Commissioners Present: Anne O’Connell (Chair), Andrea Johnson (Vice-Chair), Rob David, John Kissida, Wyn Morton, Jeff Odell and David Valcourt.
Others Present: Peter Lombardi, Town Administrator, Jay Packett, Director of Operations, Colin Walsh, Golf Course Superintendent, Donna Kalinick (Assistant Town Administrator), Bill Meehan (Finance Committee Liaison) and Dave Whitney (Select Board Liaison).
THIS MEETING WAS HELD REMOTELY WITH AUDIO AND VIDEO RECORDED. The meeting may be viewed at: https://reflect-brewster-ma.cablecast.tv/CablecastPublicSite/show/5848?channel=1
Anne O’Connell called the meeting to order at 4:00 pm after reading remote meeting guidelines and procedures.
Declaration of Quorum: All golf commissioners were present and accounted for.
Anne O’Connell jumped to an item from the bottom of the agenda that was not anticipated by the Chair and introduced Jay Packett to speak on the topic. Jay Packett Announced the hiring of Jon Mohan as the new Senior Department Assistant for Golf. He spoke to the impact Dottie Vesperman has had as the part-time department assistant. With Dottie retiring it is an end of an era at Captains as she was an integral part of the Golf Department during her nearly 30-year career. A huge thank you to Dottie Vesperman and you will be missed at Captains. The sentiments were echoed by all.
Discussion of the 1/31/2022 Select Board Meeting:
What might have improved the process?
Roles and responsibilities of the Golf Commission including but not limited to the role in future areas of critical concern for the Captains:
Anne O’Connell did a brief recap of the selectboard meeting – the Golf Commission had three recommendations in front of the select board as follows: Rate recommendations – The Select Board had concerns about the disparity between percentage increases in rates for nonresidents versus residents. An amendment that would raise non-resident rates to $2080, freeze junior rates and allow new non-resident junior members was offered by Dave Whitney and was passed unanimously. The second recommendation was the change to league requirements, there was no discussion on the topic, and it passed unanimously. The 3rd recommendation was the Tee Time Allocation recommendation – there was no discussion on the Golf Commission recommendation – Peter Lombardi instead presented a recommendation that included a Capital Stabilization account and included cart revenue in the allocation formula. The revised result was a 37.4% allocation which was approved unanimously.
Jeff Odell had prepared a statement for the meeting and stated it was his sole opinion and not that of any other commissioner. Jeff Odell stated he felt the Golf Commissions trust with the public was undermined by the select board during the 1/31/2022 meeting and that information was misconstrued to portray the Golf Commission had acted unfairly in the interests of the Residents of Brewster and AFP players when recommending the rates for the 2022 season. He noted that Captains has now priced themselves 60% higher than the competition and stated the Golf Commission does extensive research when considering rates and does not consider any political pressures in these considerations. Jeff Odell spoke on how overriding the current tee time allocation formula and adding cart revenue the Select Board is allowing 10% of the revenue stream to dictate policy at the course. Jeff Odell and the Golf Commission had made alternative suggestions to increase golf course access fairness, all which had been denied. He strongly believes the record must be set straight to preserve the public trust with the Golf Commission and hopes for the Select Board to apologize to the public for the misimpressions put out in January’s meeting. He would like the true increase information that was recommended by the Golf Commission presented and that the Select Board should revisit the addition fee increase and the tee time allocations enacted in the January meeting.
John Kissida noted similar disappointments as Jeff Odell. He noted his disappointment by how the decisions made by the Select Board and Town Hall occurred without any prior discussion with the Golf Commission. He had wished they had all worked more as a team. The decision for an increase of the tee time allocation needed further discussion with the commission and not rush to an end. John Kissida was troubled by the talk of a future with no decision-making power for the Golf Commission. The involvement of politics in decision making when it needs to be run like a business was also noted by John Kissida.
Dave Valcourt publicly stated he fully concurs with Jeff Odell’s specifics and the details they have been discussing tonight. He also agreed with John Kissida and thanked the Commission members for their unique talents and agreed that they all care greatly about Captains. Dave Valcourt stated they had a major disconnect in December and would have expected better communication before the January meeting. Also, he felt the CCMGA input that was periodically submitted has carried more weight than that of the Golf Commission. Dave Valcourt asked to hear from the Town Administrator about his expectations of the Golf Commission to the Select Board as they move forward so that the Golf Commission can support the town and provide the best recommendations to Captains moving ahead.
