It is my opinion, formed from attending and viewing the various meetings of the board of selectmen, finance board, and other boards and committees responsible for the ultimate fate of the Country Club Of Woodbridge, that the singleminded focus of the majority administration has been the appeal of selling all or part of the property for economic and budgetary purposes.
The arguments put forth have been ” Freeing up money for other much needed town projects”, “ keeping our debt to budget ratio at 8% or less”, “It’s costing us a lot of money” to own and operate the club, and the “ clubhouse is falling down.”
The capital budget items included new fire trucks, an expanded police station, the old firehouse,and repairs to Beecher Road school and the town is reluctant to borrow for these projects because of our already existing debt of $ 42M.
There are several points here which bear examination:
First, the “much needed capital improvements” are wants as opposed to needs. If the situations with the fire or police departments were urgent in terms of public safety, there would be no hesitation, indeed it would be irresponsible of the town, not to borrow for these expenses.
Second,it is not “ costing us a lot of money” to own the property. The payments on the bonds are part of our ongoing budget and have been planned for. The bond will eventually be satisfied and the town will own the land free and clear. The golf course last year showed a small positive cash flow. The expenses of refurbishing the pool and the locker rooms is a one time expense.The cost p each household is a few hundred dollars, with those able to pay more assuming more of the cost.
Third, the 8% figure is arbitrary.
Fourth, the clubhouse needs some roof repairs and some external rot addressed, but it is hardly falling down.
The Country Club property was purchased by the people of Woodbridge to preserve it and prevent its impending sale for development. It was an opportunity to acquire a unique and irreplaceable asset for the town.It is an asset for all time, for forever.
If it is sold for development, it will be lost forever as an asset to the town. Instead it will be traded for a small amount of money, not even enough to pay off the bond.
It is akin to selling Grandma’s jewelry to pay the gas bill.
In my opinion, it should be viewed as an asset. I have several suggestions.
First, make the clubhouse watertight. Do it with volunteer labor, We certainly have enough talent in this town to accomplish this. I’m sure members of the fire department, used to scaling ladders and climbing on roofs, could be included ion the vanguard.
Second, explore the feasibility of putting solar panels on the roof to defray utility costs.
Third, consider a voluntary assessment for those willing to contribute to materials for repairs.
Fourth, seek state and federal funding for preservation of open space.
Fifth, seek state and federal funding for site cleanup
Sixth, seek endowments from wealthy individuals for preserving it as a park.
Seventh, explore the possibility of working with a salvage company, to demolish the building and recycle/ resell the materials, should the destruction of the clubhouse be deemed necessary.
I’m sure there are many more creative solutions to this situation. I think selling all or part of the property for development is shorted sighted, not in keeping with the reasons for its purchase,
and of no lasting economic advantage
David A. Lober, M.D.