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REPORTING · 28th February 2015
Walter McFarlane
Robin Lapointe and Steve Haggard from the Hirsch Creek Golf and Winter Club got up to speak to Council on Monday, February 23rd. Lapointe was pleased to tell Council the Jr. Girls had won the BC Provincials in the past weekend in Preston.

“11 Months ago, we started this journey with the golf course and, at the time, we only knew two things. 1: That our books were in our ears and our debt, we didn’t know and the second thing was going to take us several years to solve this problem,” said Lapointe.

He explained he and Haggard came before Council in December to report on their AGM and explain where their current financial situation was. They did not know where the club liabilities were goal was to come up with some short term goals and an annual budget.

They had a full board turn out for a whole day planning workshop which covered the club from top to bottom.

“What came out of it were five… what we like to call… elephants in the room. In that they were major expenditures and if they were to raise their head, it would be the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Lapointe.

He told Council these were put aside and they will try and deal with them at a later date. The golf course will instead invest their limited finances in ways they could get a return. One way will be to pick up the materials to do the work and have the membership do the improvements.

This has included renovating the Northern Gateway Meeting Room, putting in a Dance Floor and painted the structural steel outside. They also fixed up the Kitchen.

The other way is making improvements which will help get them revenue. One way will be improving cart paths. When there is a rainstorm, the course is open only to people who can walk because the cart paths do not go through every course. If they have cart paths, there will be more people using the course in the rain.

“What we found with the previous operating budgets is they don’t really reflect the true operating costs of the club,” said Lapointe.

He admitted they were working to an unsustainable budget in the past and this is not sustainable. They have worked hard to come up with a reasonable budget. The membership and service fees will be going up. The budget has gone through a number of interations. He thanked everyone who has worked on the budget before turning it over to Haggard.

Haggard explained the budget was there to set a baseline for the operations, programs and services which they wish to offer. They will use it to extend the cart paths and have used it renovate the Northern Gateway Room so they can hold meetings or private dinner parties. They have also identified things which will cut back on costs and train the staff who will use the kitchen.

According to a letter to Council, it is anticipated there will be a shortfall of $160,000 this year.

Councillor Mary Murphy thanked them, as they have put a lot of time and energy battling the budget. She asked if they have approached industries for funding or sponsorship. She asked if they have asked the Bechtel Camp for sponsorship towards paving or kitchen equipment.

The response to her was they have a steering committee which involves a number of industries, organizations including the District of Kitimat. Lapointe added they have talked to Rio Tinto concerning providing an asset to the golf course in exchange for some positive branding.

Lapointe told Council they will not be paving or repaving their cart paths all at once, but as the years progress.

Councillor Larry Walker told the presenters they need a marketing strategy to get people in. He suggested talking to Hawkair or offering free rounds of golf to charities or auctions. He asked them if they considered closing down from January to April as they are projecting losing $150,000 in these months.

Lapointe told him they do ask Hawkair to sponsor some of their events. Haggard said they were donating rounds of golf to charities. Lapointe expressed the money would be used to get the kitchens up and running, train staff including a chef.

“We still think we have a winner with providing dinner, Monday through Friday, 5-8, and then appies [for the curlers],” said Lapointe.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff said they were happy to see the club turn around and where they were headed. He asked what the capital cost was on the five items listed. Lapointe explained the five items were the Curling Rink Roof, the Ice Machine, the maintenance building, Hole 11 and the floor of the curling rink.

Lapointe expressed they do not know how much it is going to cost. For now, they are simply going to admit the problems are there and have committees look for solutions. He gave Council an idea about how they are going to approach each of these problems and what some of the challenges were.

Feldhoff asked for an estimate. He was told the maintenance was estimated a million dollars. Lapointe stated the course was trying to bring down its debt so they could go back to the bank to borrow for these. However, they are showing the bank they can make the payments.

Councillor Rob Goffinet agreed with the ideas, stating their main asset was their restaurant and lounge. Lapointe disagreed… their real asset was their membership.

Councillor Mary Murphy expressed they hoped they learned to not have winter closures because they would lose clientele.

There were no further questions so the presenters returned to their seats.