By Ed Runyan
The former operators of the city-owned Old Avalon Golf Course on Warren-Sharon Road in Howland have filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against the city.
They seek reimbursement of some of the $784,000 in improvements made to the course over the past eight years.
The suit, filed in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court, is assigned to Judge Andrew Logan.
The city, which was preparing its own lawsuit against the former operators, OAG LLC, says OAG owes the city around $300,000 in overdue rent payments.
Greg Hicks, Warren law director, said he and his staff, as well as Mayor Doug Franklin and Safety-Service Director Enzo Cantala- messa, have been in negotiations with OAG in recent months but could not reach an agreement.
The 160-acre, 18-hole course did not reopen this year after the city ended its contract with OAG last October.
The lawsuit says OAG operated the course under a management agreement with the city starting in 2005, agreeing to pay rent and invest $300,000 of its own money in the course.
But conditions at the course dictated that much more than that be invested “in order for the course to operate in a safe and serviceable manner,” the suit says.
Foremost among the problem areas were the course’s draining and irrigation systems, which the suit says were “badly neglected and poorly designed and installed” before OAG took over the course.
OAG “continued making capital improvements to the course with the expectation that the city would reimburse OAG for the costs exceeding the course revenues,” the lawsuit says.
“As a result OAG was forced to finance approximately $784,000 worth of capital improvements,” the suit said.
“Despite OAG’s repeated demands to discuss funding and reimbursement for the improvements and assurances by city officials that the parties would resolve the issues, OAG was unable ever to get the city to move forward toward a resolution,” the suit says.
OAG continued to invest money in the course through the winter of 2012-13 to winterize it, even after OAG’s contract with the city had been canceled, “knowing the purported [contract] termination to be wrongful, and believing that city officials would rescind the purported termination once the parties finally met,” the suit said.
The suit seeks a $484,000 reimbursement of OAG’s capital improvement expenses plus lost profits from the 2013 golf season.
Hicks said OAG’s position is that it made capital improvements with the idea that it could then offset the costs with reduced rent payments.
“The city’s position is you need to come to us and say, ‘Can we have an offset of rent?’ Without doing that, you don’t deserve an offset of rent,” Hicks said.
The city administration and city council have been in talks recently with other potential operators of the course and discussing whether the city should sell it.