Commissioners debate Superior National operations

Jane Howard

The county board had a spirited discussion on Tuesday, November 9, 2010 following the Cook County-Grand Marais Economic Development Authority’s (EDA’s) decision to create a management board for Superior National at Lutsen golf course.

Five people were selected from a list of seven applicants: Mark Sandbo representing the EDA; EDA member/County Commissioner Bruce Martinson representing the county board; Jim King representing Friends of Superior National; and Lutsen Supervisor Marland Hansen and former corporate attorney Tom Fredeen representing the public at large.

Years ago, the golf course was managed by a board comprised of people with business interests in the West End. About a decade ago, management was taken over by a three-member committee of EDA members. The commissioners discussed who actually has the authority at this point to make decisions about the golf course—the new board, the EDA, or EDA Director Matt Geretschlaeger.

County Attorney Tim Scannell said the EDA has that authority unless it enters a contract, such as with an independent golf course management company, that would allow someone else to make certain decisions. He added, however, that Matt Geretschlaeger has authority on behalf of the EDA to oversee the course, so he has more official management authority than the new board.

Bruce Martinson said the EDA wants the new management board to do as much as possible to run the course short of what must be decided by the EDA.

Commissioner Fritz Sobanja said he believed Friends of Superior National, an auxiliary group that proposed financial support by the county, had been acting as though they were the golf course’s managers. Scannell agreed.

Commissioner Jan Hall said the board needs the Lutsen-Tofte Tourism Association (now in partnership with the Cook County Tourism Bureau) to be more accountable for how golf course advertising dollars are being spent. She said the county board would not be willing to approve a request to spend 1 percent sales and use tax dollars for infrastructure improvements until they get more information.

Sobanja said the request needs to demonstrate how the 1 percent funding would benefit the golf course’s financial situation. He also took issue with the differing amounts that were requested by Friends of Superior National and interested West End businesspeople earlier in the fall. “They bounce around week by week in $100,000 increments,” he said. Sobanja said he wants to know what capital improvements are really necessary and he wants to get bids from local contractors on how much the work would really cost.

“They did their research,” Martinson said.

“I have yet to find out where they did their research,” Sobanja said.

Commissioner Jim Johnson said he remembered seeing a booklet that had estimates from non-local contractors. Sobanja said that rounding off to the nearest $100,000 doesn’t seem like a very good estimate.

“It wasn’t done willy-nilly, I know that,” Commissioner Martinson said.

Sobanja said he felt disrespected because the people requesting the money didn’t answer a list of questions he had given them. Thelist asks things like who prepares the budget, how decisions are made regarding repairs, who is handling advertising, and what the priorities are for spending on wages, grounds, and advertising. In a later phone conversation, Commissioner Martinson said Jim King is working on finding answers to Sobanja’s questions.

The board approved Bruce Martinson’s appointment to the Superior National Golf Course Management Board with a vote of three ayes, with one abstaining (Martinson) and one absent (Bob Fenwick). Commissioner Hall told Martinson she would like him to keep the county board informed as the new management board proceeds.

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2010-11-13 digital edition

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