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City drives ahead with golf group's plan

The question of Mississippi National Golf Links’ future is a step closer to resolution.

The Red Wing City Council voted 6-1 at a special meeting Monday night on an agreement with local nonprofit Red Wing Municipal Golf Corporation to run MNGL.

Some details of the contract still will be worked out and a final agreement is expected come before the council at a meeting later this month.

The vote came during a special meeting at the public library that lasted about 45 minutes. Council member Peggy Rehder voted no.

RWMGC, a local nonprofit, was the only respondent to the city’s request for proposals for MNGL. The city’s ad hoc golf course committee and representatives from the organization have been meeting to discuss the proposal and ask and answer questions before the council made a decision.

On Monday, Council President Lisa Bayley said it was time for the council to choose.

“We just can’t have this go on and on,” she said. While the final contract details still will be hashed out, she said the council needed to indicate what direction it planned to go on MNGL and whether it wanted to work with the group.

Council member Mike Schultz and others said they should give RWMGC a chance.

“We need to give them the opportunity and let them engage the public and see where this takes them,” he said. “To not give them the opportunity after all this work, we would be remiss.”

After negotiations regarding the city’s financial support of the course, the plan discussed Monday has the city contributing $210,000 for 2014 with that number dropping by about 25 percent each year.

The city would be investing in projects such as building repairs, work it likely would do anyway because it owns the property, Bayley said.

RWMGC must have at least $400,000 in the bank by Feb. 15 under the agreement, and the city won’t start its work until that happens, Bayley said.

RWMGC president Robb Rutledge said with the council’s decision to move ahead with the group it now will be easier to raise the needed funds.

The agreement would be for five years, but could be re-evaluated as needed, and includes other details such as the city not co-signing any leases.

“We tried to make an arrangement that would be really sensitive to taxpayer feeling … and still give the golf corporation a chance to run the course and take care of what I think most people in the city feel is a really important asset,” Council member Marilyn Meinke said.

“I feel it’s a fair deal,” Council member Jason Sebion agreed.

They and Bayley served on the ad hoc committee.

Council member Ralph Rauterkus said he is concerned about RWMGC’s financial viability, but voted for the agreement Monday, saying the plan does protect the city financially.

The group has said its financial records will be open.

Rehder said she has a number of problems with the proposal. In a statement she submitted for the record, she said the city has other items it should and will need to spend money on besides a golf course.

She said she also has concerns about the city funding one public golf course but not another and whether that many holes of golf are needed in the community.

The Red Wing Golf Club recently became open to the public. It has 18 holes, while MNGL has 36.

The council generally agreed RWMGC should work with the golf club wherever possible, and Rutledge said they would explore options such as reciprocity for members. Red Wing Golf Club members in the audience echoed that.

Rutledge said RWMGC’s board voted to accept the plan that was before the council before Monday’s meeting. “We’ve already agreed to what you put on the table.”

The council’s vote was met with applause in the packed library Foot Room.

Bayley said contract details will be ironed out now and the goal is to have an agreement ready for a council vote by the Nov. 25 meeting.

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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