NEW BEDFORD — After more than two hours of debate, the Committee on City Property voted Monday night to recommend to the City Council approval of the contract for W/S Golf Management to run the Whaling City Golf Course.
Through most of the debate, the item appeared destined to fail. Councilor of Ward 6 Joe Lopes and Councilor-at-Large Linda Morad each spoke saying they could count and the item only had five yes votes, Lopes being in favor and Morad planning on voting no.
However, Morad said she thought it best to send the item through to the City Council on March 22. She said she planned to vote no in front of the council.
Councilor-at-large Debora Coelho said after constructive debate the committee only had one choice but to send it to the council and not have it linger in committee.
Those in attendance listened as it passed 9-0.
Bruce Carlson of W/S Golf Management and his wife, Susan were peppered with questions as they came before the property committee about managing the course in the future.
The discussion landed in the Committee on City Property after the City Council failed to discharge it last week. The council held a special meeting to discuss the management contract, however a vote to amend the motion resulted in the meeting concluding prior to any discussion.
The questions and answers finally circulated throughout the chamber from everyone involved with the contract and management of the course.
Ward 2 Councilor Maria Giesta and Ward 4 Councilor Dana Rebeiro each questioned the length of the contract, which is 10 years with two optional 5-year terms at the city’s discretion.
“We kind of based everything on a 10-year lease,” said Bruce Carlson. “We have to put in substantial money to get it going. That’s why we’re interested in a 10-year lease.”
Carlson said it would likely take about four years for the couple to turn a profit.
Director of Facilities and Fleet Ken Blanchard also cited the length was required to draw any potential suitors to manage the course.
"Had we reduced the years, it may have been an impediment in attracting anyone,” Blanchard said.
W/S Golf Management was the only bidder to replace Johnson Management, which opted out of its contract last year.
The deal with W/S Golf Management states the city would receive $20,000 annually by allowing the group to operate the course.
Giesta and Morad each took issue with the number. Giesta asked why the amount couldn’t be higher. Blanchard responded Johnson Management lost $113,000 last year while running the course.
“It’s been in steady decline,” he said.
Morad suggested in years seven or eight, the sum should be increased.
“I can live with 10 years at $20,000,” she said.
Carlson, who is financing the deal with his wife, said he hoped to make $400,000 to $450,000 gross revenue in the first year. He said that number should allow the course to break even. He said he hopes to see 10 percent to 15 percent growth after that.