Editors note: This takes place at the Council Meeting before they were aware of the potential tax increases. Read more about it by clicking here.
Art Emmerson from the Hirsch Creek Golf and Winter Club and Derek DeGoeij got up to present to Council at their Committee of the Whole Meeting on Monday, April 21st. Earlier this year, Council gave Pre-budget Approval for a $50,000 grant to the Golf Course. Emmerson thanked them for this grant.
“Last fall, we came before you asking for $100,000 operating grant, at that time, we were in very serious financial position, we were faced with the possibility of closing down the Hirsch Creek Golf and Winter Club. In the Interim, we worked with our financial institute to work out a $50,000 loan to help us through our immediate financial situation with much thanks to Council in early January, we received $50,000 of the requested $100,000 of the operating grant,” said Emmerson.
He explained that since February of 2012, they have faced a large turnover in their upper-management which is straining the consistency in the operation. The lost their food and beverage manager when she retired, their next one resigned, the following one left and the current one has been off work for five weeks.
Their golf professional moved, their general manager’s wife was transferred back to Quebec and their accountant’s husband retired and left for Quebec. They did hire a bookkeeper in 2012 who then took a higher paying job. Their new bookkeeper is training. They have lost a lot of lounge and kitchen staff to higher paying jobs and are having a hard time finding lounge and kitchen staff.
“We recognize the value of our facilities have in our community and it well advertised in many promotional documents used to advertise our community. In October 2012, we ran into huge cash flow issues which have put a strain on our operation as a whole. Combined with declining population, dwindling membership, aging equipment and increasing maintenance and labour cost, we are rapidly approaching a position of not having a viable operation. The loss of the Hirsch Creek Golf and Winter Club would have a very negative impact on our community,” said Emmerson.
He said most of the retirees were remaining in Kitimat due to the affordable golf and curling. He expressed the loss of the club would result in a large financial cost to the community.
They are a recreation facility which is open to the people of Kitimat should they choose to participate in the activities. They operate 18 holes of golf, a curling rink, lounge with food and beverage facilities. They have a volunteer board of directors and employ between 20-22 employees in the winter and 40-45 employees in the summer. The staff helps to maintain the facilities. They have a well-used toboggan hill in the winter and miles of snowshoeing trails, cross country skiing and hiking in the winter and paths to walk in the summer.
They are proud of their programs for youth because many kids are participating and are competing well outside of the community. They keep their rates low so they can enjoy the program at limited costs to their families.
He moved into the challenges.
“Our sporting offerings are competing for families limited sports dollars with activities and facilities which are heavily subsidized. The loss of two major industries and the declining population and resulting decrease in golfing and curling members has made it even tougher to run a viable operation on our own. Until the fortunes of Kitimat and our population increases, we must rely on the District of Kitimat for some form of monetary support in the future,” said Emmerson.
He promised that if the District was to support them, he would keep the director of Leisure Services informed on their financial situation on a regular basis. He provided Council with a spreadsheet of their expenses.
Councillor Mario Feldhoff stated they have put a lot of thought into this and documented what they want to do in the years to come. He asked if they would be open to selling some of the land to the District as a means of addressing the financial challenges.
He was told no, they had not considered selling the land. They have considered logging revenues in the area around the golf course but it does not look like a viable operation. He added they would need a buffer zone between the course and the community to keep golf balls from wreaking havoc on people’s property.
DeGoeij wished to say a few words. “A number of the things which have been mentioned that we’ve heard around town previous to and since our last get together with you folks, there seems to be a thought that the Hirsch Creek Golf and Winter Club is a private operation, that it’s only viable and used by a select few people in the community. That is not the case. I can’t speak for what the thought was many moons ago, but as far as the board is concerned at this point and time, this is a community recreation facility, it’s meant for all the members of our community as well as the outlying communities and any visitors that come in here. It’s not for a very select few,” said DeGoeij.
He said people do not have to be wealthy to use the facility. There are plenty of kids who use the driving range as a sledding hill in the winter. He believes the club should have been a partnership with the District. He pointed out the Board should be there to set policy rather than running the facility.
He added: if the community grows, the club could generate money back to the District. Councillor Phil Germuth wished them all the best.
Councillor Corinne Scott pointed out they have a General Manager, a Proshop Manager and a Food Services Manager. She was told the General Manager left, and accepted a lower pay check as he was the second breadwinner in his household.
Councillor Mario Feldhoff wanted to know if the $50,000 Council gave them worked. Emmerson replied it put them on solid footing.
“Going in debt more wasn’t something we wanted to do. Our membership voted at the AGM to allow us to go back to our financial institute and marry that up with our existing commercial loan which now puts us further back in debt which is the direction we did not want to go, but at that time, it was critical that we have something and again, we negotiated again with them for $75,000, we came up with $50,000 because, at the same time, we lacked a business plan and what we are going to do at this point is not pursue an addition $25,000 from them. What we want to try to do is see what we can do with our savings and the steps we are taking to try and control our costs better and how they fair out before we go back to the financial institute,” said Emmerson.
He said they are operating on the fringe of their operating line of credit so they still need $50,000.
Councillor Mary Murphy clarified they were looking for a $100,000 a year partnership. There were no further comments so Acting Mayor Rob Goffinet thanked them for the documents and the presentation.
Just a suggestion......