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WARREN City removes chief of troubled golf course



Published: Fri, February 8, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Council will vote on a measure to pay off Tony Joy's loan.

By AMANDA C. DAVIS

and STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITERS

WARREN -- Tony Joy is out as operator of the city's Avalon South Golf Course.

He was notified by certified mail Thursday, and said he will weigh his legal options and decide whether he will fight to block the eviction.

The city law department is also preparing several pieces of legislation aimed at making management changes at Avalon, including one to take out an internal note to pay off Joy's more than $300,000 loan with Second National Bank. The loan, originally for $425,000, was taken out in 1995 for improvements Joy was to make at the course.

Council's finance committee was to meet today but rescheduled the session for 4:15 p.m. Monday, when it will discuss the Avalon legislation. Council meets in regular session at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Mayor Hank Angelo said the legislation for an internal note will be voted on Wednesday, but he assumes council will need more time to digest the rest of the administration's recommendations. He declined to elaborate about plans but did refer to the course as "Avalon South Park."

Joy said he assumes the city is looking to form a parks board to operate the course.

Will stay open: Despite changes, the mayor stressed Avalon South will be open when the weather breaks and, "We will honor all contracts Tony Joy has."

He's recommending the city not sell Avalon South.

City officials have said a lower municipal interest rate will be available to the city once it takes out the internal note, slashing Joy's 7.25 percent interest rate by 2 percent to 3 percent.

Angelo stressed money used to front the note will be paid back from revenues generated at the course.

Joy has defaulted on a few loan payments in the past and owes the city upward of $150,000 for back rent. He is in arrears more than $50,000 in real estate taxes, and the city has paid about $190,000 of his tax bill in the past to ward off foreclosure.

The city has said it expects to be involved in litigation with Joy over disputed issues involving payment issues.

What happened: The city awarded a contract to build a $230,000 clubhouse at Avalon without seeking public bids, Joy said.

The mayor who signed the contract agreed there were no bids, but said the whole thing was Avalon South management's idea.

"I don't know why he even built the thing, to be honest," said the former mayor, Daniel Sferra, now a state representative. "The city didn't make him build it."

Joy said he has been interviewed by the FBI about the circumstances surrounding the construction of the clubhouse in 1995. State law requires that public contracts worth more than $15,000 be advertised and awarded to the lowest bidder.

The building, which eventually overran the contract cost by $40,000, belongs to the city and was built on city land. The city co-signed on the $425,000 loan which Joy used to pay for the building and other projects.

"There was no way they bid on it," Joy said. "I'm sure, I'm positive."

Explanation: Joy said he was told at the time that the project was exempt from competitive bidding laws because he would be footing the bill. He also said that he had nothing to do with awarding the project to a contractor, a charge Sferra disputes.

"All the city did was guarantee the loans," said Dave Robison, city engineer.

The construction contract was probably with the city because the city owned the property, Sferra said. Joy's name did not appear on the contract.

Questions about who should pay for the clubhouse is one of the reasons his company has fallen behind in its rent to the city, Joy said.

Joy said he withheld rent based on a verbal agreement that the city would cover some of the clubhouse expenses.

"He has said everything was verbal," Sferra said. "I wouldn't do a $270,000 verbal agreement with my wife."




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