Golf course or commercial development? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Golf course or commercial development?

October 23, 2007

Lee County--  Should a Lee County golf club remain open?

Not long ago, commissioners gave the county-owned Grand Island Golf Club a year to get on better financial footing. But already some commissioners are renewing a call to get rid it. Club managers are doing what they can to prove their value.

Ledo Road is beginning to thrive. New businesses have opened and ongoing construction shows signs of more on the way.

But right across the street, golfers find recreation in the midst of a development boom. Bennett Watts has been a Grand Island Club member for years.

"I think that it's a jewel," said Watts.

Not everyone sees the club as such a precious stone though. "It can be generating an unlimited amount of tax revenue there," said Dennis Roland.

Lee County Commissioner Dennis Roland wants the boom in construction to continue where Grand Island is. He feels the taxpayers would benefit more from commercial development instead. "With the condition that Lee County is in with this money situation, we need commercial property versus a golf course," said Roland.

Grand Island Club leaders of course disagree. They admit there have been financial problems built up over the years, much time spent in the black. But they're working to fix them. That includes taking care of their own bills, paying on their line of credit and keeping sales tax payments up to date.

"We're doing everything we can to alleviate the burden on the board of commissioners," said Paige Etheredge.

They've also repaid nearly $40,000 out of about $170,000 owed to the county's general fund. With continued membership growth, Club Administrator Paige Etheredge sees the club making a positive financial impact.

"This can be a wonderful asset to Lee County, a wonderful opportunity," said Etheredge.

"If they generated $100,000 a year, it's still costing the taxpayers millions that would come from commercial property development," said Roland.

Commissioner Roland says his mind is already made up. However, the fiscal year the county gave the club isn't up yet. So they'll continue working to prove their value to Lee County.

"I think it's the biggest bang for your buck," said Watts.

Players like Watts hope to keep playing. He feels a mix of business and pleasure in Lee County would be just grand.

Roland says money generated from commercial development could help the county pay for much needed firefighters and EMT's. Commissioners plan to look at the issue once again when the fiscal year is up in July.

feedback: news@walb.com?subject=GrandIslandLK