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Elizabethton City Council displeased with more funding for golf course

John Thompson • Jan 10, 2019 at 9:17 PM

ELIZABETHTON — The financial problems of the Elizabethton Municipal Golf Course have once again come under scrutiny of the Elizabethton City Council.

During the council’s meeting on Thursday, Finance Director Deborah Kessler told the council members that the golf course would require additional funds in order to cover expenses.

The news came as a disappointment, as the council hoped it had improved the golf course’s reliance on the city to balance its books. Back on April 1, the city entered into a contract with Hampton Golf to manage the course and operations.

The city’s intent has been to make golf pay for itself in Elizabethton through good management of the facility and attracting more memberships.

Kessler said one problem that was not anticipated was the stand by the Carter County Sheriff’s Department to stop sending jail trustys to the golf course once Hampton took over.

Kessler told the council member that she thought the trustys should be able to work at the golf course because it is still owned by the city.

Sheriff Dexter Lunceford was not at the meeting. The Johnson City Press called him after the meeting to get his comments.

“The golf course is managed by a private company that is for profit,” Lunceford said by phone after the meeting. “It would be a criminal offense for me to provide jail labor.”

Kessler said the golf course manager told her the unanticipated need to hire additional labor will mean an additional $50,000 in labor costs to get the course ready for play in the spring.

With that information, Kessler prepared a budget amendment that would take $50,000 from the General Fund to cover the additional costs.

Kessler told the council that when Hampton Golf took over management of the course, the city council had appropriated $90,000 for management fees for the fiscal year. That money is now spent, Kessler said.

Council members made it clear they did not like the budget amendment or spending the additional money, but they said they would vote yes on the first reading, so that a required public hearing could be held on the matter prior to the final reading next month.

In other matters, the council approved a mandatory closing time of 11 p.m. for the newly created pub bars. The council also approved a change to the ordinance to provide a larger limit on the definition of a microbrewery. The new limit would be 15,000 barrels. That would mean Yee-Haw Brewing Company of Johnson City would be included in the definition.

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