By Mike Pound
CARL JUNCTION, Mo. — The Carl Junction City Council voted Tuesday night to place a $2.7 million bond issue on the April 7 ballot, with the money to be used for the purchase, maintenance and operation of Briarbrook Country Club.
In addition, the council approved ordinances spelling out the city’s option and contract to purchase the Briarbrook property for $1.95 million.
City Attorney Mike Talley told the council that the purchase contract was “very one-sided” in the city’s favor.
Talley said the purchase contract gives the city the right to purchase the property but does not require it to do so. He said the city could back out of the deal even if the $2.7 million bond issue were approved by voters, or it could attempt to negotiate a new deal.
“However, the seller is obligated to sell on these terms if we require him to,” Talley said.
City Administrator Steve Lawver has said a $2.7 million bond issue would raise the city’s debt-service levy by 15.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. For the owner of a $100,000 home, he said, the increase would translate to a $29.45 hike in annual property taxes.
Several Briarbrook residents have urged the council to consider a city-backed purchase as the best way to keep the country club in operation. The club includes an 18-hole golf course, a 12,000-square-foot clubhouse, tennis courts, a swimming pool and 95 acres of undeveloped land.
If the bond issue passes, the city plans to turn the 95 acres of undeveloped land into a municipal park.
Members of the county club have been expressing dissatisfaction with the operation since the club’s current and principal owner, Steve Hays, purchased it in 2007. Members have alleged that routine maintenance is not being performed. The club’s restaurant stopped serving food last June, and the club’s liquor license was not renewed. The city and Hays have been negotiating a purchase price for several months.
Before voting Tuesday night, the council heard from a number of people who spoke for and against the bond-issue measure.
Resident Mary Schillaci opposes the measure. She told the council that the purchase contract was for the property only and did not include any of the equipment, such as golf carts and mowers, used in the day-to-day operations. Schillaci also presented the council with a set of revenue and expense estimates she put together, challenging numbers previously presented to the council by Lawver.
Schillaci told the council that her estimates indicate that if the city took over the operation of the golf course and country club, the city would lose money.
Toby Teeter, speaking in favor of the proposal, told the council that a city-backed purchase of Briarbrook would provide enhanced recreational opportunities. In addition to the golf course, Teeter said, the city would be getting tennis courts, a swimming pool and a city park.
Teeter also presented the council with signed statements from all three previous owners of the Briarbrook club and course stating that “absent mortgage payments, Briarbrook posted a positive cash flow.”
According to the Jasper County clerk’s office, Jan. 27 is the deadline for placing an issue on the April 7 ballot.
The ordinance placing a $2.7 million bond issue for the purpose of purchasing Briarbrook Country Club and its golf course was approved by a 6-2 vote. Voting in favor of the measure were Richard Zaccardelli, Don Marshall, Mark Powers, Dee Lynn Davey, Walter Hayes and Wayne Smith. Voting against the measure were Carl Skaggs and Pat Smith.
By Mike Pound