ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) — Elizabethton handed management of its municipal golf course over to a private company about five years ago. Hampton Golf doesn’t want to renew that annual contract, and Thursday the City Council will consider a recommendation to make Elizabethton Municipal Golf Course a city department.
“The City of Elizabethton and Hampton Golf agreed to work together to make this transition as seamless as possible,” Mayor Curt Alexander told News Channel 11 in a text message this week.
The course has had a difficult year, with organizers of an annual tournament pulling out this year and citing the course’s condition, and the course pro resigning during a May City Council meeting and mentioning “attacking comments” about the course.
Council members will review some basics, including staffing levels, job descriptions and labor costs, at their Thursday meeting. An organizational chart shows golf would join about a dozen other departments reporting directly to City Manager Daniel Estes, as opposed to falling under Parks and Recreation.
Alexander said no date has been set for the transition of operations, and the city hasn’t developed a pro forma estimate of annual expenses and revenues to project whether the golf course would make money, break even or be a cost to taxpayers.
Annual labor costs for a golf pro, a course superintendent and assistant superintendent, a mechanic, three greens technicians and a pro shop attendant are estimated at more than $300,000.
Even with Hampton running the course, Elizabethton audits show the city spent more than $200,000 on golf in the fiscal years that ended in June 2019 and June 2020. Those costs dropped below $100,000 each of the next two years.
In its last full year under a city-operated model, in fiscal 2017, the course’s $693,095 in revenue included a $186,065 contribution from the city. Without it, the course would have had an operating loss of almost $140,000.
The same night course pro Stephen Wilson resigned in May, several members of the public commented on the course’s condition, citing issues with weeds, dead spots in the grass, and downed trees.
Those who spoke asked the city to take back management of the course. Alexander said the Council has been working through a process to shift the course back to city management over the summer.