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An incentive plan for increased golf play that makes sense for pro, city

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POSTED December 5, 2012 10:59 p.m.

Steve Pinkerton, before he left Manteca to assume city manager duties in Davis - the Sacramento Valley beachhead for Berkeley sensibilities - had a trademark mantra. It was simple and to the point: Things are not going to go back to the way they were before.

It not only applied to government before we started paying the price for self-centered, we-want-the-world-and-we-want-it-now economic sins, but to the world in general. What worked in the heady period from 1970 to 2006 in how we approached things financially simply isn’t sustainable.

It is why Golf Pro Alan Thomas’ approach to boosting rounds at the Manteca golf course by reverting back to the salad days 25 years ago was a bit of wishful thinking. His request was dead on arrival. Not because of that, but simply the Kamikaze element he based his pitch on.

No elected official in 2012, with Manteca municipal employees taking the biggest hit for keeping city finances from doing a Stockton by agreeing to take compensation reductions of roughly 28 percent, is insane enough to just give Thomas a $65,000 “compensation” increase up front.

Thomas’ plan was for the city to give him 17 percent of the green fee instead of 10 percent starting Jan. 1, 2013. That, he argued, would allow him to hire additional personnel so he could go back to the way the things were 25 years ago, when 30,000 more rounds of golf were played at the Manteca course. That, in turn, would generate more money for the city.

In fairness to Thomas, during the Great Golf War of 2002-03 when his compensation as a contracted municipal employee was the dominant political issue in Manteca, he was saddled with a couple of bizarre contractual conditions.

One is requiring him to replace the air conditioning unit in the space that he manages for the city. While not exactly the same, it is similar to renting a house and the landlord making you responsible for replacing the air conditioning unit should it stop working. Yes, some commercial leases put such burden on the lessee in long-term arrangements but this is a city building and Thomas is running a city recreation facility and getting a cut of green fees that he collects on behalf of the city.

And although Thomas likes to say the golf course arrangement is no different than Big League Dreams, it is not the same. He is not responsible for upkeep of the course and capital replacement projects. That’s why if air conditioning goes out at the BLD complex, even on the 364th day of the last year of the 35-year lease, BLD is obligated to replace it.

As for paying for janitorial services, how can the city let Thomas off the hook on that one? After all, Manteca taxpayers bankrolled a $15,000, five-month-long study by a citizens blue ribbon panel 10 years ago that determined the biggest flaw in golf course operations was paper towels strewn on the floor in the men’s locker room.

The City Council Tuesday did the right thing in rejecting Thomas’ proposal. They missed the boat, however, in not directing staff to consider an incentive-based program for additional rounds that Thomas can generate. They also should have reconsidered the air conditioning replacement clause.

If Thomas believes increasing rounds by 32 a day is a conservative benchmark to reach, why not give him an incentive to risk his capital and not the city’s up front?

An average round brings in almost $14. That translates into $448 a day. Why not simply split green fees for any rounds 50-50 played above the 59,110 played in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012?

That would give Thomas $81,760 more a year should those rounds materialize and the city $81,760 more a year as well.

Certainly that could afford Thomas funds to hire personnel he believes will result in increased play and still leave money on the table to make the effort worthwhile.

Meanwhile, the city would have more funds for course improvement maintenance.

The council might want to revisit the issue with an eye on a plan that rewards Thomas for taking any risk that proves advantageous for both him and the city.

 

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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