By Erin Knutson

Special to The Pioneer

Council meetings at Canal Flats have been rife with debate over the past few months on whether or not the purchase of a golf course for the Village is an appropriate, or even possible, course of action.

The notion is being entertained based on requests from citizens about the re-opening the private property; however, council has no official mandate at this time and no public discussion will commence until further strategy for successfully executing the project has come to fruition.

Ever since the golf course went up for sale, I thought it would be great if the municipality could own it. I have also had comments from residents along that line. Given the fact that the price has been reduced to a number we can work with, I would like to at least explore the possibility, said Canal Flats mayor Ute Juras.

Council will decide if a study should be undertaken during a planned strategy meeting in the 2015 budget and operating priorities session. Discussion was brief. Without a complete study as to the potential risks and rewards, council was not going to pursue the purchase, said councillor Paul Marcil.

Initiating a plan to purchase the golf course was seen as positive due to perceived benefits from the successful implementation and operation of such a project should the risks be properly negotiated.

I personally would like to see the course operating. Its 39 acres of land in the centre of our village and I dont know what else could be done with the property in the foreseeable future. It would be an attractive greenspace, which would offer healthy outdoor local activity for our residents and visitors, plus create some local jobs all good things, said Mr. Marcil.

Potentially the golf course is a viable asset that could be entertained given the stipulation that a proper business model is in place, effectively outlining a concrete fiscal plan of action.

That being said, in order for the possibility of it becoming a viable operation, a significant amount of capital is required to rebuild the course and its infrastructure, said Mr. Marcil.

Difficulty securing or allocating grant monies has threatened the progress of the initiative. A motion to pursue the purchase of the golf couse was tabled during the the Tuesday, October 14th council meeting by Mrs. Juras. There was no discussion about where the village would get the money to make the initial purchase, but it was suggested that some of the property could be subdivided into lots, which could them be sold to recover the cost afterward.

Concerned council members strongly voiced their opinions over the proposal based on the following:

The golf market has seen a decline in turnout over the past five years. Statistics show that a drop of one million golfers a year has occurred during this time period.

Significant investments would have to be allowed for the maintenance (replacement of the irrigation system) of the golf course, including equipment purchases, human resources and building concessions (a pro shop and a clubhouse), among other possible structures needed to properly facilitate a functional golf course.

Other issues with the plan involve holding costs that would fall upon taxpayers shoulders until the subdivided properties have been sold. Although the real estate market has seen improvement, concerns over the expediency of sales were expressed.

The 20-year capital plan, due to be accepted at the Monday, November 24th council meeting details millions of dollars in infrastructure spending that needs to be addressed during the coming decade.

The majority of council seemed resolved to hold off on the project until an airtight businesses plan and functional business model are presented.

Would, or should the taxpayers of Canal Flats take on the burden that, I surmise is the biggest question and it deserves a study at the very least, said Mr. Marcil.