Council may vote on golf course takeover

Buying Pasadena site may hurt Arundel bond rating

February 06, 2005|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

The Anne Arundel County Council may vote tomorrow night to take over the financially troubled Compass Pointe Golf Course in Pasadena from a quasi-state agency that has developed and operated it since 2001.

The council will consider whether to issue $26 million in bonds to buy out the Maryland Economic Development Corp. The move is favored by County Executive Janet S. Owens, a Millersville Democrat.

Alternatively, council members could opt to leave the golf course under MEDCO control, with the county offering possible financial support if the course continues to lose money. Or the council could choose a middle road, possibly paying $3 million in estimated construction overruns but not taking over the course.

Council Chairman Ronald C. Dillon Jr. also said he is leaning toward taking over the course, which has 27 of 36 planned holes. "It would clean the slate, end the surprises and allow us to move on," said Dillon, a Pasadena Republican whose district includes the course.

But critics, led by Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk, say a takeover would further entangle the county in a bad deal that is unlikely to provide significant long-term profits. The Annapolis-area Democrat argues that MEDCO should be left to succeed or fail on its own.

"Then there are three or four of us in the middle who could be swayed one way or another," said Councilman Edward R. Reilly, a Crofton Republican.

Reilly said he is not sure the council has enough information - about dangers to the county bond rating if MEDCO defaults on its obligations or about the marketability of the course - to make an informed decision. That could mean a long discussion tomorrow night or could mean the council won't vote until a future meeting.

A takeover would require the support of five of seven council members because it would involve adding a capital project in the middle of the county's budget year.

County leaders have debated about the course since they made a $1.1 million loan to MEDCO last year to make up for revenue shortfalls. Council members said they were frustrated that the county's contract with MEDCO made the $1.1 million loan a virtual obligation, although the county plays little role in supervising the course.

Robert Brennan, executive director of MEDCO, said he would welcome a county takeover of the course.

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