"As a private club, you demand a high dollar from a sort of high-end clientele. This economy has dried up that high-end clientele who can no longer afford those dollars," he said.
A key caveat: bids for the property are due to the Bank of America by Wednesday, Feb. 23, leaving precious little time for the town to make a decision. Messina said that could very well be the largest obstacle.
"Even if the town does determine we could buy and profitably operate the course, it may be very difficult for us to take action by Feb. 23," he said.
The public weighs in
Besides the obvious question of "can," an equally important query when it comes to the town's involvement in any deal is "should."
It was clear at a recent Town Board meeting there are many residents who would like to see the club at least maintained as open space, including a coalition of neighbors of the property calling themselves Friends of Normanside.
Pam Skripak said they've collected over 300 signatures on a petition urging the town to search for ways to save the course from development. She said that doesn't necessarily mean Bethlehem should aim to buy it outright, though.
"Our position is not that this should be a money-losing proposition for the town," she said.
But some members of the public staunchly advocated against spending any public funds on acquiring the property. Others, like resident Linda Jazinski, said a public hearing should be held before any decision is made.
"I understand time is short but this is the way it should be done," she said.
She added the Friends of Normanside should protect their own interests with their own bid.
Charles Kriss, a neighbor to the course, after the meeting rejected the notion public funds should not be used for a Normanside purchase. Under that logic, he argued, the town wouldn't have parks.