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Orangetown Moving Forward With Broadacres Management Deal

The Orangetown Council voted, 3-2, to an agreement in principle for AppliedGolf to manage Broadacres Golf Course for two years with an option for a third during Tuesday's meeting in town hall. 

Supervisor Andy Stewart and Councilmen Tom Morr and Paul Valentine voted for the resolution, which signals the town's intent to go ahead with the arrangement with the framework of the final contract in place. The town board will still have to approve a final contract, which the town attorney's office will now draw up. 

Councilmen Tom Diviny and Denis Troy voted against the resolution. 

"I still don't have a contract," Diviny said. "What we have here is an agreement to agree. Get me a contract and we'll vote on it."

"I want to commend board members Valentine and Diviny for the time they put into this," Troy said."My main concern all along was to keep Broadacres open. It is a valuable asset to the town. This is far better than what the supervisor tried to do the last two years, to shut it down. The people I talk to want the existing management. For that reason, I am voting no."

Troy and Diviny had called for a similar resolution on the deal to be tabled when it was on the agenda Dec. 17, in part because they wanted more information. Morr, who said he was initially unsure about the deal, was unable to attend the meeting. Stewart and Valentine were ready to vote for it, but with only two positive votes, it was tabled. For more about the process going into Tuesday, read this report on Patch. 

"There is going to be a difference of opinion on matters like this," Stewart said as he cast the deciding vote. "Folks (are) attached to a way of doing business. It is good for the budget, good for management and good for the community."

The goal of bringing in AppliedGolf is to save the town money by reducing the annual losses by Broadacres.  Stewart supplied two sets of projections. The best-case scenario showed a savings of $473,203 over the life of the deal compared to the four-year average through 2013. The worst-case scenario still saved the town $285,703 over three years.

Morr had questioned if the savings would be as much as projected by the Orangetown Finance Department. He went over the numbers again with Finance Director Jeff Bencik, looking at a worst-case scenario.

"I looked at this in mid-December cynically, as my background teaches me," Morr said. "My one concern was the revenue forecast and projections. The viability hedged quite a bit on projected revenue. I worked with Jeff today on less optimistic projections and we came out with the same result. It still appears, based on projections, in the worst case (Broadacres) would still be less costly, less of a loss than the town retaining it.It convinced me this is the way to go."

Valentine explained that the idea of approving the framework now was that they did not want to waste the town attorney's time on a detailed contract until they were sure the town board was ready to go ahead with AppliedGolf. Valentine and Diviny first proposed finding private management for the course during the 2013 budget process, during which Stewart had proposed not funding the course. 

"It didn't come out exactly the way we wanted, but as a businessman, you find out that half a pie is better than no pie at all," Valentine said. "I think this is in the best interests of the taxpayers of Orangetown."

Morr and Valentine both pointed out that the deal keeps Broadacres open, though there would be an out in the case of a development project for the Rockland Psychiatric Center property that includes the land the golf course is on if something comes together before the three years are over. 

According to a letter from AppliedGolf President Dave Wasenda, the town would pay his company management fees of $528,000 for 2014, $595,000 in 2015 and $620,000 in 2016. Those rates were lowered from the initial proposal last month. AppliedGolf would take on most of the staff and operational costs of running the course. Among the exceptions is up to $25,000 in capital expenses per year that the town would cover.

Also as part of the agreement, AppliedGolf will keep the existing fee structure for Broadacres in place, relying on raising revenue by getting more rounds played. If AppliedGolf brings revenue above the target, it splits the additional revenue with the town, 50/50. AppliedGolf would also split excess losses 50/50. There is a five percent limit on the bonus and the penalty due to IRS requirements. 

According to Stewart's projection, the final contract would be ready for town council approval in February. 

Orangetown's golf committee met Monday and voted in favor of the deal. 

"It is our recommendation that the board accept this resolution," said Larry Costello of the golf committee. "We believe this is a first step in trying to reduce the expenses at Broadacres Golf Course. The premise here is that we realize if we continue to do the things we do, we will continue to get what we got and that's losses. This has to be passed and supported. We have to take steps to get the deficit reduced. We believe the vote tonight will give us an indication if the members of the board are serious about reducing costs or not."

Orangetown Deputy Supervisor Allan Ryff also spoke during public comments Tuesday, saying there were political motives for the delays in approving the golf contract. He added that Diviny should put aside his personal connection to Joe Wrafter, who currently runs Broadacres, and do what is best for the town. 

"Tom, you grew up next to Joe Wrafter," Ryff said. "You probably have the same affinity for Joe that I have for my neighbors, but you are charged with the stewardship of this government. You have to do what is best for the town."

Wrafter has been approached by AppliedGolf and Wasenda has said they would like to keep him on, but no agreement between them has been reached.

"I know AppliedGolf reached out to Joe Wrafter," Valentine said. "The town residents do like him. I don't know if they will come to an agreement, but they did extend the olive branch. Tom (Diviny) has been working hard on this. I don't think the comments were fair to Tom. There was never a closed mind on this. Everybody is trying to do what they think is best for the town."

Morr, Troy and Diviny all questioned some portion of Ryff's comments. Diviny and Ryff briefly got into a heated exchange when Ryff tried to jump in during Diviny's response. 

"I find his comments insulting," Diviny said. "I drafted the RFP (for Broadacres). I drafted it knowing Joe Wrafter is a neighbor. I wanted to do what is best for the town. I've voted against a contract for Guy DiVincenzo. I'm good friends with him. Your comments are very insulting."
Dennis January 15, 2014 at 06:46 AM
The Deputy Supervisor publicly admonishing a Town Councilman at a Town board meeting! Never seen this before! What's going on? BTW-Often there is agreement in principal with the detailed contracts being finalized at a later date, Diviny should know that. This may not be the very best deal, however its a step in the right direction. Dennis Hardy-Former Mayor-Village of Piermont
Ronnie January 15, 2014 at 08:27 AM
What are they putting there

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