adjusting the price again) due to budget restraints. Unfortunately, that was not the best thing."

After the unanimous vote Woods said, "I appreciate the compromise."

The price changes affect the other kinds of annual passes. They include: individual, in-city residents; individual in-county residents; individual out-of-county residents; and similar breakdowns for seniors, couples, family and junior prices.

Also last week, the council unanimously adopted Councilman Odie Whitehead's motion against changing the city's election date in May.

McRady seconded the motion, explaining he'd spoken with the county elections administrator, Jo Ann Henry, and he'd concluded three reasons were persuasive against changing the date.

They are: The state Legislature is out of session, thereby stalling a necessary step until next year; Combining city and county elections could cause confusion among voters since city wards and county districts are different geographically; And the combination in August and probably even in November would result in a longer ballot and the city election might get lost and possibly ignored.

Furthermore, "If you change it to August, you get into the hottest time when you go door-to-door," McRady said. "It makes a difference...

"Plus," he said, "look at the signs."

Campaign signs for city candidates could get "lost" in the crowded field, he noted.

Councilman Robin Minor had a geographical issue with changing the city's election to August. City and county district lines are not the same and some voters would probably have to go to different polling places to participate in both elections.

"Not everybody in the 5th Ward can vote in the 6th District" for county elections, Minor said.

"And," the city manager said, "those lines will probably change" because of federally-required re-districting."

Minor said the motive for change was "good," and Councilman Quinn Brandon Stewart said, "I wanted to save money. Cornersville did, so it can be done."

Stewart said she'd rather have tabled the idea, but when the votes were cast, it was clear what the results would be and she voted yes.