The Neosho Municipal Golf Course could soon be run by city employees.

The Neosho Municipal Golf Course could soon be run by city employees.

Council members on Tuesday gave city manager Troy Royer the OK to pursue a city-run operation at the golf course.

Management of the 18-hole golf course is currently contracted out to golf pro Justin Beck. However, Beck submitted a 90-day notice to the city on Nov. 16 that he plans to leave his position at the Neosho course.

Beck has managed the Neosho golf course for at least six years.

Troy Royer, Neosho city manager, proposed to council members that instead of pursuing a new management contract, the city could instead manage the public golf course with city employees.

"I think we would have better control over the employees and what's going on out there than we do now," Royer said.
"Working with a contractor, we're basically at his mercy. I can't come in and tell Justin what to do, he can tell me to fly a kite if he wants."

The proposal is not a new one. The idea of a city employee run golf course was presented to the council as recently as the council's August budget talks. However, council members opted to stay with contracted management, and voted two months later to approve a new contract with Beck.

The city pays Beck $220,000 annually to run the golf course, which includes labor expenses and incidentals.
Royer presented revised budget numbers to the council Tuesday evening, to give an idea as to what the city's expenses would be if the city takes over the course in February 2013.

Based on those numbers, with the year split, the city would pay Beck $103,333 of his contract for four months of operation, while the city would manage the course for eight months, coming to a total expense of $428,267 for the split year.

Royer said the city would look to hire a full-time golf manager/pro as well as two full-time greens/maintenance positions and 10 part-time employees, who would be paid at $7.50 per hour.

Royer said the golf course currently has between 16 and 18 full and part-time employees.

He said there is the possibility of some current golf course employees transferring over to become city employees.
"I haven't talked to them specifically, but I've been told there's a few that would like to come over," Royer said.
The council also discussed continued operation of the pro-shop at the course, which raises concerns for some council members.

"It's carrying inventory of very expensive equipment, that's my only concern," said councilman David Ruth. "And I don't know, if the way things are today, with all these other retail giants that sell equipment, I don't know that it even makes sense to do it anyway."

Royer said if the city continued operation of the pro-shop he would consider removing costly items from the shop, cutting the inventory down to items such as t-shirts, golf balls, tees and gloves, and offering a courtesy catalog for ordering more expensive merchandise, such as golf clubs. He said he is also aware of at least two parties who have expressed interest in operating, or possibly leasing and running the pro shop.

Richard Davidson, Neosho mayor, said he would also be concerned that the city may not be able to find a golf pro who would be as hands on as Beck has been.

"I'm concerned that if we go back to doing it and all of a sudden you find a pro and he'll say 'I'm not a grass guy, I don't go out and fix leaks at midnight, that's not my job,'" Davidson said. "You may wind up putting two people in the place of one and that may wind up costing us more, you may have had a better deal with Justin than you realized."
Royer said he intends on seeking an individual who will be a hands-on employee in that position.

Charles Collinsworth, councilman, said the departure of Beck offers the city a chance to try something new.
"We didn't ask for this situation, but in this I think we've got a golden opportunity," Collinsworth said. "Let's try it and then let's see where we are in the fall."

The golf course still carries a sizable debt load and, because of past refinancing, will until 2031.
Royer plans to present to the council a revised budget, which would reflect the golf course changes, at an upcoming council meeting.

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See Thursday's edition for more on Tuesday evening's city council meeting.