Soldotna City Council members have shot down the Central Peninsula Health Foundation’s plan to acquire the Birch Ridge Golf Course.
At the Soldotna City Council meeting on Wednesday, members of the council voted against the introduction of an ordinance that would have the city donate $350,000 to the foundation.
Council members Keith Baxter, Regina Daniels, Paul Whitney and Meggean Bos voted against introduction or the ordinance.
At a Jan. 28 work session held at Soldotna’s city hall, members of the council heard a proposal from the foundation’s board members requesting the donation. Had the money been donated by the city, it would have accounted for one half of the funds needed to purchase the Soldotna property. Under the proposal, the money from the city would have been contingent upon the foundation receiving a matching grant of $350,000.
The foundation intended to keep the golf course intact in order to ensure residents have a place for exercise. The foundation also planned to use the golf course as a place to have fundraisers.
Baxter said that with regard to the current fiscal climate, helping a non-profit organization acquire a golf course wasn’t a responsible use of taxpayer money.
“I think it might be a waste of a lot of people’s time if we go forward and it were to fail anyway,” Baxter said. “… I just wanted to save people some time if it doesn’t have the support of this council.”
Bos questioned the idea of giving city money to purchase private entities.
“Where do the donations stop?” said Bos. “What are we going to be asked to purchase next for the health of our community? Is it going to be a pool? Is it going to be a gym? What are we going to be buying next?”
Council member Pete Sprague said he supported the introduction. He did not say if he was for or against the ordinance, but he wanted to allow for public input.
Council member Linda Murphy made full disclosure that she lives adjacent to the golf course. She acknowledged that the public could see her support for the ordinance as potential conflict of interest. However, Murphy was disappointed that the ordinance failed to be introduced.
“Generally governing bodies at least give an issue to be aired in the public and to have a public hearing,” Murphy said. “Whether you support an idea or not, you don’t vote it down before you have a chance to advertise a public hearing. I feel a bit insulted that that’s happening tonight.”
Had the council introduced the ordinance public hearings were planned for Feb. 25 and March 11.
Reach Ian Foley at firstname.lastname@example.org.