Time for a harder look at Twin Falls recreation deficits

Opinion
2011-04-26T01:00:00Z Time for a harder look at Twin Falls recreation deficits Twin Falls Times-News
April 26, 2011 1:00 am

For a generation, the question of whether taxpayers should subsidize the Twin Falls Golf Club and the swimming pool wasn’t that difficult. Yes, they were a drain on city coffers, but times were good and the benefits to kids and golfers of all ages were tangible.

It’s not so simple anymore.

Consider this: A brand new Twin Falls city police officer costs about $40,000 a year. This in a city with the seventh-highest crime rate in Idaho — higher than Boise, Meridian, Nampa, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Lewiston or Caldwell.

So when Councilman Will Kezele says it may be time for some tough choices about subsidizing golf and swimming, we have to agree.

In the past three fiscal years, the city of Twin Falls has underwritten operation of its municipal golf course and pool by almost half a million dollars. That doesn’t include the more than $1 million spent on pool maintenance since October 2007. During that time, city water rates have increased, roads have worsened and the city has started looking at another multimillion-dollar bond to pay for infrastructure upgrades.

Public use of both facilities has fallen, down 20 percent for the golf course.

And while the city has made progress in trimming costs, neither facility is going to break even anytime soon without changes. Is that a bad thing? You could argue not. There are kids in the community who wouldn’t know how to swim and golfers — many of them seniors — with little access to exercise without the facilities at Muni.

But as thousands of Twin Falls residents travel daily down pockmarked Eastland Drive, it’s a fair question whether we have our priorities right.

At the last Twin Falls City Council meeting, members opted to begin negotiating with Steve Meyerhoeffer to be the next golf pro at the Muni; they also decided to solicit new city pool management, bringing in the potential to change how the facilities are operated — and their cost to taxpayers.

Part of what drew the council to Meyerhoeffer was his flexibility regarding management terms, including possibly leasing the course.

That meeting included Kezele saying he hoped the city would get out of the golf and pool business altogether.

That may be a stretch given the alternatives. There are simply no private sector players waiting in the wing with the necessary resources.

We’re anxious to see what business model Meyerhoeffer proposes for Muni, but while the council and Meyerhoeffer are talking, it’s time to bring in more revenue now. Unfortunately, an increase in green fees — perhaps less severe for seniors and excluding kids — needs to take effect. Yes, there’s a risk; the number of rounds could decrease to offset the fee increase. But we think it’s a risk worth taking.

2011 is the year to determine whether or not your tax dollars should continue to subsidize a comparatively small number of golfers while all of us must deal with dwindling law enforcement resources and insufficient road repair dollars.

Copyright 2015 Twin Falls Times-News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(1) Comments

  1. escape
    Report Abuse
    escape - April 24, 2011 8:10 am
    If it were possible to "shoestring" the boundaries of the Urban Renewal Agency district in Twin Falls, I suspect duplicitous and supposed "developers" from downtown would privatize the TF Golf Club.
    And with a name like "MuniAlive!" perhaps other investors could be enticed to relocate near the golf course. The URA board of directors must be truly salivating at the idea of a possible public-private partnership along Grandview Drive. Depending on who you are -- or, more specifically, who you know -- these arrangements have worked out well for some Old Towne folks. Their names escape me. I'd have to dredge up some old newspaper articles.
    From the editorial: "There are simply no private sector players waiting in the wing with the necessary resources." Really? Just partner them with taxpayer money and "players" wiggle out of their dank crawl spaces to feed at the public trough.
    Scott Andrus
    Twin Falls

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