Town prepares to take over golf course asset

Masha Scheele

After discussing what kind of role council will play in how the Hinton Golf Club (HGC) is operated long-term, council decided to pursue an “ASH” style operating model in 2020.

As the name implies, this option is similar to the arrangement of the Arts Society Hinton (ASH) and the PATH Performing Arts Building.

This means the town will enter into a long-term partnership with the Hinton Golfing Society  in the management and operations of the HGC.

Coun. Albert Ostashek explained that ASH runs the PATH on behalf of the town and the town offers financial assistance if they need help to cover expenses.

The manager of the asset in this model is hired by the nonprofit organization, just like councillors were in support for the golf course.

According to the report presented at the standing committee meeting on Nov. 26, financial support and greater oversight of the board could be provided through council-appointed members to the society. 

The Golf Club manager and all other staff would report to the Society, with wages for the manager advanced by the Town, and potentially reimbursed through revenue collected throughout the season. 

CAO Martin Taylor added that they would need some time to recruit and hire a manager.

After some debate over how much funds council should approve to get the HGC running in 2020, council recommended $80,000 for operating funds into the 2020 season with administrative recommendations for ongoing conditions oversight and support by the Town of Hinton.

“$80,000, that could be for them to open their doors, they can start paying their bills. They have bills coming in, they still have to pay for power, they still have to pay for gas, it’s not just to hire a manager,” said Taylor, who suggested the number based on conversations with the society.

This money will go towards payment of utilities, upkeep and maintenance of the clubhouse and other buildings, insurance and security of the property, as well as a golf club manager of the building.

A manager will be hired by the society, instead of hiring a manager through administration.

“Ideally, I want the next five years of this have it be transitioning further away from the town rather than further into the town. I think the society has been dealt a few tough hands,” said Coun. Dewly Nelson, referring to the clubhouse, consulting advice, and leasing challenges.

The town will be paying $158,000 in yearly loan payments, and in return they will have a tangible capital asset.

“The additional [funds] for a manager is a taxpayer investment, paying wages that the town is never going to see a return on,” stated Coun. Ostashek.

“I have no doubt in my mind that the Hinton Golfing Society can operate the golf course in a feasible manner when they are subsidized at that kind of rate.” 

He added that citizens might have issue with that subsidization of an asset which nobody asked to purchase, with a questionable future and return, and one the town got stuck with due to an agreement made in 2016.

Council also recommended proceeding with an appraisal for the HCG, including all assets, and associated costs to be included in the draft 2020 Budget.

Members of Hinton’s Golfing Society made administration aware of its poor financial projections in June 2019, which was followed by a letter to council in October indicating that the society was no longer able to manage its financial commitments after the end of the month.

Currently, the balance owing on the Golfing Society Loan is $1,349,997. 

According to the town’s report from Nov. 26, a transfer of assets between the Hinton Golfing Society and the Town of Hinton is being reviewed and a cheque of $129,867.67 was issued to the society to support payroll, accounts payable and other financial commitments.

Following an in-camera Special Meeting of Council on Oct. 29, Council approved the transfer of assets from the HGC to the Town of Hinton and a conditional advancement of up to $250,000 to the Hinton Golfing Society.