2018-07-19 / Front Page

Town agrees to fix greens at golf course

‘Huge problem’ could force early shutdown

Workers water the third putting green Tuesday morning at the Jamestown Golf Course. High salt concentration in the irrigation pond has led to deteriorating playing surfaces this season. PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Workers water the third putting green Tuesday morning at the Jamestown Golf Course. High salt concentration in the irrigation pond has led to deteriorating playing surfaces this season. PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN It wasn’t long before the Wright brothers were airborne above Kitty Hawk when horses and plows were used to construct putting greens on the Littlefield farm.

Roughly 117 years later, the town has made a commitment to repair that work.

The town councilors unanimously approved an ambitious plan Monday night to reconstruct the nine greens on the Jamestown Golf Course. The measure also includes an overhaul of the irrigation system, which is the main culprit of the deteriorating playing surface.

“We have a huge problem,” said Joe Mistowski, the course operator since 1992. “I’ve been doing this for 46 years and I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s so bad that we might have to close the doors in a couple weeks. The reputation of the golf course, my reputation, are in jeopardy.”

The joint plan between Mistowski and the town, which owns the property, is a race against time, according to Town Administrator Andy Nota. Seeds for the new grass will need to be planted by the end of August so the course will be ready for 2019.

“If we want to preserve the viability and playability of the course, we need to act now,” he said.

Following Monday’s meeting, Nota was on the phone the next morning to secure consultants from the United States Golf Association. In the coming weeks, the team will draft a reconstruction plan, seek state permits to repair the effluent pond, and negotiate a two-year lease with Mistowski.

A long-term lease cannot be considered because of the need for a state purchasing agreement. Extensions with Mistowski were exhausted in 2017, which means the town will need to solicit bids publicly before it finalizes a long-term contract. Because of exigent circumstances stemming from the deteriorating clubhouse, however, the state has allowed the two sides to reach short-time extensions.

If a contractor is hired, Nota said each green will cost about $50,000. Instead, the plan is for a partnership between town workers and Mistowski’s team to complete the project, which will cut the cost in half, according to Nota.

Since the $1.9 million bond for the golf course was retired in 2006, the town has collected about $2 million from Mistowski in lease payments. Only about $300,000 of that, however, was earmarked for course improvements. The rest of the $175,000 annual payments were transferred to the general fund.

There is about $150,000 in the golf course’s coffer. An additional $125,000 could be added to it based on the 2019 lease agreement with Mistowski.

Along with reconstructing 70,000 square feet of greens, the town will rebuild the existing effluent pond behind the clubhouse. Workers are expected to remove all sediment and remnants, mainly sodium buildup on the surface floor, and then install new filtration material and a new liner.

“It’s more or less like Swiss cheese at this point,” Nota said.

Prior to the regular meeting, when the councilors were discussing water and sewer matters, golfers were adamant about the town changing its treatment process.

Town Engineer Mike Gray rebuffed that claim, saying sodium hypochlorite always has been used to treat wastewater. In recent years, however, the salt buildup in the effluent water has increased, which has led to the damaged greens.

Mistowski cited a 1992 report that said the chloride and sodium levels in the effluent were 59 and 34 parts per million, respectively. Today, those levels are 1,566 and 695.

Nota encouraged stakeholders not to dwell on the past.

“It’s important that we not look back 25 years ago and talk about what we should have done at that time,” he said. “If we don’t stop the negativity and the roadblocks, we are never going to solve the problems.”

Before the meeting was adjourned, members of the golf club urged the town to extend a longterm lease to Mistowski, regardless of higher bidders. This would not be unprecedented. The councilors inked a deal with Conanicut Marine in 2015 to lease the East Ferry docks even though Jamestown Boat Yard offered more money.

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