Friday, July 15, 2011

Cherry Hill: A sucking sinkhole


Despite Finance Committee assurances to Town Meeting that our lackadaisical golf course would produce "a small surplus for FY 11," (ended June 30) Cherry Hill scored yet another losing season costing Amherst taxpayers $40,000, money that could have funded a police officer, firefighter or teacher--a far better use for tax dollars than subsidizing the Rich Man's Game of golf.

According to draft figures provided by Comptroller Sonia Aldrich, Cherry Hill generated $223,538 in revenues on "operation expenses" of $220,140 which are the only two figures town officials ever wish to compare.

Since Cherry Hill requires employees, the hidden human costs--employee benefits--which are paid out of a separate budget totaled an additional $25,230; and business liability insurance $3,300 plus a big ticket capital item: $15,000 to dig a new well to feed the expensive irrigation system. Total overhead of $263,670 on revenues of only $223,538 equals $40,132 in red ink.

In 1987 Amherst absorbed the nine-hole golf course after a developer proposed 134 high-end houses around the golf business, which he planned to donate to the town or UMass Stockbridge School of Agriculture for free. Instead, the town--at the urging of North Amherst NIMBYs-- used the power of eminent domain as an "emergency measure" (thereby making the heavy handed action immune to voter Referendum) costing taxpayers a whopping $2.2 million, the most expensive acquisition in town history.

The golf course operated as an "Enterprise Fund" (tracking all revenues/expenditures) because the business was supposed to cover all expenses--including employee benefits--plus show a profit. After operational losses of over $1 million Town Meeting dissolved the Enterprise Fund status five years ago, allowing town officials to hide costs and issue disingenuous press releases touting "net operating profits."

Nero supposedly fiddled while Rome burned. In the People's Republic of Amherst, town officials fiddle with golf--at taxpayers expense.

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31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why not fill it with solar panels and produce some revenue that way?

LarryK4 said...

The hillside was bathed in sunlight yesterday when I took the picture...

(Although I'm sure town officials will trot out the old weather excuse for why they did so lousy this past year.)

Anonymous said...

The rich man's game? It is when the only choice is one of the town's private clubs. None of the people I play with or know that play at Cherry Hill are rich. But we are taxpayers. As someone with no kids it's nice to have a recreational service for us, as I'm many decades to old for soccer. However, we are not too old to pay taxes. This is not S. Hadley. They are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Thanks to good management, Cherry Hill is low cost in the recreation budget of the town. Kendrick Park, Grof Park all cost money and take maintenance. They also preserve open space, just like Cherry Hill, and bring enjoyment to town citizens and others. Hooray for Cherry Hill. A bargain at twice the price.

LarryK4 said...

Spoken like someone with something to gain by keeping the status quo.

It would be cheaper for the town to provide vouchers for folks who actually live in Amherst (unlike the average CH season pass holder) to help defray the cost of joining Amherst Golf Course or Hickory Ridge--both businesses that, unlike Cherry Hill, actually pay property taxes to the town.

Open space does not necessarily have to be a golf course or soccer field (both of which rely on chemicals.)

Anonymous said...

anon 3:31pm...Amherst does not have a private club...the public can golf at Amherst CC or Hickory Ridge...BTW both are hurting for membership...the golfing ship has sailed....

Anonymous said...

In the banana republic that is America, the middle class can't afford to play golf.

Anonymous said...

And the cost of Hickory Ridge and Amherst Golf Course is the same as Cherry Hill? Not even close. Then it is a rich man's game.

Look, the town has tennis courts, soccer fields, baseball and softball diamonds, football fields, hiking trails, picnic areas, parks with fountains, and on and on. All of which are part of providing a wonderful place to live, and none of which are atypical for a town to have. There are 16,000 public/municipal courses in the US. Cherry hill is no big deal.

This is a town that spends preservation money to buy a brick house that's in front of a mansion.

Anyone who has ever stood at the top of the 7th whole at Cherry Hill and marveled at the wonderful view knows it is worth every penny.

LarryK4 said...

The same view you got back when Cherry Hill was a cow pasture (which is a lot cheaper than a golf course to upkeep).

Anonymous said...

You want to see money wasted in excess on recreation, study how much time the DPW puts in grooming the Stan Ziomek field at the high school. Sometimes I think I live next to Fenway Park when I see those town employees spend an entire day grooming the infield.

And how many days during the season are they doing that?

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:31

Cherry Hill is no Ledges

Also, the hundreds of thousands you speak of are for the purchase of the land. They do five times the revenue and operate only double in the red compared to Cherry Hill.

Anything in the red is unacceptable.

Anonymous said...

What a silly comment. It wasn't a cow pasture when it was up for sale, it was a golf course.

Anonymous said...

Baseball- yet another of the sacred cows. How much do they spend on grooming- not to mention the scoreboard? Right that was a "private"' donation. Yet across the field, the softball team had to raise money to get the infield skinned and have protective fences put up around the dugouts after years of pleading with the town to do it. But there wasn't any money for that. I guess if Stan had daughters ......

Anonymous said...

Maybe someone with daughters should take the same intrest in softball as Stan did in Baseball....

Anonymous said...

Cherry Hill is one of the towns assets. For that reason it is priceless.

LarryK4 said...

Everything has a price.

And with a golf business operated at taxpayer expense, the price is too high.

Anonymous said...

"Cherry Hill is one of the towns assets. For that reason it is priceless."


LOL.

Anonymous said...

"Since Cherry Hill requires employees"

...in this time of recession, God bless it.

LarryK4 said...

I'm here from the government and I'm here to help. Ayep.

Why not hire 10 employees to dig holes and another 10 to fill them in?

Anonymous said...

Larry,
You lost the first time around and you lost again. People want this, you don't.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone imagine what these posts would be like if Larry lived in South Hadley?

Nevermind the two fire and water districts.

Anonymous said...

"Why not hire 10 employees to dig holes and another 10 to fill them in?"

Um, because that wouldn't be a golf course?

Anonymous said...

Saw this thread and had to laugh. Had a beautiful day playing Cherry Hill. Missed the showers completely. Glad to have some portion of my property tax doing some good.

LarryK4 said...

It will be interesting to see just what percentage of season pass holders really are Amherst taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

You mean we might be attracting customers from out of town? All the better.

Anonymous said...

And it would be interesting to see how many people over age 30 use the soccer fields. My bet is not a very large percentage.

Anonymous said...

Just spotted your photo. A beutiful sight! Fore!

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, you golfers are so sagacious.

Anonymous said...

Wise enough to be out golfing on a sunny day.

LarryK4 said...

Even better: maybe the town should build a first run movie theater so you can sit in air conditioned comfort while watching subsidized entertainment.

Anonymous said...

Larry, thank you for taking our picture on the 6th green at beautiful Cherry Hill. Due to health issues we are unable to use soccer fields, baseball fields,or even go walking through cow pastures. We are, however, able to enjoy outdoor recreation and stunning vistas with the use of golf carts. We are exercizing and improving our quality of life by golfing. We are not "rich" but feel enriched by the golfing experience at Cherry Hill.

LarryK4 said...

No problem.

Leave me your address and I'll send ya a bill--as should the vast majority of Amherst taxpayers who do not play golf.