Andrea Johnson – Echoed what had been said by Dave Valcourt, John Kissida and Jeff Odell. Thanked them for their sentiments.
Jeff Odell – Questioned the chart the Select Board had in their packet and questioned why the Select Board chose one number based on percentages and not dollar amount? Jeff Odell asked why the town proceeded to tell Brewster residents that they should be upset with the commission? Reiterated sentiments from his initial statement and asked for an answer.
Jay Packett spoke and acknowledged how hard working the commission has been and noted the disconnect between the golf commission, himself and Town Hall. Jay Packett noted he will work in the future to mitigate these issues and that it can and will be accomplished.
Peter Lombardi appreciated the comments by the Golf Commission and had Dave Whitney answer more specific questions to his prior recommendation before he would speak further on a broader topic of how the town budget and forecasts are created.
Anne O’Connell echoed comments made by the Golf Commission and asked Dave Whitney the question of why the Golf Commission was not contacted in advance of the Select Board meeting on 1/31/2022 if he was so concerned about the rates issue and would like those questions addressed.
Dave Whitney spoke to the fact that he thought he asked in the previous December meetings for the justification of what was driving the rate increases across the several categories. The proposal for rate change was made based on the information presented in the public packet presented by the Golf Commission. Which was brought to his attention through emails received from Captains members. Dave Whitney took responsibility for some lack of communication and not being able to attend all golf commission meetings and will be more vocal going forward in that regard.
Anne O’Connell recognized Peter Lombardi who would speak on the broader picture about how they approach developing the town budget and five-year financial forecast. Peter Lombardi stated during this process they are making conservative but reasonable assumptions on the expense and revenue side of things. Peter Lombardi spoke on how the goal is to set expectations and develop policy guidelines for department heads based on the capacity we have for increases and limits on increases to budgets. The town then makes decisions that are sustainable year over year. Peter Lombardi spoke on the general timeline for budget creation within the town and capital planning committee, and they look to marry the towns capital needs with the towns anticipated ability to pay. Making sure that year to year we can sustain a consistent level of investment in our capital needs. He noted there are many factors especially within Golf when determining a reasonable revenue estimate. For golf it seems that the process this time through had been inverted, where because of timelines, rates are set before the budget being developed. Peter Lombardi noted how appreciative he was of the work of the Golf Commission and specifically their work on rates this past fall. He stated when going back through the recommendations to the Select Board, relevant to rates, they didn’t make any changes to recommendations to policy changes made by the Golf Commission. However, if we assume those rates proposed by the Commission were put in place and based upon reviewing the operating budget, the golf course was showing over 20% budget surplus as percentage of the total operating budget. The Department of Revenue heavily scrutinizes our budgets and particularly for enterprise funds do not approve budgets that show surpluses of that magnitude. There is established case law that states municipalities cannot charge fees that essentially bring your revenues higher than what the expense needs of the operation are. We had significant concerns about the surplus on the budget, so a $400,000 Golf Capital Stabilization fund was created, and this serves multiple purposes. It reduces our projected budget surplus to about 5% of annual operating expenses, prepares for looming capital projects and builds up reserves so we can potentially avoid issuing debt for larger capital projects in the future fiscal years, specifically irrigation projects and the maintenance facility. The stabilization fund would give us the capacity to have little or significant impact on member rates or revenues in the future. Peter Lombardi understands there is a timing component to setting the rates early as possible at the Captains Golf Course and will work in the future with the Golf Commission and Captains Golf Course to mitigate those issues.
John Kissida reiterated the importance of the communication prior to any Select Board Meetings. He noted the stabilization fund is a good idea if used properly to offset costs over time. Peter Lombardi agreed the process was out of order this time around and noted the goal of the stabilization fund is not to grow it indefinitely but be prepared to avoid significant increase in rates due to debt from future capital projects. Establishing the funds and appropriating them to a capital stabilization fund budget allows to access them a full calendar year ahead of time. Peter Lombardi recognized that we needed to set the rates in the initial meeting on December 20th, however the decision point on got pushed backed. We needed to complete the budget development process on the expense side for Golf before we could come back to recommendations to the tee time allocation. These were the variables and there was concern about the amount of surplus if the rates were approved that the fiscal 2023 budget was showing.
