Localities debate golf subsidies for residents

Published 5:21 pm Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Residents of Franklin and Southampton County may soon have the opportunity to play golf at the Cypress Cove Country Club at a reduced cost via a shared services agreement between the city and county. The agreement would allow city and county residents the use of the country club’s greens and golf carts for $25 per round.

Franklin’s City Council voted 6-1 on Monday evening to approve its participation in the agreement, contingent on Southampton’s Board of Supervisors also voting to proceed. The Board also discussed the matter on Monday evening, ultimately voting to put the agreement to a public hearing before making any decisions.

City Manager R. Randy Martin explained that the agreement would only apply to golf privileges and not any of the club’s other facilities. He added that the $25-per-round rate would include the use of a golf cart and that students under age 21 could play for $10 per round, but without the cart.

Franklin Mayor Frank Rabil said that for the first time since the mid-1960s, Franklin High School was unable to field a golf team for the coming school year due to lack of interest from students, and that he hoped the shared services agreement would revitalize youth interest in the sport.

Vice Mayor Barry Cheatham also expressed his support for the agreement, and said that this agreement was a good deal for residents compared to similar golf subsidies in cities such as Virginia Beach, which do not include the use of a golf cart.

At the supervisors meeting, County Administrator Mike Johnson reminded the board that during budget work sessions this past spring, a $30,000 “placeholder” was included in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget under the Parks, Recreation and Cultural category for”Parks and Recreation Shared Services.”

Supervisor Barry Porter, who disclosed he is a club member, said that the last time he got to play was in November. He recommended supporting the partnership because it would “preserve local property values and help maintain direct tax revenues of almost $20,000.” Further, it would enhance leisure activities available in the county. Porter said he would not benefit from the agreement, but the county could.

“If we don’t, then it’ll be gone in 12 months,” he continued. “People are doing it for the future. The course provides an attractive asset. If it goes away, it’s a big blow to the county. We’re down to our backs against the wall. All golf teams at schools would shut down. That would be a serious disappointment if we lose this asset.”
Vice Chairman Ronnie West, who said he’s not a member, agreed that the course is a positive feature.

Randolph Cook added that participating in the agreement is “An opportunity for the county to step up.”

Dr. Alan Edwards cautioned, “It’s going to take more than one-year commitment. You’d better be willing to support it for a number of years. You’re not going to turn it around for a year.”

Porter agreed that $60K won’t help if people won’t come to play.

Bruce Phillips said he’s willing to let the matter go ahead for public comment.

“We need to make sure public has an input,” he added.

“It’s a quality of life issue,” said West. “It’s an opportunity not to spend my dollars in Suffolk, but here.”
The board agreed the matter should go for a public hearing.


Staff writer Stephen H. Cowles also contributed to this story.