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Council gives Ledgeview $115,000 funding

Ledgeview Golf Club will receive $115,000 in one-time funding from the City of Abbotsford – less than half of the $250,000 the club requested from the City of Abbotsford.

"We need to learn how to say no," said Coun. Henry Braun, the most outspoken opponent of the bailout during Monday night's considerable debate.

"I think they will solve this, but only if the pressure is on them."

Braun, himself a former Ledgeview club member, said most of the losses were in food and alcohol, and added: "I don't know how you lose money in alcohol, but that seems to be what has happened."

Braun suggested the club charge its members – noting many are affluent – an additional one-time fee of $635 each to cover the shortfall. He pointed out there are two other private golf courses in town that pay their taxes, and appear to be successful businesses. He said council should put available revenue into core services.

The funding includes $65,000 in rent forgiveness and $50,000 toward capital improvements.

The club's board of directors, which operates the city-owned 18-hole course on Sumas Mountain, requested $250,000 in late 2011. It was the first time the club had made such a request, running the course as a not-for-profit society since 1980. The club said two years of poor weather reduced their green play (from non-members), and concurrently impacted food, beverage and pro shop income.

Coun. Patricia Ross disagreed with Braun, saying, "I'm not willing to write Ledgeview off so quickly."

"This is a core service," she added, pointing out that local government is mandated to provide sports and recreation.

Coun. Dave Loewen said the club's members already volunteer their time for maintenance of the course.

Coun. Simon Gibson opposed the motion, saying he would support the $50,000 in capital funding, but would rather see the club given "a period of time" to repay the $65,000 in rent, rather than forgiving it.

City manager Frank Pizzuto presented the $115,000 recommendation to council, and said if the city were operating the course, it could not do a better job, or do it cheaper than the club.

He noted that members each put $500 per year into capital maintenance.

"That funding goes into an asset that is owned by the City of Abbotsford," he said.

And he noted that the club is well used by non-members. Of 32,000 rounds of golf last year, more than half were green fee players.

He listed six changes made in the business operations at the course to lower costs or increase revenue, and noted the course is on budget for the first four months of 2012.

After the meeting, president Pat Differ was happy the club received funding.

He estimated members have contributed $2 million in capital fees over the term of its lease, and have also paid more than $1 million in rent.

The club's current lease expires in December 2015, and Differ said given the current state of affairs, the city may find itself running the course.

"We're seriously considering handing them the keys."

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