Future unclear for golf course

Council member says operator plans to ‘walk away’ from Old Avalon

WARREN — Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa was blindsided Wednesday as several council members suggested the operator of the Old Avalon Golf Course has removed all of his equipment from the course and another council member said a golf course employee told him all the employees will be laid off as of Friday.

Councilman John Brown, D-3rd Ward, told council members at their meeting Wednesday an employee of the course asked him on Tuesday whether the city could sell the golf course on East Market Street.

After learning from Law Director Greg Hicks the city could sell the property, Brown said the employee on Wednesday told him workers were being laid off.

Cantalamessa in October 2013 negotiated a deal to operate the city-owned golf course with Avalon South Management Co. LLC , which is owned by Larry Petrozzi, an accountant. The contract with the city is through December 2019, with the city having the option to extend the contract by an additional five years.

The contract required Avalon South Management Co. LLC to pay $34,154 per year for the first three years, and then an increasing amount every year.

“If he is looking at walking away, the operator of the course is still obligated to honor the contract he signed,” Cantalamessa said. “At the time the contract was written, we verified that he has the personal financial ability to fulfill the terms of our agreement.”

Cantalamessa said he recently was approached by one of the bidders who sought the contract to operate the golf course in 2013 about whether the city would be willing to allow him to operate the golf course.

“I told him that whatever agreement he might have with Petrozzi, the city’s position will be that Petrozzi is the one that is responsible, since he is the only person the city has a contract with and knows he has the financial wherewithal to operate the course,” Cantalamessa said. “We made sure he showed us his assets. He will not be able to walk away.”

A message left at a number listed as Petrozzi’s office was not immediately returned.

Cantalamessa said the management company is practically up to date on its payments.

“If it is behind, it is by a very small amount,” he said.

At the time the contract was negotiated, city officials were debating whether it would be more beneficial to allow an operator to manage the course for the city or simply to sell it.

The contract with the previous operator of the golf course, OAG LLC, was canceled in early 2013 due to a disagreement between the city and its operator regarding rental payments. At the time, the city said the management company owed it $320,000 in back rental payments.

John Kouvas, whose OAG LLC operated the public course from 2006 until 2013, said the city was notified in 2012 about an estimated $100,000 worth of capital improvements that needed to be done before the beginning of the 2013 golf season.

The two sides sued one another in court. The lawsuits were later dismissed.

Petrozzi said previously he spent more than $100,000 to better the course, including improvements to the fairways and greens. The 129-acre course opened in 1928.