Clewiston course will get brand-new golf carts

CLEWISTON — The municipal golf course will boast all brand-new golf carts at some point during the upcoming winter tourism season after action by the City Commission on Aug. 19.

The commissioners had to change their staff’s planned financing tactics, however, when City Attorney Gary Brandenburg raised a red flag about relying on a banking institution loan setup to be sought after the fact in their resolution authorizing the purchase. Overall, it is expected to have a fiscal impact of some $200,000, although Golf Course Director Robbie Rush and Finance Director Shari Howell recommended utilizing the current cart fleet’s trade-in value of $59,950.

Their proposed resolution would have “direct(ed) staff to seek financing proposals from local banking institutions.”

City Manager Randy Martin told the city commissioners the proposal needed to be handled as soon as possible, “to ensure that we have funding to consider the replacement purchase of golf carts at the public course, as the board has discussed during the (budget) work sessions.”

He explained, “Obviously, we have to have an appropriation to order the equipment, and our goal is to try to do this in a timely manner to have the equipment available before the season really cranks up and all the tournaments start. We’re going to miss one or two; we’ve scheduled in the anticipated approximately 30-day delivery; but this will give us time to pursue all available options for the financing that we’d like to arrive at for this equipment, and this appropriation allows us to make that order. We had to make sure we cover all of the associated costs for review of the documents. The purchase price is known, since we opened the bids.”

City Attorney Brandenburg signaled that the staff would need to rewrite their resolution. “In order to authorize the purchase of the vehicles, you have to have the money in hand and you have to have appropriated and encumbered it. So in order to do this, you would have to have the $200K in your budget tonight, so your resolution needs to move that money from your reserve account into your golf course account … (but) you can’t really do that because you don’t have the loan monies in hand yet, and you don’t know if you’ll get the loan monies in hand,” he pointed out.

Mr. Brandenburg clarified that if financing is worked out with the leasing company, which he said has suggested a lease-type of “certificate of participation,” then “there are a bunch of technical things we’re going to have to do with regard to reporting that transaction to the state.”

City Commissioner Melanie McGahee questioned, “The resolution does not address that.” When the attorney replied that it didn’t, City Commissioner Julio Rodriguez complained, “This should have been cleared up before tonight.”

Mr. Brandenburg said he had not seen the resolution as prepared by staff. “When I reviewed it, it didn’t say anything about a loan,” he told Mr. Rodriguez, who retorted, “We’ve been talking about a loan forever!”

City Manager Randy Martin defended the attorney, saying he had not been at the budget workshop when they discussed that and decided to go for financing right away with passage of the resolution.

Mr. Brandenburg told Ms. Howell that she essentially would have to rewrite the resolution and bring it back to the commission, and she left the meeting to do so.

While noting the time constraints, he said, “The loan might not be in place for several months so you have to agree to spend the money … essentially, tonight, if you want to go ahead with this, you have to transfer money from other account and just agree, bam, you’re spending $200,000 to buy these golf carts. End of story.”

Mr. Martin stated, “The finance director and I just were able to put together the financing piece of it today. That’s why he didn’t have an advance review, but we’re operating on a tight time frame if we’re going to acquire this equipment. I take responsibility for any confusion that’s created.”

Ms. Howell brought the redone resolution back for a vote before the meeting’s end. Mayor Mali Gardner asked whether there was money in contingency funds to cover the purchase, and Mr. Martin said there was.

“We are going to get the loan, so we’ll place the order for the golf carts, we’ll have all that taken care of, and we’ll go from there. By the time we get the golf carts, we’ll have all of that in place to move forward, and it will most likely happen next year anyway. We have already put that in the budget for the next fiscal year,” he explained.

The commission proceeded to pass two resolutions, one authorizing the purchase and another for a budget amendment to transfer funds, and both were approved 5-0.

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