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Rochester council ready for next round of golf discussion

A proposal for increased fees and dedicated tax revenue to maintain four city-owned golf courses is on the City Council study session agenda for Monday.

Rochester City Golf Courses
Golfers putt on hole 3 on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, at Northern Hills Golf Course in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Rochester’s municipal golf courses are closed for the winter, but discussion of their future remains in play.

The Rochester City Council is slated to review a proposal Monday afternoon designed to earmark $500,000 a year for golf operations and course improvements, while maintaining four city-owned courses.

The plan was supported with a 4-1 Rochester Park Board vote earlier this month.

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The recommendation calls for generating $250,000 in new annual revenue by 2025 through increased fees and establishing a goal of dedicating $250,000 a year in property tax funds for the city’s golf program, starting in 2024.

The funds would provide $100,000 a year for operations and $400,000 for facility maintenance and upgrades.

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In recent years, annual tax investment in golf has ranged from zero to $666,000, based on specific improvement projects, earned revenue and expenses through the year.

At the same time, several local golfers said during recent public input sessions that they consider the prices of current season passes to be a bargain and voiced support for increasing golf fees.

The proposal calls for a 20% increase in the price of seasonal passes next year, followed by 14% and 12% increases the following years before hitting an annual 3% increase to cover anticipated inflation.

The cost of daily rounds for people without season passes would increase by 10% next year, followed by a 6% increase in 2024 and annual 3% increase based on inflation starting in 2025.

Rochester Parks and Recreation Director Paul Widman said the proposed increases are based on golf activity recorded during the past five years, which included a pre-pandemic decline in rounds played and a post-pandemic increase.

Citing uncertainty about future activity, he has said the proposed rate adjustments are not set in stone and could be tweaked to address any usage changes and still meet the $250,000 annual goal for increased course revenue.

The plan follows a February council request for a review of golf operations and a proposal for optimizing the city program.

Options presented through the review included the potential for closing a course or modifying at least one of the courses. Another option would be maintaining current spending practices, which is projected to lead to degradation of the city courses.

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Deputy City Administrator Aaron Parrish said during a Sept. 20 Park Board meeting that it’s estimated the city would need to pay $43 million to build new courses with clubhouses to match the four it currently operates.

He said regular upgrades and investment in resources would be needed to maintain the value of the courses and facilities.

“Even if we were thinking we needed to invest at a 50-year level and that’s a way out there level – it’s not the normal amortization period you’d see in something like this – that would say you should be investing $862,000 per year,” he said of a strategy that would replace lost value over a 50-year period.

He said the average annual investment in improvements during recent years has not kept pace with needs at the golf courses.

The council is expected to hear the report and respond to the proposal during its study session at 3:30 p.m. Monday in council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE.

The council will not be able to make a final decision on the golf proposal during the study session, but a decision could be sought during a regular council meeting in December or January.



Upcoming meetings

Meetings scheduled to be held during the week of Nov. 28 include:

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Rochester

• City Council study session, 3:30 p.m. Monday in council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE. The meeting will livestream at www.rochestermn.gov/meetings/council-meetings and be available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80.

• Public Utility Board, 4 p.m. Tuesday in the Rochester Public Utilities community room, 4000 East River Road NE.

• Police Civil Service Commission, 1 p.m. Tuesday in room 164B of the Development Services and Infrastructure Center, 4001 West River Parkway.

• Ethical Practices Board, 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in room 104 of City Hall, 201 Fourth St. SE.

• Planning and Zoning Commission, 6 p.m. Wednesday in council chambers of the Government Center.

Olmsted County

• Health, Housing and Human Services Committee, 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in conference room 2 for the city-county Government Center.

• Administrative Committee, 2 p.m. Thursday in board chambers of the government center.

• Physical Development Committee, 2 p.m. Thursday in conference room 4 of the government center.

• Board of County Commissioners, 3 p.m. Thursday in the board chambers of the government center.

• Truth-in-taxation meeting, 6 p.m. Thursday in the board chambers of the government center.

• Planning Advisory Commission, 6:30 p.m. Thursday in conference room A at 2122 Campus Drive SE.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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