Council criticizes golf course project oversight

Agency seeks $3 million to finish Compass Pointe


September 29, 2004|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County Council members criticized financial management yesterday at the Compass Pointe golf course in a meeting with the director of the quasi-public agency that has developed the troubled project in Pasadena.

"You authorized work when you didn't have money to pay for it," said Crofton Republican Edward R. Reilly after hearing that the Maryland Economic Development Corp. needs another $3 million to complete a project that was supposed to cost $17 million and be finished more than year ago. "Government organizations aren't authorized to deficit-spend."

Reilly said he would have trouble approving additional county support for the project - support that Bob Brennan, executive director of MEDCO, said his agency would need to borrow the additional $3 million.

Brennan said MEDCO spent money it didn't have in an effort to hasten completion of the course, which has run up steady operating shortfalls. He said the key to eliminating the shortfalls is getting all 36 holes at the course open. Compass Pointe currently offers 27 holes.

"I'm very optimistic that we'll have a very successful project, but we have to have all 36 holes," Brennan told the council.

Yesterday's encounter followed council members' talk last week of taking over the golf course so the county would not face any more requests for financial bailouts, such as the $1.1 million loan the council gave to MEDCO in June.

County Auditor Teresa Sutherland also has said the county did not follow proper procedure in paying MEDCO $380,000 for road improvements around the course.

Brennan could not promise that MEDCO would not be back for another loan next year. He has said MEDCO would have no problem ceding control of the project to the county.

Under its agreement with MEDCO, the county is supposed to take control of the golf course when MEDCO's bonds are paid off in 25 to 30 years. County officials have said a takeover would allow the county to refinance bonds issued by MEDCO and possibly gain greater profits from Compass Pointe.

The subject of a county takeover did not come up yesterday. Council members instead spent the session asking Brennan when they will be able to see a full audit of the project that might explain how and when financial problems began.

Brennan and his predecessor, Hans Mayer, have blamed financial difficulties on a late opening caused by wet weather last year. Brennan said he hoped an audit of the project would be complete and available to the council by Nov. 1.

Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk, an Annapolis Democrat, asked Brennan if he had any documentation showing that the course will become self-sufficient once all 36 holes are open.

Brennan said he believes the course will achieve financial stability within two years of opening all 36 holes.

The county bought land for a golf course in Pasadena in the 1980s and later persuaded developers to donate more land. But its decision to have MEDCO develop the course prompted legal threats from developers who said the nonprofit group was designed to promote projects in economically depressed areas, not in thriving markets.

State legislators expanded the corporation's charge and allowed it to move forward on Compass Pointe in 2001.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.