WARREN - With spring coming, one of the men looking to take over operations at the Old Avalon golf course is asking the city for help in getting a contract written.
Scott Karabin told city council members recently that the city should keep the nearly 150-acre public golf course and hire someone or some organization to manage the property.
Karabin noted that he has some golf experience and could operate the course for the city.
Tribune Chronicle / Raymond L. Smith
Warren Safety-Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa stands outside the closed Old Avalon golf course.
"I met with Mr. (Mayor Doug) Franklin when he was the safety-service director to talk about the operation of the course," he said.
Karabin and his attorney met with Safety-Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa last fall to discuss ways to make the golf course work. They also advised the city on how to prepare the course for the winter months.
"An operator needs to be in place," Karabin told the council members.
The city announced in January the golf course's manager, John Kouvas, whose company OAG LLC operated the public course since May 15, 2006, would no longer do so.
There was a disagreement on who would be responsible for the payment of several required renovation projects at the course and whether money from the rental agreement could be used to offset money spent by OAG to maintain the course.
Kouvas has said city officials were notified last year about an estimated $100,000 worth of capital improvements needed before the upcoming season. Cantalamessa said at least some of the money for the improvements should have come out of a $300,000 maintenance agreement in which the operator is required to make those repairs.
City officials claim Kouvas owes it up to $320,000 in back rent for the course that dates back to 2006.
Chris Prince, president of the Chip and Putt Golf League, expressed frustration that there has been no apparent progress on getting the golf course opened.
"Our league has been using Old Avalon for at least 55 years," she said. "I've written to Safety-Service Director Cantalamessa and called his office and have not gotten a response."
Prince said her league uses the course several times a month, with 45 to 50 women playing at a time.
"We waited until last week in hopes of the city getting someone to manage Old Avalon," she said. "We're now going to Candywood. We can't wait any longer. We have programs to publish and have to make other plans."
Cantalamessa said, "I'm getting calls every day. People stop me on the street.
"We are looking at all of our options," he said. "We are looking at providing a management agreement, similar to the one held by Mr. Kouvas; doing a lease or even selling the course. If we look at selling it, we would want to maintain the mineral rights under the course's grounds.''
Cantalamessa says he has received four to five serious inquiries. He would not reveal names other than Karabin, who spoke before council.
The safety service director said there is a lot of work required to get the course prepared for the season, including repairing or replacing two pumps, two bridges, and upgrades to the clubhouse. They also will have to purchase of lawn mowers, lawn chemicals, golf carts and other tools.
A new manager also will have to hire people to staff the clubhouse, maintain the grounds and the equipment.
Even if the city decides not to open the golf course and simply preserve it, money would have to be spent to keep it in good condition.
Cantalamessa said he would like to have someone take over the course by May 1, so the course could be open at least by June 1.
"It does not have to be a local company," Cantalamessa said.
Councilman Al Novak, D-2nd Ward, said he believes the course should be maintained for at least one more season.
"I've seen a public course in Michigan that was very successful," Novak said. "I think if there is an effort to sell it, we have to have specific plans on how the use the money.''
Councilman John Brown, D-3rd Ward, said, "There are a lot of golf leagues that used the course. If we are not going to use it, we need to look at selling it. We can selling it to Clean Ohio and get about 80 percent of its appraised value. It can be turned into a park."
The safety-service director said there is an even chance between the city finding an operator and finding someone to purchase the land.
"My first objective is to be a good steward of taxpayer money," he said.