Golf course deficit grows

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Michael Bogis tees off at Hop Brook Golf Course in Naugatuck last summer while Mario Pannone, left, and Dave Pendergast look on. The course is running a deficit, leading officials to debate whether the borough should subsidize it anymore. –FILE PHOTO
Michael Bogis tees off at Hop Brook Golf Course in Naugatuck last summer while Mario Pannone, left, and Dave Pendergast look on. The course is running a deficit, leading officials to debate whether the borough should subsidize it anymore. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — The Hop Brook Golf Course’s deficit has widened to about $100,000, prompting a Board of Finance debate Monday over whether the borough should continue subsidizing it.

“Is that the business the town should be in?” finance board member Dan Sheridan asked.

Deputy Mayor Tamath Rossi said that question is one of several that will be answered by Blum, Shapiro & Co., a West Hartford-based consulting firm that is laying out a long-term plan for borough government.

Some burgesses, who were sitting in on the finance board workshop to hear public works budget presentations, argued that the borough provides many services that do not pay for themselves.

“We might as well close all the baseball fields,” Burgess Patrick Scully said.

The borough also subsidizes summer recreational programs for children so they can be offered at an inexpensive cost to working families, Recreation Director Kim Eyre said.

“We also have a responsibility for the health of our community,” Rossi said.

The golf course had reported a deficit of about $60,000 in recent years, and the Golf Commission raised fees last year to try to make up the difference.

When fees went up, rounds and memberships went down, said James Stewart, director of public works.

This year, the commission voted to keep fees the same, but offer more specials to encourage play during off-peak hours, Stewart said.

Tax-conscious residents every year propose privatizing the golf course, but Mayor Robert Mezzo wondered Monday what would happen to the land if a private course was driven out of business.

Altogether the public works department requested a $4.2 million budget for next fiscal year, almost exactly the same as the current operations and maintenance budget.

Stewart noted he had not figured in a payroll increase because the contract between the borough and public works union is being renegotiated.

As snow fell Monday night, Stewart reported the borough had already overrun its winter overtime budget by $86,000, and its snow removal budget by nearly $174,000.

An as yet undetermined amount should be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency because it was caused by last month’s blizzard, which the federal government deemed an emergency, officials said.

Finance board members received one piece of good news: The borough expects to spend $60,000 less on tipping fees, which have decreased while the revenue from recycling rebates has increased, said Sheila Baummer, waste and recycling coordinator.