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Lynn: Gannon Municipal Golf Course and city agree to one-year extension

Lynn, Ma. 12-18-18. Gannon Golf course will be open for another year. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — Gannon Municipal Golf Course will remain open after the incumbent management team and the city agreed to a one-year extension Monday night.

The Lynn Park Commission unanimously approved a $450,000 bid from Golf Facilities Management Inc. (GFMI) for the extension, which was based on an increase in membership rates. The rates were also approved by the panel.

GFMI, co-owned by Chris Carter and Steve Murphy, has been overseeing the property since being awarded a five-year contract in December 2013, which expires on Dec. 31.

The team had also proposed a two-month extension contingent upon the city immediately going out to bid again on the property, and a $340,000 one-year extension based on current rates.

Membership rates will increase by $200 across the board, according to James Lamanna, the city’s attorney.

The commission’s approval of the extension comes a week after the panel rejected the team’s $340,000 bid for a five-year contract because it was nearly $100,000 less than the city received last year from the lease.

Last week, Carter asked the Park Commission to consider the $340,000 bid for the five-year contract and factor a rate increase that would be coming next spring in good faith. He said that would significantly raise the amount the firm would be paying annually in the second through fifth year of the lease.

“I’m very disappointed with a one-year extension,” said Murphy, a city employee since 1976 who served as Gannon superintendent for 30 years. “I thought it should have been a five-year extension. I’ve been there 42 years. My word is very honorable.

“I gave them exactly what the city and CFO (chief financial officer) was looking for and I thought the rate increase was needed to get that figure. That’s why I put it in there … The city perceives it as in their best interest so I guess it’s a compromise. To me, it’s a disappointment.”

In a written proposal to the Park Commission, Carter and Murphy said they were disappointed about their bid proposal being rejected, but wanted their company to continue to be a partner of the city going forward.

They wrote a one-year extension would be difficult for them and would increase costs, due to higher expenses to secure short-term lease agreements for golf carts and turf equipment. The uncertainty of long-term stability would also make it difficult to maintain and recruit staff.

Following the rejection, the city and the incumbent team had to agree to an extension by the end of the month, or the golf course would be left without a management team and would be forced to close. It’s the offseason for golf, but functions and events are still being held at Gannon.

“We felt raising the rates would help the city in the long run with funds that could be raised,” said Steven Babbitt, chairman of the Park Commission.

“The way it turned out, I think, was the best that could have happened in view of the lack of response to the RFP (Request for Proposals), because we could only consider the $340,000 offer. It was either accept that or reject it. We did what we had to do and I’m glad everybody could work something out going forward.”

GFMI, the only respondent to the city’s RFP for the property, had initially also submitted an alternate bid of $470,000 based on a potential increase in membership rates.

But the Office of the Inspector General ruled the alternate higher bid could not lawfully be considered by the Park Commission last week, as the RFP asked for bids to be based on current membership rates.

The city of Lynn is seeking to lease Gannon, located on Great Woods Road and built in 1929, to a firm that would provide professional management and maintenance for the 190-acre golf course, along with operating and managing the banquet/restaurant facilities, bar concession, function hall, pro shop and snack shop.

Lamanna said the city will send out a Request for Information (RFI) on the property in the next several weeks, which would be an attempt to solicit more interest, and to ask firms what caused them not to bid or what would make them more apt to bid. Vendors will also be asked if they think bids should be separated for the golf course and bar and restaurant.

The aim is for another RFP to go out in March or April with a bid opening in May or June. If bids open in June, Lamanna said firms would be able to see the fully operational course, bar and restaurant. This time around, the RFP was put out in November.

But Murphy, who said the team plans to submit another bid, doesn’t see the merit in separating the bids, as “the restaurant and bar is not the huge money maker that everybody thinks it is.” Typically, he said only golfers make use of the bar and people have to deal with a parking lot full of golfers and a steep walk to eat at the restaurant, which may deter them from eating there more than once.

The firm has been paying $425,000 annually with its current lease, which expires at the end of the month, along with an additional $39,000 revenue share to the city from an increase in membership rates put in place about a year ago. The RFP called for 50 percent of the revenue generated from potential rate increases to go to the city.

Sean Cronin, senior deputy commissioner of local services for the Department of Revenue, which oversees the city’s budget, has relayed to city officials that in order to achieve a balanced budget, they need to have better revenue from both the Gannon Golf Course and the Lynn Auditorium.

City officials have required that 35 percent of the lease revenue go into the city’s general fund, up from the 10 or 12 percent required during the first bid process. The remaining 65 percent of the lease revenue would go toward the city’s revolving account for Gannon, which are funds that go toward fixing the course.

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