Controversial Watertown Golf Club deal set for vote Monday night

Watertown Golf Club
Watertown Golf Club(WWNY)
Published: Dec. 12, 2022 at 4:59 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - City lawmakers are poised to vote Monday night on the $3.4 million deal involving the Watertown Golf Club.

To say that “Golfgate” is a hot-button topic in Watertown is an understatement. The decision in front of city council has split the community and it spilled onto radio airwaves Monday.

“There are times that we have to make difficult decisions, but I’m looking at the future of the purchase of this, and what it will mean to the city for generations to come. It’s not just a golf course, we’re looking at the land, and we’re protecting the park so that it will be forever parkland,” said Watertown City Council Member Lisa Ruggiero.

She took to the airwaves just hours before Monday’s special session of council, speaking on WATN’s “Hotline” show, where residents called in to tell Ruggiero what they thought about the city spending $3.4 million to do a deal with the Watertown Golf Club.

It includes $2.1 million for the acreage, $450,000 for the clubhouse and other buildings, and another $850,000 for things like golf carts, tents and silverware.

You can see the entire proposal and list of assets here.

It doesn’t show how much would go to Ives Hill Country Club owner P.J. Simao as he pares his course down from 18 to 9 holes.

Mayor Jeff Smith hasn’t liked the deal since it first was proposed at the end of summer.

“Why are we shoving this down the public’s throat? Literally, three and a half months it’s been since it’s first proposed. What are those financials? Why is there all this secrecy? Why are we hiding stuff? What is the value of that equipment? Those are real questions. These are taxpayer dollars that we’re spending and we should ask that,” said Smith.

Council member Sarah Compo Pierce appears to be a no vote too.

“$3.4 million is a very significant amount of taxpayer money, and we have so many other needs in the city. We have endless infrastructure needs, we have a homelessness issue that has taken over. We have issues with water quality. So, there are very basic needs that still aren’t being met in the city,” she said.

It appears Compo Pierce and Mayor Smith will sit in the minority.

“What we’re getting is the land; there happens to be a golf course on there. What we do with the golf course, and if it’s successful it will be up to us to decide. It’s adding 66 more acres and it’s completing that original idea I think that the people that formed that park up there had for what the city wanted to do,” said Cliff Olney, council member.

We didn’t hear back from council member Pat Hickey, but he has been in favor of this deal.

It’s expected a lot of residents will show up for Monday’s 7 p.m. meeting. However, at this special meeting, there is no public comment period.

We’re told though the mayor plans to let members of the public speak their minds.