One party interested in acquiring Shiloh Springs might surprise

The bids came in to the Platte County Commission — at least a little to my surprise.

According to first district commissioner Dagmar Wood, two proposals were submitted prior to last week’s deadline with intentions to acquire Shiloh Springs Golf Club. I’ll stop short of saying purchase here because we don’t exactly know what was submitted.

Sounds like the public won’t know for a while.

According to Wood, the documents will be kept closed as a potential real estate transaction. This means commissioners will likely meet with legal counsel — and possibly a real estate broker to be determined — to discuss conditions.

Proposals for interested brokers won’t be due until mid-November, while officials could start to meet now to discuss possibilities. There is a closed session with Platte County director of multiple departments (including parks and recreation) Daniel Erickson already up on the schedule for this week.

I’ve got to be honest: I didn’t know how much interest there would be in the county-owned golf course, valued — by the commission — at about $5.2 million.

More interesting than receiving any proposals might be the identity of one of the parties interested in Shiloh Springs. That would include Great Life of Kansas City LLC and Gary Martin, according to Wood.

Yes, the same well-known developer Gary Martin who  helped design and build Shiloh Springs.

Opened for play in 1995, Shiloh Springs operated for five years with Martin leasing the facility. The first 20 years saw a management company and multiple individuals handle the facility.

In 2005, Platte County made the decision to purchase the property from Martin Investments. The Platte County Parks and Recreation Department ran Shiloh Springs until a recent agreement with KemperSports out of Kansas City, Mo. started us down the current road.

The current commission, including presiding commissioner Ron Schieber, second district commissioner John Elliott and Wood, have been adamantly opposed to a county-run golf course. Although a twice-voter-approved sales tax funds operations at Shiloh Springs, the course continues to operate at an annual deficit.

Because it is designated in the budget as the county’s lone “enterprise fund,” the golf course is expected to operate without a loss. There’s been no attempt to change the designation, and efforts to turn a profit have never worked out.

The course could continue to operate at a deficit with no money outside of the dedicated parks tax needed to subsidize costs. However, a stated goal of the commission to reorganize the parks and stormwater tax — set to expire in 2020 — makes that a dicey proposal.

Without seeing a detailed budget, a reduction in parks funds could create a shortfall for Shiloh Springs operations or reductions to other maintenance priorities in the expanded system.

The commission has always intended to sell and reduce the tax money needed to operate the parks system. This allows for a reallocation of existing tax dollars to other priorities — specifically law enforcement — but is this what the citizens truly want?

There might not be an option.

The next tax proposal the commission puts on the ballot likely won’t include a choice to keep the current setup in place.  That makes Shiloh Springs a highly visible option for cutbacks.

The request for proposals from real estate brokers was made just in case acceptable proposals to acquire Shiloh Springs didn’t turn up. If one of the two proposals received looks good, the commission could start to move forward on a transfer long in the works.

While critics of the plan to sell have been vocal in the past, resistance has died down in recent public commission meetings. Commissioners had said they hoped the local golf community would step up to take ownership.

Martin’s proposal could be that bid, but we’ll have to wait to see the final terms.

Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.