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Golden Quill Letter: Opening MNGL will cost taxpayers plenty

To the Editor:

This isn't a letter against Red Wing Municipal Golf Corp. and its pursuit to run Mississippi National. They are hardworking, passionate supporters and, if passion could solve this problem, they would be the solution. Unfortunately, the only thing that will solve this problem is money.

This is a letter in response to Council member Jason Sebion's outrageous claims (R-E, March 16). Sebion claims to be a watchdog for taxpayers. He also claims that giving RWMGC a chance will save taxpayers $400,000.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I attended the meeting where council members discussed entering into a contract with RWMGC. What I took away is that there is not enough information to understand the true costs of keeping the course open.

For example, the kitchen is not up to code and cannot be reopened until upgrades are made. Nobody knew the costs, and nobody had this budgeted.

I also heard all the course maintenance equipment has been sold, and repurchasing equipment isn't budgeted. Everything in the clubhouse was sold, and repurchasing isn't budgeted.

But don't take my word for it. Here are some select quotes from the council packet.

• "RWMGC has about $25,000 in membership fees collected (tentatively) for the coming year, and about $100,000 in pledges. Their proposal assumes that no property taxes would need to be paid."

Just stop and think: $25,000 is not enough to buy fertilizer for a 36-hole golf course.

• "The obligations of the City would be to co-sign a five-year lease for carts for a total of $482,000 and potentially co-sign a five-year lease for grounds maintenance equipment."

• "Perhaps most importantly for the Golf Course Committee, there appears to be no mechanism in the RWMGC proposal for funding large capital costs and on-going maintenance costs."

When I hear the city is about to co-sign a five-year loan with an underfunded, start-up organization, I believe this will cost taxpayers money. But somehow Sebion hears "no obligation to the taxpayer."

The city will pay some money this year to "mothball" Mississippi National. But don't think for one second that opening it will save money. Annual costs to run an 18-hole golf course are well over a million dollars, and you are about to co-sign that loan.

I do agree with Sebion on one issue. Now is the time to call your council members. Attend the March 25 meeting, and let our City council know that the current proposal will cost taxpayers money for years to come.

Jeff McDowell

Red Wing