Archive for Thursday, August 4, 2005

Council lands drive in middle of fairway

August 4, 2005

Baldwin City bought a golf course Monday night, which will result in an increase of 3 mills to the tax levy for 2006.

There were about 15 people on hand for Monday's city council meeting, which included a public hearing on the proposed 2006 budget and the first public discussion of the purchase of the land which is currently the home of the Baldwin City Municipal Golf Course. The 63.63 acres of land is near the Midland Railway Depot in west Baldwin. Price tag is $550,000, plus finance charges.

At a budget work session last week, the council had reached a consensus to pay for the land over a seven year period instead of five. However, since then it was decided on a 20-year payout.

"The difference in this from what we looked at last week was a five-year payout," said City Administrator Jeff Dingman. "The numbers in there now are a 20-year payout, which has reduced the mill levy.

"Part of the recommendation from the council was to put in some funding for improvements to the area," said Dingman. "This includes $25,000 for improvements."

The budget approved Monday calls for a mill levy of 33.339 mills, up from last year's 30.117, an increase of 3.222 mills. The city's valuation grew 11.12 percent last year from $24,464,954 to $27,185,512. That makes a mill worth $27,185. The 2006 mill levy will raise $907,977 compared to this year's $736,255, an increase of $171,722, which required an ordinance to recognize the change.

The most significant jump is from the first of 20 payouts of $41,000 for the golf course, plus the $25,000 "seed" money to begin improvements.

"Why not take advantage of interest rates and spread it out further than five or seven years," said Council member Amy Cleavinger. "What do we want to do out there? What do we need? Let's get a committee together and let them study it and come up with a plan."

Mayor Gary Walbridge assured those in attendance that the land wouldn't just sit and remain as a golf course used by a few for long.

"Let's make the pain as least as possible," Walbridge said of the 20-year payout. "To let the land sit idle for years would be a crime. We'll form a committee ASAP and have seed money to give the committee something to use to make improvements.

"You can have a committee together all day long and if they don't have any money, they couldn't do anything," he said. "It's purchasing green space for recreation. It's not to buy a golf course for the golf association, but to do something with it."

The council's discussion was reassuring to several in the crowd, who were concerned that there had been no information from the city concerning what was planned for the land. That included former council member Ken Wagner.

"I go back to what you used to always say, Junior (Council member Ted Brecheisen, Jr.), about the old gray-haired people," said Wagner. "What benefit are they going to see? I'm glad to hear we're stretching that out.

"You've got a PR problem, because there are a lot of people out there that think you're buying this land for a few people," he said.

Other reservations raised by residents of the purchase included the abandonment of the proposed business park and the effect the purchase might have on the two downtown projects where more than $2 million in improvements are scheduled. Grant money is paying for 80 percent of the two projects, while the city must provide 20 percent, plus design costs.

"First of all, can I express my disappointment that you didn't go through with the business park," said Diane Wagner, in reference to the council declining to pick up the option on land north of the new elementary school. "Maybe it's a timing problem. What concerns me is we're already talking about a 3 mill increase this year. What will it cost next year? I just don't know that this is the best time for this.

"You're talking 20 years from now (with the payout) with this property," she said. "If we would have had the business park out there, there would have been businesses to help pay for this."

Brecheisen said they were two different issues.

"You're never going to be able to buy a parcel of ground like this in the city limits for that kind of money," said Brecheisen. "I'm sure the golf association would keep it up for several years. But, there (the business park), the city would have to put the infrastructure in there at $2 million."

Council member Tony Brown also touched on it.

"These are two different issues," said Brown. "I was one of the people pushing on the business park. We came across a lot of opposition. I have personally not given up on a business park. I don't want to let go of that."

As for Sandy Cardens' question regarding the possible effect on downtown projects, Walbridge answered quickly.

"No effect," he said.

Another question that arose was whether the city is bound by an agreement not to sell the land. The only stipulation in the contract is that it remain green space for 10 years.

"We're not nailed to the wall with it," Walbridge said.

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