Meriden’s City Council has spent a great deal of time discussing and debating plans for a banquet hall at the city-owned Hunter Golf Club. One thing that can be said at this point is that it has been too much time. The council, it can be argued, has better things to do, deliberations and decisions more important to the city. That a decision to this day has not been reached has shown that the banquet hall has become something more than what to do about a golf course amenity, and more to do with the relationship between city leadership and Meriden citizens who feel their concerns are not being represented.
It’s therefore worth trying to take as basic a look as possible at what is at stake and what’s been going on.
Hunter Golf Club is a premier municipal golf course, one of Meriden’s major amenities. That is not at risk in this decision about a banquet hall. At the moment there’s a tent-like structure next to Violi’s Restaurant for special events, a restaurant where golfers can gather before and after a round, and where people can go to dine whether they are interested in golf or not.
It makes sense to upgrade the tent, because of the potential to draw more tournaments and events that can bring in more revenue. These events, including fundraisers, take place on golf courses equipped to handle them everywhere. It’s not at all unreasonable for the owner of a golf course, in this case the City of Meriden, to make improvements that will make it more attractive and potentially bring in more revenue.
On the other hand is the also reasonable observation that not everyone in the city plays golf, or has a direct interest in how many golfers Hunter is able to attract. It’s a valid point of view that the money that would go to make the improvements, up to $1.7 million, would be better spent elsewhere and in a way that would benefit more city residents.
Since both points of view are so valid it’s easy to see why the council has been stymied in making a decision. The discussion has reached a stalemate.
That impasse has been reached at a time when the city is about to receive a budget proposal for 2020-2021.
“It’s not a have-to-do, there’s no question about that,” observed Council Majority Leader David Lowell, during a recent meeting. “We may find out (the city manager’s budget includes) have-to-dos … This should not be dealt with in isolation.”
That is a common-sense approach, which we support. Hunter is a city responsibility, but it is also one of many, and weighing it among the other pressing needs facing the city may help show the best way of moving forward.