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Kilgore council votes to purchase country club

By Glenn Evans
May 23, 2012 at 11 p.m.

Kilgore residents could soon be teeing up on their own municipal greens after council members voted Tuesday to buy Meadowbrook Country Club.

The $275,000 deal still must be signed by the investment group that offered the sale on the condition that Meadowbrook be a public course, said City Manager Scott Sellers. The council also authorized Sellers to send out requests for any interested parties to propose uses and management of the swimming pool, restaurant and other facilities.

"And the clubhouse up top, for sure, will be available for clubs and meetings," Councilman Harvey McClendon said. "We'll own the whole thing outright. ... It was having financial problems, but that's the nature of private country clubs right now - anywhere."

McClendon, who seconded Bobby Hale's motion to buy the facility, said funds likely will come from a roughly $7 million reserve.

"We have a conservative budget," he said. "But, we had excess revenue from our sales tax, and that's where that (reserve) has built up."

McClendon said council and investment group members envision offering residents the options of walk-on tee fees and an annual membership.

Mayor Ronnie Spradlin did not participate in the roughly two-hour closed-door session from which the council emerged to unanimously approve the purchase.

Spradlin is a member of the investment group who hoped to turn the 80-year-old club's finances around. He also did not vote on the motion to buy. Neither did Councilwoman Sherry Bustin, who was sworn into office earlier in the meeting.

Spradlin said Wednesday that he was confident the investors will sign off on the sale.

"Everyone in the investment group was in on the offer when the talks started with the city," he said.

Sellers said those expected signatures will launch a roughly 60-day period when the city will seek proposals to manage one or all of the elements at the club, which is on Houston Street in the heart of Kilgore.

In addition to giving residents their first public-access links inside the city, the purchase preserves several annual golf fundraisers, including one for the East Texas Treatment Center.

"There are probably 10 or 12 golf fundraiser tournaments that are held out there, and that's important too, to keep the golf course open," McClendon said.

The action dovetails with a wider council plan that includes new multi-sport athletic fields and, two years ago, renovations at Meadowbrook Park across the street from the club.

It also keeps the nine-hole course available for the Kilgore High School golf team and the local golfing club.

The restaurant, which has cut its hours, also could see a revival depending on who might offer to manage it. The same goes for the swimming pool, Ninth Hole Lounge and the pro shop.

"We hope so," Spradlin said. "We had some casual interest expressed. So, people are interested. There's just so much of a variety of ways that relationship can come."

Spradlin also expressed hope for a golf Renaissance in the City of Stars.

"It's just nine holes," he said. "But, it's within five minutes of nearly everyone in Kilgore."

Kilgore's action came a couple of months after leaders of another East Texas city decided they could not afford to continue the expense of maintaining a municipal golf course. The Marshall City Commission in March voted to advertise for the sale of Oaklawn Municipal Golf Course after an attempt to lease the the facility failed - even with the city offering to pay a potential lessee $40,000 a year.

Marshall officials said the golf course was losing $100,000 per year on operating expenses alone. They said to keep the course running, at least $250,000 worth of capital expenses were required to fix a water well and to completely replace the irrigation system.

Replacing greens on the Marshall course would cost another $225,000, officials said, while the city spends about $80,000 a year using city water for irrigation of the course.

Bidding for the Oaklawn Golf Course closed at 10 a.m. on Tuesday with no bids submitted, according to Parks and Recreation Director Jack Redmon. He said the minimum bid for the 92.7-acre piece of property was set at $438,000.



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