Council and Rye Golf Commission Iron Out Issues at Workshop

No one group scored a hole in one, but the City Council, Rye Golf Club Commission, and newly formed Rye Golf Strategic Committee all made par at the workshop held right before the June 12 Council meeting.

Published June 20, 2013 6:41 PM
3 min read

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No one group scored a hole in one, but the City Council, Rye Golf Club Commission, and newly formed Rye Golf Strategic Committee all made par at the workshop held right before the June 12 Council meeting.

 

By Robin Jovanovich

 

No one group scored a hole in one, but the City Council, Rye Golf Club Commission, and newly formed Rye Golf Strategic Committee all made par at the workshop held right before the June 12 Council meeting.

 

In his opening remarks, Mayor Doug French noted that the two prevailing questions before the City as far as the Golf Club is concerned are: “Should the City be in the restaurant business? (Until 2006, most City officials said they should.) And if the City is in that business, what’s the proper method of governance?”

 

The Mayor commended the Commission, its chair, and the City Manager for a “dynamite” club opening this spring. His goal is to put long-term policy ideas before the public in July or August. “The Commission has been looking potentially at changes in the charter,” Mayor French said. The Council has suggested issuing an RFP for Whitby Castle. “This meeting is all about looking forward,” emphasized the Mayor, before asking the Commission to present the highlights of its plan.

 

Chair John Duffy said the first real change they would like to institute is giving the Commission the authority to negotiate contracts. “Right now it’s mostly done by the city manager. Considering it’s Rye Golf Club money, we recommend that be done.” He made the case that they should be allowed to hire lifeguards, a new chef, and an interim manager. Commission member Pat Geoghegan said, “We’re recommending a check and balance that was definitely missing under the former Golf Club manager.”

 

Fellow Commission member Patrick Dooley added that their focus was on oversight, not the larger issues like the operation of Whitby Castle, which the Strategic Committee was looking at. “We need to be more involved in day-to-day operations.

 

We propose to take a more active and primary role.” The Commission would like to have more and better operational reporting from the club manager, including consultation on expenses over $2,500. “We don’t want for things to just happen without our knowledge, as they did under the former club manager,” said Duffy.

 

Councilman Peter Jovanovich asked whether the Commission wanted disbursement authority. Councilwoman Laura Brett wanted to know what the mechanism of the manager’s role would be. Duffy replied that if the club needed more umbrellas at the pool, for instance, the Commission would like to make those decisions on behalf of members. “We want to be engaged with the members. Maybe the manager is not seeing same things that members are.”

 

Jovanovich said, “If we’re going to make a charter change, all these nitty-gritty things — like having a ‘strong consultative’ role — will have to be ironed out.”

 

The Commission also asked for a better data software system to be put in place and for the ability to hire their own independent audit every year.

 

Who would pay for new technology and a separate audit remained unclear. No auditing firm accepts the audit of another firm.

 

City Manager Scott Pickup agreed that the Northstar system “has lots of issues and has not been user-friendly,” but said City staff have invested a lot of time reviewing the information to ensure better reporting of year-to-year comparative data. “We’re trying to get this done on a consistent basis.”

 

The City Manager said their current analysis suggests that the Golf Club is about $600,000 light in revenue against budget, but that amount may not be a real shortfall. “We’re feeling better about the numbers coming in, closer to where we want to be.”

 

Councilwoman Catherine Parker moved the discussion to the larger issue: An RFP for Whitby Castle. She went one step further and asked whether at the same time the City should put out an RFP for the management of the entire Golf Club.

 

Strategic Committee Chair Peter Marshall said they support an RFP for Whitby. “It’s pretty stark that operating losses started after the Club took over the restaurant.” He recommended hiring an industry consultant and building on the Restaurant Associates RFP; RA ran the restaurant until 2006.

 

Marshall said that the committee, whose report is on the City website, was also of the view that “this is the year we recover from the former manager and empower the commission.” He added that they are looking for direction from the Council and input from the public.

 

Mayor French concluded the workshop by saying that the Council will take all that had been said into consideration and that the matter will be on the agenda at the July 10 Council meeting.

 

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