Country Club expenditures are running $230,000 higher than the Management Committee initially expected this fiscal year.


Country Club expenditures are running $230,000 higher than the Management Committee initially expected this fiscal year.

But that’s not surprising considering the changes the facility has undergone recently. Making the golf course management an in-house operation, while expected to save money in the long run, required equipment and other expenditures amounting to $130,500. Changing the food service operator is also considered a positive move, but there were costs associated with fulfilling prior catering obligations and other catering-related expenses (an additional $101,000).

Following a recent Selectmen discussion, Finance Director/Town Accountant Ted Alexiades explained that these expenditures “were mostly start-up costs that will be recovered in future years. We’re in the process of bringing this course back.” Some of the expenses will be financed over a number of years.

“We had to use a combination of four caterers to cover our pre-booked events,” Management Committee Chairman Dan Walsh said. “This pushed our expenses up.” The Committee also found it necessary to retain a banquet manager to ensure these functions ran smoothly. Other costs included $18,000 for utilities previously paid by the former food service company; replacing the carpet in the Fairway Lounge, $4,200; and installing hand sinks behind the bar, $4,000, to meet health board requirements.

Walsh also explained that while the facility is no longer paying for the services of an outside manager, it was necessary to purchase equipment to maintain the recently improved course, including a $25,000 pickup truck used for plowing and maintenance work.

Pro Shop merchandise was also purchased, the cost of which will be offset by future sales, along with a stainless steel shed for pesticide storage bought at half price ($11,500) to meet health board codes.

The Committee is also paying about $30,000 for a wetlands delineation study spurred by complaints about clearing that took place on the property some time ago. An additional $39,000 was spent on the new irrigation system and $7,400 for storm water tests to detect any contamination.

Director of Operations Nora Berard explained that the clearing of brush within 100 feet of a wetland “triggered these [wetlands-related] events” but sees the study as a “positive tool leading to a clear determination as to what we can do with the course. From this we will be able to develop our own management plan in conjunction with the Conservation Commission,” she said.

While not pleased to her the news of the higher than anticipated expenditures, Selectman John Riley acknowledged that “all this is water over the dam. We need to find ways to resolve this situation so it won’t happen again.”

Selectmen Chairman Melissa Tully expressed concern “that this snow-balled to this size before we found out about it” but agreed with Walsh that the situation resulted from “a confluence of events happening at the same time” during a challenging time for the facility.

The new fiscal year begins July 1, and the Committee is committed to avoiding cost overruns in the future, Walsh said. The Committee plans to sit down with Alexiades to find ways to accomplish this.

Selectman Laura Burns, the board’s liaison to the Country Club, noted that “we knew this would be a wild and wooly year budget-wise because we didn’t include the necessary line items to accomplish bringing the operation in-house. It’s not surprising it has been hard to get a handle on the situation,” she said. “The Selectmen and Advisory Committee supported these changes, but that had nothing to do with the budget [at the time].”

Still, Burns said, “no town department has the right to spend more than Town Meeting votes in its budget. This is a management information system problem. Next year’s budget includes line items for what you know you will have to spend,” she further noted.

On a more positive note, the Committee has received much positive feedback about recent facility improvements. At the same time, the Committee is carrying forward a word-of-mouth campaign to inform Hingham residents and others who might use the course about these successful efforts and to encourage them to visit and use the Club.

“We’ve had many positive comments about the condition of the course, and hopefully this will result in a pay-off,” Tully said. “This will take time.”

The overall goal is to make SSCC a destination golf course. The Committee is undertaking initiatives to increase revenues and to decrease expenses, to address recommendations made in a recent facility study, and to implement the findings of the Long Range Planning Committee.

Key to the success of the entire operation is the premise that golf revenues must be protected, the LRPC says, since that’s the source of most of the SSCC’s revenue.

A key issue is that the entire facility needs major repairs, including the buildings and swimming pool. Among the LRPC’s recommendations is the possible integration of some of the Recreation Department’s activities into the Club to expand the use of the facility.

A Facility Study completed last April contained a list of necessary improvements in priority order. These include immediate repairs and maintenance, improvements, and future upgrades to the parking area, walkways, main clubhouse, pro shop, pool house, maintenance building, cart storage facility, caretaker’s house, and the abandoned house that stands on the property. Replacing the entire facility would cost about $3.5 million.

Although the SSCC has returned $400,000 to the town for a number of years, that is becoming increasingly difficult due to the large amount of capital needs.