Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cherry Hill: the pampering continues...

Yes Alisa, Cherry Hill Golf Course is the ONLY seasonal beer and wine license in the town.

The category was specifically created for Cherry Hill ten or 12 years ago and at about half the charge of a comparably license. The argument was they were only open for seven months out of the year so pro-rate the charge. Amazing how business friendly the town can be with itself, eh?

So back when Cherry Hill was an Enterprise Fund it was charged $700 (never paid it of course). And yes having alcohol out there probably increases the liability insurance but who cares, the insurance—like the brand new $22,000 lawn mower they bought last July—comes out of a different fund other than their Operation Budget.

And that is why I say Mark ‘Harpo’ Power got such a great, sweetheart deal, a few years back when Czar Anne Awad and Barry Del Castilho gifted him (in a no-bid contract) complete use of the new Clubhouse for only $150/month--and that included the liquor license (which alone should have been $100 per month)

And of course Mr. Power was granted a three-year contract by the former town manager. Yet when a management company offers to take the entire turkey off our hands for $30,000 per year, the new town manager turns him down because they wanted a three-year contract.

Funny how quick Aaron Hayden wanted to rubber stamp the damn thing and move on. You would think a mid-level, long-time Amherst College employee would not be so quick to do a favor for their main competition.

Amherst College does own Amherst Golf Course, the only other nine-hole operation in town. Although, unlike Cherry Hill, they do pay taxes on it ($7,000 last year.)

Come to think of it, Mr. Hayden probably should have abstained on that vote.


Neil said...

I think you have strange ideas about conflict of interest.

The SB decision on Cherry Hill is fair game. It has costs and benefits. You have a valid opinion about how that issue should be decided.

Hayden's opinion should be evaluated on the merit, not criticized on the basis of some unspecific conflict of interest which for the life of me I cannot fathom.

Perhaps Amherst College would be interested in preferring an offer for Cherry Hill, agreeing to operate it as a golf course, and agreeing to pay real estate taxes.

LarryK4 said...

Public officials, unlike athletes, should be held to a higher standard.

In fact, the state Conflict of Interest Law has a built in higher standard: it’s called avoiding the “appearance of a conflict of interest.”

If we could do a Town Meeting like “Move to Reconsider” and go back in time to when Stephanie called on him and freeze the action:

Now I come into the frame and say that this Selectman (essentially unpaid position) works for Amherst College (well paid position), they own the Amherst Golf Course the number one competition for Cherry Hill, should he be allowed to vote? A normal jury of 12 would say "no."

Doesn’t really matter how he voted.

And yes strangely enough if he had voted “No” I would have already filed a complaint with the Secretary of State’s office.

Dolly Jolly, the last vestige of the ‘Old Majority’, used to make a BIG production of getting up and leaving the room (and she moved like an aircraft carrier) anytime the Select Board voted on Alcohol licenses.

And by then her restaurant, 'Seasons', was long gone. She did it because her husband owns 'Rafter’s' and 'The Pub.'

And yes, the numerous votes taken back then were always 4-0 with one abstention.

Anonymous said...

Cherry Hill is no competition for Amherst for they have a much nicer course along with a second generation certified PGA golf pro Dave Twohig. His father was the pro there for years and Ed is great teacher and all around good guy.

-Ryan Willey

LarryK4 said...

I think you mean to say Cherry Hill is not in the same league with Amherst Golf Course (on that I would agree 110%).

But it is, in a business sense, competition. And unfair at that, since Cherry Hill does not pay property taxes, liquor license fees, insurance costs or new equipment costs (you do!).

When Town Meeting created the "Blue Ribbon Financial Committee" for Cherry Hill in 2004 the general manager of Amherst Golf was on it and he provided four years worth of revenues/expenditures for comparison.

Naturally they averaged 33% more in revenues and were in the black in each of those four years. Cherry Hill on the other hand lost an average of $100-K per year.

Of course town officials used weather as an excuse. Funny, I thought Amherst Golf Course was in the same weather zone as Cherry Hill.

Ed said...

As to the seasonal liquor license, that is legit (at least as to the "seasonal" part of it). It was INTENDED to be used for things like this because the number of full time liquor licenses that the town can issue are limited by population.

Now as to this being abused, go to Northampton where lots of places become BYOB in January because they only have "seasonal" licenses....

Cost for license, why no one else in town has one, all fair game. But as to the license category itself, that is legitimate.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, like most things--if not all --with Cherry Hill, the license category is indeed legitimate.

