June 1 2017 07:36 AM

Council, with 3 absentees, fails to overcome veto

Todd Todd Heywood/City Pulse

THURSDAY. June 1 — With three members absent, opponents failed last night to block the Bernero administration’s plan to transfer management of the Groesbeck Golf Course to the Lansing Entertainment and Public Facilities Authority.


Judi Brown Clarke, Jessica Yorko and Patricia Spitzley did not attend the meeting, announced May 22. To override a veto, Council has to get six of the eight sitting Council members to vote for an override.


The Council voted 5-2 last month to amend the administration’s proposed budget to defund the plan.


Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero hailed the failure of the move to override his veto.


“This is a common sense approach to reducing the financial losses that Lansing taxpayers are required to subsidize every year to keep Groesbeck Golf Course operating,” Bernero said in a press release shortly after the meeting adjourned. “Taxpayers paid an estimated $24 for every round of golf played at Groesbeck last year, which added up to more than $600,000. That means more than one out of every four Parks Millage dollars are spent on underwriting the financial losses at a single park. We are blessed with 114 parks and four community centers in Lansing, and they deserve a fair share of the tax dollars dedicated to their maintenance and improvement.”


Under the plan, LEPFA will take over management of the golf course on Jan. 1. The quasi-governmental entity will receive nearly a half year’s worth of parks millage dollars under the budget plan, about $283,000.


Parks and Recreation Director Brett Kaschinske said Wednesday afternoon that he can’t “guarantee” that the move will save money in the long run.


“What I know is that what we’ve been doing isn’t working,” he said. “It’s time to try something new.”

Critics said there is no in-depth plan with detailed financials. Instead, there is a thrown-together business plan with one page of financials, including an assumption that the golf course will see 60,000 more golfers in 2018 than in 2017. The budget assumes an increase from 50,000 games in 2017 to 110,000 games in 2018. Kaschinske said that assumption is based on the fact that two of the course’s holes are currently closed and expected to reopen next year.

They also raise concerns about transferring the course to LEPFA, which has failed to reduce subsidies to its other managed facilities: the City Market, Common Ground Music Festival, Cooley Law School Stadium and the Lansing Center. The city subsidizes those entities to the tune of about $1 million annually. Common Ground and the City Market received increased subsidies in the budget passed on May 15.

The proposal first surfaced in April when Council was reviewing the mayor’s budget proposal.


And this weekend the mayor confirmed that a plan that has been rejected by residents twice since 2001 to create a paved entryway to the golf course through Ormond Park “will happen.” The project, which took the Council by surprise, will cost taxpayers $385,000, Angela Bennett, finance director for the city, informed the Committee on Ways and Means Wednesday afternoon during a special meeting. That money originated from dollars collected for the parks millage and originally designated for other projects which never came about or which cost less than originally budgeted.


Brown Clarke asked for an excused absence immediately, Councilwoman Carol Wood, who as vice president presided over the meeting in the absence of Council President Spitzley. That request was buttressed on Wednesday night with a text message from Brown Clarke’s husband, Judge Hugh Clarke Jr., that said Brown Clarke was working at her job at Michigan State University with a group of graduate students, Wood said.


Brown Clarke is vacating her at-large Council position to seek the mayor’s office.


Yorko sent an email to the Council two minutes before the meeting began informing the body she would not be attending the meeting due to “a parental commitment,” Wood said. She said that if she did attend, she would have voted to sustain the veto. She was one of the five Council members to vote last month to defund the plan..


Yorko has announced she will not seek re-election this year due to health concerns.


Wood said Spitzley was at a local hospital caring for her aging father.

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