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Muni operation - Another offer is on the table

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 - Updated: 10:23 AM


Another compromise aiming to ease tension surrounding the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course has been proposed.

Laura Elmendorf, former concessionaire at the city's Municipal Golf Course, has proposed that she and former golf pro Joseph Merendo take on the general manager position as a pair, instead of contracting with an outside person.

Under the proposal, Elmendorf said they will request $10,000 for marketing, but that is the only additional cost for the city.

"If by September we haven't improved anything, then come up with another plan," Elmendorf said. "I think that's the best for everybody at this point. Sign everything. Let us open. Watch us closely this year. If you're not happy with what we're doing, a contract can always be broken."

First Ward Alderman Edward Russo, the Golf Commission liaison, said though he doesn't agree with Elmendorf's proposed compromise, he supports her and Merendo at the course.

"I'm a big stickler in I don't think we need a general form of management," Russo said. "I don't think we need a general manager. I think if the golf course has issues, they should bring it to the golf commission or myself, and we'll work together to figure it out.

"This is a good time to put this to bed," Russo added.

Elmendorf's and Merendo's contracts expired at the end of last year, and instead of renewing their contracts, Mayor Ann Thane and a former council decided to release requests for proposal to find new people to run and "revitalize" the course. They said the course was underperforming and losing money.

The current council didn't agree with that and when it took office, the aldermen unanimously passed a resolution to contract with Elmendorf and Merendo.

Thane vetoed it. The council overrode it. Then, a resolution granting deputy mayor Diane Hatzenbuhler authorization to sign the contract instead was passed, but its legality is being challenged. Thane already said she would veto it.

Thane offered a compromise solution that was shot down by some councilmen. She suggested the city contract with Golf Commission choice Richard Scott and employ Merendo under the city.

Though Scott has since pulled his name from the running, Elmendorf said the idea didn't made sense.

"It just doesn't make any sense that you could bring in some guy who's never been at Muni, pay him twice what you're paying Joe and then let [Scott] have the pro shop, which Joe's had for 30 years," Elmendorf said. "I really don't know why she would think that works in Joe's favor."

One reason Thane disagreed with contracting with Merendo is because he didn't offer a plan to improve the course. However, Elmendorf said she has several ideas.

Elmendorf said the current Common Council is more receptive than those preceding it.

"We've been willing for years to do different things, but it's been like talking to a wall trying to get these ideas implemented," Elmendorf said.

She said if she takes a certain percent of the new revenue, she can help renovate the course slowly.

She wants to decrease the annual membership fee by $50, as she thinks it's more attractive to customers, and suggested implementing a nine-hole rate.

"The commission is very afraid that people are going to pay for nine [holes] and play 18," Elmendorf said. "I honestly don't think people want the nine-hole rate just so they can stiff the city -- some people just genuinely want to play nine holes."

Elmendorf said contention over the issue the past few months is setting the golf course back.

"I have events that are booked in May, [people] called me last week and said, 'do we need to find a different venue?'" Elmendorf recalled. "That's how bad this is getting. It's just unnecessary stress that shouldn't happen."

Elmendorf also alleges that because the course hasn't set rates for the upcoming season, people are starting to purchase memberships elsewhere.

Golf Commission Chairman Michael Bucciferro said he expects to hold a meeting Wednesday night to discuss the rates.

Thane said she hopes to meet with Elmendorf later in the week to discuss her "hybrid solution." Elmendorf said she'll meet with Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis to negotiate her contract.

"We all want the golf course to succeed," Elmendorf said. "If the golf course doesn't succeed, the restaurant doesn't operate. The restaurant's there because of the golf course. If there's no golfers there, Joe doesn't make any money. We both want the golf course to do well, because it's the only way we make money."


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