Miami Springs council gets sobering news on golf course

    The election from April 2 that saw the mayor and two new councilmen earn two-year terms became official in a special meeting this past Monday night, April 8, just before the first regular meeting of the month took place.

    Commissioner Rebeca Sosa was present to hear the official tally of the votes and take part in the swearing-in ceremony of Mayor Zavier Garcia along with Councilman Michael Windrem and Jaime Petralanda.

    Garcia defeated former councilwoman Jennifer Ator with almost 64 percent of the 2,018 ballots cast. Windrem won over four other candidates for the Group I seat with 732 votes and 37 percent of the vote. Petralanda got the Group IV seat, being vacated by Ator, by beating Constantino Hernandez by just over 300 votes.

    The special meeting was adjourned and soon after Garcia called to order the first meeting of the new council. Windrem, who will serve the first six months as vice mayor; Petralanda; and the two who faced no opposition in the election — former mayor Billy Bain and incumbent councilman George Lob — were seated and ready for business.

    The business most discussed on this night dealt with the Miami Springs Golf and Country Club and the news was sobering. Richard Singer of NGF Consulting gave his report on the conditions and future of the golf course. He had been hired by the previous council to give advice on the city-owned property, purchased from the City of Miami in 1997.

    “You have an impressive property but are headed toward disaster if you don’t invest in this property,” Singer said on Monday night. “There is a real possibility to lose this facility if improvements are not done to increase desirability.”

    The golf course has lost millions of dollars over the past 15 years and Singer expressed real doubt that it could ever break even, especially if his recommended $1 million in improvements is factored into the equation. The golf operation is on track to lose at least $300,000 in the current fiscal year, ending Sept. 30, 2013.

    “You have to identify the areas that are deficient and either increase revenues or cut expenses. It has the basic design and location to be successful but you are dealing with an 80-year old golf course.

    “It needs investment and you will have to spend money to make money and may never get to break even. But in its current condition, the rounds (played) are declining more than the market. Nationally, rounds went up in 2012 but not at Miami Springs Golf Course.”

    Singer’s recommendations included hiring a new golf director who is bilingual, tech savvy and dedicated to marketing.  Also, improving the turf, cart paths, and drainage—at a cost of about $1 million—would increase rounds played and revenue.

    He also pointed to improved marketing as a key, including enhanced electronic capabilities, promoting bilingualism, and increased emphasis on female participation. An overall improved branding would bring more golfers from the outside.

    Singer closed his presentation with the words, “You need to take action” and the new council, with an impending budget on the horizon, appeared to understand.

In other news, the council:

    • Moved unanimously for the software/hardware paperless agenda implementation via iPads with Adobe Readers for everyone. Training and outfitting will take place over the next two weeks and the next meeting (April 22) will be transitional from paper to paperless.

    • By consensus the council gave the Recreation Department and Director Omar Luna the authority to pursue a “Wall of Fame” concept at the Community Center which will honor individuals and/or companies for their contributions to athletics in Miami Springs.  

    • Heard a presentation by Code Compliance director Tex Ziadie about the current sweep of excess materials on properties that is going on this month in Miami Springas. He reiterated the city procedure for all violations of any kind: 1) a courtesy notice to comply; 2) a notice of violation; 3) a summons to appear before the Code Enforcement board.

    • Received an update on the pool that included: 1) a determination that X-raying and Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) will not provide the information needed; 2) an expert opinion from YH Engineering indicating the city should consider a whole new pool complex; 3) Skip Reed has scheduled meetings with seven different firms to provide expertise on how to proceed; 4) a recommendation to council on how to proceed is expected for the May 13 council meeting.