City, Golf Course: Still looking at options

It is back to the drawing board for staff, volunteers and club members at River’s Bend Golf Course in Flandreau. A second appeal to the Flandreau City Council this past week to take over operations and ownership of the course, a gift to the city by the Golf Course Board and the membership, failed to gain approval again this past week.
The largely volunteer-run course has struggled in recent years to maintain the quality of course that they would like, in large part, because they can not offer the benefits of a full-time, year-round job to attract the kind of golf superintendent and greens keeper other courses are able to. It has meant a lot of time for many dedicated volunteers and members to keep the course up to par and manage the staff that it does have.
“The golf course has been profitable since the floods, but the challenge is finding a long-term employee that only wants to work for six months of the year and only get paid for six months of the year,” said Jason Ramsdell, who largely oversees the course’s finances.
Ramsdell responded point-by-point Tuesday night to comments made by Council members during an earlier budget workshop, where the request to take over the course was denied. The conversation as a whole follows a lengthy study and a formal recommendation earlier this fall by the golf course board and a committee appointed to assess the best path forward for the course. The committee recommended that the city be gifted River’s Bend, the clubhouse and an additional 97 acres of adjacent land to the north, in order for it to survive and thrive into the future.
Council members aren’t certain that every measure hasn’t been exhausted to accomplish what golf course members are hoping for. They also voiced concerns that it’s just not in the city’s best interest at this time — with so many other legacy projects underway — to take on the additional role and responsibility.
Ramsdell and others present to ask the Council to reconsider its position, disagreed.
“I hope you’re right, I hope that the golf course won’t close this year or next. But if it continues the way it is now without the ability to offer an employee year-round work and benefits, eventually it will close. At that time, it’ll be too late. And that’s regression. The time to act is now, be progressive like the website says. Think about Flandreau’s youth and Flandreau’s future as a city. The golf course being included in the city’s budget is a progressive act that this community needs and can afford,” said Ramsdell. “Once this community doesn’t have a public golf course or other new quality of life venues, it’ll start losing more teachers and families to towns that are actually progressive and doing everything they can to increase the quality of life for their citizens.”
The golf course conversation and discussion about a new city entryway project and bike path up a good portion of the regularly scheduled meeting. Other items discussed included:
Concerns over the amount of money designated each year to funding the Flandreau Police Department. Jason Unger, a former City Council member, believes the city continues to spend too much on a local police force. He outlined options he felt were not fully being explored. Unger stated that the City could invest more in the community if it would revise this one area of the budget.
A final resolution that would vacate the alley located on the future fire station property, as future development on the adjoining properties will require that the alley is no longer in use.
An update on code violations in the city. Six Flandreau properties, cited in recent months for violations, are now in compliance. Property owners where citations remain outstanding could be receiving citations if issues are not properly addressed.
A reminder of the street closure request that has been approved for the Flandreau Farmers Market Fall Festival, which will be taking place on September 22 by the Moody County Courthouse. City Administrator Cohl Turnquist encouraged Council members and residents to support the new event, which will include food, games and other vendors.
An update on the TIF districts within the City of Flandreau. There had been five active TIF’s, two were resolved as final payments had been made.
Step increases for Finance Officer Lori Kneebone and Public Works Operator Andy Wede were approved along with the hiring of Dustin Lau as a Public Works Operator.