Hamilton to have parks conservancy operate its 2 golf courses

City Council on Wednesday was poised to authorize a management agreement with the Hamilton Parks Conservancy for the management of the city’s two golf courses and to loan three city employees to the non-profit organization that also maintains the city’s parks system.

On loan from the city will be Golf Superintendent Mark Moore, who is paid $81,702 per year; Golf Course Maintenance Supervisor Lawrence Cecere, earning $51,501; and Concessions and Tournament Manager William Brannon, who also is paid $51,501.

While other private and public golf courses have been closing down across the country, Hamilton has made its Potter’s Park and Twin Run golf courses financially stable after taking over operations in 2013. Middletown sold its Weatherwax Golf Course in 2014, and it now is part of the MetroParks of Butler County system.

Adam Helms of the city has said a key in Hamilton’s success was its work to keep golf prices very affordable.

MORE: Weatherwax closure feels ‘like a death’ in golfing family

Meanwhile, the Hamilton Parks Conservancy under Steve Timmer has upgraded condition of the city’s more than 1,000 acres of parks, adding new playground equipment and picnic tables, increasing handicap access and installing splash-park equipment.

Under the proposed one-year management contract, which is renewable, the city will make a one-time $300,000 contribution to buy replacement golf carts. Tom Vanderhorst, the city’s executive director of external services, wrote in a report to council that the $300,000 actually was paid Dec. 19 “in order for the conservancy to pre-order the carts in time for them to be available for the start of the 2020 golf season.”

RELATED: Hamilton has made major upgrades to its parks in recent years. Here are the biggest.

The agreement also requires the city to transfer the approximately $215,800 remaining in the city’s golf fund to the conservancy.

After that, “the city will not be contractually obligated to make additional financial contributions,” Vanderhorst wrote. The one-year term “will allow both parties an opportunity to transition to this model,” he added.

He told council the agreement would let city government redeploy staff “to focus on other strategic initiatives.”

Under the proposed agreement, the conservancy will hire or borrow from the city the necessary staff to perform the management. The conservancy will pay the salaries and benefits of the city staff.

The courses and other parks facilities can be rented to the general public by the conservancy “in the exercise of its commercially reasonable judgment,” under the proposed contract, and rates for non-residents can be higher than those for city residents.

The city under its existing parks-maintenance contract, which will be expanded to include the golf courses, seeks to pay the conservancy 2.6 percent of its general-fund revenues, or at least $1.1 million, plus an annual service charge of $160,800 that increases by 1.75 percent yearly for trash-collection within the parks.

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