Mayor of Storm Lake listens to seniors on muni golf

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The 9th green of the Sunrise Point Golf Course, owned by the town of Storm Lake.

Mayor Mike Porsch intends to strike a subcommittee to investigate complaints about the Sunrise Pointe Golf Course.

The subcommittee made up of King’s Pointe administrators and senior golfers will meet over the winter to change course policies and rates, Porsch said in an interview Wednesday. One of its main objectives is to balance the profitability of golf, which has been sluggish in recent years, and to retain its seniors, who have threatened to leave.

“I’m not sure it’s about keeping the senior league, but we want to listen to people,” Porsch said. “We want to improve the course. And the people who use it are probably the best people to say how.

Porsch announced plans for the subcommittee at last week’s city council meeting. He asked Diane Porter, a third-generation municipal golfer, for his contact details after she and seven other seniors complained about excessive fees at the golf course and the clubhouse senior center.

Porter raised the same issues as others who have approached the board in recent months.

Seniors in surrounding communities boycotted or threatened to boycott Storm Lake because it imposed trail fees and senior center rental fees, amounting to $9 per person.

The golf course no longer offers free popcorn and hot dogs during the lunch hour.

And the city doesn’t hire a body of volunteer members to improve the course every spring.

“We all care a lot about this course and the direction of this course. I’m a third-generation golfer there,” Porter told the board. “And I don’t want to go anywhere else. I want to support him. And do whatever I can to help spruce it up and take it to the next level. That’s why I stand before you here today to call your attention to these things.

The city council has rebuffed overtures from elders for special favors every time.

The council heard the golf course lost $212,000 over the past three years, in part because its management company, Weigand-Omega of Wichita, Kan., reduced rates for large groups. Chief Financial Officer Brian Oakleaf said making an exception is like making exceptions in city code, a line the city council shouldn’t cross.

Porsch said rate cuts for seniors are unlikely to be considered. This would allow other large groups to make the same request, further reducing golf revenue.

“The last thing we want is to be in the situation we were in,” Porsch said. “Two hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money for us. We just can’t lose that much anymore.

But Porsch acknowledged the city needs to find as much common ground as possible with seniors, the age group that uses the golf course the most. The men’s and women’s leagues generate thousands in revenue from tournaments, leagues and franchise sales, which could disappear if they left. This winter, both leagues are expected to make a decision on whether Storm Lake will remain in their yard rotations, Porter said.

“It’s a public course,” Porsch said. “We all have to remember that. We want to be fair and we want to make golfers happy. It can be difficult.

Policy changes are expected to depend on recommendations from King’s Pointe, which also declined to lower fees. General Manager Amy Von Bank said she would be happy to speak with the focus group about new programs, such as foot golf and the clubhouse expansion. But she cautioned Porter and the band for “realistic expectations.”

Other courts requested money from their members at the end of the year to meet operations that were not covered by income, she said. Alta Golf & Country, for example, balked at a city mandate to remove emerald ash borer-infested trees from its grounds because members could not be asked to assume the 4,000 tab. $.

“It costs money to keep the lights on in this building. It costs money to do maintenance,” Von Bank said. “Asking the group to pay (a marginal amount) per person, it’s the same thing we ask all the other people who come to the course. Everybody. We are consistent. We are fair.

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