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WARREN Course operator ponders action



Published: Thu, February 7, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Council will meet in special session Friday to vote on Avalon legislation.

By AMANDA C. DAVIS

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- Tony Joy Jr. says it will be hard to accept if the city asks him to step aside from running the city-owned Avalon South Golf Course.

Joy was speculating Wednesday as to what the city's next move might be.

"If the city is going to evict me, and I imagine they have a plan, there's only one [company] that can run it, and that's Avalon Lakes," he said.

Officials have said in the past that Ron Klingle, CEO of Avalon Holdings, which runs Avalon Lakes in Howland, has indicated he's interested in operating or buying the neighboring course.

Klingle could not be reached.

Mayor Hank Angelo has said other parties have expressed interest, including Howland Township, but that it's never a good idea to sell an asset.

Without elaborating, Angelo said legislation regarding Avalon will be voted on during a special meeting at 4 p.m. Friday.

He and Law Director Greg Hicks declined to comment about the city's next course of action.

Council has met once behind closed doors to discuss the situation with the administration.

"I've been out here for 13 years," Joy said. "I've done nothing but protect the city's asset."

Joy owes the city more than $70,000 in back rent and is in arrears on real estate taxes to the tune of more than $50,000.

He is on a tax payment plan with Trumbull County treasurer's office.

The city paid Joy's tax bills on a few occasions, totaling about $190,000, because the county threatened to foreclose.

The Vindicator profiled Joy's financial problems in October and residents began pressuring the city to get to the bottom of the situation.

Effect on business: The negative publicity has cost Joy some customers, he said, explaining he's sure business will be down this year.

Some of the course's business consists of political fund-raisers, charity functions and leagues for senior citizens. Bookings, done months, if not a year in advance, have been slow for the upcoming season, he said.

Despite the uncertainty of what lies ahead for Avalon South, Angelo said it will be open.

Joy's insurance policy on the course was canceled in January, and Hicks has said that won't be an immediate concern until the course opens for business.

Joy, a golf pro along with his father, Anthony Joy Sr., said he's not ready to walk away.

He thinks some city officials want to oust him and advertise for someone else to take over the lease. In that case, he'll try to settle his debts.

Bankruptcy is an option he's weighed, but Joy said he doesn't have the money to fight the city on disputed issues.

The city and Joy sat down last week to hash out the matter.

His situation: He doesn't dispute that he owes the city and county money, but he says he went above and beyond what his lease agreement called for.

He said he's paid the city nearly $600,000 in rental payments and greens fees since taking over course operations in 1989.

The course suffered nearly $60,000 in damage a few years ago during a storm. Insurance paid for about $35,000 and the rest was out-of-pocket, Joy said.

He estimates he's put about $750,000 worth of improvements into the course.

Second National Bank gave him a $450,000 loan in 1995, which he has defaulted on a few times.

Joy said the interest rate has been adjusted once and he and the city have been talking for years about getting it refinanced at a municipal rate to lower his payment.

One problem contributing to the financial mess is that Avalon South is not a big revenue generator, Joy said.

Avalon South was exempt from paying property taxes until the Ohio Department of Taxation reviewed the matter in 1994, saying Joy signed a lease agreement, which is for profit and taxable.

Joy says he was assured by a prior administration that he'd never have to pay property taxes.

He's also disputing that he shouldn't have to pay taxes on a parcel where the city has erected a communications tower and another where there's a water tower.

When the property became taxable, Joy said the city told him they'd lower his rent to help him out.

That never happened, and as long as he has to pay a mortgage, taxes and rent, Joy says he'll be "in serious debt."

davis@vindy.com




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