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South Whidbey Parks considers running Holmes Harbor Golf Course

The South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District may bring the Holmes Harbor Golf Course back to life.

The decision comes after initially determining at Wednesday’s parks board meeting that the district would not include an additional levy to maintain and operate the golf course on the November ballot.

A proposed levy for the golf course originally would have coincided with the parks’ regular maintenance and operation levy, which concerned board members and they pushed the decision to the February ballot. However, after analysis of the maintenance and operations levy, Parks Director Doug Coutts informed board members that placing the levy on the November ballot legally would have been too early.

South Whidbey parks leaders had to switch their levy plans. The parks board pushed the maintenance and operations levy to February and will consider including a levy for the golf course in November.

The Holmes Harbor Water and Sewer District purchased the 18-hole golf course greens and fairway in April for $200,000 and asked the parks district to look at the possibility of operating the course, said Stan Walker, president of the sewer board. The sewer district does not have authority to operate a recreational facility because it is established as a utilities district.

Coutts informed the board they would need a $0.09 property tax levy generating $360,000 to operate Holmes Harbor Golf Course, or a $0.04 levy generating $160,000 to use the property as a general park, based on assessed values. For a home assessed at $300,000 this levy would be an additional $27 annually for a golf course or $16 for a park, The issue would need to be on the ballot in November for a golf course to be in full operation in 2014. It hasn’t operated since 2010.

The biggest concern for Don Wood, parks board chairman, was securing the pro shop and maintenance facility should the district take over operations of the course. The previous owners, Kevin Hanchett and Mike Cooper, sold the golf course, but not the associated buildings.

Wood said he did not want to ask the public for a golf levy, begin operation and eventually find the space used for something else, which would force the district to reconfigure the course.

Walker said he thinks it would be in the public interest to have the golf course function as a golf course.

“We are continuing the effort to make something work,” Walker said. “We want to make sure we are getting the best use out of the area, and the best revenue outcome it can produce.”

The sewer district is currently responsible for maintenance of the property, which includes cutting the grass. Sewer commissioners would like to unload that responsibility, which costs approximately $70,000 annually. The next sewer district board meeting is scheduled for July 11.

Without an additional levy, the parks and recreation district would not have the funding to take on the 50-acre property.

The board agreed to keep the maintenance and operations levy at the same 15 cent rate for the ballot, which is now set to February.

Tom Fallon, facility and grounds supervisor, said the parks and recreation district is known for being efficient and doing a lot with the current budget. Fallon concurred that the levy should stay at 15 cents. He said the parks district could consider establishing small user fees to help the staff offset the cost of maintenance for some park events.

Attending board members included Joel Gerlach, Mark Helpenstell, Jim Porter and Don Wood. Parks Commissioner Will Simms was absent.

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