Jeff Odell addressed John Kissida’s concern of the stabilization fund not being used timely and that the funds would be accruing interest for the Town. Peter Lombardi confirmed this. Jeff Odell asked other than AFP Players wanting more tee times what is rational for cart revenue going into tee time allocation equation? Why is cart revenue considered access money when other revenue items are not?
Peter Lombardi – Noted it was a fair question. Once changes were made to the operating budget, updated the capital plan and entered back into the tee time allocation formula the tee time allocation without cart revenues was lower than what the golf commission recommended. Based on extended discussions from the previous summer and he felt it did not make sense to not include Cart Revenue. Peter Lombarti recommended a full review of tee time allocation formula and potentially setting a fixed percentage in terms of access for members and potentially revisiting it every few fiscal years. That would allow us to make reasonable assumptions for future years.
Jeff Odell asked if the golf commission has the discretion to recommend the distribution of those tee times throughout the day to as fairly recognized the twilight and other time restricted members?
Peter Lombardi noted he would candidly say that those nuances would be best decided by the Golf Commission.
Dave Valcourt – Thanked Peter Lombardi for all the information provided, and asked what authorities if any and how he sees the Golf Commission in the hierarchy between the select board and the membership at the golf course?
Peter Lombardi noted that the Golf Commission has a vey important role. Wanted to take a similar approach to other departments with the Town. The Golf Commission would be able to help make policy decisions based of information provided by the finance team. The expense and capital budgets would be completed first to see what is needed on the revenue side and allow the golf commission to use this information for future decisions and policies.
Dave Valcourt hoped that the Golf Commission hopes has Peter Lombardi support in future and make sure the lines are drawn so the Golf Commission can operate within them and not be micromanaged. Dave Valcourt noted that the Golf Commission will be updated that scribe the rules and missions and could be useful in the future.
Peter Lombardi suggested having a further discussion about the role of the Golf Commission being laid out. Going forward it was noted that the finance team will be involved in any policy decision points that have penitential significant financial implications – which includes rates, tee time allocation and operating capital budget. The intent is not to micromanage the Golf Commission. Peter Lombardi noted the expertise and value the Golf Commission brings to the Town. Peter Lombardi apologized if how things played out in the past few months have communicated anything other than that.
Anne O’Connell stated the Golf Commissions is scheduled to discuss possible improvements to The Captains Golf Course cancellation policy. Anne asked if the finance team should be involved?
Peter Lombardi asked the financial implications that the cancellation policy changes could result in and stated as that they should have open lines of communication to determine this going forward.
John Kissida noted a team approach is essential for future success. John Kissida noted his concern the Pleasant Bay Water Nitrogen project and how they have not been involved in the process at all.
Jay Packett noted himself and Colin Walsh have been involved in the process and they are not trying to keep the Golf Commission out of the loop.
Peter Lombardi apologized for not inviting the Golf Commission to the presentation on the project. Peter Lombardi noted there were two recommendations to Captains in the presentation, a new septic system and reducing the size of fairways. It was noted that none of the changes to the course could be implemented without prior approval.
John Kissida just noted he would like the nitrogen project to be added to the agenda for discussions going forward. Colin Walsh stated that he is following the USGA recommendation for nitrogen already and has switched to liquid fertilizers. Colin spoke on the narrowing of fairways and how to accomplish that.
Anne O’Connell thanked Peter Lombardi for attending the meeting at such short notice.
Role of Select Board Liaison:
Anne O’Connell – noted she will share a document about the generic role of the Select Board Liaison. It does point out that the Golf Commission must have a more structured relationship to the Select Board Liaison. More detail to be discussed at future meetings.
Dave Whitney note he will communicate better in the future.
Course Operations Questions and Concerns:
Jeff Odell asked if we could match the other courses in the area and give a 72-hour notice of tee time versus 48?
Future Agenda Items and meetings (2/22):
Anne O’Connell added Jeff Odell’s question to the future agenda and noted the cancellation policy will be added.
Dave Valcourt and Rob David – Would like to go back to the state of the captains and discuss what changes need to be made to the document we intended to send out and send out an amended addition.
Matters not anticipated by the Chair:
A motion to adjourn was made by Anne O’Connell, seconded by Jeff Odell, to adjourn the meeting. Motion passed unanimously. The Meeting was adjourned at 5:37 pm.