Gold Mountain deal bumped two weeks over details

Bremerton City Council President Jim McDonald says he stopped a contract vote with Columbia Hospitality to take over Gold Mountain Golf Course operations to allow more time to negotiate the terms of the deal.

“They’re getting close on the numbers,” McDonald said. “I think the terms of who’s responsible for ensuring what and things like the relationship between the contractor and the city are still to be fully defined.”

For example, McDonald cited the possibility of an earthquake that would leave the golf course without water.

“How does that play?” he asked. “Is that something we should pay for if the golf course is closed because of an act of God. I think  that’s one of the issues.”

McDonald expects a council vote at the board’s next business meeting October 2.

One area where the city will cede control is in the establishment of green fees at the courses, an issue that many local golf enthusiasts are concerned about.

“I don’t see us dictating what rate they charge,” McDonald said. “If it’s the nicest course in the county, should you be paying more to play it? It’s an interesting question, anyhow, but that would be up to them.”

McDonald noted that the city council currently sets the fees for playing the courses, but allowing Columbia to set rates could be more efficient.

“What I picture is some flexibility,” McDonald said. “At some point, they would have it more expensive and at some points they’ll have it more cheaper. It’s better to use supply and demand as the basis for rate setting rather than the council setting the rate for this or that year. They can’t just demand more money out of the golfers based on the poor market conditions.”

McDonald also said he isn’t aware of any discussion about establishing a special discounted rate for city residents.

The effort to hire Columbia has apparent wide support on the council, with the exception of Councilman Greg Wheeler who has repeatedly called for opening up a wider bid process. Wheeler has expressed concern about Columbia’s lack of golf course management experience and said recently that he is an all-but-assured “no” vote as a matter of principal.

But McDonald, Mayor Patty Lent and other council members are excited about the prospect of Columbia, which manages the Kitsap Harborside Conference Center, adding Gold Mountain to its management portfolio and “cross marketing” the two operations.

McDonald said the goal is to have Gold Mountain, which faces ballooning debt payments in the face a golf industry hard hit by the recession, run more like one of the city’s existing enterprise funds which are designed to be self-sustaining.

“All we want is to have this thing break even, pay for itself and maintain the course,” McDonald said.


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