Suit won’t affect plans

WARREN – The lawsuit filed against the city by the former operator of the Old Avalon Golf Course will not alter the city’s plans to try to convince council members to allow it to lease or sell the golf course.

“Our goal is to explore all our options in finding a new manager, leasing the course or selling it,” Mayor Doug Franklin said.

Discussions about a possible lease or sale of the course began in late January when the city announced that it had severed ties with John Kouvas, whose company, OAG LLC, operated the public course since May 15, 2006.

Last week, OAG LLC sued the city, with Kouvas claiming he was wrongfully terminated from the seven-year contract he had with the city.

Franklin said, “We were already looking to file a lawsuit against the former operator. What we will file in court is not a reaction to Kouvas’ suit.”

City officials have been saying that Kouvas had failed to pay the city more than $320,000 in back rent.

In its lawsuit, OAG contends it made $784,000 in capital improvements, mostly to the course’s drainage and irrigation systems. The operators say in the lawsuit that they were never informed that the systems had to be replaced altogether since they were so badly neglected and poorly designed and installed.

Still, the operators said they made improvements with the expectation that the city would reimburse them.

Councilman John Brown, D-3rd Ward, said the lawsuit will not affect his position on giving the administration the authority to sell or lease the golf course.

“The lawsuit was an effort to beat us to courts and I believe the city will prevail,” Brown said. “If we give the authority to sell, I would like the city to put it up for sale without including the mineral rights.

“There are 10 BP experimental wells being drilled in Trumbull county this year,” he said.

Councilman Eddie Colbert, D-7th Ward, said, “We need to allow the administration to do something with it (the golf course). We must move forward. There is no good answer.”

Colbert said he does not believe it would be in the city’s best interest to add a new position to its payroll under a management agreement.

Councilman Greg Bartholomew, D-4th Ward, said he is a proponent of allowing the administration to put the golf course out for bid.

“We don’t know what can be done with this asset unless we give the administration permission to put it out for bid,” Bartholomew said. “As a businessman, I believe you should never leave money on the table. If the land is more valuable as a condo or a shopping center, then we have to consider an offer.”

Councilman Alford Novak, D-2nd Ward, said the administration should be given permission to explore either a sale or lease the course.

Prior to May 22nd’s council meeting, Councilman Jim Valesky and Councilwomen Helen Rucker, both D-at Large, and Cheryl Saffold, D-6th Ward, each expressed concern about giving the administration permission to sale or lease the golf course, saying they would vote against giving the authorization at this time. The council members could not be reached for comment on Thursday.