Cedar Hills admits golf course bleeds money
Utah County • Venture has lost about $4.3M since 2004.
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Cedar Hills • Despite past claims to the contrary, this Utah County city has never made a profit on its golf course, according to the city manager.

Not only has the golf course not made a profit, financial data shows it has lost nearly a half million dollars each year since 2004, or about $4.3 million, City Manager David Bunker confirmed Tuesday night.

A special town hall meeting on Nov. 15 for residents clarified that previously reported golf course revenue numbers were correct — if you don't count the omissions of a property tax subsidy and annual loan payments.

"They were correct in a way, but it appears misleading," Bunker told The Tribune on Tuesday night after the City Council meeting held inside the golf course clubhouse. "When you factor all these other things … the golf course has always lost money."

Bunker clarified that none of the current City Council members or mayor receive free, unlimited golf, however 21 of Cedar Hills staff employees do, including city office and administrative staff, finance office staff and the events coordinator. Bunker defended the free golf games as a way to raise awareness by having employees take friends to promote the course.

The city plans to refinance the 25-year bond for the golf course in December, which will save up to $500,000 on the entire loan, Bunker said. Councilwoman Jenney Rees said a plan to deal with the golf course losses will be posted next week on the city's website. The plan was developed by a special committee formed to solve the financial problems with the golf course.

Meanwhile, many residents remain upset about the golf course losses.

Ken Cromar, a former councilman from 1994-2000, is now a researcher for citizen group Cedar Hills Citizens for Responsible Government. He said he never believed the city when it said the golf course was making money.

"Municipalities are perpetually incompetent at running business ventures," Cromar said in a phone interview. "Cedar Hills is the poster child of failures of cities pretending to know how to operate a business."

For Cromar, the proof was all in the emails.

In May 2011, Cromar asked Jim Perry, a councilman at the time, for accurate numbers for golf course profits, stating the city didn't have correct ones.

Perry replied he didn't understand why Cromar thought city staff should take time to do the "tedious job of extracting just the information" he wanted out of city financial data. He asked Cromar to imagine if every resident expected the staff to do that.

"It seems like you think city staff are your personal servants and should do whatever you personally want — that just isn't a reasonable expectation," Perry wrote.

The City Council had other golf course concerns Tuesday night, considering the option of upgrading its golf carts.

"They had to tow a cart back, and that is very embarrassing as a city," said council member Stephanie Martinez.

It would cost the city $20,000 more for newer carts, but no decision will be made on upgrading the carts until December.

cimaron@sltrib.com

Twitter: @CimCity