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WARREN Operator's suit postpones action on golf course, law director says



Published: Sun, February 24, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Council members would like an independent assessment of Avalon South's condition.

By MARALINE KUBIK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

WARREN -- A council committee established to study options for operating the city-owned Avalon South Golf Course can begin gathering information, but action isn't possible until issues with the course's operator are resolved, the city's legal adviser says.

Law Director Greg Hicks told committee members Saturday morning that Tony Joy Jr. filed a lawsuit alleging that the city prevented him from fulfilling the obligations of his contract.

The lawsuit says Joy has seven years left on his agreement.

Joy has operated the troubled golf course since the 1980s and has fallen behind on his rental payments and property taxes.

Although the city evicted Joy, giving him until last Friday to vacate the property, the litigation is holding things up.

Hicks is scheduled to meet with Joy's lawyer Monday afternoon to discuss the matter. However, he cautioned, it's unlikely the issue will be resolved then.

Should the city choose to enforce Joy's eviction, a court order would be required.

What can be done: In the meantime, Hicks suggested that committee members begin compiling lists of experts to offer advice about maintenance and improvement the course needs and of management companies qualified to operate the course.

Management companies asked to offer expert advice should be warned that they could be eliminated from the pool of potential managers for Avalon South, Hicks said.

In addition to hiring a company to manage the golf course, council members have proposed selling it or having the city or a parks board manage it.

Mayor Hank Angelo recommended establishing a five-member parks board to oversee operations of the golf course.

Top priority: The committee's most immediate concern, members agreed, should be protecting and maintaining the city asset and getting it into playing condition in time for the start of the golf season this spring.

Michael Bower, a greenskeeper at Avalon South since 1998, said some areas of the course need to be covered with sod or reseeded. The drainage system, a clay tile system installed between 1917 and 1927 while the course was under construction, should be upgraded, and the irrigation system "needs constant repair," he said. The driving range is in good condition, Bower added.

Before Avalon South can open this spring, the greens must be cleaned and trimmed, a task that will require six to eight workers, Bower said. A leaky roof on a maintenance building also needs attention.

Councilman Gary Fonce, D-at large, said he did not dispute the greenskeeper's evaluation of the course but would feel more comfortable having a knowledgeable source with no connections to the course offer an opinion on what needs to be done.

Councilman Brendan Keating, D-5th, committee chairman, agreed. He wants recommendations from a handful of independents specializing in a variety of areas: an accountant, a tax attorney, a golf pro, a greenskeeper "and other experts that I don't even know we need because I am not an expert in this field," he said.

Committee members will determine what to do first after Hicks meets with Joy's attorney.

kubik@vindy.com




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