By Gretchen Webster
WESTPORT – The impact of climate change is paring the course these days – and golf courses are no exception.
At a women’s council meeting Wednesday, City Parks and Recreation director Jennifer Fava explained how climate change is affecting the Longshore Club Park golf course.
“There are different pests and different fungi,” she said. “With the changes in the weather…we are now in a mid-Atlantic situation, not the Northeast.”
Vava was explaining to the selected women why the City should renew its three-year contract with BrightView Golf Maintenance for professional golf course maintenance. Vava said the original contract with the company was signed with an option to extend the agreement for another three years. The city has outsourced golf course maintenance since 2014.
Selectwoman Candice Savin asked why the contract was not offered for competitive bidding. “Is there some evaluation that we are unlikely to do better in the world?” she asked. “And that’s why we don’t necessarily bid and see what other options are there?”
BrightView was responsive to the city’s needs, Vava said, and had a good support system that would cost less than hiring individual workers and address any problems that might arise.
Westport’s golf supervisor Brad Brown, who was hired last year, has helped improve the course, she said, and is working well with the BrightView team.
Bringing in a new maintenance company means starting over.
“There is a learning curve when someone comes,” she said. “Now we’re seeing how different parts of the cycle react differently — the water side has a different growth pattern than the other side. Someone who’s a newcomer wouldn’t understand that.”
The number of golf maintenance companies is also limited and the city received only three or four bids when the contract was last put out for competitive bidding. In addition, many companies focus on Florida, where weather conditions vary greatly.
“They don’t have experience in the Northeast… We don’t feel we’d get better management of the facility if we gave it in.” Fava said.
The cost of the contract is based on the CPI “by floor and cap,” according to Doug LoMonte, the city attorney who drafted the contract extension letter. Contract cost figures will be available in the future.
According to the FAFA, in each year of the contract, fees will rise by 5 percent or match the increase in the consumer price index, whichever is lower, over the previous year. She said that due to inflation, there would be a 5 percent increase in the first year.
The teams voted unanimously to approve the extension of the contract.
Technology to help recover parks and rest expenses
VAVA requested action regarding a second contract of a consulting and licensing agreement between the city and Amilia Technologies USA Inc. The agreement covers a software and consulting platform to help the Department of Parks and Recreation implement its financial sustainability policy.
For an annual contract fee of $2,000 and a monthly licensing fee of $300, the company provides software and support to analyze costs and revenues generated by the division. The service will be used to help parks and recreation employees make financial decisions about their operations, fees charged for programs, and use of city recreational facilities.
“It all depends on our cost recovery,” Vava said, “we want to be able to make ends meet… It will help us — if we raise fees, if we try to find sponsors for something.”
She added that the technology will take into account debt service and overhead costs, not just program expenses. The city does not charge for some large events, such as Memorial Day activities or overhead costs for park maintenance, for example, but does expect to generate revenue from facilities such as boat slips. “Why should the taxpayer pay for it?” She said.
The women selected unanimously agreed to a consulting and licensing agreement for financial support.
Freelance writer Gretchen Webster, a Fairfield County journalist and journalism educator for many years, was editor of the Fairfield Minuteman for 10 years and currently teaches journalism at Southern Connecticut State University.