MUSCLE SHOALS — Council members in Muscle Shoals have approved taking on another expense associated with operating Cypress Lakes Golf Course.
The City Council approved a bid agreement with Yamaha Golf Cart Co. to provide 72 golf carts at a cost of $5,523 per month, or about $76.71 each.
The current golf cart lease, which was in place when the city acquired the property in March, costs $3,700 a month for 52 carts, about $71.15 each.
In a year's time, the city will pay $21,876 more for golf carts than under the current contract, which expires in February.
Under the new deal, the city will have 64 golf carts available for golfers, six utility carts, one beverage cart and one cart to be used as a range picker. The previous lease agreement with E-Z Go golf carts provided 52 carts, four utility carts and a range picker.
The E-Z Go contract covered a five-year period, which drove down the annual cost, Cypress Lakes General Manager Scott Arndt said. Government entities, however, are allowed to only enter into three-year contracts, he said.
The agreement passed unanimously, but not without conversations about financial responsibility at the city's newest venue.
The revenue and expense balance at the golf course was heavy on expenses through the first six months under city ownership. From March to September, the property lost $314,800, city officials said.
City Councilman Joe Pampinto said the course needs to be of high quality, but added he hopes the operation will at least break even.
"You know where we are at financially out there," Pampinto told Rusty Wheeles, city park and recreation director. "I'm committed to this, and we need to make sure we have something that is operating at a high level, but we also must have some financial responsibility."
Wheeles said he expects the property will move toward breaking even as the city winds down maintenance projects that have been ongoing since taking ownership. A businessman donated the course and surrounding property to the city.
Wheeles also said he expects maintenance costs on the golf carts to be less because "Yamaha has a good reputation, and the carts are all brand new."
Three companies submitted bids for the golf cart lease, including E-Z Go, whose bid was about $1,300 per month higher than Yamaha.
Having more golf carts available doesn't always mean more people will be playing golf, Councilman Neal Willis said.
"Are there going to be butts in the seats?" he asked.
Wheeles said 12 additional carts had to be leased during the busy months, typically June through September.
He said E-Z Go charges $50 per month for each additional cart. That adds up to $2,400 for the extra carts.
Pampinto asked if there was an option to lease extra carts just during the busy period to save money. Wheeles said it was important to have the carts accessible at all times.
"We can't host tournaments with just 52 carts," Wheeles said. "With 64 carts, we can host tournaments."
Mayor David Bradford said cart rental fees, at the present pace, would pay for the cost increase associated with the new contract. He added having more carts available will eliminate expenses related to leasing extra carts during the peak periods and that maintenance costs should go down with a new fleet of carts.
The beverage cart will be used heavily during tournaments and at times of heavy play to sell drinks to golfers on the course. Currently, the course uses a utility cart with a cooler to act as a beverage cart, Wheeles said.
Arndt said the utility carts are used mostly by maintenance crews.
Jennifer Edwards can be reached at 256-740-5754 or jennifer.edwards@TimesDaily.com.