December 19, 2012 10:55:04 AM
Thinks EMCC has unfair advantage
Recently the Columbus Country Club was sold at auction to East Mississippi Community College (EMCC). Up until this sale there were only two other golf courses located in the Columbus area, Elm Lake and Green Oaks. The three golf courses were not adversarial and each offered their members something different. This has all suddenly changed.
With EMCC now owning the Country Club (renamed Lion Hills), they have embarked on a course that may eventually, if not sooner, make it more difficult for Elm Lake and Green Oaks to survive. EMCC has appointed one of their professors as the director of golf at Lion Hills. He has aggressively put together a membership drive campaign with cut-rate membership fees that neither of the other courses can match.
Lowndes County Tax Assessor Greg Andrews verified my assumption that Lion Hills would be tax-exempt and that the employees would most likely be paid by taxpayer money. He concurred that the plans of EMCC would indeed place both Elm Lake and Green Oaks at a distinct disadvantage in the market place, but didn't know what could be done.
If Lion Hills intended to compete with Elm Lake and Green Oaks, the playing field should be level. Elm Lake and Green Oaks pay thousands of dollars each year in property taxes. Lion Hills will pay nothing.
The two businesses struggle each month to make payroll and payroll taxes. Lion Hills' employees will be on the EMCC payroll with every benefit possible, all with taxpayers' money.
Elm Lake and Green Oaks purchase and lease many thousands of dollars of equipment each year and incur many maintenance expenses for this equipment. EMCC's equipment to be used at Lion Hills will be either donated or purchased with school money.
Often during extended periods of inclement weather, the golf courses usually have very little, if any, income making for even more difficult times. Lion Hills would not be bothered by such, as their payroll and expenses are already secure.
To date, Elm Lake has already lost members to Lion Hills due to their lower fees.
EMCC can, and should, compete with MSU and MUW for students, but when they venture into the private sector and compete with private businesses while enjoying all of their tax benefits and federal and local taxpayer funding, then that is totally unethical and unfair.
Fred B. Hall
Hall is a managing partner of Elm Lake Golf Course.