The Council Chambers at City Hall was packed for Wednesday's meeting of the Common Council of the City of Brazil as final action was considered regarding the elimination of the words "golf clubhouse," from Chapter 97.27 of the Brazil Code of Ordinances, which prohibits the use of alcohol or narcotics in areas under the jurisdiction of the Parks and Recreation Board.
"In my almost four years on the council, I have probably received more calls and comments on this topic than anything else," Council President Sam Glover said. "In fact, I could hardly walk through the park during the Fourth of July Celebration without getting stopped by someone wanting to talk about it."
A couple of the reasons for the controversy is the concern of potentially intoxicated individuals being in such close proximity to the park, and the disapproval from many residents about the sale of alcohol on city-owned property.
Council member Bill Lovett explained to the crowd Forest Park Golf Course does not receive tax dollars and is completely self-supporting.
"In order to provide tax funding to the golf course, we would have to either take from every department's budget in order to fit it into the city's budget, or raise taxes," Lovett said in response to a question about subsidizing some of the course's expenses. "Right now, the golf course has set its fees probably as high as they can go in order to remain competitive with other courses in the area."
Brazil Parks Board President Ruthann Jeffries said responsibility over the decision to sell alcohol, and other matter pertaining to the golf course, were transferred to the Golf Board when it was established in 1981.
However, she stated while the Parks Board has no control over such decisions, it has expressed concerns as well.
"As members of the board, one of our responsibilities is to protect the safety of patrons to the parks," Jeffries, who also read a prepared statement of concerns from Parks Board members, said. "Safety concerns are our main concern and there is the potential this could increase the risk to the children and park patrons."
For years, patrons of the golf course have been allowed to bring in their own beer to the golf course, which recently acquired a permit to sell alcoholic beverages.
"I don't think the amount of alcohol consumed at the golf course has changed in the last 50 years," Fritz Modesitt said. "Also, I can't think of another municipal-owned golf course that doesn't already sell alcohol. In fact, consumption may actually go down if the golfers have to spend $2 a can rather than bringing their own in coolers."
Forest Park Golf Professional Mark Rogers added the sale of alcohol has been a topic of discussion for the Golf Board for at least a dozen years.
"When I first started at the course, I was asked if we should consider prohibiting alcohol from the course completely," he said. "Without really thinking about it, I said, 'Sure, if you want to go out of business.'"
Rogers specified that by having the permit to sell alcohol, it could increase the ability of the course to enforce rules because patrons would not be able to bring in their own alcoholic beverages.
"I assure you this is also a serious matter to all of us as well," Rogers told the council and those in attendance. "There will be signage put up notifying people of the potential punishment for bringing in their own alcohol and we could require them to maintain their receipts on the course in order to ensure the beer was bought from the clubhouse. Plus, we could limit the brands we sell and monitor the situation if someone has a brand we do not sell."
City Attorney Traci Lawson explained both the city and golf course has separated liquor liability policies, and the true nature of the issue is cleaning up the ordinance to remove potential liability concerns from the parks.
Bill McDonald, who spoke in support of the selling of alcohol in the golf clubhouse, said the boost in revenue may not come from the sale of alcohol, but the increased attractiveness of the course because of the ability to sell alcohol.
"There could be a huge boost in the marketability of the course through the sale of alcohol in the clubhouse because there are several businesses that like to put on golf scrambles as well as individuals who prefer to play at courses that sell beer," McDonald said. "So the true boost in revenue could actually come from greens fees."
It was also said during the meeting the decision on whether or not to remove "golf clubhouse" from the ordinance would not make a difference on the sale of alcohol at the course as it could still be sold out of the cart barn.
"If they have their license and can sell without us making this decision, then why are we voting on this?" council member Pat Heffner asked. "Like Sam, I have gotten the most calls on this issue, and while I don't quite understand why we need to decide on this, I do know the constituency is against it."
Council member Brad Deal added, "We may not be able to say they can't sell alcohol, but I think the least we can do is take the liability off another group that is not responsible for these decisions either."
Deal made a motion to remove "golf clubhouse" from Chapter 97.27 of the Brazil Code of Ordinances, which was seconded by Lovett. However, they were the only two who voted in favor of the motion as Glover and Steve Lamb voted in opposition, while Heffner abstained, killing the motion by a 2-2-1 vote.
Lawson told The Brazil Times that while it appeared to be a tie vote, Heffner's abstention from the vote works essentially as a vote of opposition as it prevented a majority in favor of the motion.
"This is a five-person council, and with only two votes in favor, it did not gain a majority, and therefore could not be passed," Lawson said.
As to why he voted against the motion, Glover told The Brazil Times, "I did not have anything positive said about this issue from all the people who have stopped or called me. The residents had very strong opinions, and in this situation, my vote represented those opinions."
The Common Council will conduct a special meeting at 7 p.m., Wednesday, July 27, in the Council Chambers of City Hall to consider animal control.
The council's next regular meeting will take place at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 10, at the same location.