Archive for June, 2017

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IMO – Poteau & Wolf Ridge Country Club Deal

    Every city and town around the world has its share of management problems. Some more than others and some may be related. It’s no surprise whenever money is involved that it can upset the balance of those who view the city leaders as gatekeepers and shepherds. We mostly elect officials who we feel will help steer our communities and towns in the direction we would like to see that preserves our way of life and to keep our families safe. Whether it’s a growing process or re-birthing, there’s always a little pain that goes with it. Although not everyone will agree with the decisions made, it’s the clear understanding of “why that decision” was made that is important. At all costs, it must be revealed without prejudice and bias.

 

    Recently, the Poteau City Council convened for a special meeting for a public hearing on a proposed budget for the new fiscal year. While I do not know the actual number of town’s people who showed up to this meeting, my understanding is that most of them were there to voice their concerns over an agreement with Wolf Ridge Country Club and the city of Poteau, in which the city would give Wolf Ridge about $3,000 per month for kids to play golf since the city pool is now closed due to badly needed repairs. I couldn’t make it to the “special time” of the meeting, which is a bit flakey to me why they would make it at 5:15pm on a weekday. My guess is that they didn’t want to have much resistance to the decision and had previously planned to shove this thing through. So I, personally, took to social media like so many others who voiced their concerns against the Poteau-Wolf Ridge Country Club proposal.

 

    Let’s do a little history on this really quick. Word came down in early February 2016 that the city of Poteau planned on closing the pool down for some much needed repairs, citing it would cost an estimated $919,000 to bring it up to reliable working condition. At that time, several options were discussed, including building a new pool estimated at $1.2 million as well as to fill in the existing pool and replace it with a splash pad, which would cost around $425,000 and target only younger children. It’s obvious that the city of Poteau couldn’t afford to do anything else concerning the pool.

 

    Now to bring it back a little closer to the present, all of the sudden, we hear that Wolf Ridge Country Club is proposing a deal to allow kids a place to go this summer at the tax payer’s expense. That line alone should raise some red flags. What makes this sound a little tricky to me is the fact that first of all, Wolf Ridge Country Club is out of city limits. The actual physical address is 24175 Clubhouse Ln, Wister, OK 74966. Secondly, the meeting time of the June 13th starting at 5:15pm when most people are either still at work or on their way home. The city manager’s / council members are surely not giving ample time for the tax payers / residents and business owners of this town to come in to voice their opinions. Oh, and even though so many people turned to social media to express their concerns over this ordeal, the city officials chose to ignore the people for whom which will pay for a select few to play golf in the summer time, not for free either, but at a big discount.

 

    According to a recent poll by the Poteau Daily News, 95% were against the agreement. Granted there were only 60 people who took the survey (57 against, 3 for), statistically, that number is a strong indication that most folk knew this was a bad idea from the start. As one citizen said at a meeting, “Wolf Mountain Golf Course is not in city limits, how can the city be subsidizing a privately-owned business that is not even in city limits?” If you ask me, that is the question of the whole issue. And if that’s not the question, then why wasn’t the other golf course inside our city limits not invited to participate or be involved? Representatives from the Choctaw Country Club said they were not approached by the city to see what kind of deal that could offer. However, City Councilman Clay Bennett said “They (Wolf Ridge) were pro-active enough to come to us”.

 

    What’s more disappointing is that the city pretty much blew off Poteau High School boys golf coach Mike Thomas opinion when he voiced his disagreement with the contract at the hearing. He stated that the Choctaw Country Club, a nine-hole course also located near Poteau, offers camps and discounted prices to play or join at the club. Other opponents said Wolf Ridge should offer discounted passes without the city’s involvement, or the city should have hosted a bidding process between the two courses. Unfortunately, by this time, the council had already voted to go ahead with the agreement, although the vote split five yes, three no. To say honestly, I was a bit surprised when I read the “No” votes included councilman Monte Shockley II. However, it’s also good to know that Councilmen Tommy Robertson and Jim Sommers listened to the people and voted down the idea.

 

    For the city’s expense of approximately $36,000, (anywhere from $2500.00 to $3000.00 monthly), the town’s children between the ages of 5 to 18 are allowed access to the Wolf Ridge Country Club 18-hole golf course  after having to purchase passes to play at $2 per day or $25 a year at City Hall or at Wolf Ridge. According to the agreement, those under 14 will have to have a parent or guardian with them. I guess the silver lining is that Wolf Ridge provides the equipment as the contract was entered into June 15. The premise of the contract reads, “Recognizing that the city’s swimming pool is no longer open, the city is seeking to provide alternative outdoor activities for the children of the city and surrounding area.”

    So my next question is, “who will take them out there?” Honestly, I’m not so confident that many parents will take their kids toward Wister and back to Poteau (or beyond) to the golf course to babysit their kids before heading off to work for 8-12 hours. Don’t get me wrong, stay-at-home Mom’s and Dad’s are great, but not everyone can afford to do that lifestyle. Some, not by choice either. This town (much like the whole Arklahoma area) is going through some hard times. So how is the town going to get the money if the people can’t afford it? Yes, Taxes. Yes, there are fines that can be issued to get more money. Now the city officials say there is a 30-day trial period – to see how many kids will utilize the course and see how many kids are interested in golf. The agreement contract will be finalized at the next city council meeting on July 3, 2017. They claim the board meeting will take place at city hall at 7pm.

 

    However, if it’s a “Golf” thing, can’t the public school system offer a summer program since PPS already offers golf anyway? BTW, where do they train at? The $36,000.00 that will be spent for the summer break (2-3 months) could have been used for teaching kids how to play golf by utilizing what’s already in place. But if you take what Steve Scowden with Wolf Ridge Country Club told the council during their meeting earlier this month, he called the golf course an “underutilized asset” for the city. Well, that’s what I call Bravo-Sierra. Make no mistake about it, the Wolf Ridge Country Club IS A PRIVATE BUSINESS and that statement tells me it’s a business currently experiencing financial issues and someone in the city offered a bail out. It may not be much of a bail out, but it is $36,000.00 that doesn’t need to be given to a private business.

 

    If you want to give it to an organization that helps children this summer, here are a few suggestions to offer freely to the community:

  • Start up a community First Aid / CPR training class
  • Pay certified instructors to teach self-defense
  • Set up a park that has confidence courses
  • Let kids shadow / ride along with cops or fire department during the summer that don’t go out on calls
  • Let the teachers have it a either pay raise or bonus if they earned it.
  • Better yet, just give it to the schools! Three schools would be $12,000 each.

 

    Hell, give it to me. For $36,000.0 a year, I’ll become the spokesperson for Poteau. I’d sell you advertising on the TBJS Radio Network. If the Wolf Ridge Country Club considered as an “underutilized asset to the city”, then TBJS Radio Network is a major underutilized asset that this city could have used for a long while. But you know, I’ve made enemies with the management of this town because I’ve pointed out the obvious time and time again. I ticks them off when I’m right, which I usually am when it comes to the bad practices I’ve seen these officials do.

 

      This sounds similar to the Eastern Oklahoma Medical Center debacle of 2014, but on a smaller scale. I would be laughing at that thought if there wasn’t certain people who were also involved with that issue that are involved with this situation. Of course many of us know what happened to the CEO of that hospital, being fired earlier this year and other members being investigated. The one thing that sticks out to me the most is that it feels like they’re playing the “good ol’ boy” system here. It’s bad for business and a bad business practice all together.