Golf, Golf, Golf

You know, we hear over and over again how well-managed our town is and what a great job our City Manager and his staff do for us. I have had a chance now to paw through some of the golf course consultant's report, and it really bears on this issue of management.

Here's an example. Back on September 6, 2005, there was a City Commission Meeting: "Patty Gumenberg, Acting Park and Recreation Director, reported that the City golf courses were currently operating at a deficit. Additionally, there was not enough revenue generated to meet bond covenants. Both of these factors were serious and could jeopardize the future of the City-run courses." A citizen, Don Ensley, questioned the need to hire a consultant to evaluate the golf course operations. He "stated that the City employed accountants and other professionals who should be capable of running a golf course. He added that running a public golf course should be easier than in the private sector because the City did not have to pay taxes on the land or invest in the land itself and he didn't understand why the City needed to hire a consultant to tell us the courses have been mismanaged. "

In response, our City Manager had several comments. Initially, he said corrective actions have already taken place. Then he identified three problems with the courses: 1) The debt burden created by the remodeling done to the courses; 2) there was declining national interest in golf as a sport; and 3) membership fees were too low. (Keep these three things in mind for a minute. And reflect on the fact that Mr. Lawton fails to address any management issues, and his solution is clearly headed toward raising the 'tax' on golfers.)

The Commissioners went on to discuss the problems including selling our golf courses!

Now, jump forward to December 2005. We have the consultant's report...what does he say? Does he address the same problems as our managers paid to manage our assets? Not a chance:

The most significant issues identified by NGF Consulting are:
Lack of Controls: We see too many areas where there are inadequate safeguards to prevent abuse, including employee theft.
Lack of Data: The electronic cash-register coupled with a manual tee-sheet system simply cannot provide the data that enable managers to make good decisions.
Lack of Reconciliation: Too many times, the amount of revenue does not match up with the extended price (the number of sales times the price). Indeed, it almost never matched up. This in turn, raises issues of management as to why these were not investigated and resolved.

So, let's review, shall we? Our paid managers identified three trouble spots, all of which are 'out of their hands.' The paid consultant, though, identified three trouble spots, all of which fall squarely at the feet of our paid managers.

The consultant also said: "In other management related issues we also found numerous instances where controls are weak or nonexistent. This does not necessarily mean that the City is losing money as a result of these poor controls, but the situation is certainly ripe for this to happen. NGF Consulting did find some circumstantial evidence that might lead to the belief that the City is being taken advantage of in a number of areas, resulting in lost revenue or higher costs. The control issues are at every level of the organization and not just at the individual golf courses, but include City oversight as well." Can you say "Tom Sullivan?"

Think about this carefully. These people are talking about selling our golf courses because they cannot run them in the black. The problems are not national, the problems are not beyond their control, they are problems with management. They are going to sell our golf courses due to the incompetence of our paid managers. And no one, including the Tribune, is even talking about it!

And they want to get into the power business? My god.


dona stebbins said...

People ARE talking about it, Geeguy. LOTS of people, everywhere I go. They are also wondering why the Tribune is NOT talking about it and looking into the issues that are so evident to the rest of us.
Last night, I was visiting with the KFBB news crew, including Lisa Furgison, and she plans to cover the story intensively.
Looks as though the Tribune is going to lose another exclusive.

a-fire-fly said...

I agree with Donna - OMG I just agreed with the Mayor -(Elect) I think that's a first!
Anyway, people are talking, and the Silence of the Tribune is being noticed. I can only hope that the interest of the TV news team continues, and Donna uses this affiliation to promote the interests of the people of Great Falls in the future.