A decision on the future fate of Duluth's two municipal golf courses will likely be delayed for a few more months.
Jim Filby Williams, Duluth's director of public administration, informed city councilors Monday night that a citizens advisory group assembled late last year to explore how the municipal golf courses might be placed on a firmer and more sustainable financial footing will need more time to complete its work.
Originally, the group was to report back to the council by summer's end, but Filby Williams said it now aims to share its recommendations in late fall "because of the complexity of the issues."
The Lester Park and Enger Park golf courses were projected to lose a combined $108,000 this year, adding to about $2.2 million in previously accumulated debt.
"Part of the advisory group's charge has always been to explore the role that the sale and development of portions of Duluth Golf might help it return to financial sustainability," Filby Williams noted.
Without dropping any names, Filby Williams said the city has received a request from "a specific developer who wants to further investigate development at Lester."
He said members of both city administration and the advisory group have encouraged that prospective developer to continue to explore opportunities for the potential reuse of golf course property.
Filby Williams referred to the ongoing discussions as "an important means to help inform the continued golf study process, because development is one of the variables in play, as it always has been."
In other business, the council authorized the purchase of two new fire rigs at a cost of nearly $2 million. The city had already budgeted for the acquisition of a $600,000 pumper truck
But the more expensive replacement of a tower truck - the costliest rig in the fire department's fleet with a 100-foot reach - had not been anticipated until 2019.
A July 2 electrical fire in the tower truck pushed up the purchase. The city now plans to place an order this year, with delivery of the $1.375 million vehicle anticipated about a full year later.
Placing the order for the tower truck now should allow the city to lock in a lower price, said David Montgomery, Duluth's chief administrative officer. He noted that the cost of the specialized truck could climb by about 10 percent in the near future due to the anticipated impact of steel and aluminum tariffs.
The council voted 7-1 in support of the accelerated purchase, with 5th District Councilor Jay Fosle opposed and 1st District Councilor Gary Anderson absent at Monday's meeting.
On another front, the council voted 8-0 in support of providing $25,000 from tourism tax proceeds to help purchase needed technology to equip a cruise ship terminal in Duluth. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency system will be required for the city to process international passengers.
The Duluth Economic Development Authority approved $50,000 for the equipment last week, and the Duluth Seaway Port Authority will be asked to chip in another $10,000 when it next meets.