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Council approves new golf course manager

By CARY DAVIS

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 24, 2000


ZEPHYRHILLS -- City Council members voted unanimously Monday night to allow a local businessman to take over management of the Zephyrhills City Golf Course.

Council members agreed to let William Krusen, owner of Valley Oaks Golf Club, assume the lease at the municipal course after he promised to spend an estimated $200,000 this summer to plant grass on the course and remodel the clubhouse.

City officials said they were confident that the change in management from Nancy Lester, who fell into disfavor after falling through on promises to improve the course, to Krusen would ensure that city residents will soon have a municipal golf course they can be proud of.

"It will look nice when we're done," said Maynard Evenson, who will oversee the renovations for Krusen. "It will be playable."

The course has been closed since last Monday and will not reopen until Sept. 15 at the earliest, City Attorney Tom McAlvanah said. Evenson said work on the improvements will begin immediately.

"There's a lot of work to be done," Evenson said. Then, after a brief pause, he added, "I wish it would rain."

Until the course reopens, members will have playing privileges at Valley Oaks.

Council members agreed to lease the 18-hole, par-68 course to Krusen for the next 20 years. Krusen agreed to pay $2,000 more a year in rent than Lester's lease had required. Lester was paying $38,000 annually for the right to operate the course.

Lester assumed control of the course in 1988, but in the past year she angered city officials by refusing to make required improvements to the course and clubhouse. When she renegotiated her lease last March, she promised to plant new grass on the tees, greens and fairways. She also agreed to spend $42,000 to renovate the clubhouse.

McAlvanah said Lester's neglect has had a detrimental effect on the course.

"The course is in bad shape," he said.

Krusen promised to complete the work Lester had failed to do, and he also will pay her debts to the city, which include about $15,000 in unpaid rent and $6,500 in delinquent taxes. He also agreed to clean up a contaminated area left behind by Lester.

Evenson said Krusen has not decided whether to raise daily greens fees at the course.

Krusen, a Zephyrhills native, decided to take over the municipal course because it holds a special place in his heart, Evenson said. "It was the first place he ever played golf."

Also on Monday, the City Council voted 4-1 to apply for a $600,000 redevelopment grant from the state Department of Community Affairs. The money, if awarded, would be used for a downtown streetscaping project that would extend the improvements completed earlier this year.

Council member Cathi Compton cast the lone dissenting vote against the grant application.

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