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Golf Club

Watertown paid more for golf club than its appraised worth

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An appraisal of the former Watertown Golf Club came back showing that the city paid more than three times its worth.

The city purchased nine holes on nearly 64 acres of the golf course in Thompson Park for $3.4 million on Jan. 27 from Michael E. Lundy,

But an appraisal determined that the 18-hole golf course has a value of $1.123 million.

Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith, who was adamantly opposed to the deal, said Tuesday that the appraisal shows that three council members failed to do their due diligence before agreeing to purchase it.

“It’s horrible for taxpayers,” he said.

The Watertown Daily Times obtained the 181-page document after filing a Freedom of Information Law request.

The Syracuse firm of Thurston, Casale & Ryan LLC prepared the appraisal after City Council members voted, 3-2 in December that the document was needed, even though the purchase was going forward and the document wouldn’t be finished until the deal was finalized.

According to the firm, the golf club was appraised at $1.35 million, but its value decreases by $227,000 because the city is losing that much in revenues from a lease with Mr. Lundy for the nine holes that the city owned.

The 63.84 acres of land were appraised at $319,000, or $5,000 an acre, according to the Syracuse firm.

Council members were given a copy of the appraisal last week.

City Manager Kenneth A. Mix wasn’t surprised by the appraisal’s findings, although he said it doesn’t take into account the buildings, greens, tees and fairways but “just the raw land.”

Councilman Cliff G. Olney III said Tuesday that he thought that the appraisal came back “higher” than he expected, adding he surmised it would be about $800,000.

He also thinks that the appraisal “is irrelevant because it was a take it or leave deal.”

Councilman Olney said he tried to get the price down to $2.8 million, but Mr. Lundy wouldn’t accept anything lower than the $3.4 million price.

Now that the city owns the nine holes, they will always remain undeveloped and under the city’s control, the councilman said.

The Syracuse firm also completed an appraisal of the golf club in 2017 when the city was considering to purchase it back then. That appraisal came in at $591,000.

In 2018, Mr. Lundy and his sister, Colleen, purchased the golf club for what is believed to be in the $550,000 range.

To determine the appraisal this time, the firm considered the recent sale of four other golf courses, three in Central New York and one in the Finger Lakes, that ranged from $900,000 to $1.8 million.

The appraiser also looked at Mr. Lundy’s evaluation of the golf club’s assets. Mr. Lundy put a $2.1 million value on the land, $450,000 for buildings and $850,000 for golf, bar, kitchen and dining-room equipment.

According to the appraisal, the $2.1 million for the land would be “well above the site’s market value” at $32,895 per acre and far more than the $5,000 by the appraiser.

Mr. Lundy’s evaluation on the inventory for the clubhouse, golf carts and other equipment also “was well above” the appraisal’s findings, according to the firm.

The appraiser also acknowledged that Mr. Lundy completed a series of improvements to the clubhouse, the golf course itself and added a 49-space parking lots since he bought it four years ago.

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Mayor criticizes lack of appraisal, inspection after electrical issues found at Watertown Golf Club

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The debate over the controversial purchase of the Watertown Golf Club continues after some electrical issues were discovered last week in the clubhouse’s basement.

Employees of the parks and recreation and the Department of Public Works were in the building’s basement at Thompson Park on Tuesday when the electrical issues were found.

After examining photos sent by Parks and Recreation Superintendent Scott D. Weller, City Manager Kenneth A. Mix described the electrical issues as junction boxes and circuit breaker boxes that did not have covers on them and some dangling dead wires found in the basement.

He acknowledged that he doesn’t know if there are other electrical issues that would have to be corrected until an electrician inspects the property.

Mr. Mix also said that former golf club owner Michael E. Lundy has promised to take care of the situation.

The issues are coming to light just as the city is looking for someone to run the clubhouse for the city when the golf club is slated to open in May.

Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith said Sunday that the electrical issues prove that an appraisal and inspection of the property should have been completed prior to its purchase for $3.4 million.

He continues to blame council members Lisa A. Ruggiero, Cliff G. Olney III and Patrick J. Hickey for not doing their “due diligences” before the deal was finalized.

The deal for nine holes on 63 acres was completed on Jan. 27 and the electrical issues were discovered four days later.

The purchase of the golf club has been a hotly debated issue since it was first proposed in August.

