2018-03-08 / Front Page

Clubhouse fate still uncertain

Council wants better sense of all future debt

An architect’s rendering of the second floor in the $2.9 million clubhouse proposal. This level would be managed by the town. An architect’s rendering of the second floor in the $2.9 million clubhouse proposal. This level would be managed by the town. Although the majority of town councilors are leaning toward a $2.9 million clubhouse for the Jamestown Golf Course, the vote was tabled Monday night while the administration prepares a better picture of the financial future.

Councilwoman Mary Meagher recommended the measure after a handful of residents expressed concern about the number of projects in the pipeline, including school improvements and library renovations. Along with the clubhouse, these three projects potentially could be bonded within a year of one another, which means taxpayers would be on the hook for nearly $10 million in new debt.

Meagher, however, said there is more to consider, which was validated by Town Administrator Andy Nota. For example, a school bond that could cost upwards of $6.7 million is reimbursable by about 40 percent. Also, he said, the current bond on Melrose School, which costs taxpayers about $250,000 annually, is scheduled to expire in 2021.

Nota said he will have numbers ready for the March 19 meeting, which is when the councilors are expected to vote between two options. The first plan, estimated to cost $2.1 million, is a single-floor design. It would measure 3,579 square feet with roughly 30 percent earmarked for a multipurpose room open to the non-golfing public. The second plan, estimated to cost $2.9 million, is a two-floor design measuring 5,742 square feet. The first floor would be strictly used for golfing operations while the second floor would be administered by the town for public use. The council also expressed interest in renting that floor for private events, including trade shows and weddings.

Despite a replacement recommendation by an architectural committee in 2012, a contingency of residents continues to plea for the rehabilitation of the current building. The council, however, said that option, which has been “vetted tremendously,” is off the table.

“Long story short, it has been ruled out,” said Kristine Trocki, council president. “We are looking at replacement buildings.”

Added Meagher, “I’m troubled by the constant second guessing of expertise.”

Town Planner Lisa Bryer, who presented the slideshow of the plans, agreed with the women. She said townspeople should not get bogged down in nostalgia with the existing structure, which includes a 120-year-old section.

“Nobody wants to see it go, but it’s in woefully poor condition,” she said.

Councilman Blake Dickinson, the lone Republican, continues to oppose the plans, saying it’s unnecessarily costly. He said this project has parallels to the Portuguese Americans Citizens Club. That process, he said, began small with public support but expanded out of reach, which led to its demise during a referendum that was voted down.

“We’ve moved away from our obligations as a lessor,” he said. “We have dropped some of the perspective.”

Dickinson also has reservations about a public-private partnership between the town and course operators.

“It’s an uphill challenge,” he said. “We need to take away all of these elements that make this challenge more challenging.”

Derek Blackman, a golfer and staunch opponent of the plan, also warned the council against pricing out potential renters. He also is worried about the course deteriorating if this measure is not approved by voters.

“We are back where we started from,” he said. “And you have a severely damaged golf course on your hands.”

In response to golfers complaining about the condition of the greens, Nota said he is finalizing a plan to set aside capital money to repair the course.

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