2018-08-16 / Front Page

Golf course will not close this season

Negotiations have begun for long-term lease with current operator
BY TIM RIEL

With a looming investment expected to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, the town has agreed to keep the Jamestown Golf Course open — and in good hands.

“This is by far the most prudent and promising approach to take,” Councilman Gene Mihaly said.

As part of an action plan to repair the greens and install an updated irrigation system, the town councilors unanimously approved two measures during a special meeting last week. That included permission for the administration to negotiate a long-term contract with Joe Mistowski, the Conanicus Avenue resident who has operated the course since 1992. Because the course and the clubhouse are deteriorating, the councilors agreed soliciting bids would be futile.

“You’re going to have difficulty finding a vendor,” Mihaly said.

Mistowski’s lease expired in 2016, but extenuating circumstances allowed the town to extend that contract on a year-to-year basis. When these extensions were exhausted, the councilors previously thought, state purchasing laws would require them to submit a request for proposals. Town Administrator Andy Nota, however, has since learned otherwise.

“The law gives the town the ability to award an agreement that serves the best interest for the community,” he said.

According to Nota, this decision was crucial because it guarantees a single operator will be in charge through the repair process. With a one-year lease, for example, Mistowski said he would be wary about investing in the course because he could be ousted the next season.

“It makes sense to extend the lease,” Councilman Blake Dickinson said. “It gives the operator an opportunity to mitigate his risk over a period of years.”

Although the measures were separate, the approval to extend Mistowski’s lease is tightly bound with the council’s second decision. That measure directed Nota to spend roughly $52,000 for 80,000 square feet of bentgrass to temporarily fix the course’s greens and keep it open.

“If you guys want the rent, I need the greens fees,” Mistowski said.

Before the town’s legal team uncovered the exception in the state purchasing law, the sides were in the midst of an ambitious plan to reconstruct nine greens at once. The U.S. Golf Association, however, said this plan was too aggressive.

“We need the time to do this right,” Nota said. “It just wasn’t practical.”

That plan also required closing the course during the end of this season, forcing tournaments and leagues to cancel their tee times.

“For him to blow these groups off would be devastating,” said Mark Liberati, Mistowski’s attorney.

“We don’t want to put you or your fan base in that position,” replied Kristine Trocki, council president.

With the long-term lease, however, the permanent reconstruction of these greens can be postponed in lieu of interim fixes. This will allow Mistowski to stretch the permanent repairs throughout the next few off-seasons. Moreover, the sod will not be thrown away when the temporary greens are dispatched. The material will be repurposed during the reconstruction phase.

“It’s not a waste of resources,” Mihaly said.

As part of this agreement, the town is paying for the sod while the operator provides the labor and equipment. The town also will waive Mistowski’s next quarterly payment. The lease is for $175,000, which means the town will lose $43,750 in revenue. Nota said this arrangement illustrates the workable partnership between the two sides, which is important to protect the asset.

“It keeps the course open and it maintains the clientele,” he said. “More importantly, it shows our commitment. You will see improvements to the greens this year. We are making the effort.” As for the agreement following fiscal year 2018-19, Nota said they have been discussing $110,000 annually, which is about 40 percent less than the current lease. The council has given Nota leeway to negotiate. 

“You have carte blanche to have those discussions,” Trocki said. “I have no expectations right now.”

The enterprise fund for the golf course has roughly $150,000 in the account.

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