City Council will have many issues to discuss during upcoming annual retreat
Besides a tough budget to address during their upcoming annual retreat, the Elizabethton City Council will have other areas of business that will need some attention as well including capital projects and how to address the Elizabethton Golf Course.
The Council met in its regularly-scheduled May meeting on Thursday in Council Chambers before taking its retreat next week to review important discussions for the next fiscal year which will begin on July 1, 2023.
One of those issues will be what to do with the Elizabethton Golf Course going forward as currently the course is being managed by Hampton Golf but some are calling for the Council to take over management of the course due to issues from downed trees to the condition of the course in general.
During the Citizen Comment section of the meeting, Steven Swecker told the council that he has been a member for eight years and the course has declined under Hampton Golf during that time.
"Weeds have not been sprayed, the greens have not been taken care of, and trees have been cut down and ground up but the remains are left," Swecker said. "There are huge dead spots all over the place and the weeds look like a cow pasture."
Swecker, who purchased a house near the course said he had done so because he wanted to be close to the course to play. He stated that he would like to see the City take back the golf course and put it in Park and Recreation's hands.
Others were in the gallery who had came to back Swecker's statements and seek a new course of direction.
Stephen Wilson, who until Friday serves as the current golf pro for the Elizabethton Golf Course. was on hand to submit his resignation to the Council stating that due to comments posted about the course that he has decided to take employment elsewhere adding that he could take a lot but being attacked in the community he called home was too much.
"What these people want is a country club golf course on a municipal golf course budget," Wilson said. "They don't understand that the majority of the course is Bermuda and is still dormant and won't begin to turn green until around July. Other golf courses throughout the state are having the same issue that have the Bermuda. Also the winters haven't helped and we have had wind storms that have blown several trees and branches onto the course that we have been trying to keep cleaned up.
"We have put around 2,500 square feet of new sod down but that didn't go very far."
Wilson told the Council the real problem comes from the course not being kept up to date in regards to its irrigation system as he said that greens are currently being hand watered by the staff.
Furthermore, Wilson said that to get the course to where it needed to be, a new irrigation system would cost between $2.8 to $3 million and if they were going to do that project they needed to add new golf cart paths at a cost of between $500,000 to $750,000 and redo the bunkers at a cost of nearly $200,000 bring the overall project near a total cost of $4 million.
Wilson told Council the real problem for all the attacking comments was some foursomes that lost their tee times on Saturday due to the increase in events being held at the course as he had scheduled 42 events for the year to date.
"I am not about to lose $5,000 that we bring in on event because of a few lost tee times," said Wilson who also recommended closing the restaurant on the second level of the club house stating more beer and hot dogs are sold from the club house store downstairs.
Councilman Wes Frazier told the Council it would be a good idea to hear some suggestions from the group that could be discussed during the retreat before making any type of decision on the golf course.
In other business, the council approved the following with unanimous 7-0 votes:
Approved an ordinance to consider on second reading and public hearing City of Elizabethton 2022/2023 Budget Ordinance Amendment #3 for the Water/Sewer Fund regarding year-end activity involving Ductile Iron Pipe, Engineering, and other operational expenses.
Approved a resolution to approve an agreement with Education Networks of America Services LLC for Construction and Rental of Dark Fiber to the New Carter County Vocational Tech Building.
Approved the Fiscal Year 2023/2024 State Highway Maintenance Contract.
Approved an ordinance to consider on first reading City of Elizabethton 2022/2023 Budget Ordinance Amendment #10 for the General Fund regarding Rural Violent Crime Reduction Initiative Grant.
Approved a resolution to accept the donation of real property from the State of Tennessee to the City of Elizabethton
Approved an ordinance to consider on first reading City of Elizabethton 2022/2023 Budget Ordinance Amendment #11 for the General Fund regarding Year-End Fuel Sales and Cost of Goods Sold (COGS).
Approved an ordinance to consider on first reading City of Elizabethton 2022/2023 Budget Ordinance Amendment #1 for the Water Capital Projects Fund regarding Jacobs Engineering for the Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Project.
Approved an ordinance to Consider on first reading City of Elizabethton 2022/2023 Budget Ordinance Amendment #1 for the American Rescue Plan Act Fund regarding transfers to the Water Capital Projects Fund for the Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Project.
Approved purchases, expenses and bids for the month of April 2023.
The real property mentioned is approximately 25 acres located at 411 Cherokee Park Drive and was previously owned by the City of Elizabethton until October 2009. On October 5, 2009, the City transferred the property to the State of Tennessee, with the intention for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) to build a fish hatchery on the property.
However, that plan did not come to fruition. A building stands on the eastern end of the property, which was formerly used to produce water for manufacturing processes at the Bemberg and North American Rayon facilities. Subsequent to the closure of Bemberg and North American, Carter County leased portions of the building to house the County's recycling operation.
The portion used by the County caught fire in 2019, causing some significant damage to the building. The County vacated the building and moved its recycling operations to the former Lewis Wood Products building across the street. The building has been vacant since that time.
The property had originally been sold for $200,000 by the City but will be getting the property back at no cost aside from $522 to have the deed prepared and recorded.
The next City Council meeting will be held at 6 pm on Thursday, June 8 inside Council Chambers at the Elizabethton City Hall.