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Golf course report

Golfers take advantage of a nice day to play Pioneers Golf Course on Tuesday. The state auditor said Wednesday his office will not go forward with a formal audit of Lincoln's golf program.

The state auditor’s office said a formal audit of the Lincoln city golf fund isn't warranted.

However, a release from auditor Charlie Janssen offered suggestions, such as a new system for the rates paid Lincoln Electric System for utilities at Highlands Golf Course, Lincoln Water System rates at Holmes Golf Course, and minor tweaks to the internal control of the golf program that could be adopted.

Some local golf association members requested the audit in July. The group asked the state auditor to investigate if the city was charging the city golf fund for nongolf programs and mishandled golf budgets from 2001 to 2012, when the program lost nearly $2 million — going from a $1 million surplus to a $800,000 deficit to the city general fund.

The group also asked Janssen's office to investigate the cost overruns and the lack of public input for the controversial $1.5 million Holmes Golf clubhouse paid for by golf fees.

In response to recommendations by the auditor’s office, the city has required that the Holmes golf manager (now Denis Vontz) hire a bookkeeper and that the city hire an accountant to help oversee golf management agreements.

Lincoln Parks and Recreation director Lynn Johnson, who oversees the golf program, said the detailed conclusions into mismanagement of Holmes Golf Course were addressed when the city fired Scott Weihe in September 2015 and filed suit against him in January.

Johnson said new safeguards should prevent such problems in the future.

Johnson added that a leak in the Holmes water system that led to high water fees has been fixed and that high charges for electricity at Highlands are being addressed. The recent extra costs for city fuel were also tackled when it was discovered that LES had been billing former city golf manager Dale Hardy, who left the program in 2014.

The city has spent close to $90,000 in the last three years to study and discuss ways to sustain the golf program and has reached no consensus. A recent $40,000 community golf committee study concluded that the city could help subsidize the golf program paid for entirely by city golfer fees since the 1960s.

Johnson said that will be discussed in regular city budget hearings.

The city projects that next year’s golf revenue will be $3.8 million and expenses about the same, if golf fees and cart fees are increased.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7313 or khambleton@journalstar.com.

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Ken grew up in Chicago and is a Doane College grad. His Mr. Sportsknowitall column appears Sundays, and he covers a variety of beats.

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