First Selectman Dan Steward said Tuesday he is looking into the town purchasing the at 28 Lamphere Road.
“My eyes are open,” he said. “Yes I am looking, it’s not a closed issue.”
Steward has had “several” people ask him to look into buying the property, , fellow selectman Paul Suprin. This is the first time the golf course has been on the market in 87 years of existence, and it might be another 87 years before it comes on the market again, Suprin said.
“It's an amenity. It's just one of those things that will make people want to move into this town,” Suprin said. “There is nothing inherently wrong with looking into it.”
In December, Dime Bank foreclosed on the country club after owners couldn’t repay . The bank is searching for an owner, although said it will hire a management company to keep the course running in the interim, Steward said.
The Basics Of The Deal
is a 149-acre golf course with a restaurant/banquet hall. It is a private country club with very little room for guests to play on the course, although the members dwindled over the past few years, leading to the foreclosure.
If the town buys it, Steward would turn it into a semi-private course, where it would be open to all but members would get preference. Members would get preference for tee time from 6 to 9 a.m., and then it will be open to all from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., he said.
The restaurant would be turned into a restaurant open to all throughout the year, Steward said. It could also be turned into a banquet hall, although that might take an investment to increase the seating from around 150 to over 200 to make it more conducive for weddings, he said.
Steward said he thinks he could buy the course for $2 million. For the town to buy the property, it would have to pass through the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance, the Representative Town Meeting and then a referendum by the voters.
All the work of running the course and the restaurant would be outsourced, Steward said.
If the town bought it, it would open a great course to the public, Suprin said. Secondly, it could actually make money, he said.
“What if the numbers showed it could produce $300,000 a year?” Suprin said. “How many town operations can (make) money, instead of being an expense?”
Other towns, such as Norwich and Groton, own golf courses and it works, Suprin said. For the town to not even look at purchasing a property that might not be on sale again in a lifetime would be hard to justify, he said.
Other communities such as Norwich that bought a golf course got the course through grants, Steward said. Waterford would have to spend at least $2 million to buy the property, he said.
The property is assessed at $4,015,320, according to town records. The town is owed roughly $75,500 in taxes from the property.
If the town buys it, that money goes away, Steward said. Just to break even, the town would have to make that money back, he said.
Both Norwich and Groton roughly break even each year from the golf course, said Steward, who has reviewed the financial reports of New London Country Club, Shennecossett Golf Course and Norwich Golf Club. But Groton, for example, pays for capital expenses to Shennecossett Golf Course, such as repaving the driveway or reroofing a building, through taxpayer dollars, Steward said. That is unacceptable, as the town should not subsidize golf, he said.
Also the town has ordinances saying alcohol is not allowed on town property, with the sole exception of the . That ordinance would have to be changed to take on a golf course, which would have to sell alcohol to be profitable, Steward said.
“Ultimately I have to serve all the taxpayers, not just golfers,” Steward said. “Is it a good solution for all taxpayers, or is it just good for golfers?”