Hop Brook pro shop open for business

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A pair play a round of golf last May at Hop Brook Golf Course in Naugatuck. The pro shop opened Thursday. -RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — During a series of mild days last month, the Golf Commission announced the Hop Brook Golf Course would open as early as yesterday.

“It’s the fastest way to get snow to come: Take the covers off the green,” said James Stewart, director of public works.

The date the golf season will begin in the borough remains undecided, but the pro shop opened Thursday to sell memberships, Recreation Director Kim Eyre said.

The Golf Commission voted last month to raise fees at the nine-hole golf course in hopes of narrowing a budget shortfall of about $60,000. The increases range from $1 to $3 per round. Residents now pay $15 to play nine holes on weekdays and $19 on weekends and holidays. Non-residents pay $20 on weekdays and $24 on weekends and holidays. Juniors aged 12 to 18, seniors at least 62 years old and the disabled receive discounted rates.

The price of a season pass for residents has increased by $60, to $520, and non-residents now pay $880, a $20 increase. Juniors and seniors are also eligible for discounted season passes.

This year’s changes should earn the course an additional $30,000, Stewart said.

“It’s an effort to increase revenue and come more into line with other courses in the area,” Stewart said.

Residents will also have to buy a $20 identification card this year, instead of providing some other proof of age and residency every time they golf, Stewart said.

The commission members wrangled last year with the Joint Boards of Finance and Mayor and Burgesses over the fee structure. Members of the joint boards, citing a survey of area golf courses done last year, argued Hop Brook’s fees were too low and the course could be earning more.

The golf course last year took in $430,000, Stewart said. The borough has budgeted $395,000 for the course over the past two fiscal years, but employee pension and benefit costs caused the $60,000 overrun in the 2010 calendar year, when the course made $26,000 more than last year.

“I think it’s fair to assume that we’re in about the same situation,” Stewart said.

Mayor Robert Mezzo said he agreed with the new fee structure. “I think it’s a step in the right direction and a good-faith attempt to respond to the concerns raised by the joint boards during the budget process,” Mezzo said.

After this season ends in the fall, the commission will revisit its decision and determine whether to raise the fees even more next year, Stewart said.

“If the revenues drop off, maybe we’ve gone too far,” Stewart said. “I think we’re still one of the least expensive places around.”