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Dunedin changes direction on country club

Dunedin's golf courses deserve game changer editorial, July 2

Dunedin shifts position on club

I would like to clarify one item before starting. You refer to Dunedin Country Club as private. You have been following this issue long enough to know it is a semiprivate facility.

Let us start with why the (back) rent was paid: because everyone wanted to hold this over our head and say we were in default. The fact is, in March 2007 the previous Dunedin mayor told us to take a $26,455 rent check back home until an agreement was reached.

This ex-mayor, in November 2006, emphatically stated that the club has operated all these years and has never cost the city anything in the sense it was never subsidized for capital improvements or operations. This same ex-mayor is part of a concerned group that on May 21, 2009, submitted a memo making recommendations to the city and it was stated we were being subsidized and implied that we were in default on our lease for not paying rent. This approach is one I have always referred to as "The Zebra Approach."

Your editorial addresses legal barriers, yet you do not have the facts. We are not in default, our rent is current and we are the legal holders of an 18-year lease. You also mention that shortly after the consultant recommended the city negotiate a new lease with the club, the club came to the city asking for a new lease that would lower the rent. Fact is, we requested this in November 2006, long before the consultant was hired. It did, however, prompt the search for a consultant.

Not having correct information doesn't help and that is what we have been dealing with for over two years. If you had read the Request for Proposals carefully, you would have noticed it was crafted in such a way that the Dunedin Country Club board would be reduced to an advisory capacity, with little or no authority. You might have noticed that the city was sliding off all responsibility for St. Andrews Links, the city-owned and -operated golf facility. According to city figures, this facility has lost over $300,000 in the last four years. If someone wants a lesson as to what a subsidy is, look no further.

If the St. Petersburg Times wants to get in the middle of this and tell us what to do, then you really need to do some investigative reporting. When you do this, please come back and tell us:

1) Why did negotiations for a new lease go on from September 2007 to June 2009?

2) Why did the city change course when the lease was on the brink of completion, and why, with almost no notice, did the city decide to change directions? What motivated this sudden change?

3) Why did the city continue to make reference to the club needing to pay rent when we were told to wait for a signed agreement?

4) Why did the city spend $25,000 on a consultant, yet not want to incorporate his recommendations?

I think we certainly all look forward to your reply.

David R. Pauley, Dunedin

Dunedin's golf courses deserve game changer editorial, July 2

Club caters to longtime golfers

Your editorial touched on many issues between the city of Dunedin and the board of directors of the Dunedin Country Club. It's obvious that no action was taken by the club after the consultant's report and recommendations issued almost two years ago. Perhaps my personal experience will shed some light on the problems at the club.

Last summer, the club had a promotional offer for new members. If one joined at a special summer rate, it could then be converted into full club membership at the end of the summer. Two of my neighbors and I joined under that program and played golf at the club at least twice a week and used the bar and other facilities.

At the end of the summer, we decided not to join the club because of how we were received. We all got the distinct impression that we were not welcome and the club was reserved for the older, long-term members who did not want to be inconvenienced by a bunch of new people. Several times when we showed up for our tee time, we were challenged by members who felt they should have any tee time they wished. We found most of the staff unhelpful at best.

When we all dropped our summer membership, no one from the club even bothered to contact us to find out why we did not convert to full membership. Our conclusion was that the members want to keep the club to themselves and run it for their own convenience. However, they don't have enough revenue to support the club without new members so they're turning to the city to get reduced rent.

The city needs to hire a professional manager but should not have the manager report to the board of directors of the country club, as they will continue their old ways to the detriment of the city.

Luke A. Halley, Tarpon Springs

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Dunedin changes direction on country club 07/08/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 8, 2009 5:08pm]
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