Saying she was surprised that the electrical issues weren’t known until last week, Councilwoman Ruggiero stressed that Mr. Lundy has promised “to take care of it.”

She’s also frustrated that the mayor is using the situation as ammunition to continue to bash the purchase when the city is working on getting the golf club open in May.

She said the mayor continues to talk negatively about the project on a local radio Hotline program when he should be helping to make the purchase golf club a success.

The city should be working on getting golf tournaments signed up for the season, she said.

“I’m fed up,” she said. “He wants it to be a total failure for political reasons.”

Instead, she said that Mayor Smith should take the advice of former Mayor T. Urling Walker, who suggested before he died on Jan. 3 that council members should always move on from a controversial vote and work together to make their decision a success.

“When you lose, you move on,” she said.

But Mayor Smith stressed that he’s bringing up the problems publicly involving the golf club because it proves that the three council members failed to do their jobs to find out more before the deal was finalized, adding that city taxpayers will be the ones hurt if the golf club goes sour.

“It’s not a Kumbaya moment that we all hold hands,” he said.

Someone told him that the electrical issues are more serious, that the electrical system would not pass city codes.

“It’s a big deal,” he said.

The city manager did not describe the situation in those terms, instead saying that an electrician will look at the issues and that Mr. Lundy will fix the problems.

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Can the city run a profitable Watertown Golf Club?

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WATERTOWN — Three City Council members are almost assuredly going forward with purchasing the Watertown Golf Club for $3.4 million from developer Michael E. Lundy.

But the question remains: Can the golf club in Thompson Park be profitable as a municipal golf club?

City officials are still trying to figure out how to operate the golf club if it does purchase nine holes that Mr. Lundy owns and whether it can make money.

City Manager Kenneth A. Mix and Scott D. Weller, the city parks and recreation superintendent, have to determine how to handle greens keepers, the pro shop and clubhouse facets of the business.

“I think it can break even or make a little profit,” Mr. Mix said Tuesday, although he cannot guarantee whether it will be during the first couple of years that the city would own it.

Mr. Lundy’s attorney Mike Young and city attorney Robert J. Slye still need to finalize a purchase agreement for the deal. Two weeks ago, council members Lisa A. Ruggiero, Cliff G. Olney III and Patrick J. Hickey took the first step that formalizes the pending purchase.

Mr. Mix doesn’t know when the vote on the final purchase agreement will take place.

The next vote will be at one of the two council meetings in December when council members will discuss the golf club’s budget and operations.

Until then, Mr. Mix and Mr. Weller will continue to work on how the city should operate the facility.

This week, Mr. Lundy’s attorney provided a complete list of equipment and other assets of the golf club to the city, but Mr. Lundy will not give the city his tax returns for it.

He’s also provided some financial documents that show it made $714,000 last year. He’s requiring city official and council members to sign Non Disclosure Agreements, or NDAs, prohibiting them from releasing detailed financial information to the public about the golf club.

Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith has been adamant that the city gets tax returns for the golf club and an appraisal of the facility.

“It’s something that a bank requires for any loan,” he said.

Opposing the deal, he’s also been adamant that the $3.4 million price tag is way too high.

On Monday night, Councilman Olney said he’s done research that shows golf clubs produce revenues of $300,000 to $400,000. That’s possible, Mr. Mix said.

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City officials tour Watertown golf club

in Place 208 views

Oct. 24—WATERTOWN — City officials toured the Watertown Golf Club on Friday to get a handle on its amenities and determine how the golf course would make Thompson Park better.

The tour was prompted by the city’s pending purchase of nine holes of the golf club from owner Michael E. Lundy.

City Manager Kenneth A. Mix, City Attorney Robert J. Slye and parks superintendent Scott D. Weller met with Mr. Lundy and his attorney, Michael Young, to talk about what exactly the city will be getting from what would be a purchase of the club’s assets.

Last Monday night, council members Lisa A. Ruggiero, Cliff G. Olney III and Patrick J. Hickey informally agreed to purchase the golf club for $3.4 million.

As for the deal with the city, the club owns holes one through six and 16 to 18 of the course, while the city owns the others, with the club leasing the land on which the remaining holes sit.

The deal has come up in conversation that it’s a good idea to take control of Mr. Lundy’s property to protect it from development, but Mr. Mix hasn’t had any direct discussions about the controversial price to obtain it, he said.

Mr. Mix said the city will need to get the club ready next spring for when it reopens next May for the golf season.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department will run the club as a municipal golf course.

