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Norwich considers spending $410,000 for golf course equipment

Norwich — The City Council will consider a proposal later this month to bond $410,000 to replace aging mowers, vehicles and a tractor at the Norwich Golf Course, which would then reimburse the city for the cost through its operations.

The council will hold a public hearing on the proposed bond ordinance at 7:30 p.m. July 20, during a  virtual meetings in which the public can comment by phone. 

The plan, endorsed by the Golf Course Authority at its June 17 meeting, calls for bonding $410,000 to purchase five specialty mowers, a sand rake, sprayer, two heavy duty work vehicles and a tractor. In a memo to the council describing the proposed purchases, city Comptroller Josh Pothier said the Golf Course Authority has been maintaining the city-owned golf course with “some very old equipment,” some pieces 20 to 30 years old. This has resulted in inefficient work and repair costs escalating.

Pothier explained how the finances of the bond would not be paid by city taxpayers. The city would take out the bonds and the Golf Course Authority would pass a resolution to reimburse the city for the costs. The authority would order the equipment, paid for through a golf course account in the city’s capital budget.

The authority would use its operational revenue to reimburse the capital fund for the cost of the equipment and would reimburse the city’s general fund for any legal costs and fees associated with the bond.

“The City has issued bonds in its name to pay for some of the golf course improvements, but all of the debt service payments on those bonds have been made by the Golf Authority from its revenues,” Pothier wrote.

Recent purchases included $50,000 to replace a tractor with turf wheels in the 2019-20 fiscal year and a plan to purchase a $50,000 reel grinding machine to sharpen mower blades this year.

Before this year, the golf course’s revenues had declined in recent years, ending with a $37,000 deficit at the end of fiscal year 2018-19, Pothier wrote. But Pothier wrote the authority has “a long track record” of managing its finances well. He wrote the deficit should be eliminated by next June, especially now that a new $800,000 water retention pond has been completed to save an estimated $100,000 per year in water costs.

“The projects proposed in this bond ordinance should reduce the (authority’s) equipment maintenance costs and allow them to operate more efficiently,” Pothier wrote.

A financial report given at the June 17 Golf Course Authority meeting said revenues for May alone came in $40,067 over budgeted projections and up by $28,136 over May 2019 revenues.

The council usually does not discuss proposed bond ordinances prior to the public hearing. But on Monday night, the council suspended the rules to receive Pothier’s financial analysis memo on the proposed purchases. Aldermen Joseph DeLucia and Derell Wilson said they already have fielded phone calls and heard concerns from residents about the city using taxpayer money to buy equipment for the golf course.

Both aldermen said Pothier’s memo clarifies that the project would not require any taxpayer money and would be funded through golf course revenues.

c.bessette@theday.com

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