Friday, Feb. 3, 2023 |
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One of the best deals on Kauai is the Wailua Golf Course. Where else can you play golf on a scenic, beautiful course with ocean views for $15, if you live here, or $48, if you’re a visitor? The cost goes even lower, depending on the time of day or if you’re a senior citizen. And where else can you buy a monthly golf pass for $60? You’d be hard pressed to find a better deal anywhere to top what’s available to locals when it comes to the 18-hole Wailua Golf Course. It has been that way for eight decades and few are complaining.
Now, one might ask, why is it so inexpensive to try the links at Wailua? How do they keep costs that low on such a well-maintained course? Well, it’s a County of Kauai-owned and -operated course.
Taxpayers subsidize it in the range of about $1 million a year — apart from revenues collected from rents, concessions and service charges.
So, yes, taxpayers are footing a large chunk of the tab for locals and visitors to enjoy a round on the greens at Wailua.
This raises the question: Should the county operate and financially support a golf course when there are already numerous privately owned courses on Kauai? Doesn’t this put a publicly financed operation up against privately funded operations? Perhaps the million-plus the county spends subsidizing a recreational activity could be better spent on more serious fronts such as homelessness, transportation and housing.
Here, we agree with Department of Parks and Recreation Director Lenny Rapozo, who said the county “subsidizes” all of its parks facilities to one extent or another.
“The Wailua Golf Course does generate significant revenue from users to help offset the cost, unlike our beach parks, for which there is no user fee. We also offer facilities, such as tennis and basketball courts, baseball fields and soccer fields, free of charge to the public.”
Without Wailua, many folks simply couldn’t golf on Kauai, or at least couldn’t golf often. There are other options, but Wailua is the most affordable. And golf is a great game, one for young and old. It’s a game that sons and daughters, moms and dads, grandfathers and grandmothers can play together.
So, we agree the county is correct in using taxpayer money on a golf course for the reasons cited by Rapozo, but we disagree with a proposal that would ultimately allow the mayor and his administration to change golf course fees or charges and skip public input.
As it stands, any fee changes must go to the County Council and go through the public hearings process, which takes longer, but gives residents and visitors a chance to offer input.
A change would allow the County Council to send a proposed fee change to the mayor’s administration, which could then approve or deny it. It would allow the county to generate more revenues for the golf course, as needed, and in a timely manner.
The council decided Wednesday to send the issue to voters and let them decide on Nov. 4. We don’t believe it’s necessary to change the current process. And once again, we quote — and agree with — Rapozo.
“The Department of Parks and Recreation feels that it is better to retain the current process for setting fees at the Wailua Golf Course. Requiring Council approval — as is the case with other county fees — allows for public input into the process, versus leaving that decision up to the discretion of a single individual. There does not appear to be a compelling reason for making such an exception for Wailua Golf Course fees.”
We should add the county needs to limit how much it subsidizes the Wailua Golf Course. There are, as Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura points out, more pressing needs than inexpensive golf. But overall, the county’s current course of funding and operating Wailua is just about a hole-in-one.
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