Lumbee Tribal Council members voted this week to move ahead with the state’s offer of a lease agreement to operate the Riverside Golf Course.
Council member Charles Bullard said that he cast the one negative vote out of 15 cast during a conference call Tuesday. The council is made up of 21 members serving Scotland and Robeson counties.
“I just don’t think we are prepared to take it on at this time,” Bullard said. “I don’t know how we can get the money. I think our focus should be on housing, not a golf course.”
Council member Terry Collins, who was not able to vote Tuesday because of a death in his family, also said this morning that he opposes the tribe getting into the business of operating a golf course.
“We’re here to help repair houses and not put our fingers into everything. The course wasn’t used that much when it was open,” he said. “Rumor has it that they (tribal administrators) just want to acquire that property so they can build houses on it in the future.”
According to Tribal Administrator Rose Marie Lowry-Townsend, the contract gives the tribe 60 days to begin maintaining and making permanent improvements to the property. The state Department of Administration will then recommend to the Council of State that the tribe be granted a five-year lease, with the option of three additional five-year extensions.
The contract calls for the property to be leased for $1 a year. It also provides for the state to do $50,000 work on the grounds, including demolition of a cart shed and removal of the debris; stabilization of a bridge on the course; removal of an above-ground fuel tank; and roof repairs to two rain shelters. It was estimated earlier this year that there is between $650,000 and $800,000 of capital repairs to be done at the course. The tribe would be responsible for the rest of the cost of repair work and the cost of operating the course.
Louise Mitchell, a member of the LumbeeTribal Council, said that a business plan will have to be established outlining exactly how the tribe will pay for the repairs and course operations. Federal money cannot be used for operating a golf course, so money will have to be come from donations, grants and fund-raising events.
“It won’t be easy. It will take a lot of community support,” Mitchell said. “We will have to do heavy campaigning.”
At last week’s council meeting, Lowry-Townsend emphasized that the tribe is depending on tribal members to pledge money and donate time to keep the course open. She said that between 80 and 90 pledges have been taken from those interested in using the course, but no money has been collected. Pledges are $350 a year for an individual and $500 a year for a family.
The state ordered the 110-acre golf course, located adjacent to the N.C. Indian Cultural Center between U.S. 74 and N.C. 710 , closed at the end of January after inspectors found that several structures on the property do not comply with state building codes and are dangerous to the public.
The state Department of Administration advertised for bidders to operate the course, and the Lumbee Tribe was the only bidder.