One thing I have NEVER inferred over the past 22 years is OUTRIGHT corruption--like somebody getting paid off in small-unmarked bills for a "favor".

Basically it has come down to a pissing contest, one of ego, between Mr. Del Castilho (now safely ensconced in South Hadley), the new guy Mr. Shaffer and of course Amherst Town Meeting (now 249 years old) and little old me.

Unfortunately it is not a fair fight, in that the Town Manager makes a six-digit income (at taxpayer expense) and commands the power of a Mayor--although protected from the electorate-- while Amherst Town Meeting is about as clueless with business as is a native Saudi Arabian with skiing.

Anonymous said...

The cutting, personal cruelty of the remarks on this blog can be breathtaking at times.

Such savagery seems doubly gratuitous when you are singling out an individual for some exemplary past discretion and restraint as an elected official.

I could see it if you had been hurt or humiliated in some way by this former official, but, otherwise, it makes no sense.

Is there no place for some kindness on this blog?

LarryK4 said...

No, actually there is not (unless truly deserved, and these nitwits do not truly deserve it).

If you want "kindness" then I suggest you point your browser to PBS Kids or Webkinz.

Ed said...

Chief Scott has it right - can you imagine how much better things would be with a bi-annual pleblicite on the continued tenure of the Town Manager?

LarryK4 said...

Yeah THAT would hold his feet to the fire, going forward.

But, looking back, after turning down the Cherry Hill $30,000 outsourcing offer, or the July 4'th Parade take over gambit (in violation of the First Amendment) or taxing the sale of Christmas trees by Boy Scouts (after 60 years) on Kendrick Park, I think he would be toast for sure.

Anonymous said...

Still Cherry after all these years. What would be interesting is to what the town has thus far put into Cherry and compare it to what has been returned. Of course these would be dollar amounts.
The slippery slope Aaron refers to is not the monetary value of Cherry but the Value of people enjoying themselves.
I would like to say that members of my family have always questioned Cherry Hill's existence and, is it truly good use off our hard earned tax money? We think not.

-Ryan Willey

Neil said...

You have no objection to the general manager of Amherst Golf serving on a blue ribbon commission regarding the finances of Cherry Hill and at the same time you criticize Hayden for voting on a issue regarding Cherry Hill, a minor issue of little consequence!

Doesn't it prove there is no merit to your amorphous, unspecific and ill-defined conflict or even appearance of conflict? C'mon Larry bring an argument that holds water.

Our SB must consider interests of all that is Amherst, it's residents and taxpayers AND the interests of the two higher ed institutions that call Amherst home.

Make a substantive argument about Hayden's conflict of interest and I'll reconsider your concern as substantive.

LarryK4 said...

No actually it doesn't prove much (he was a private individual and Aaron is a publicly elected official).

But yeah, at the time I thought it was a tad weird for the guy to offer to help out the competition (although Judie of Judie's fame serves on an advisory committee for the Lord Jeff Inn Restaurant, which I also find a tad weird); although they are no longer competition.

To be perfectly honest Neil I'm not going to make a substance argument because I don't care (you're right THIS TIME he voted the correct way). Not worth my valuable unpaid time.

If you notice I don't even mention conflict of interest (which indeed it is) in my post (although I do use it as a 'tag').

And I back into the "probably should have abstained" as kind of a PS, or afterthought.

Sort of like when Lord Jeff suggested to his paranoid subordinate at Fort Pitt to use infected blankets to wipe out their attackers.

Come to think of it (here comes another one of those afterthoughts): town officials should consider Cherry Hill to be smallpox infected blankets, or radioactive waste.

The further away you stay, the better.

Ed said...

Any municipal chamber of commerce or industry advancement group is inherently flirting with not only conflicts of interest but anti trust concerns.

That said, other similar service establishments in the same area are not always competitors. You are trying to draw business in from elsewhere and if Amherst became known for fine dining or great golf - with multiple choices in each - the real competition are those places in distant communities.

It is like the so-called "automile" on the South Shore - those dealers aren't competing with each other but against all the other dealers in 3 states.

Judie's competition isn't Lord Jeff as much as those resturants in the towns were UM students come from -- she may loose some of us to Lord Jeff but she would still be loosing less than if there were no Lord Jeff and parents didn't think of Amherst as a legitimate place to take Junior for dinner after assorted events.

Now I would argue that the "Town Gown" committee (or whatever it is called now) is an inherent Sherman Act violation just looking to be filed, but that is another story.