Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Just finished sending out 766 emails with the help of a half dozen folks who volunteered to take time from their busy schedules to make their community a better place. Like me, they believe that the vote Thursday can be the beginning of a better future for Farmington Woods and a more modern, financially viable approach to funding the golf business that we inherited in 1985.

Very few of us were here then or took part in the initial decision to purchase and operate a private entity using public funds in the form of district taxes. In case you missed it, it's not 1985 anymore. The business model that was used to run Farmington Woods Golf Club is not working because it was developed in the 80's using voodoo economics; it left us at the mercy of every downturn in the economy over the last 27 years. And the only thing trickling down are the losses.

Club membership has slumped along with the ailing economy, especially since 2008, leaving only one source to keep things out of the serious red: you, me and the rest of the residents here, golfers and non-golfers alike.
At last count the course had 179 members and next year's golf budget is based on 200 members. Unfortunately it takes 300 members to break even. And you know where the balance comes from.

I know Irene Loretto likes to say we've never had an assessment at Farmington Woods. If that's so, then someone needs to check the machine that prints my bills. Every month for the past 13 years there's been a charge for "restaurant minimums" of $20, $25 and now $30. They wanted to raise it to $35 this year so the club wouldn't have to sacrifice. You would think they could get by on our $400K advance every year and the $140K in unused minimums that probably should have been returned to the community, but didn't.

It took me 13 years to realize that I am not a member of anything here, but am obligated to pay for something I wouldn't use if it were not forced upon me. Monthly minimums are nothing more than an assessment. If you own a unit at Oronoque Village in Stratford, you're automatically considered a "social member" of Oronoque Country Club and your minimum is, well, there is no minimum.

How do they do it? They have a good product and good management. They are in a business to make a profit and not allowed to go to the well, the residents, every year when they can't get by with what was fronted them the year before. And they're not asking for residents of the village to cough up $4M over the next 20 years paid for with an 18% tax increase.

We need a new business model suited for the 2nd decade of the 21st century. Unless you're in agreement with the "too big to fail" mantra that Wall Street used to rob you of your retirement a few years ago, you've got to agree that Farmington Woods Golf Club needs to take responsibility for its own success or failure.

And I don't know about you, but we never thought we'd be keeping a private golf course open with our retirement funds either. We were thinking we'd only have to support ourselves.. How naive of us.

The course should have been sold years ago, but a small group of people here wanted to keep it for themselves and understood that by using the fear tactic of "decreased property values" they could get residents to cough up enough to keep it going, even while losing money on a yearly basis. It's a cozy club for those who join. But the rest of us get to pay to keep the necessary clubhouse open. 37% of us don't even use it.

I have been running a national business for 17 years. If my record of profitable vs. unprofitable years over the last ten had been as bad as the golf operation, I would have closed up shop long ago. I don't want the club to go out of business, I want it to be profitable. And the only way that's going to happen is for the course to be sold or leased to people with an incentive to make a profit.

Right now there is none.


Comments? You're welcome to email me at 2chewman@gmail.com.

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