Crow Wing County commissioners split on opinions regarding Pine Meadows Golf Course, but they did come to a consensus on the project.
Tuesday, board members heard the recommendation from the county's Parks Advisory Commission to authorize Mike Kearns, county parks director, to "explore the possibility of purchasing the Pine Meadows Golf Course" in Baxter.
Kearns said the county has not met with the golf course owners or looked at the course to see what shape it's in at this point. Kearns said he was waiting for a board decision.
Without a vote, commissioners did reach a consensus to have Kearns talk to representatives of Brainerd and Baxter and the golf course ownership and gather information without incurring expense to the county.
Commissioner Gary Walters said he wanted to see the county move forward to explore ideas and meet with Brainerd and Baxter.
"It's a big issue -- where we go from here is wide open," he said. Walters said his biggest goal was to make sure the golf course stays in the community. He appeared to surprise fellow commissioners by saying he may have a conflict of interest as he was now looking at the golf course from a private perspective.
County Board Chairman Terry Sluss said he hoped the matter would be placed before the board and not negotiated in the newspaper. Sluss said thoughts on a potential sales price for the golf course have fluctuated in the media from $1.5 million to more than $5 million.
"I can tell you I'm not willing to pay $5 million for a property even if it is sustainable," Sluss said.
He said the proposal should only be done if it is reasonable option. In terms of a golf course, Sluss said the county looks at setting aside area for various recreation activities such as all-terrain vehicles.
"I'm not going to support an attempt to gouge the county for more dollars," Sluss said.
Commissioner John Ferrari was against spending county taxpayers' money. Commissioner Dewey Tautges said he was opposed to going into business against private enterprise.
"In theory it's just wrong to me," Tautges said. "That's one of the things I struggle with."
However, Tautges said he could support a private enterprise effort.
Sluss said there are ways to buy the golf course that will not cost the taxpayers and he would like every option to stay on the table.
"I think we would be making a mistake by having one position or another" before all the information is in, said Commissioner Ed Larsen. "I'm not going to close the door to anything."
After the meeting, Walters said he did not have specific partners or plans but had thoughts and theories for a private effort to retain the golf course in the community. He said private enterprise may have more options than government.
"My personal belief is the golf course is an important site to the community," Walters said. "... I'm not overly optimistic this is something government can do. ... And maybe nothing can be done."
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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