Duluth City Council OKs money to evaluate city’s golf courses, help build affordable housingGolf courses, affordable housing, stimulus grants and global positioning equipment were on the docket when the Duluth City Council met Monday night.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune
Golf courses, affordable housing, stimulus grants and global positioning equipment were on the docket when the Duluth City Council met Monday night.
By unanimous consent, the council approved plans to pay a consultant up to $28,500 to evaluate operations at Duluth’s Enger Park and Lester Park municipal golf courses.
National Golf Consulting Inc. will take a hard look at both courses, and Duluth Chief Administrative Officer Dave Montgomery will be looking to the experts for guidance.
“We want to know what we could do to maximize the use of these courses and to maximize the benefits to the city,” he said.
Both courses operate 27 holes, but Montgomery said he’s open to considering changes that might prove beneficial.
“Should one be 18 holes and the other 27? We don’t know,” he said.
Montgomery said both golf courses have been breaking even for the most part. “They’re not drawing down the city coffers, but the question is: Can we do better?”
The city administration remains open to different management models, too, including the idea of a public-private partnership, Montgomery said.
Whether operating golf courses should be considered a core city service remains open to debate, in Montgomery’s view.
He pointed out that both courses will require significant capital investments in the near future, due to factors such as aging sprinkler systems and clubhouses.
The council also gave a leg up to plans to build an apartment complex that could help fight homelessness in Duluth’s Hillside neighborhood.
Hillside Apartments Duluth LLP proposes to put in 40 to 50 units of apartments in the 100 block of West Fourth Street at an estimated cost of about $10 million.
Councilors unanimously passed a resolution supporting a project request for low-income housing tax credits and other assistance from the state.
The council also voted to donate a half-lot it owns just east of Second Avenue West on West Fourth Street to Hillside Apartments Duluth LLP for the project. The city assessor’s office estimates the property’s value at about $3,000.
Building in Duluth
Councilors signed off on four grants the Duluth Economic Development Authority approved for construction projects this summer. The Building in Duluth program makes use of untapped tax-increment financing money in the community.
The council approval clears the way for the following:
By a 7-1 vote, with Councilor Jay Fosle dissenting, the council approved plans to purchase and install global positioning and monitoring equipment in many of its vehicles with the help of a $450,000 federal stimulus grant from the Department of Energy. The new equipment is expected to help the city improve the efficiency of its operations by improving fleet management and reducing salt use.
Data services required to operate the system are expected to cost the city $169,400 annually.
“I don’t see them saving $170,000 per year to pay the bill,” Fosle said. “All I see is this costing the city money.”
But Councilor Dan Hartman defended the equipment purchase, saying the city needs to make use of available new technologies to improve efficiency.
Montgomery assured the council the system would pay for itself.
“It’s our expectation that the city will save over $300,000 per year using this system,” he said. “It’s our view that the savings will more than cover our operating costs.”