In a contested vote, the Fort Myers City Council decided to secure $2,130,000 in debt financing to renovate Eastwood Golf Course at its meeting on Monday.
The money would be used to address the course’s drainage issue and to renovate the first nine holes. Eastwood is one of two golf courses owned by the City of Fort Myers. According to Richard Lamb, the course’s manager, those holes have become unplayable due to construction related to the Hanson Street expansion which will link that road to Ortiz Avenue by running through a portion of the course’s land. Lamb said that the current state of the course is costing the city serious money.
“Were losing $800 a day at Eastwood,” said Lamb. “We’ve lost about $15,000 in 15 days…We’re on the road, if we don’t start correcting the problem today, of losing about $225,000 out of Eastwood.”
Fort Myers has had to heavily subsidize the its golf courses due to heavy rain reducing revenue in previous years. The city paid about $460,000 in 2016 and $269,900 this fiscal year. City Manager Saeed Kazemi said that he hopes that these renovations will help bring golfers back to the course, paying for the work and reducing the required subsides.
“We get the first nine holes ready to go and at least the players will have something to play and come back,” said Kaemi. “We can generate some funding to pay whatever we need to pay for the debt.”
Lamb has agreed to give up $65,000 of his annual salary to help alleviate some of the cost of the renovation. He said that the Fort Myers owned courses had contributed over $9 million to the city’s coffers since 1977 and that they were well worth the investment.Council Member Johnny Streets agreed.
“I will give you some history, had it not been for Eastwood and Fort Myers Country Club a lot of the city’s bills would not have gotten paid,” said Streets. “We kept taking away from their surpluses and now the golf courses need us.”
Streets pointed to new home and business development in the area saying that it would also help to increase the player base and revenue of Eastwood.
A number of council members were less sure about spending the money required to fix the golf course while other fiscal issues were demanding the city’s attention. Council Member Teresa Brown said that she would prefer the money be spent on issues like filling vacancies in the city staff.
“I have some concerns about the urgent need we have for employees in the city, with the police department and the things we need for it, for park,” said Brown. “I really have a hard time with the project, I really do.”
The measure ultimately passed in a 4-3 vote with Teresa Brown, Terolyn Watson, and Gaile Anthony in the minority.
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