Golfers hoping Orangeburg course can be saved

Brian McGarvey, 18, from Pearl River tees off Brian McGarvey, 18, from Pearl River tees off on to the fourth hole at Broadacres Golf Course in Orangeburg. (Oct. 1, 2012) Photo Credit: John Meore

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Members of the women's league at the Broadacres Golf Club -- driven off the course by rain Wednesday -- made good use of the time, discussing how they can keep Orangeburg's public course off the chopping block as the town makes budget cuts.

"I really feel like Broadacres has gotten singled out," said May Kreider, president of the 60-member Broadacres Ladies Golf League, said as she sat inside the pro shop. "A lot of our ladies got really upset when they heard the news, and I said, 'No, we're not closing. We're going to fight!' "

The 55-acre golf course, located on the site once occupied by the Rockland Psychiatric Center, will shutter at the end of the 2012 season if budget cuts laid out by Town Supervisor Andy Stewart go into effect.

On Monday, Stewart outlined a 9.19 percent property tax increase for 2013. He blamed the increase on county cost shifts, rising health care and pension costs, and pay raises for police, necessitated by the contractual agreement with the Police Benevolent Association.

"I think the seniors can appreciate us living within our means, because they're in a fixed budget most of the time, and that's what we need to do," Stewart told Newsday on Wednesday. "My proposed budget limits funding for golf -- it's not a happy decision, but it's necessary."

The Broadacres Golf Club cost local taxpayers more than $300,000 this fiscal year, Stewart said. He said the town could save about $150,000 in payroll and operating costs next year if the golf course doesn't open. The town currently employs a head greenskeeper as well as an equipment mechanic, and another maintenance worker shares his time between Broadacres and the other town-owned golf course, Blue Hill, which has 27 holes.

Orangetown council members had mixed feelings about the proposed cut.

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"I'm on board, but kicking and screaming," said Councilman Paul Valentine. "It's a last resort -- we're going to try everything else we can to keep it open, but if it comes down to layoffs or closing the golf course, we have to shut the golf course."

Councilman Denis Troy is against the plan unless it'll save the town a significant amount of cash.

"It could be just a small dent in the budget," Troy said of the savings. "The numbers have yet to be proven. The supervisor's numbers seem very soft to me, and they have to be looked at."

Councilmen Tom Morr and Tom Diviny did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Opened in 1962, the Broadacres golf course was for many years a privately owned course that was run by the state for the benefit of the psychiatric center's staff. Orangetown purchased the plot of 350 acres -- which included the golf course -- for $6 million in 2003, Stewart said. The town began operating the golf course the following year.

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In the event the golf course is closed, the town plans of using the chunk of land -- all 350 acres -- for redevelopment, Stewart has said.

Kreider said Wednesday her group plans a meeting at Town Hall on Oct. 9 to discuss ways to put course-saving plans -- like fundraisers and additional golf tournaments -- into action.

"We'll do whatever we can to save this place," said Ronnie Moroney, who has lived in Pearl River since 1975 and serves as treasurer to the ladies' golf club. "I wouldn't want to golf anywhere else."

As for raising fees to offset the town's costs, Orangetown Parks and Recreation Superintendent Aric Gorton said that's not a viable plan.

"We've raised our fees regularly over the years, and people were very critical. We've reached our breaking point with our fees; at this point, it'll just turn more people away," Gorton said.

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If left unmaintained for just six months, getting the course back in shape could cost upward of $500,000, said Joe Warfter, the golf course manager. Town officials agree that lack of maintenance would erode the value of the property rapidly.

The players who braved the rain to come out to the course Wednesday were hoping for the best. Standing beneath an awning, Kevin Halligan, 53, of Blauvelt, scanned the sky for a break in the weather that might let him get in a few holes before work.

"I've been playing here six years, and I love it," Halligan said. "The people are nice here and accommodating. It would be a shame to see it go. I hope it can be salvaged."

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