City to be guarantor for Otter Creek Golf Course golf cart purchase

Ron Albert, right, and Hugh Daugherty ride a golf cart toward the green at Otter Creek Golf Course in Columbus, Ind., Friday, March 20, 2020. Mike Wolanin | The Republic

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Columbus has agreed to act as a guarantor that Otter Creek Golf Course can lease a new fleet of golf carts.

The Columbus City Council has approved a resolution for the lease.

John McCormick, who is the president of Otter Creek’s management board, said the lease is a 55-month obligation with an approximate cost of $7,900 month. This includes 90 carts and six utility vehicles.

The golf course board hopes the fleet might arrive in early April, but it may not come until later in the spring. Once the new fleet arrives, the course’s current carts and utility vehicles will be returned to the manufacturer.

“In the golf industry, you want to switch out carts when your existing carts are at their maximum value with the maximum life used,” he said. “And our carts are at that point.”

Otter Creek’s management board needs the city to serve as a guarantor on the lease because the board itself has no assets to serve as collateral, said Jamie Brinegar, city director of finance, operations and risk.

As noted in the resolution, the Otter Creek Management Co. operates and maintains the course, but the property is owned by the city.

The resolution, Brinegar said, basically allows the mayor to use the city’s credit to aid Otter Creek in leasing the new fleet of golf carts. He added that Otter Creek has already budgeted money to pay for the lease.

City councilman Tom Dell said that the resolution was a fair arrangement.

“We’re allowing you an opportunity to use our credit, basically, to secure a good lease, and then you’re still planning on making the payments like you always have, which doesn’t fall back on us,” he said. “And since it’s our asset that we’re kind of reinvesting in, and all we’re reinvesting is our good credit rating, I think this sounds like a good deal for everybody.”

In 2020, the City of Columbus assumed full control of the golf course, as Cummins decided to reduce its involvement in the Otter Creek Management Corp., the governing board for the course.

McCormick said that the Otter Creek currently has a good “cash position” and ended 2020, with city funding, “in the green.” He said that the golf course made a $13,800 profit in 2020 and is “projected to significantly improve that in 2021, based on our current trend and current work.”

He said that Otter Creek is looking to emphasize outdoor dining and beverage services this year.

“The golf course is in better shape than it’s been in many, many years,” McCormick said. “We’ve stabilized financially and we’re moving in the right direction. We’re staffed properly, and we feel really, really good about the progress we’ve made. And we really want to invite everyone who has an interest in playing golf at all levels, as well as people who just want to go have a nice outdoor dining experience, to visit Otter Creek.”

McCormick said that the “biggest misconception” about Otter Creek is that it’s expensive and only “for certain people.” He said that the course is extremely affordable and that it was a gift from J. Irwin Miller to Columbus.

“It’s a place for everybody,” he said. “It’s a beautiful place for everyone.”