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Golf Corp. addresses MNGL again

Rick Moskwa, Red Wing public works director, answers a question at the Red Wing 2020 open forum Tuesday on what should be done with the Mississippi Links Golf Course.

The Red Wing Municipal Golf Corp. announced a modified proposal at Tuesday's Red Wing 2020 meeting, which functioned as an open forum about Mississippi National Golf Links.

RWMGC Vice President Gary Fridell unveiled a plan that still calls for city ownership with the corporation functioning as a non-profit organization -- but under a new time frame and a with few changes.

"We run the course but all monies go back into the course. No money for stockholders; no money for owners. It all goes back to the course," Fridell said.

Originally, the group proposed a five-year lease plan, but the City Council did not approve it. Instead, the council voted to shutter the course for 2013.

This time, the non-profit group has offered a three-year lease with a 36-hole plan, Fridell said.

City Council President Lisa Bayley facilitated the evening's discussion, which included comments from more than a dozen individuals.

She said she had received the plan prior to the forum, but she was told the group did not want to go through with it. At the forum, members made clear they do want to proceed.

She said that the City Council, which meets at 7 p.m. Monday, now will begin discussing this new plan.

One major factor is pending litigation between the city and previous lessee Wendell Pittenger. Associated Bank holds the bond and council members have said there's a risk the bank could go after course revenue for repayment.

This would make running the course impossible because there would be no income for RWMGC to operate on.

"To me, that doesn't sound like a really winning legal argument, but it's out there. It's a potential that they can do that," said Bayley, who is an attorney.

"From what I understand, the municipal group's model depends on obviously having income and having revenue and using that revenue to maintain the course," she continued at the forum.

If those details are worked out and the RWMGC's plan of a three-year lease wins council approval to open the course to golfers this summer, Fridell made it clear that it would be a "bare-bones" operation: MNGL would have limited beverages available to golfers and no food service or pro shop.

"We're not saying it's going to be easy, but people are committed. We have a unified board. We have volunteers out here that aren't members of our board that have offered to help in things all the way from electricity to helping with the kids," Fridell said.

Robb Rutledge commented that in his hometown of Detroit Lakes, Minn., a board of citizens has been running a city-owned golf course since the 1930s.

"Through the good times and the bad times, they never asked the city of Detroit Lakes for a penny," Rutledge said.

Bayley said that this is one of the models the city's golf course committee has been looking at when assessing RWMGC's proposals and that "it could be a great model," if the city council voted to go in that direction.

City Planning Director Brian Peterson introduced Tuesday's forum with background information about the golf course. Only the driving range is scheduled to open this year. What will happen next is unclear.

"We want a very public and transparent process," Peterson said.

Bayley said that open forums are a good way to accomplish that.

"In any community, you've got to get actual feedback from people who are sitting right in front of you, who can ask questions and participate right then and there," she said.

As for the golf course's future, "I think we've got a lot of decisions to make," Bayley said.