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OPINION: Time for Meriden to consider selling Hunter Golf Club

OPINION: Time for Meriden to consider selling Hunter Golf Club

Meriden needs to seriously consider getting out of the golf business. There’s too much wrangling, too much time being wasted. Good intentions are getting trashed. Perhaps the city could get a twofer by getting out of the airport business as well.

Both might be better served by private entities. Public accounting can be just too difficult. There are those in the Silver City who will never fly small aircraft, or take advantage of one taking off and landing in their backyard, and there are those who are simply not interested in wielding a niblick or even having a cocktail on the 19th hole.

A little more than a decade ago some residents were getting bent out of shape because Hunter Golf Club needed a new irrigation system. Irrigation is not a detail of a golf course. If a golf course is improperly irrigated, or not irrigated at all, golfers will not come to play there. It is as simple as that.

And yet there was opposition. Hilda Santiago, a state representative who was a city councilor at the time, was the lone vote on the council against spending $1.55 million. This was in early 2009, and Santiago had a sensible, albeit lone, point, which was that it was no time to be spending money on golf.

A lot of people felt that way the other night. A new banquet facility is not going to serve everyone, though it will prop up the chances at Hunter of drawing golfers, potentially bringing in business to the city. But that’s all maybe, and people are just not buying into it.

Last week I argued that it was a good idea, agreeing with City Councilor Nicole Tomassetti that there are intangibles that can’t be measured in dollars and cents but that are still meaningful. Hunter Golf Club is like that — it’s one of the indisputable assets of Meriden, something residents can take pride in even if they don’t play golf. But you have to listen to residents who don’t see it that way.

There were about a dozen of them the other night in front of the council. “A banquet hall is nice, sure, but Meriden doesn’t need it. We don’t have the money for it.” So said resident Sharon Milano. “We have plenty of residents here living on fixed income … There’s a lot of people here that can’t even afford to pay their own rent, but we need a place so they can have parties? I don’t understand how that’s a need.”

There’s a kind of exponential influence of social media, and three residents could back their statements with dozens of others posting their opposition as well.

Is it a good point that the $1.5 to $1.7 million it would cost for the banquet facility could be better spent on other things? You bet. For many residents the little picture, as in the money spent could be better spent on their children’s education, is more compelling than the big picture, which is a municipal golf course on par with the best in the state, or beyond.

City Councilor Michael S. Rohde, who in a column for the Record-Journal in 2016 wrote about the history of the golf course and it’s value to Meriden, pointed out during the recent meeting that the annual cost to the average taxpayer for the project weighed in around $5. 

But there are other ways of looking at it, and since I’m bringing up Record-Journal columns I might as well bring up one of my own, written in March 2009 when the irrigation issue was bubbling:

“And even though I’m a golfer, I understand the sentiment most memorably expressed by the late comedian George Carlin, who labeled golf an elitist sport for rich expletives, or words to that effect, and suggested that golf courses should be torn down to make room for affordable housing.”

OK. But here’s the bottom line: This is an issue that is simply not worth it when it comes to the City Council’s time and effort, and is the kind of detail that can get costly and get residents riled up. Not necessary. 

Sell the whole thing. Let some enterprising entrepreneur turn it into a golf course of gold. It won’t be municipal, but it will still be in Meriden. 

Reach Jeffery Kurz at 203-317-2213, or