By Leslie Pugmire Hole
After three nights of meetings and discussion, the Redmond Budget Committee, composed of the seven city councilors and seven citizens, voted 13-1 to approve the 2014-15 city budget. It will be presented to the community in a public hearing and go before the council for final approval in June.
The lone dissenting vote came from Councilor Ed Onimus, a self-described “malcontent” who expressed his strong objection to the city’s continuing financial support for Juniper Golf Course, a city-owned facility designed to be self-supporting.
During the discussion Onimus traded some heated words with fellow councilors, including Mayor George Endicott.
“If I could rewrite history, we wouldn’t be in this mess,” Onimus said.
“Go ahead and try,” countered Endicott. The mayor argued that the golf course was a city park, and as a city service it deserved general fund support.
Golf is not a community park or a police force or other city service, replied Onimus.
“We should never have used the city’s credit rating to fund this,” he said.
“We should never have had WWII, but we did,” Endicott retorted.
Juniper Golf Course was relocated in 2005 after more than 50 years on city-owned land. It was only able to pay the debt service on the $5.9 million loan for constructing the new course for four years. By 2009 the city, which backed the loan, was forced to take over the annual payments. In the past three years, the city has paid more than $1.1 million toward the debt.
During the discussion, several councilors pointed out that arguing the merit of paying on the loan is moot, because the city is essentially a co-signer on the debt.
“It’s extremely inappropriate that this is in the city budget,” Onimus said. “If they can’t make it on what we set in the budget, they get what they ask for, no questions asked. It’s a blank check for them.”
“I get perturbed when I hear this, Ed,” Endicott said. “(Juniper) is our asset, our responsibility. We’ve done everything we can to see it’s run more efficiently.”
Councilor Jay Patrick sympathized with Onimus’ view, saying if he thought anyone would buy it, he’d love to sell Juniper. But as that’s unlikely, he supported the city standing by the facility.
Just before the budget approval, Onimus apologized to the committee for his anger, explaining he felt strongly about the subject.
“We all care about our community, and it shows,” Endicott said.
— Reporter: 541-548-2186, firstname.lastname@example.org