OCEAN PINES — For the first time in years the annual General Manager’s budget report to the membership came week’s in advance of the board of directors’ final vote on it. While one of the attendees complained that the presentation took place too far in advance of the final vote, for the most part members were happy with the additional time.
During the question and answer period about the budget, General Manager Bob Thompson fielded enough questions about the process for repairing the golf course and Yacht and Country Clubs that he made a pointed defense of the projects, outlining what he saw as their necessity.
Thompson turned the assertion that the golf club was being intentionally repaired at below-referendum increments on its head by reminding attendees that there is an all around new approach to dealing with maintenance generally:
“We need to start looking at and managing our facilities better,” he said.
To that end, the plan for the golf course is to balance the amount of work that needs to be done to repair it with the amount of money the board and the administration feel they can afford to spend on the project each year.
Thompson said he wasn’t in possession of a final and total cost for the golf course rehabilitation project, but that whatever the amount was it would require years of partial funding.
Earlier this month the board of directors approved a measure aimed at having all the greens replaced by spring 2013.
Thompson said the original plan was to have them completed at the end of 2012, having nine holes completed in the pre-season spring and nine in the post-season fall. The plan was revised in the interest of protecting potential revenues in the event that another mild fall extends the golf season as it did this year.
The reason the greens were selected as the first aspect to undergo repair and replacement is, Thompson said, because however the rest of the course plays, the greens are the most important aspect of the course to most golfers. By replacing and repairing the greens first the OPA can increase and retain the number of outside play rounds.
By regularly doing what can be afforded, rather than trying to take the course offline completely and do a full renovation, Thompson said that the course will be able to increase revenues while not taking too big a bite out of the members’ assessments all at once.
That same attitude, he said, will be applied across the board beginning with the addition of a facilities engineer and continuing through with the eventual rehabilitation of the Yacht and Country Clubs.
A significant part of the justification for investing in new facilities at the Yacht and County Club was the board’s insistence Thompson present them with a business plan for how the facilities would run.
In response to other questions from those present at the meeting, Thompson clarified that although the business plans were an important part of the new facilities plan, they were and are necessary whether or not the facilities are replaced.
This year food sales up and banquet sales down at the Yacht Club but more concerning was the fact that costs for both personnel and food were up. Reigning in operational overages is a significant part of the business plan.
“They need to improve whether we have a new building or not,” he said.
Last year, some line employees had as many as 30 hours of overtime in a week, yet Thompson said he observed many employees standing around doing nothing much of the time. This, he added, was not a line employee but rather a management failing; one he said he will put an end to.
While the food quality at the Yacht Club has improved, it did so with rocketing food costs, which often means there is a problem with waste. Tackling that will, Thompson said, bring costs into line but there is no silver bullet for the community perception that the Yacht Club is no longer a quality dining alternative.
“What we have to overcome is years, and years, and years of poor quality,” he said. “Unfortunately you don’t change the culture or the feeling of the community right away.”
The board will make their final vote on the budget at their next meeting, slated for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21 in the Assateague Rooom of the Ocean Pines Community Center.
Thomson encourages all members to visit www.oceanpines.org to download a copy of the budget presentation and reach out to the directors with comments and suggestions as the process continues. He also said he was available to answer budget questions.