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Opinions differ on what to do with Coral Oaks

By Staff | Sep 19, 2011

It’s unclear what direction the Cape Coral City Council will take next week when deciding whether or not to outsource functions of the Coral Oaks golf course. Some on the dais want to keep it all in-house, while others want to hand it over to private companies like Tampa-based CKT Asset Management.

The council has several options at its disposal, including outsourcing maintenance, management or both. Or the city could choose to lease the course to a private entity while still retaining ownership.

Public response to the proposal was decidedly negative, with council chambers packed with both users of the course and those who feel the city needs to keep one of its assets and all its functions in-house.

Former mayor Joe Mazurkiewicz said the Gulf American Company transferred Coral Oaks to the city in 1983, his first year as mayor.

“I didn’t understand the impact the golf course would have on the community, the impact has been longstanding,” Mazurkiewicz said.

The Coral Oaks golf course employees 40 people, a few of which are contracted with the city and are not full-time.

For Councilmembver Derrick Donnell, the possible loss of jobs alone is enough to for him to pass on privatizing one of the city’s amenities.

“I don’t want to lose any more jobs and I don’t want to outsource,” Donnell said.

City Manager Gary King said previously that outsourcing the maintenance portion of the course could save the city upwards of $700,000 annually.

Looking at outsourcing the golf course is not an attempt to offer a diminished product for the citizens, but instead, King said, it is an opportunity to “financially optimize” the golf course options for the council.

The city received 15 proposals through a Request for Proposal, including five for grounds maintenance, eight for management and two looking to lease the course.

Councilmember Chris Chulakes-Leetz said the proposals to privatize certain functions of the course might have left out one crucial piece that’s hard to quantify, the “intangible goodwill value” the course provides its citizens.

“That’s something you cannot measure,” Chulakes-Leetz added.

While the course is a prominent amenity for the city, Councilmember Bill Deile said cutting costs there will help to offset the loss of $4.5 million in revenue when both police and fire unions failed to ratify their contracts.

Deile said he’d rather have a police and fire protection than a golf course.

“We can say it’s amenity, and that’s true, but we have to place a value on that we would like to have a golf course that produces money for the city,” Deile said.

CKT Asset Man-agement representatives said that any city employee possibly displaced by outsourcing would have the opportunity to apply and work for the company.

Councilmember Pete Brandt said it is unfair to assume that if a private company does take over operation of the course, that quality would ultimately suffer.

“I think it’s incorrect to predispose it’s going to go downhill we’re not going to let that happen,” Brandt said.

Blue Collar Union President Wally Ilzyszyn said he feels the council could look at other ways to cut costs. Blue collar workers have already taken a 5 percent pay cut, Ilzyszyn said.

“The maintenance staff out there are not the top earners in our city,” he said. “They’re not at a high pay scale and they would be the ones to take a hit.”

Council is expected to vote on the matter during its regular meeting next Monday.