During a recent meeting of the City Commission of Arkansas City, Spring Hill Golf Course presented a request for funding that included almost $35,000 for 2017.
The commissioners gave the golf course $3,600, a sum of money that should keep it open and able to pay its bills through the end of this month.
However, clubhouse manager Cathy Vaughn and Dale Kuhn, treasurer for the Spring Hill Golf Course Association, requested a total of $12,855.42 for the remainder of this year to keep the course open.
The commissioners were not informed of the need for funds until Spring Hill sent a letter to them on Aug. 9.
Outside agencies seeking funding from the city typically submit their requests by July, when the next year’s budget is being discussed and developed.
Since that meeting, Vaughn has taken to Facebook, asking those who want to see the golf course stay open to contact commissioners.
“Unbeknownst to both Dale (Kuhn) and I, when we took over our positions in (September) of 2014, the course was in debt over $41,000 due to unpaid bills and taxes, while we had access to $35,000,” she said. “Although 2015 was a good year (financially), this year has not been.”
During a City Commission meeting Aug. 15, Vaughn and Kuhn explained that the greens fees had been increased and the clubhouse hours had been shortened.
“Dale (Kuhn) and I went to the City to ask for financial help, since the majority of the area golf courses are now taken over by their respective cities due to situations like ours,” Vaughn posted. “Until 2012, the city did subsidize our course, but for some reason, they stopped.”
Andrew Lawson, public information officer for the City of Arkansas City, explained that rather than providing direct property tax support for the golf course, the city was managing funds in an account on behalf of Spring Hill. Those funds originated in part from proceeds from the sale of some property to local hotel developers.
But the city decided about four years ago to turn those funds directly over to the Association, he said, and no direct financial support has occurred since then.
Finances at a glance
However, the City of Arkansas City currently provides about $8,000 worth of free water to Spring Hill Golf Course each year. The golf course has three city water meters, but only pays on one of them that has the lowest usage.
According to the projected budget numbers for 2017, the golf course will begin January with a small cash balance, but each month will end with a negative balance. If those estimates are correct and business continues to suffer as it has, the entity would end 2017 with a negative balance of $34,227.25.
Vaughn and Kuhn disclosed a decreasing number of Association members when presenting to the commissioners.
They also said the last two tournaments scheduled to take place at the golf course were canceled, one because of weather conditions.
“I personally feel that this is an underutilized yet extremely important part of Ark City,” Jill Wineinger posted on Facebook. “Sadly, Spring Hill (is) like many of our area attractions (that) are in trouble. As a community, I feel we need to not only support, but revitalize this important landmark in our community.”
“This makes me sick. I love this golf course,” posted Nicki Futhey-Llamas.
“I may not golf anymore, but I spent a lot of time there golfing with my grandpa as a kid and my girls love watching the golfers from his yard (he lives right across the street from it). I hate that an attraction like this is hurting so badly, especially since we don’t have much to offer attraction- or activity-wise.”
“I am and always be one to support Spring Hill Golf Course,” posted Matthew John Mitchell. “Cathy, if you ever need a hand with upkeep, feel free to message me. Spring Hill has and always will be Ark City’s golf course. End of the story.”
“(It would) be neat if somehow Cowley College could get involved and start offering golf course management classes,” said Traver Herman. “Could be a win-win for the city and the college. I know golf courses all over America are struggling in small towns. Be sad to see it close up.”
“I heard a year ago it was in the best financial status that it had been for years, which was crap,” posted Natasha Beard Bryant.
“Plus, if you don’t keep the doors open when it’s light out, like summer time 9-9:30, then what do you expect. I guess the management and employees that took over a year ago really didn’t know how to run a golf course, just run one in the ground. Shame on you.”