The Anne Arundel County Council approved a $1.1 million bailout loan last night to the quasi-public agency that developed the 36-hole Compass Pointe golf course in Pasadena.
Council members approved the loan to the Maryland Economic Development Corp. on a 6-0 vote. Most said they were reluctant to devote public money to a golf course but were afraid the county's bond rating would suffer if they did not back the project.
"I feel like we've been put into a box," said Councilman Ronald C. Dillon Jr., a Republican whose district includes the golf course. "If we don't move forward and pass this bill, it might cost the taxpayers even more money."
The vote allows the county to transfer money from its contingency fund for the fiscal year ending June 30 to MEDCO's operating budget for the $17 million Compass Pointe project. MEDCO used its state-backed bonding authority to develop the course and has a contract with the county to operate it. But eventually the county will own and operate Compass Pointe.
County officials have described the loan as a small obstacle in a project that will eventually provide steady revenues.
"This will assist them with finally wrapping up overall construction on the golf course," said John Hammond, the county's financial officer.
Hans F. Mayer, MEDCO's executive director, has blamed the operating shortfall on a delayed opening caused by persistent wet weather last year.
Mayer said the course lost about 7,200 rounds of golf, at $55 to $65 a round, because of the wet weather that also delayed construction on the second 18 holes expected to open this summer.
The shortfalls at Compass Pointe are the latest problem for MEDCO. Its Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort in Cumberland reported $18 million in losses between 1999 and last year.
Council members have said they would be reluctant to assist MEDCO with Compass Pointe because the course seemed a low priority compared to schools and public safety. But most said they felt they had no choice last night.
The council seemed ready to approve the payment at its last meeting until Dillon said MEDCO hadn't done enough to prevent sediment runoff from Compass Pointe.
Last year, the county briefly shut down construction at Compass Pointe because sediment was running into nearby streams. The problem resurfaced during a recent rainstorm, Dillon said.
But he said MEDCO officials have addressed concerns about runoff by promising to build a new pond to collect storm water.