“We’ve got about five months before we’re up and running,” Mr. Mix said.

The city is already putting together an operating budget for the club and determining how many city staff will be needed to run it, Mr. Mix said.

He thinks it will take maybe a month for Mr. Slye and Mr. Young to work up a contract. Mr. Young will have to put together a list of all the club’s equipment, including golf carts, lawn mowers and other items, before the contract can be approved by City Council, Mr. Slye said.

The possibility of acquiring the golf club is coming up at the same time the city is putting together a Thompson Park master plan, so the city will look how that will impact its future, Mr. Mix said.

Mr. Lundy offered to sell the club for $3.75 million and complete some improvements, such as demolishing the club house. But Mr. Mix said it was better for the city to keep the clubhouse.

Mr. Lundy has just been using the clubhouse for its kitchen and restrooms and not a dining facility. He put up an outdoor party tent for dining.

But Mr. Mix envisions using the clubhouse to springboard more outdoor winter activities, like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing until another structure could be built.

He also sees the ability of adding hiking trails that are on the golf club’s nine holes that wouldn’t interfere with golfers.

Mr. Weller has indicated that his department is capable of running it. His building and ground crews would be helping to maintain the facility, although they would need to learn how to take care of the greens, Mr. Mix said.

Mr. Lundy has agreed that his sister, Colleen Lundy, will assist the city with the takeover of the club and help with organizing golf tournaments.

The city would operate the golf club as Watertown’s only 18-hole course.

Critics were surprised that the deal was happening so quickly to acquire the nine holes of the golf club that Mr. Lundy owns.

But Councilwoman Ruggiero expected to go into executive session to discuss the deal further last Monday night. She blamed Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith for forcing the informal vote that night.

The mayor said Sunday that there was no reason to do that since the purchase price was made public earlier in the day, making it illegal to go into executive session that night.

She also criticized the mayor for bashing the deal on Jeffrey E. Graham’s Hotline radio show on Thursday, accusing the three council members of not doing enough research on its impact.

In defending the deal, now that the three council members have come out in favor of it, city staff can start working on it, she said. Staff was unable to do that without getting direction from a majority council. Now they can complete that due diligence that the mayor said was lacking, she added.

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Proposal surfaces for city to purchase Watertown Golf Club

in Local News/Place/Sports 184 views

Oct. 14—WATERTOWN — Two developers at the center of a controversy involving the Watertown Golf Club at Thompson Park have come up with a way to resolve the club’s long-standing issues with the city.

Developers Michael A. Lundy and P.J. Simao are proposing that the city buy the nine holes that Mr. Lundy owns at the golf course.

City Manager Kenneth A. Mix confirmed Thursday that talks are “continuing” with Mr. Lundy about the city purchasing the portion of the golf club that Mr. Lundy owns. The club owns holes one through six and 16 to 18 of the course, while the city owns the others.

Council members have talked about the issue twice during executive sessions in recent weeks, but it appears that the deal was not moving forward.

Several weeks ago, Mr. Lundy and Mr. Simao met with Mr. Mix, Councilwoman Lisa A. Ruggiero and city attorney Robert J. Slye about the proposal.

Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith, who did not attend the meeting, opposes the deal, saying that the proposed price for the city to acquire the property is too high. He would not say how much was being asked for the property, but said that it exceeds the $3.1 million that it cost to build the pool at Thompson Park.

“No way for that price,” he said.

Under the proposal, the deal would end all litigation against the city involving the golf course and it would allow Ives Hill Country Club, which Mr. Simao owns, to reopen.

If the deal can be consummated, Mr. Simao would not pursue future legal action. In recent years, he has kept Ives Hill closed.

Over the years, the golf club has been the source of legal battles with both developers, much of it involving how golf club members have parked on city-owned land at the park.

Mr. Simao also has accused the city of subsidizing the golf club by allowing a below-market lease for the city-owned land used by the golf course.

Most recently, Mr., Lundy became incensed that zoning for the land he owns at the golf club would change under sweeping zoning changes proposed by the city.

Under the proposed changes, Mr. Lundy’s property would be rezoned from residential to open area for park land, thus ending Mr. Lundy’s plans to possibly someday build homes on it.

While he would not talk about selling the land to the city, Mr. Lundy made it known on Thursday night exactly how he feels about the zoning change, which would prohibit his plans to build houses on his property.

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