What Watertown could lose and gain under golf course deal

Published: Jan. 6, 2023 at 4:29 PM EST
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - If Watertown takes over the Watertown Golf Club, the city would lose thousands of dollars annually in property tax payments and in a lease payment. On the flip side, the city would get a golf course that could generate money.

The club sits on land that is half privately-owned by Mike Lundy and half city-owned with 9 holes leased to Lundy.

There are 7 years left on that lease and it’s worth about $10,000 a year.

If Watertown does the $3.4 million deal, the lease revenue goes away.

That’s a loss of around $70,000.

“That’s an impact to the city that hasn’t been negotiated or discussed. So, all these people that are saying these were negotiated, one could argue that’s a gift by letting him out of that lease,” said Mayor Jeff Smith, who opposes the golf course deal.

The lease revenue isn’t the only thing the city will lose. If the city takes over ownership, the privately held land will become public and property taxes will no longer be collected. That’s roughly $5,000 a year.

“What happens in a tough fiscal year, those are all decisions that are going to affect the future of the city. Those are things that have to be looked at for the future, not just the here and now, but down the road,” said Smith.

The combined lease and tax payments make up just over $15,000 a year for the city - something it will no longer get if the deal happens. However, council members who want to do the deal say the city can make up that revenue and more by profitably running the golf course.

“We have, I think, 32 tournaments already scheduled, that they had on the books for before. Each one represents about $16,000 to the club,” said Cliff Olney, one of three council members who support the golf course deal.

In a statement sent to 7 News, Council Member Lisa Ruggiero says, “I did my necessary due diligence by reviewing the detailed financial statements and meeting with the seller several times. I was very satisfied with all of the information and answers provided to my questions.” She also says that Mayor Smith and Council Member Sarah Compo Pierce chose not to look at the club’s financials.

Meanwhile, Lundy is providing insight into how profitable he says the golf business could be. He says if the weather cooperates, the course holds several tournaments and is managed well, Watertown could make 8 to 10 times the amount it will lose in taxes and lease payments.

There are other entities that stand to lose money if the Watertown Golf Club becomes publicly owned.

Jefferson County will lose $5,000 a year in tax revenue and the Watertown City School District will lose around $7,000 in annual tax revenue.