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August 12. 2014 10:03PM

City could spend up to $3m on Derryfield Country Club drainage issues

MANCHESTER — The city is poised to spend up to $3 million to address long-running drainage problems at the Derryfield Country Club, and make other improvements at the golf course.

The Parks Division has begun the initial phase of seeking bids from contractors, after the Board of Mayor and Aldermen last week authorized the work to move forward.

The Derryfield, one of only a few municipally-owned courses in the state, has become a drain on city finances as membership at the club has declined in recent years. Restructured 15 years ago to be a self-sustaining enterprise, the city has had to subsidize the course for the past seven years, at a cost of around $6 million.

Chief of Parks Don Pinard said dealing with the drainage problem would go a long way toward boosting the Derryfield's revenue.

“We've talked to a lot of members, and they've been driving at this for a long time,” he said, referring to the drainage problem. “There are a lot of members who have left because of this. We expect an 8-to-10 percent increase in membership right off the bat, as well as people paying for greens time.”

He added, “I wouldn't be doing this if I wasn't confident we could sustain this, and in the end make money.”

The drainage problem occurs primarily on the east side of the course off Mammoth Road, where there is a steep downward slope. Heavy rain can force the closure of several holes in the area, and they may remain closed even after the weather clears.

Other projects include improving the irrigation system and the cart path network, and reconstructing two greens.

Pinard estimated that the work will cost between $2 million and $3 million, depending on the bids that are received.

Parks officials have long lamented the drainage problem at the Derryfield, but only last week did the aldermen give an early green light to proceed with the costly improvements.

The work would likely be financed through a bond, which would require two-thirds support of the aldermen.

Six weeks into the new fiscal year, a Derryfield bond could be the latest to come under consideration. City officials want to spend up to $3 million to fit all streetlights with efficient LED fixtures. And the school district wants to spend up to $15 million for construction work at three schools.

At a Committee on Human Resources meeting last week, Finance Director Bill Sanders said the work at Derryfield was worth pursuing.

“We are issuing debt in a number of situations. I don't want to understate that,” he said. “But the success of a golf course, or just the basic functioning of a golf course, is pretty dependent on doing something with this.”

Other aldermen expressed support for going ahead with the upgrades.

“I think this is a must for the city,” said Alderman-At-Large Dan O'Neil, the chairman of the board. “If we don't, we're going to have a course that continues to lose membership.”

The committee backed the Parks Division's request to seek bids for the work, as did the full board.

tsiefer@unionleader.com


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