WILMETTE PARK DISTRICT
GOLF OPERATIONS COMMITTEE MEETING
Date: July 30, 2011
Place: Wilmette Golf Course
Time: 8:30 a.m.
Commissioners: Brault, Murdock, Shelley
Staff: Bowen, Matchen, Locke, Wilson
Visitors: Fred Watson, Bill Lemieux, Danny Healy, Robin Hungler, Tom Bonnie, Frank Charhut
Topics of Discussion
1) Meeting Called to Order
2) Approval of Minutes
3) Recognition of Visitors
4) Communications and Correspondence
5) Managers Reports
6) Golf Course Historical Perspective (Tom Bonnie)
7) Old Business
8) New Business
1) The meeting was called to order at 8:30 a.m.
2) The Committee approved the minutes of the June 18, 2011 Committee meeting by General Consent.
3) The Committee recognized the following visitors: Fred Watson, Bill Lemieux, Danny Healy, Robin Hungler, Tom Bonnie, and Frank Charhut,
4) Communications and Correspondence:
President Brault stated the committee had received a letter from Mr. Jeff Binstein whose family had hosted a charitable golf outing. Mr. Binstein stated the outing was a success and thanked staff for their assistance.
5) President Brault reported that the financial planning committee had released the project on the 6th green. Golf Course Manager Mike Matchen stated staff is going out to bid on Thursday for the work on #6 and it is hoped the bids will be back by August 16. The project will then be presented to the Committee in August for approval and finally brought to the full Board in September. Commissioner Murdock asked when the ideal time would be to do that work in terms of impact on play and being ready for the spring. Mike replied we will be cutting the timeline very close and we would like do the work earlier, but there were some changes in the plans related to the flood plane and the subsequent required permitting process. However, the project is starting early enough so that it should be seeded and grown in the fall although it may take longer in the spring to open the course. Mike added the drawings and specifications from the master plan are completed and what will be done on #6 was part of the plan although with some modifications.
Committee Chair Brault stated the work on #6 was budgeted at $100,000 and pointed out that the master plan is a framework which we will follow. Mike Matchen added this is the first time we have had to get a grading permit that includes a flood plane.
5) Under Managers Reports, Jamie Locke reported the weather once again played havoc in July. The men’s club championship was cancelled because of the weather and has been rescheduled for September 10 and 11. The ladies league play had been cancelled as was the Evanston-Wilmette Chamber event. A nice mini-outing was able to be held with 56 players and the tee sheet continues to fill when the weather is good. Staff is now hoping for good weather for the ladies guest day event on Wednesday.
Jamie stated that the Director of Instruction, Kim McCombs, is responsible for the continuing success of our junior programs. This elite junior program has been very successful with 27 golfers. One of the young ladies in the class is a very talented golfer and started the program with a score of 140 then last week she shot an 80.This is a great program for children and it is hoped they will continue on through high school competition. The Tiny Aces program Kim has implement has also been an amazing success. The program has five divisional sessions for children age 5-8. With these additional classes, another 39 children were added to the Tiny Aces program. Overall, the course has been doing very well when the weather cooperates.
Superintendent Bowen reported that rounds for July currently total of 5,973 vs. 6,917 last year which is a 944 variance or 13.65%. Through July 29th revenue from rounds we are down 18% at $20,223 vs. $24,845 compared to last July. In terms of dollars, rounds as of yesterday, July 29th totaled $362,000 vs. 441,000 for a variance of $79,000, down 18% for the year. In determining the bottom line as of yesterday, he does not yet have final numbers for overhead and there is also still one week of payroll left. However, using estimates from last year, we are going to finish the month around $169,000 in the positive and we were at $186,000 last year for a variance of $17,000 and there are still two days of revenue before the close of the month..
Commissioner Murdock stated that the bottom line is pretty tight. Superintendent Bowen replied that the water that has saturated the course from the recent rain has definitely had a negative impact on revenue since several outings and regular play were canceled this week and last weekend as well. Commissioner Murdock asked if it would be possible to receive exact bottom line numbers during the month so the committee could study these numbers before the meeting. Superintendent Bowen replied that unfortunately that is not possible on the expense side to get exact numbers except after the month end close, which could not be until two weeks after the month ended because of the payroll lag for hourly employees. Commissioner Murdock suggested that we move the meeting up closer to the beginning of the month so that the committee could analyze exact numbers
Commissioner Shelly stated that despite being down last week, it appears that the numbers will end up pretty close. Commissioner Murdock agreed and Committee Chair Brault also agreed.
Golf Course Manager Mike Matchen reported one of the two wells needed to be repaired. The well’s motor and wet intake valve on the east side of #8 had to be replaced. This valve is at the bottom of a 671 foot, 3 inch pipe so every 20-foot section had to be pulled in order to get down to replace the motor and then put it back together piece by piece. By the time the work was finished, it cost about $19,500 for the whole project. The payback on this will be quick, not just in cost savings but also from not having to use city water. For the first time since 1994 the course utilized 20 hours of the city water system. Mike connected to it on Friday at 8:30 am and shut if off at 4:30 am on Saturday when the rain came. It should not continue to be a problem for the rest of the year. Superintendent Bowen did state that staff opted to tap into the city water system since they were not comfortable taking the chance that it might rain.
From June 23 through July 20, 79/100” of rain fell and between July 22-28 a total of 7.53 inches fell. The course is now open but with no golf cars although there will probably be cars out tomorrow. Other than that, everyone is playing catch up and working on several clean-up projects on the course because of the storms. The crew also is continuing to cut the fairways as much as possible to get caught up. Committee Chair Brault asked for an estimate of how many man-hours of cleanup there were compared to previous years. Superintendent Matchen responded that the number of hours is twice as much if not more and that number is related to storm damage. Superintendent Matchen then presented a slide show and updated the Committee on the condition of the river, the lakes and debris on the course.
