Watertown City Council votes to approve the purchase of the Watertown Golf Club

Published: Dec. 12, 2022 at 10:08 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - It took several minutes for a special meeting inside Watertown City Hall chambers to proceed as normal on Monday night.

The commotion was over allowing the public to speak about the city purchasing the Watertown Golf Club for $3.4 million.

Mayor Jeff Smith said that as the presiding officer, he felt he had authority to allow public comment. Others on council didn’t agree, so City Attorney Bob Slye provided an answer.

“The mayor has ruled that tonight should have a privilege of the floor, so his rule is subject to appeal by a remainder of the council,” said Slye.

After an appeal by Council Member Cliff Olney, a vote was held where he, along with council members Lisa Ruggiero and Patrick Hickey, voted to not allow the public to speak. That was followed with some public frustration.

Once the meeting continued, council members had a chance to give their final thoughts. Those in the majority continued to advocate that the sale will benefit the city.

“No more country club mentality, this course will be a municipal golf course run by the city parks and rec department and open for everyone,” said Hickey.

“Because it is our future, my children’s future, your children’s future that we are concerned about,” said Olney.

“I see this as the importance of adding the land to the park, it was what John Thompson originally wanted to do,” said Ruggiero.

The other two council members, Sarah Compo Pierce and Mayor Jeff Smith, continued to question the price tag and a supposed end of the year deadline for the sale.

“It is our job to put the residents first, to put tax payers first, this is not putting them first. This is putting two developers first who we don’t even know who will be getting what when it comes to these two developers,” said Compo Pierce.

“It’s surprising to me that the owner says it is ‘making all of this money, but if you don’t buy it, city, I’m going to shut it down because I am making so much money,’ that is just illogical,” said Smith.

The debate would eventually lead to a 3-2 vote in favor of purchasing the course. Olney, Ruggiero and Hickey saying ‘yes’, while Compo Pierce and Smith said ‘no’.

As to where the money to pay for it will come from, City Manager Ken Mix says they will have to readopt the budget to make the funds available. He recommends they take it out of the city’s Capital Reserve Fund.

Council now aims to have the official sale done by the end of the year.