Brandon City Council voted to approve a proposal to privatize management of the Wheat City Golf Course on Monday evening, ending two months of debate on the golf course’s future.
Council voted 9-1 to approve a proposal from Golf Brandon Inc. to manage the course. There were two proposals on the project, the other being from Lakeland Golf Management Inc.
Under the contract, Golf Brandon will take over full operations of the course, including the pro shop, course maintenance and managing food and beverage services. The company will also take over landscaping the course and making sure the grounds are kept up to standard. Golf Brandon also takes over maintenance and repair of course equipment.
The City of Brandon retains ownership of the course itself and will still set golf and tennis fees. The city is also still responsible for paying electricity and gas services to existing buildings.
The city and Golf Brandon will split on-course capital improvements on a 50/50 basis.
Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 69 president Val Bell spoke before the motion, urging all councillors to vote against the proposal. The union, which represents city employees, publicly opposed the city’s drive to seek proposals to contract out management, saying it would lead to an end of the course being affordable for families.
"The Wheat City Golf Course is a gem and a prized asset of the City of Brandon and we have a grave concern that if city council opens the door for privatization of any of its functions, it could ultimately result in us losing our important public-owned outdoor recreation facility," Bell said.
Bell said she was specifically concerned the city had not consulted with the union or the public before sending out the request for proposals over the summer.
The golf course is unprofitable for the City of Brandon, and Perry Roque, the city’s director of community services, said the goal is to get a positive financial return out of the course. A report on the contract with Golf Brandon Inc. estimates the city will save $137,000 in the 2020 budget.
The company can also offer many services the city can’t, Roque said. Golf Brandon can offer golf lessons on-site, a golf pro, a fully stocked pro shop and club fitting on site.
Many councillors cited this as their reason for voting to approve the proposal during the meeting, including Coun. Barry Cullen (Victoria) and Coun. Bruce Luebke (South Centre), saying it’s about taking the Wheat City Golf Course to the "next level."
Coun. Jan Chaboyer (Green Acres), the only councillor to vote against the proposal, said she opposed the proposal because she didn’t believe it would continue to be an affordable recreation option in the long term.
She was also concerned management of the course would fall to the city at the end of the five-year contract as it would prove unprofitable for the private sector. The city has also put considerable effort into restoring and protecting the course after flooding.
"Employees matter. … I think (they’ve) done an incredible job with restoration with the course," she said.
"That gives me good reason to think this operation should stay in public hands for future generations."
City employees at the golf course will be recalled for other jobs with the city on the basis of their seniority.
Under the contract, Golf Brandon Inc. will take over management of the course starting in January for a five-year term, with the possibility of extending it.
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