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MRID seeks assessment increase, Horseshoe Bend council rejects proposal

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Staff Writer

Imagine Horseshoe Bend with a run-down golf course, waist-high grass in the public parks and sub-standard swimming pools and tennis courts.

Imagine the four area lakes deteriorating because of neglect and area property values falling through the proverbial floor.

This is a scenario envisioned by Horseshoe Bend MRID Commissioner Lee Mears if the funding formula for the MRID isn't revamped.

"We're living on borrowed time," said Mears. "If the city council doesn't reconsider its position, I don't know what we will do."

On Oct. 18 a proposal by the MRID to increase assessments in Horseshoe Bend was killed by the city council in a 5-3 vote.

Without the proposed $5 per year increase over the next 4 years, Mears said Horseshoe Bend will be unable to maintain all of its amenities.

Those amenities include the Turkey Mountain Golf Course, miniature golf course, public parks and swimming pool, tennis courts and shuffleboard court.

According to the MRID Office, the commission has received $471,576.20 from assessments and other revenue sources through October of this year.

Expenses for the MRID through October were $490,229.84. The $18,653.64 difference will increase until the end of the year, said Mears.

Opponents of the assessment increase said if the MRID needs additional funds for renovations and maintenance, fee increases at the golf course, city pool or other amenities would be more appropriate.

Several residents who attended the Oct. 18 Horseshoe Bend City Council meeting said they were not golfers and the majority of the MRID's budget is used to support the golf course.

"Why should I pay higher taxes so other people can play cheaper golf?" asked a concerned resident.

Mears said many Horseshoe Bend home and property owners do not golf, but the golf course affects their property values. He said without a golf course property values would decrease and revenue gained through tournaments and other golfing events would be lost.

Members of the Horseshoe Bend Chamber of Commerce said at their Oct. 21 meeting that approximately $40,000 was brought into the Horseshoe Bend community for every two-day golf tournament the golf courses host.

The MRID commission has raised individual golf rates from $400 to $450 a year and is considering a proposal to institute a boat fee for patrons of the area lakes.

Alderman George Florea said the MRID commission's unwillingness to raise fees for couples has angered the public.

Currently married couples pay $800 a year for joint membership.

Increasing couples fees will not solve the problem, Mears said. He said an increase might lead to less golf memberships and would not raise enough money.

"We need to renovate the pools, and the Clubhouse needs a new roof and central heat and air. The large pool is deteriorating," said Mears.

Mears said the it would cost approximately $69,000 to replace the roof on the Clubhouse.

The MRID has been controversial in Horseshoe Bend for the last several years.

The Horseshoe Bend MRID was established in 1981 to manage amenities and collect assessments to improve those attractions for the betterment of the city.

A $500,000 irrigation system, operations costs and an eroded tax base led the MRID to increase assessments in 2001, said Mayor Bob Spear.

Horseshoe Bend Recorder/treasurer Sally Pohl said the MRID Commission raised assessments in 2001 without permission from the Horseshoe Bend City Council.

Pohl said the situation was remedied in 2002 after the city council passed an ordinance to approve the 2001 assessment increase retroactively.

Rumors that the MRID Commission sent a letter requesting a remedy to the city council's decision to state Sen. Paul Miller's are false, said Miller.

"I never received a letter from the Horseshoe Bend MRID," said Miller.

A partial solution to the MRID's financial problems may be provided by American Land Company in Cherokee Village.

The city council approved a motion in October to allow the American Land Company to buy 7,000 tax-delinquent lots in the city limits without the standard wait for a clear title.

If American Land Company is able to resell the lots, the new owners will have to pay the yearly MRID assessment fees, said Pohl.

Despite the possibility that revenue may be gained from the selling of vacated lots, Mears said he is uncertain what the future of the MRID will be if the assessment increase isn't passed.

"Even if we sell some lots the tax money will take awhile to get here and it may not be enough. And that's assuming they sell any of them at all," Mears said. "I'm not sure what we'll do if we run out of money."

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