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NORTH S.L. MAY REFINANCE GOLF COURSE

You could say the city used a credit card to build its $6.3 million Eaglewood Golf Course last year.

Now officials want to refinance with a low-interest bank loan - and residents should be happy to co-sign, says Mayor Clair Jones.He and the City Council want citizens to approve a general obligation bond in the November election that would cut annual payments on the golf course by as much as $115,000.

City manager Collin Wood says the plan is long overdue.

"We're looking at a million-dollar savings (over the life of the loan). Without it, the city's general fund will continue to subsidize the course."

When the council finally launched the plans for Eaglewood two years ago, they refused to finance construction with a GO bond because they didn't think the public would approve.

Instead they issued the bonds backed by anticipated revenue. But now the course has proved itself, Wood said.

"It's a matter of savings, and that can be sold to the public."

The city currently pays 8.625 percent to several companies that bought the bonds last year totaling $6.3 million. This year's interest payment is about $585,000 - money that comes directly from green fees, pro shop sales and cart rentals.

In addition, the city's general fund will subsidize operations this year with an $85,000 infusion from the general fund.

The refinancing would take the golf course from needing subsidy to making a profit in less than a year. On its current track, the course won't break even for at least four more years, Wood said.

The deal would also loosen other city funds.

"We have some improvements we'd like to make to the city park, for example. We could use that $115,000 for a lot of things," Wood said.

In the end, however, it will be voters who decide the issue. Like many residents, Terry Carlson, now a council member, opposed a general obligation bond.

"Back then I didn't think it was right to obligate everybody for a golf course . . . a lot of us felt that way. But now we have it and we're paying for it anyway, we might as well pay less," she said.