Hayden in the rough


A few weeks ago, the Hayden administration sought to accept bids on a county jail commissary that has been run for eight years by a blind vendor named Bill Ramsey. The county looked at Mr. Ramsey's annual $30,000 profit and decided it would like a piece of the action.

But after Mr. Ramsey took his objections to the press, county officials realized the move looked tacky. They backed down. No hard feelings, said Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden, whose administration was merely "trying to take advantage of every opportunity. . . to reduce expenditures for the county."

Why, then, does his administration appear to be pooh-poohing the chance to earn $500,000 by changing the way it operates three golf courses, as a recently completed study recommends?

The golf course study, commissioned by the previous Rasmussen administration, claims the county could make much more than the $750,000 profit it annually earns through an arrangement in which a golf pro runs each of the three county courses -- Rocky Point in Essex, Diamond Ridge in Woodlawn and Longview in Cockeysville.

Under this arrangement, the county splits profits from course operations with the three pros. It is, as an author of the study said, "a sweetheart deal" that is "really quite amazing in this day and age."

The study suggests that the county follow the lead of Baltimore City, which leased its municipal golf courses to a non-profit corporation seven years ago when the courses were draining the city budget of a half-million dollars a year. The city courses have since become money-makers.

Granted, the county courses are making money now, but they might make even more if the county kept all the proceeds and paid the staff pros a fair base salary to operate the courses. Bonuses could also be offered to the pros as incentives for them to run the courses as profitably as possible. The result would be funds that might be used, in part, to build additional courses for all the frustrated county residents who currently play much of their golf -- and spend a lot of their money -- in York County, Pa. As it is, only five courses in Baltimore County are open to the general public.

It is easier to take on a blind vendor than the golfing good old boys of the county. But if the Hayden administration is serious about tapping every potential source of revenue, it ought to consider these new recommendations for making the county's golf courses more profitable.

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