Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Turbo Sucking at the public trough

UPDATE (Wednesday, 2:00 PM) So the Gazette just called as well. Tomorrow morning we will have both Bricks and Mortar articles and some of what you read here will be included. You gotta wonder about these town officials: what the Hell do they think--that the Gazette or Republican would simply run their dumb ass press release without at least making a token effort to check the facts? I just hope the headline editor is paying attention and does not trumpet the "Revenues up 20%!" nonsense.

Amherst Leisure Services recreation empire once again employs deliberate deception to sell the expensive game of golf .

Well…only expensive for Amherst taxpayers subsidizing the minority who actually play the grandiose game (over half of whom live and pay taxes outside Amherst).

Last year LSSE claimed $7,000 in supposed “net profit “ by ignoring $30,000 in hidden costs (that the Finance Committee covered with an emergency transfer from their Reserve Fund thus leaving no money for pothole repairs); and this year LSSE would have you believe it's $50,000 in "net profit", once again ignoring $30,000 in hidden overhead plus $15,000 in capital items (underground storage tank and security fence) AND the guaranteed $30,000 to simply outsource the ailing business to a private enterprise.

Even our toothless “watchdog” Finance Committee clearly pointed out to a clueless Town Meeting two years ago that when Cherry Hill dissolved as an Enterprise Fund--where the state requires a clear accounting of ALL expenses--$30,000 in routine overhead (employee benefits and clubhouse insurance; but not including Capital) would be dispersed/hidden to other parts of the budget.

And this past year the golf business required an additional $15,000 in Capital items. Not that "Capital" items are a once in a Blue Moon kind of thing, because in the current year (started July 1) they also required $22,000 for a fancy new lawn mower. In fact, a study done at Town Meeting request five years ago discovered two-thirds of their heavy equipment (and golf courses require a lot of heavy equipment) were beyond their rated lifespan.

So capital items will be pretty routine over the foreseeable future.

Two years ago Niblick Management, a private firm, offered Amherst $30,000 free and clear to take over the Black Hole, White Elephant, Money Pit. But Noooooooo, the rookie Town Mangler wanted to prove he had a bigger penis than Barry Del Castilho, the long-time previous Town Manager, who squandered twenty years and $1 million in tax dollars pursuing this Moby Dick.

So here are the actual numbers:
Total revenues $264,00
Total supposed expenditures $207,000

"Expenditures" do not include:
$30,000 employee benefits and Clubhouse insurance
Plus: $15,000 in Capital improvements (Underground gas storage tank and security fence)
Plus: $30,000 in Opportunity Revenue for privatization
Plus: if you did not expend the damn $200,000 on a golf business, and simply left it in Free Cash or Stabilization it would have generated $10,000 in interest revenue.

Actual losses: $28,000 (give or take).


Anonymous said...

Hi Larry,

Back so recently, and you're already ahead of me.

I was intending to comment on the previous post, and now we're on to the golf course. But, back to the past, if I may, with my 2 cents....

At the Select Board meeting, I had my doubts as to the wisdom -- if only for reasons of public relations -- of no one from the parade committee showing up to discuss things. But if there are to be discussions, that is the forum for it. Off the record negotiations -- well, I fell into that trap once with Barry -- and never again. Larry S is a public official, and everything he says should be in front of the press.

(I can't testify to this myself -- but I've heard he is often less than truthful -- all the *more* reason for making sure what he says is on the record.)

Even when he seems open and positive, I get this feeling I ought to check my wallet.

What is to be gained from a chat over beer? You have already won the whole thing. Giving up half of it in exchange for a beer, a handshake, and a friendly word, isn't a good deal.

It's true he asked you to betray your principles for a bribe. It's not even a good bribe! (I'm assuming the $1500 breaks down as: $1200 -- police detail
$300 -- insurance)
Anyone who fights him over the police detail, on First Amendment grounds, already has a high probability of winning. And the town's insurance company will probably forbid the throwing of candy to children.

Terry Franklin

Anonymous said...

There is probably additional golf course costs being added to the LSSE budget if you examine how employees are charged.

LarryK4 said...

Hey Terry,

Yeah, I hit the ground running.

I'm still a tad pissed (could you tell?) that I asked for the numbers on Friday and then get a phone call yesterday from the Springfield Republican for a comment on the press release issued by LSSE.

Funny thing is the Town Manager had the raw numbers (and quickly gave them to me) but did not have the idiotic propaganda release from the recreation PR wizards.

As you know I’m a big fan of public meetings. But I am no longer a Parade Committee member so it is really up to them whether the meeting with Mr. Shaffer is open or not.

If I had a vote it would be NO to his bribe offer.

Yes, Anon there’s no doubt that the DPW budget as well as LSSE has hidden costs associated with our White Elephant golf business.

anonymous said...

First things first. Terry makes a good point, what's to negotiate? Either the Parade Committee wants or does not want protesters in the parade. The Parade Committee already knows they can raise sufficient funds to run a parade.

Shaffer's offer is no more than a bribe, to buy your cooperation for his agenda, which may or may not be your agenda.

The Parade Committee knows enough to make its decision now. However, if the Parade Committee wants to allow protesters then they should get a whole lot more for it. Look at financial resources the town was prepared to provide LSSE to run the parade and start negotiation from there. You know what a parade costs because you've run seven in a row. Assume LSSE would have been provided with those funds to accomplish the job because it can't be done for less.

Shaffer has staked his reputation as a can-do manager on getting the Parade Committee to consent to protest marchers.

That's a lot of negotiating leverage for the Parade Committee.

He really low-balled you guys in his first offer. What's up with that? I don't think he respects your position, even if he did buy a round of beers and laugh at all your jokes.

Above all, the Parade Committee must be organized and agree on a direction. What is their opinion of the negotiating terms identified on the last thread?

I'd like to add another item to the list. Return the $800 he charged the Boy Scouts last winter for conducting their fundraiser in Kendrick Park. That is their money. They raised it from residents who bought their Christmas trees.

Anonymous said...

What is the biggest problem Amherst *thinks* it has -- unruly UM students. What does Amherst always want -- UM to deal with Amherst citizens who happen to attend UMass.

So the IDEAL solution for Cherry Hill would be to sell it to UMass. UMass could then develop it into student housing, put a police substation down there, and create a student recreational area that isn't downtown and thus doesn't bother people....

And if you don't have 4/5/6/10 people living in a 2 bedroom apartment, you won't have all the problems that exist now.

Solve lots of problems, wouldn't it?

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, that would solve a lot of problems. I suppose if Umass can afford to build a $50+ million Recreation Center they could afford to add Cherry Hill to their portfolio (not like its paying property taxes these days anyway).

Of course, that brings up another point LSSE would not want you to know: A "recreation business"--Golf Course, Health Club, Bowling Alley,etc--has a value of 2 maybe 3 times annual revenues.

So the $264,000 LSSE is now crowing about, gives the Cherry Hill Golf 'business' a value of under $750,000. Amherst Town Meeting paid $2.2 MILLION for it twenty years ago.

Anonymous said...


Don't look now but Anne Awad may have to stick around a while longer as a member of the Select Board. The Gazette has an article that the Select Board is considering moving the election from Sept. 16 to Nov. 4 because of a request from Vince O'Connor.

Think Anne might retract her resignation and re-submit it with a later date, like Oct. 31?

LarryK4 said...

Nope. She's 'Gone Like the (ill) Wind' as of 8/31.

Yeah, maybe I'll throw a party!