Hop Brook Golf Course in the red, so greens fees must be raised

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NAUGATUCK — The Hop Brook Golf Course is planning to raise fees next year in reaction to a $60,000 shortfall last year.

The borough allocated the public course about $395,000 for this fiscal year that ends June 30, and plans to allocate the same amount next fiscal year. But the true costs of operating the golf course are considerably higher when employee pensions, insurance and other benefits are factored in. Although the course took in more than $456,000 in the 2010 calendar year, it lost $60,000 in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2010, Controller Wayne McAllister said.

The course employs a head greenskeeper, a supervisor and a maintenance worker, all of whom are members of AFSCME Local 1303-02, the Public Works union.

Costs for other items are increasing as well, such as seed for the grass, sand for the sand traps and fuel for maintenance machinery and golf carts, Pro Shop Manager Paul Grant said.

“They tell us that we’ve been losing money for the past three years,” Grant said.

The Golf Course Commission wrote a survey, distributed over the past week, to ask golfers how they would like fees to be raised. The three options are: Increasing yearly membership fees by $100 and raising daily rates by $2; increasing the yearly membership by $50 and daily rates by $1 each year for the next two years; or implementing a surcharge of $1 per round. The fourth option is to write in a suggestion.

The Board of Finance has repeatedly asked the commission increase fees until they are comparable to nearby golf courses, Mayor Robert A. Mezzo said. If the commission refuses, Mezzo and some burgesses who sit in on the Board of Finance budget workshops said they would consider amending the ordinance that gives the commission the authority to set the fees. That power would then be given to the borough board or some other entity, Mezzo said.

Borough residents pay $460 for an annual golf course membership, while teens and seniors pay $360.

Out-of-towners pay $860, while teens and seniors from other towns pay $660. The most comparable neighboring course, Farmingbury Hills in Wolcott, charges $650 for residents, $475 for resident seniors, $780 for non-residents and $565 for non-resident seniors, with a surcharge of $1.50 per round, according to a survey the borough conducted. Other courses were more expensive, with Oxford Greens charging $2,600 for a membership.

Hop Brook’s nine-hole daily fees are also lower than nearby courses, charging $12 or $14 for residents depending on age and $16 or $18 for non-residents.

The most comparable course, Hawk’s Landing in Southington, charges $15 weekdays and $17 on weekends. Fees increased from there up to Oxford Green’s $45 weekday and $65 weekend fees.

Some residents at Monday’s budget hearing said they wanted the borough to sell the course to a private company.

“You don’t run a business if you’re planning on losing money,” said David Cronin, who recently stepped down as Taxpayers In Revolt president. “Why should we be putting money in for something that’s going down the tubes?”