After months of debate, and voting down the “final” contract at the end of July, a slightly revised contract between the City of Dearborn Heights, Issa Brothers, LLC and Revive Golf Management, LLC was approved Aug. 4.
The golf course has been closed all season, due to the condition that it was left in after flooding last year.
The contract was approved 6-0. Councilman Hassan M. Ahmad was not at the meeting.
Councilman Tom Wencel then asked what exactly they voted on, thinking they had been voting on an amendment, not the contract itself.
A re-vote passed 5-1 with Wencel being the dissenter.
“This weighs heavily on all of our hearts,” Councilman Ray Muscat said. “I go to sleep at night and pray to god that I make the right decision.”
He said no matter how much he personally likes or dislikes something, he has to vote in the best interest of the city as a whole.
“We had a gentleman speak and say ‘if we do nothing, then we have nothing,'” Muscat said. “I made a proposal once, and may still do it, to propose a small millage.”
That millage, as he suggested, would fund only golf course repairs, and cost between $20-$60 a year for most residents.
Wencel opposed the contract.
“None of the things I’ve recommended are in the contract,” he said.
Council Chairman Dave Abdallah said suggestions from all members of the council have been evaluated and included where possible over the past few months.
Wencel said he asked to add a portion that stops the tenant from changing the name, to keep a historical area in the lobby to honor Donald Ross, and to keep the course “ethnic-neutral,” to not cater to any specific ethnicity.
That statement caused an outpouring of comments from the council and the audience.
Wencel alleged a “top-secret” meeting took place between Abdallah, the city administrator, and the Issa Brothers.
At one point Wencel asked for an audience member to be removed for heckling him while he was speaking.
“A contract is a contract, and it’s legally binding,” he said. “Under the contract, we have to plow the Warren Valley Parking lot and salt it before we plow any senior center.”
He said the city isn’t under contract to plow or patch streets.
Wencel said the contract had too many “holes” in it to be approved.
“If you don’t vote no on this contract, you’re not taking the city’s best interest into consideration,” he said.
Wencel said the benefits to the contractor are more than to the city. He asked each of the other five members of the council in attendance what the contract does for the city, they each answered similarly that it re-opens the golf course for the residents, and potentially starts earning revenue for the city.
Baydoun said that everything the Issa Brothers invest in has thrived.
“I want you to understand, Mr. Issa is the best man for this job,” he said. “That doesn’t mean this contract is the best for the city.”
He said that he knows the owners of the company well, but still won’t make a decision based only on that, but on what is best for the city.
“This community has changed,” Baydoun said. “Everybody wants the golf course up and running.”
Abdallah said part of the issue is that there weren’t a lot of people who wanted to operate the golf course, which limited their options from the start.
He said that after the vote in late July, he decided to facilitate a meeting with Mayor Bill Bazzi and the Issa Brothers to renegotiate a few small details that were sticking points for most of the council members.
“We sat with them in the Mayor’s office,” he said. “We addressed the items that we talked about at the last meeting.”
Abdallah said that they changed the small details of the contract and then brought it back to the council as quickly as possible, since experts said work needed to be started in August in order to get the course opened by April.
The lease, which is for 10 years, with two five-year extensions allowed to be optioned by the tenant, calls for $60,000 a year in rent to be paid in $5,000 monthly installments.
The city will buy equipment to maintain the golf course, which could cost between $790,000 to $1.7 million, and another up to $800,000 to get the property ready for a certificate of occupancy.
Issa Brothers has agreed to spend at least $3.4 million on upgrades and repairs to the banquet center.
The city will earn 10% of gross revenues on the golf course green fees, and 10% of net alcohol sales. The city would not get profits from the banquet facility otherwise.
Issa Brothers will have the right of first refusal if the City ever decides to sell the course in whole or in part.
The contract start date is whatever day it is officially signed. The start date for Revive is April 1, 2023, roughly the start of the golfing season next year. Revive will work to repair the course in preparation for that date.
The contract has been being negotiated since March when the Issa Brothers were picked as the contractor.
City Attorney Gary Miotke said that the original request for proposal that was granted to Issa Brothers, is completely different from the final contract after the golf course was fully checked over and found to be in considerably worse condition than “what was understood at the time the The RFP package was put out.”
He said that the city decided at that time to keep negotiating with Issa Brothers, rather than put it back out to bid.
That contract has been worked out over the past few months.
One resident, who claimed to have golfed at Warren Valley “more than 100 times” in the last four years, said he hopes the city goes forward to get the course back up and going. He said it’s in the best interest of the course to get it “up and going,” rather than sitting empty and rotting more.
The previous contractor canceled the deal between the city and them earlier this year, and the course has remained inoperable since then.
The council and residents have been urging the city administration to find a new contractor for months, but as the course sits vacant, the conditions have worsened, causing the contract to be modified several times before it was even brought to the council.
Designed in 1922 by Scottish golf architect Donald Ross, Warren Valley features two, 18-hole courses and a clubhouse, including a pro shop, the Ross Room Bar & Grille, and a banquet center that can accommodate up to 300 people.
The Warren Valley Golf Course is located at 26116 W. Warren St. in Dearborn Heights. More information can be found at warrenvalleygolf.com.