City officials are moving forward with a plan to hire an interim manager for the Chuck Corica Golf complex, although union officials who represent workers at the course are charging the move is illegal. They said they may picket the course and could sue.
The city received seven proposals from prospective golf complex managers, Deputy City Manager Lisa Goldman confirmed. City officials and Golf Commission members are vetting the candidates and have chosen four. Goldman said they plan to interview the four sometime this week.
Goldman said the panel reviewing the proposals hopes to rank the applicants and pass on that information to the City Council for consideration sometime in October. She said the city hopes to have an interim golf complex manager, who would run the course for a year, in place by Nov. 1.
Goldman declined to disclose details about the proposals.
Union officials, who are fighting the likelihood that the complex's maintenance workers will receive pink slips when the course falls under private management, claim the city's privatization plan is not permitted under the City Charter without a public vote and it violates their contract with the city.
On Friday, union officials filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the state Public Employee Relations Board alleging the city has refused to give them management proposals and other information they have requested. The complaint also alleges that city officials have failed to abide by contract rules giving them the chance to find other ways to save money.
Alan Elnick, business representative for Operators and Engineers Local 3, which represents the maintenance workers, said they already are being told they will lose their jobs and advised on how to file for unemployment, something he said violates their contract.
Since layoffs are based on seniority, pink-slipped course maintenance workers could end up replacing Recreation and Parks maintenance workers, who share the same job classification.
Elnick said the union could sue over the plan, and its members could picket the golf complex to protest job cuts.
"People are not going to want to be disrupted. There will be demonstrations," Elnick said.
Goldman disputed the union's charges. She said the City Charter expressly permits city officials to lease parks and open space, and the city's agreement with the union allows it to subcontract work. She also said the city has asked for discussions with the union. She said both documents are available on the city's Web site.
Goldman said the city doesn't want the complex's maintenance and pro shop workers to lose their jobs and she is hopeful they will be rehired by any private operator the city selects. But she said the course's financial woes are forcing the city to act.
"We need to save money to protect, preserve and enhance this community asset," Goldman said. "The way that we will save money at the golf complex is by reducing our labor costs and reducing our other operating costs. There will be layoffs."
Reasons for the course's financial troubles are a matter of dispute. City leaders have questioned whether mismanagement has led to budget deficits, including an anticipated deficit for the coming year of about $700,000 — less an anticipated $200,000 to $350,000 the city hopes will be generated by recently increased greens fees.
But Golf Commission president Jane Sullwold and union leaders have claimed that the City Council is responsible for the complex's bleeding budget because it takes money from the complex to pay other city bills. This past year, the council took around $1 million.
The city also plans to find a private firm to permanently run the golf complex, as recommended by a recently completed master plan. The plan recommended nearly $11 million in improvements to the complex that city leaders have said the city can't afford. But the plan also showed the city would get less money from the complex under private management than it currently collects.
City officials also have dropped plans to shutter the nine-hole Mif Albright course, slated to close Sept. 2. Sullwold said the closure would not result in the kind of cost savings city leaders had hoped. And she believes increased fees and play can help sustain the course.