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Kent City Council looks at options to save Riverbend Golf Complex
The Kent City Council plans to take a few more rounds of discussion before picking an option to resolve the financially struggling Riverbend Golf Complex.
An option to sell the Par 3 course and possibly the driving range to a developer while keeping the 18-hole course remains in play for the city-owned complex.
Council members at a Tuesday workshop also discussed the option to cover Riverbend's debts, capital investments and operating losses through the general fund. The city covers losses of the city-owned ShoWare Center through its general fund.
"Before selling the Par 3, I'm open to exploring further how the general fund would absorb the golf course," Councilwoman Deborah Ranniger said.
Councilwoman Jamie Perry proposed using money from the city's strategic opportunity fund to cover the estimated $650,000 to $1 million per year it would cost the city to pay down Riverbend's debt, pay for capital improvements and cover operating losses.
"I think it's a community asset," Perry said about the complex. "I want to save the whole thing."
Councilman Les Thomas had a quick response to Perry's comment.
"That's a little bit dreamy," Thomas said about keeping the entire complex despite the financial struggles. "Maybe the Par 3 and driving range could go to a developer for a hotel or something with the (18-hole) golf course across the street."
Riverbend's operating losses and a $2.25 million debt has caused city officials to look at ways to get the complex self-sustainable financially. The facility has lost nearly $1.4 million over the last four years, including $220,903 in 2012, according to city documents. The debt is owed to an inter-fund loan, money that the city borrowed from its water and fleet funds to help pay off the bond for the golf complex.
"We're talking about the survival of the entire complex and how do we save golf in Kent," said Council President Dennis Higgins, who asked city staff to look into whether it would make sense to try to sell the complex to a private operator.
Higgins, Thomas, Bill Boyce and Dana Ralph each said they were opposed to covering the golf course costs through the general fund. Councilwoman Elizabeth Albertson did not attend the workshop as she recovered from a dental procedure.
"To take money out of the general fund to subsidize the golf course, I can't do that," Boyce said. "I know we do that for ShoWare, but I hope we don't have to continue that and it will show a profit."
Thomas said he didn't think most residents would want the city to cut police officers out of the general fund in order to pay for the golf course. But Perry later brought up the idea to use the strategic opportunity funds rather than cutting other city services.
Residents who showed up at Riverbend open houses earlier this summer mainly opposed selling the Par 3 course.
Higgins said at the workshop he would like to have a decision by the council by the end of the year. City staff will return to the council with more information about the potential options later this fall.
"We'll look at the strategic opportunity fund, other city needs and the enterprise option," said Tom Brubaker, city interim chief administrative officer. "We'll bring back options the best we can."