Mr. Bonnie stated it is a real testament to Mike and his crew that all the drainage work had been completed over the years. Although it is not perfect and still needs to be expanded, it is better than being shut down for two weeks like back in the old days. Superintendent Matchen stated that we were fortunate since the conditions had been so dry along with some other favorable factors.
Committee Chair Brault provided further information on the master plan process stating that last month the Committee recommended the Board accept the plan which at this point is more of a framework. We do not have a specific timetable for it nor any funding but we are moving forward with #6 so we will probably see the plan completed in stages. However, the master plan is considered to be the document on record for the future of the golf course
6) Tom Bonnie provided an historical perspective of the course and stated that since the time the Park District acquired the course, a tremendous amount of improvements have been made over the years. He thought it would be helpful to understand the history of how everything came to be. He moved here as a young man in 1966 and played on Monday nights. The course at that time was so thick with elm trees that you couldn’t see through the fairways. Unfortunately, Dutch Elm Disease took its toll and through the years probably over 1,200 elms were cut down. In that sense alone the course has changed dramatically. The elms were replaced with ash trees which unfortunately are now being lost as well. He then further described how the course has evolved and the changes made since.
In 1972 the Park District acquired the course for $4.5 million from Northwestern University. The year 1974 saw other course changes including the hiring of Killian & Nugent to make changes and a new irrigation system was constructed. In 1981-84, fairway bunkers were reconstructed on holes 4,5,6,9, 14 and 18. A new 14th green was constructed in 1985 and a master plan was developed by Nugent & Associates. In addition, a new maintenance barn was constructed. In 1988 a new 7th hole was built. In 1991 new greens were built for holes 10 and 17, new bunkers were added on hole #17 and a new tee was built for hole #18. In 1991 new greens were built for the 5th and 8th holes and the practice range was refurbished. In 2004 a completely new irrigation system was installed and a new 18th green was built. In addition, the teaching area of the practice range was expanded. Over the years much drainage work has been done which still continues to be an issue.
Mr. Bonnie stated that in summary, it is almost a completely different golf course since when it was purchased in 1972. Mike has worked hard to improve the drainage of the course over the years, the course is playable in just a few days when heavy rains occur rather than several weeks when the course was first purchased. However, reconfiguration of the dam at Willow Road has increased the flow in the river and created problems where none had existed before. He also recommends that a tree planting program be instituted to replace the ash trees since it is critical that these trees act as a safety factor for the relatively small course.
Superintendent Matchen explained that a total of 2,000 elm trees were actually lost in the early 1970’s. When the Park District first arrived on the scene, 800 were on the ground and another 800 were dead so it involved a lot of cleaning up. When we were done with that, there was one elm tree on the third hole that was lost just two years ago. With Tom Bonnie’s help, we have received two hybrid trees from the Morton Arboretum that are actually doing well. Mr. Bonnie added that there is only one elm tree left by the 13th hole. Mr. Bonnie stated that the course needs and extensive tree planting program. Superintendent Matchen explained that he would prefer a tree management program as outlined in the Master Plan vs. a haphazard tree planting program to avoid what happened in the 1970’s when there were too many trees planted and there were no regard for the species of the trees. The trend now is to have a program of removing selected trees that do not affect safety. Some ash trees may be removed anyway but we would also plant or transplant them where necessary. Once again the #1 priority is to keep the golfer safe and #2 is the playability of the golf balls and turf. Mr. Bonnie added that we need to be careful when picking out the species of the trees.
Committee Chair Brault stated this is a public course and many people here today are a part of why it is so successful. This has been a taxing couple of weeks for everyone as well as the staff and it appears we have come through very well so thank you all for that. It is amazing that we are back to play with carts tomorrow.
7) Old Business: Frank Charhut stated that he lives in Northfield and when he was on the Board, they commissioned Gewalt Hamilton to conduct a study of the entire Village of Northfield on how best to monitor water flow through the village. He would be happy to provide the results of that study and Committee Chair Brault stated the Committee would be happy to review it.
Fred Watson asked some questions about the process and timing of the master plan. Committee Chair Brault replied that the plan was accepted at the Park Board meeting and the issue now is how to fund the project. The budget process begins at the end of August or beginning of September and will evolve over the next four months. The Board also looks at the five-year capital plan for the entire Park District and reviews the projects to determine what items will be incorporated into next year’s budget.
Commissioner Murdock stated that the date the entire plan might be implemented has not yet been set. He also stated the master plan recommended doing the project all at once or during two seasons. We as a Board have not yet started talking about a recommendation. Committee Chair Brault stated his personal expectation is that the entire plan will not be done next year but this has not yet been debated by the full Board. It is his opinion that the Board is also looking at other big projects throughout the District including the lakefront and the Harbor and how those projects interplay are to be determined. But what is known is that they will have an effect on how we expend our resources.
Commissioner Murdock added that the Village Board tends to cover more items in their bi-weekly public meetings. However, the Park District Board tends to do more work at the Committee level. In regard to capital expenditures, the Board has discussed them at the Financial Planning Committee meetings so if anyone is interested, they are welcome to attend these meetings as we go through the budget process. At the end of the year, there is also a Budget Workshop in advance of a budget approval, usually in December. This meeting is also open to the public.
8) New Business: None
9) There being no additional business, the Committee was adjourned at 9:34 a.m.
The next meeting will be held on Saturday, August 27, 2011.
Minutes taken by J. Bowen.
MINUTES APPROVED ON AUGUST 27, 2011.