Commissioners will turn to the public gallery before teeing off on a golf course proposal.
Lawrence city commissioners will wait until next month to decide whether to move ahead with a $4.65 million plan to build a municipal golf course near Clinton Lake.
During a study session Wednesday evening, commissioners decided to invite public comment during an upcoming commission meeting.
Commissioners themselves are divided about the prospect of building an 18-hole course on 170 acres below the lake's dam, as proposed by Municipal Golf Inc., of Omaha, Neb.
Commissioners John Nalbandian and Jo Andersen support the company's proposal to have a course ready to open in August 1997.
"It looks good to me," Andersen said.
Mayor Bob Moody and Commissioner Bonnie Augustine, however, are less enthusiastic. Both are leaning against investing in a public course.
Augustine fears that user fees would not generate enough income to pay off the city's debt. Moody doesn't see golf as a priority compared to sewers, roads and waterlines.
"I've got a lot of reservations," Moody said. "If I'm going to borrow $4.6 million, I've got higher priorities at this point."
Commissioner Allen Levine, who previously offered tentative support for a public course, said he had no idea which way to turn.
"I'd like us to have one, but I'm concerned about spending," Levine said.
Tim Burke, president of Municipal Golf, said his company would be willing to build a city course to provide exciting golf opportunities at an affordable price.
The company could not do it alone, he said. A partnership with the city would allow the company to take advantage of lower interest rates and free land.
Here's how the project would work: The federal government would lease its land for free to the city, which in turn would sublease the property to the company, which would build the course. Once built, the city would pay off the project over the next 20 years.
A private company could not come in and build its own course on the land, unless it was willing to pay market rates for property and pay higher interest rates for bonds, said Vic Counts, Clinton Lake project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"The corps probably wouldn't look too favorably on private development," he said. "They don't have the tax incentives. They don't have the interest rates."
Cost: $4.65 million project ($3.17 million construction).
Projected opening: Aug. 15, 1997
Layout: Regulation 18 holes, with open fairways, water hazards, sand traps, grass bunkers, and elevated greens and tees.
Fees (18 holes): $14 weekdays, $16 weekends. Golf cart rentals, $18.
Features: Driving range, putting green, practice bunkers, clubhouse and pro shop.