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Where is grass greener?

Town, groundskeeper at odds on course closure, public to have say

Colonial Acres Superintendent Patrick Blum feels the golf course is being leveraged as a budgetary quick fix.

Colonial Acres Superintendent Patrick Blum feels the golf course is being leveraged as a budgetary quick fix. Photo by Marcy Velte.

— With a tentative budget on the table that would raise property taxes by 8 percent and instate a number of cuts, one debate that has already started in the Town of Bethlehem is whether the Colonial Acres Golf Course should be closed or kept open.

Some residents have said operating the golf course has become an unnecessary burden on the town, while others have called it a valuable resource. Internally, the debate is much the same.

The town projects the nine-hole, par-three course to run at an annual loss of $40,000, and scheduled capital improvement projects there could add up to $270,000 in the coming years. But Golf Course Superintendent Patrick Blum said he feels Colonial Acres is being leveraged as a budgetary quick fix, when in reality there isn’t much money to be saved.

“The course is being vilified,” he said. “The numbers presented are inflated or not necessary at all.”

The Bethlehem Town Board first agreed to lease Colonial Acres Golf Course in 2008 for $1 per year from the Open Space Conservancy. The five-year agreement called for Bethlehem to maintain the 43-acre Colonial Acres property. The course takes up approximately 30 of those 43 acres.

The lease expired in August, but is now functioning on a month-to-month basis until the town decides the way forward.

Blum said he thinks the town is misrepresenting what could be saved by closing the course. Town officials estimate a $150,000 investmentis needed for new sewer lines, bathrooms and a clubhouse to make Colonial Acres profitable, and $120,000 is needed for a new irrigation system and foot bridge.

“All of the roads in this town will one day need to be repaved too, but that doesn’t mean you account for $50 million worth of savings in the budget if it doesn’t get done,” Blum said.

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