South Hadley approves drafting of contract with IGM for Ledges Golf Course

  • Pete Lally of Hatfield, plays golf at Ledges Golf Club in South Hadley. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/17/2018 10:52:35 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — In another split vote, the Select Board has given the green light for a contract with International Golf Management to take over full management of the town-owned Ledges Golf Course.

At a special meeting on Friday, July 13, the board voted 3-2 in favor of drafting a five-year contract with IGM, the Florida company that has maintained the course under town management since 2005. A final vote is scheduled for Aug. 14 to finalize the contract, according to Town Administrator Mike Sullivan.

Board members Ira Brezinsky, Jefferey Cyr and Bruce Forcier voted in favor, while Andrea Miles and Sarah Etelman voted against. The board voted along the same lines last month to enter into contract negotiations with IGM.

The special meeting was called in part to upcoming vacations for board members, Sullivan said, but also because the board was waiting for a written response from IGM on contract adjustments. Those changes include IGM reducing its maintenance fees by $30,000 and a provision that either party may leave the contract at any point with no penalties with a 90-day written notice.

The town’s legal counsel, attorney Brian O’Toole, will draft the contract and the board is expected to consider it at their August meeting, Sullivan said.

Brezinsky, chairman of the board, described IGM as “top of the line” and said that he expects the company to bring the same level of quality in regard to managing the course should their contract be approved.

He said his concern, along with the board’s, of the town bearing the burden of IGM not meeting its financial projections were addressed by the golf firm’s willingness to include the option for both parties to leave the contract with no ramifications.

“It basically gives a safety net for the town in every respect,” Brezinsky said. “If things don’t go to what is envisioned it gives us the opportunity to move if we need to … We do not expect that to be the case with all the history of IGM from the maintenance perspective.”

The board received a letter from IGM’s Vice President of Operations Steve Gano stating that they could reduce the course’s maintenance fee by increasing “no-mow” areas of grass, reducing rolling of greens to special events, reducing bunker maintenance, and reducing filling of fairway divots.

Andrea Miles, board vice-chairwoman, sees the risks as too great for the town and said she does not have any optimism for a positive outcome for the course.

“The contract as a whole leaves the town mostly in the position of being in the golf course industry,” Miles said.

With “no floor for losses or ceiling for capital expenses,” she said the town would be financially responsible for any potential renovation projects.

As part of the special meeting, Etelman made a motion not to seek further requests for proposal in regards to Ledge’s operational contract which the board unanimously approved.

Town officials began contract negotiations with IGM in mid-June for the 244-acre golf course that has seen operational losses that have amounted to over $8.5 million in 15 years. Sullivan said this could be the second year where revenues exceed expenses by about $30,000, the first time being in 2010 by $17,000.

The Ledges was funded entirely by a general obligation bond approved by a special Town Meeting in October 1997. It cost around $5.6 million to build. The town pays $347,000 a year on the bond. It has another 10 years left to pay it off.

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com




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