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La Grande Observer Paper 07/23/14

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A loose agreement between the City of Union and Union County has put the county in the position of temporarily managing Buffalo Peak Golf Course, but the future of the golf course and its probable financing have not been discussed.

To begin steps in the direction of deciding how to pay for the golf course over the long run, the county and the Union City Council will have a joint executive session (closed meeting) at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the background and future of the golf course.

The two public municipalities are scheduled to discuss "proposed acquisition, exchange or liquidation of public investments" in a meeting that is closed to the public.

The City of Union, using grants and other investment money, built Buffalo Peak after the federal Environmental Protection Agency required the city to stop dumping effluent from its sewage disposal system into Catherine Creek. The treated effluent helps irrigate the golf course, although additional water is needed now.

A private bonding company, Eaton Vance, holds a $2.9 million note on the public golf course. Of the original debt, only $50,000 has been paid, and annual payments are $250,000, with $200,000 of that interest.

The county has been meeting with the state Economic and Community Development Department to find a way to negotiate a loan that will give the three-year-old Buffalo Peak additional time to become profitable.

Dennis Spray, the county's general services director who has been informally managing the course in recent months, said Buffalo Peak has been generating sufficient revenue to pay operating expenses but not enough to pay the debt.

Eaton Vance will not require a loan payment from the county until the end of June.

A recent professional evaluation by NGF Consulting, a professional golf course consultant, recommended several changes in the administration and operation of Buffalo Peak, especially in management and marketing.

The county recently terminated its agreement with the course's management company and hopes to find another company by summer's end.

— Alice Perry Linker

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