Thursday, October 21, 1999

City & County of Honolulu

Proposed fee
increase may tee
off isle golfers

Fees for 18 holes of golf
and other services might
increase by $2 at each of
the city's six courses

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


Harry Choi warns that he and other golfers could play less at municipal courses if costs are increased.

"This affects all municipal golfers," Choi said at a City Council meeting yesterday. "Don't kill the goose that laid the golden egg."

The Council is proposing that fees for 18 holes of golf and other services increase by $2 at each of the city's six courses. Golf fees bring in about $10 million a year, and the plan would generate an estimated $1.5 million more.

A bill for the increase won preliminary approval by a 6-2 vote, with Council members Mufi Hannemann and Donna Mercado Kim dissenting. Councilman Duke Bainum is on the mainland because of a death in his family and did not attend.

The issue now goes back to the Council Budget Committee, which meets next Wednesday. A final vote is slated for Nov. 10.

Choi said golfers shouldn't get hit with fee increases just because of decisions to put fancy golf clubhouses and other amenities at the courses.

City officials estimate debt service from golf course-related construction projects makes up about half of the $17.3 million in annual operating costs attributed to the golf courses.

But Choi said there was no opportunity for the public to provide comment before the city decided to build such luxuries, he said.

Lionel Aono, another user of the city links, also believes capital costs shouldn't be passed on to golfers.

"Most capital costs, such as land and improvements to land, are really investments that usually appreciate in value over the long term," he said.

Aono proposed that a task force made up of golfers be set up to review future golf-related capital projects.

He also suggested that rather than raise fees, the city should examine the formula for success at the Ala Wai Golf Course, the city's most popular golfing venue, and apply it at the other courses.

The golfers received some sympathy from Kim and Hannemann.

Kim said the fee-increase plan is premature because a separate bill now moving through the Council would set up a task force to look into golf-related issues.

"I think people don't mind paying more, but they just want to know what they're paying for," Kim said.

Said Hannemann, "Set up a golf advisory board, and let them come up with a recommendation."

Council Chairman Jon Yoshimura said a task force at this point is an iffy proposition and that the proposed increases are "reasonable."

Under the plan, weekday rates for residents would go to $12 from $10, and weekend rates to $16 from $14.

Fees for seniors, juniors, cart fees and other services -- such as renting golf clubs -- would also go up $2.

City Enterprise Services Director Alvin Au said Mayor Jeremy Harris will accept whatever increase the Council chooses to approve.

Last spring, the Council shot down a plan by the administration to increase rates by 50 percent after opposition from golfers.

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