Friday, May 11, 2001

Kauai County

picking up more
of Kauai golf tab

The Council takes strokes
off requested greens
fee increases

By Anthony Sommer

LIHUE >> The Kauai County Council late yesterday sliced in half Mayor Maryanne Kusaka's proposed greens fee increases at the county's Wailua Golf Course.

After an afternoon of debate, the Council settled on a 25 percent across-the-board increase in all existing fees. Kusaka had asked for a variety of increases ranging from 40 percent for single-round play to a 70 percent boost to the cost of a monthly unlimited-play card for senior citizens.

The current monthly card for resident seniors is $20. Kusaka asked for a $34 price, but the Council gave her only $25.

Similarly, the monthly card for resident nonseniors is $35. The mayor asked that the price be increased to $49, but the Council raised it to $44.

In comparison, a monthly unlimited-play card at Hilo Muni is $18 for seniors and $33 for nonseniors. At Waiehu Golf Club on Maui, the price is $5 per month plus $2 per round.

The average cardholder on Kauai plays Wailua seven times each month, according to golf course data.

Even with the increases, the average nonsenior will pay about $6.25 a round, and the average senior will pay $5 a round.

The catch is that taxpayers will now pay much more to subsidize the course.

Kusaka's proposal would have doubled the county subsidy for the course next year to $400,000 from the current $200,000.

But the smaller increase approved by the Council yesterday will boost the general-fund subsidy to the course in the coming year to $536,000.

Most of the golfers who testified before the Council at previous meetings supported the proposed increases but said the county should invest more as well.

The course, once ranked among the 10 best golf courses in the United States, fell into disrepair in the mid-1990s. Last year, Kusaka hired Ed Okamoto, former superintendent of the Kauai Lagoons resort course, to try to restore Wailua to its past glory.

Glenn Mickens, one of the mayor's critics, told the Council yesterday the course was intended to be self-supporting and that the fees should reflect the actual costs of running it.

"I am against any more money coming out of our pockets to subsidize this thing," said Mickens, a retired university baseball coach and a nongolfer.

The only vote against the new rates and the higher subsidy came from Council Chairman Ron Kouchi, who was against any greens fee increases because the county has not yet kept past promises.

"When we voted for an increase the last time (two years ago), we assured the golfers there would be improvements, and there weren't," Kouchi, a golfer, said.

"In the past few years, people on Kauai have been ashamed to bring visitors to play at Wailua."

Kauai County

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