City officials have endured some blow back from members of the local golf community following a continuing staff recommendation to terminate its contract with Levi Pitts as manager of Kingman’s Cerbat Cliffs Golf Course.
Parks Director Mike Meersman strenuously urged contract termination during the June 6 Council meeting. Meersman checklisted a number of Pitts’ alleged failures under terms of the contract, including declining revenue.
Meersman said revenue at the course is down $153,000 over the last three years and down roughly $12,000 for the month of May alone. Meersman said promotional efforts are unsatisfactory and he expressed concern that Pitts has approved special deals, discounts and disparate fees for golfers.
“That’s really not fair to the other customers who have paid the appropriate rates and paid the appropriate rate for their season pass and their trail fee,” Meersman said. “I’ve reminded Mr. Pitts several times to be consistent. Don’t do for one customer what you can’t do for all customers.”
Pitts noted that his contract affords him some discretion in adjustments to remain competitive with other courses in the area. He conceded that he has failed to comply with the contract provision requiring him to provide and update a business plan and he pledged that he would remedy that.
Pitts noted the Council previously sent the staff contract termination recommendation back to the commission and that the commission voted 4-3 in support of keeping him on.
And five members of the golf community spoke in Pitts’ favor.
“I would ask definitely that you do not follow the staff recommendation and you do not terminate his contract,” said Bill Shade. “I think it’s totally unfair.”
Kerry Deering said the city is in part responsible for declining golf course revenue. He said poor playing conditions are keeping golfers away.
Deering said the course “is littered with gopher holes” and is scarred with grass scorched by fertilizer application. Mike Ross agreed, arguing Pitts could do better if the city provided him a better landscape for golf play.
“It’s a mediocre course at best,” Ross said. “My opinion is I think you keep Levi on. I don’t think you’re going to find a better manager. I think that if there’s a problem with the contract, you work with him.”
Council members expressed concern that there’s been an insufficient amount of communication between Pitts, Meersman and city manager John Dougherty. They were reluctant to terminate the contract and directed the parties to open a constructive dialogue before reporting back to council on June 20.
Mayor Monica Gates said she thought the management contract is poorly written and is in need of improvement.