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Red Wing will keep MNGL for now

After more than a year of pursuing the sale of Mississippi National Golf Links, Red Wing City Council has decided to keep the course after finding no viable options.

The council voted Monday to reject all proposals for selling or shifting management of the 36-hole course.

Though the vote was unanimous, it was a decision many called frustrating.

"I think in the end we were just unable to come up with a good answer," said Council member Lisa Bayley, who was part of the ad hoc golf course committee.

The hope had been that selling the course would relieve some financial pressure for the city.

After rejecting the sole response to the request for proposals at its last meeting, the council also turned down offers from current lessee Wendell Pittenger and the recently formed non-profit Red Wing Municipal Golf Corporation on Monday.

Taking no action means the city will continue to enforce the current lease, Council President Ralph Rauterkus said. The lease with Pittenger runs through 2038.

The looming question is what will happen when the $1.1 million bond on the course comes due Nov. 1. Pittenger is responsible for the payment, but has indicated he doesn't want to foot the bill.

"What would happen then is unknown," Bayley said.

While Pittenger is responsible for the money, Council member Mike Schultz said he thinks the city could be involved as well if it isn't paid.

"I think they're going to pursue everybody, including the city," he said of the bank. "They're holding fast that Nov. 1 is a drop-dead date."

Still, the council said all the options on the table had problems.

After a closed session to discuss the details of Pittenger's offer, the council said the proposal wasn't appealing enough to move the sale forward.

"It wasn't any kind of moral opposition to selling the course ... but this particular proposal isn't financially beneficial to the city," Bayley said.

Red Wing Municipal Golf Corporation's proposal relied on the city paying off the bond and Pittenger canceling his lease. The corporation proposed the city enter into a short-term lease - five years - with the local group, which would keep its financial and other records open. After that, the city and lessee could re-examine the situation.

The city's investment would be repaid through revenues from the course, group member Gary Fridell told the council when the plan was first proposed.

RWMGC members raised more than $87,000 in loans and donations for their efforts, mitigating some concerns about startup funding. But the main hurdle with the proposed plan -- the requirement that the city pay the outstanding bond -- couldn't be overcome by the council.

"I just don't see how we can come up with that (money)," Bayley said.

"With both options the huge stumbling block is the bond. It's a tremendous obstacle in both instances," Schultz added. "We don't have the financial wherewithal to deal with the bond."

Mayor Dennis Egan said he was concerned not only about the bond, but also that the course would not see its needed maintenance because of the city's fiscal situation for next year.

"I would have rather seen us sell it -- that's no secret -- because there's certainty in that," he said.

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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