Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

I asked city staff to research a series of questions regarding expenditures for Glen Lakes over the years. Much of it was historical data which they could not provide. However, I am sharing the information I did receive.

I asked what the 1979 purchase price was for Glen Lakes. The amount the city paid in 1979 was $1,418,113. I would only remark that the 1979 price was remarkable considering that it was purchased over 40 years ago. It would be considered a remarkable amount of money today as well.

I asked if there were any expenditures required after the land was purchased prior to opening the course to the public. Staff could not find any information.

I assumed the course operations and maintenance would have been a line item in the city’s budget over the years but that was not the case. Costs of operation and maintenance for all city parks and facilities were lumped together so there is no method to determine what would have been expended on the course until 2019. In 2019 the city implemented a new financial software system that now enables the tracking of individual facility expenditures across all departments.

It is fair to assume the city did spend money on operations and maintenance of the course between its purchase date and 2019 when the city could actually begin tracking expenditures. We just don’t know how much was spent each year so I find it puzzling when supporters opposed to the sale of Glen Lakes claim the city deliberately underfunded the operations and maintenance of the course in recent years when they have no factual information to prove it. As can be seen below with regard to attendance figures available attributing the decline in attendance to lack of maintenance seems unrealistic when nationwide golf course attendance declined.

We do know the city paid Golf Maintenance Solutions $120,500 in 2018. We do know that city expended $394,537 in 2019; another $166,691 in 2020; and another $65,000 in 2020. I asked what the city has spent on course maintenance since its closure. That figure is $261,634.

Factually, it can be documented that between the purchase price and the expenditures identified since 2018, the city has spent approximately $3,164,841.00 plus whatever expenditures there were between 1979 and 2018. Over 40 years, it is fair to say the expenditures were considerable and could be considered in the millions of dollars but there is no means of verification.

I asked what the attendance at the course had been since 2005. I have heard Glen Lakes advocates say repeatedly that in 2005 the course was very popular. I asked staff if they had any data on attendance and they provided:

  • 2005 47,469
  • 2006 46,947
  • 2007 42,999
  • 2008 39,455
  • 2009 39,999
  • 2010 33,577
  • 2011 25,104
  • 2012 21,377
  • 2013 22,788
  • 2014 19,196
  • 2015 18,420
  • 2016 15,483
  • 2017 unknown
  • 2018 12,240

I discovered many 9 hole municipal golf courses throughout the country whose annual attendance is twice that of Glen Lakes at its peak in 2005.  By 2016 users of Glen Lakes had declined by 67% from the 2005 figure.

An article entitled Course Correction published in September of 2019 sums up the current issues associated with municipal golf courses, “But over the past 15 years, golfing participation has fallen by 20 percent, from 30 million in 2005 to 24 million today. Now, according to the National Golf Foundation, there are more municipal courses than ever—some 2,800 across the country—but they are serving far fewer golfers than they once did. As a result, course costs are cutting into city budgets. One-third of public golf courses don’t make enough to cover annual operations. That number goes up when taking into account other expenses, such as debt and employee retirement benefits.”(https://www.governing.com/topics/finance/gov-golf-courses.html).

There is another issue that has surfaced recently with regard to Glen Lakes and that is, the issue of the park space to be reserved for public use. Currently, other than the view provided to adjacent neighbors, to actually be on the golf course one would have to pay a fee to use it so consequently the only benefit to neighbors is the view.

It should be noted that there is quite a bit of established park space in this area. Close by are Butler Park and Manistee Ranch Park. A little further is one of Glendale’s premier parks, that of Sahuaro Ranch Park.

I attended the public meetings for neighborhood residents. At one of those meetings conceptual plans were offered for proposed park space and the amount of improved park land is to be + or – 10 acres. The attendees were the ones who chose the final conceptual plan and they made it quite clear that they did not want a park with active amenities such as basketball courts that would attract users from outside their neighborhoods. Now to hear complaints about the configuration of the park space is quite baffling.

The city council will be voting on this issue sometime in October. I have no idea how the vote will go. There are several issues to consider. Does the city need two 9 hole municipal golf courses? Is it cost effective to maintain a view for the adjacent neighbors? Should this course be preserved no matter the current and future costs to be borne by all of the city’s taxpayers? Would the funding to operate and maintain 10 acres of useable, neighborhood, public park space be a better investment for the city?

I understand the Glen Lakes advocates’ position. Their request is to restore the course. I represent all citizens of Glendale. Is it fair, just and equitable to ask every taxpayer in Glendale to subsidize millions of future dollars to completely renovate, operate and maintain this course? Even if the course were renovated, it is anticipated the revenues earned by players’ fees would not cover the annual costs of operation and maintenance. The reality is that this course will be a financial deficit to the city in perpetuity.

It is always jarring and upsetting to residents when they are confronted with the fact that a once vacant parcel of land nearby will be developed. Their first comment is on the loss of their unimpeded view enjoyed for many years.

As Planning Chairperson Gary Hirsch said at a recent meeting, if this were a parcel owned by a private entity wishing to develop, it would be recognized and acknowledged that the private entity has the right to so as it wished with its investment. He drew a line in the sand when it came to a public entity, namely local government, and its desire to develop or to repurpose land that it owns. I’m not sure I agree with his premise. Taxpayers constantly question whether its local government is making sound financial decisions and operating in the most cost effective manner possible. Doesn’t local government have the obligation to stop throwing good money after bad?

I understand the anguish of nearby neighbors and the loss of their view of 40 acres of green space but at what cost do the rest of the taxpayers preserve the neighbors’ view?

© Joyce Clark, 2020         


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