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Council Privatizes Golf Course Upkeep

The City Council has agreed to turn over maintenance of the Buenaventura Golf Course to a private firm, a move officials said will improve maintenance of the course while saving the city $125,000 annually.

The action, approved Monday on a 5-2 vote with Councilmen Jim Monahan and Jack Tingstrom dissenting, transfers eight golf-course positions to street landscaping jobs in the Public Works Department.

City Public Works Director Ron Calkins said Evergreen Golf Alliance Ltd. will increase maintenance hours at the course by 35% because the private firm pays its employees lower wages.

Representatives of the city employees union criticized the deal for allowing city jobs with full benefits and $15- to $20-an-hour wages to be traded for a private employer’s lower wage and benefit package.

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“It’s just so hypocritical to me that on one hand [council members] say they want to enhance the work force in this community, and then they’re taking some of the middle-class jobs out,” said Barry L. Hammitt, executive director of the Service Employees International Union.

Councilman Sandy Smith said he appreciated Hammitt’s comments but maintained that the city is hamstrung by tight budgets.

The opportunity to save money and improve the upkeep of the city’s streetscapes and golf course without laying off employees is too good to pass up, he said.

Calkins said turning over city responsibility to a private firm is necessary in order for the city’s golf course to better compete in the local golfing market as new courses are built and marketing efforts increase.

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