Several Red Deer city councilors have suggested it’s high time to review the terms of repayment of a nearly 20-year-old outstanding loan for the River Bend Golf Club clubhouse expansion.
As the council gave first reading on Monday to a regulation that would push the next loan repayment to 2024 instead of the end of this year, it was troubled by the lack of payments made over the years.
This was the fourth postponement requested by the River Bend nonprofit.
In 2004, the operators received a $1.7 million loan from the city for a pavilion renovation/expansion project. But the company has only made a few refunds.
So far, council has heard that about $125,000 of the loan has been repaid, and more than $1.5 million is still outstanding.
“There’s still a good chunk of principal left,” said city chief financial officer Ray MacIntosh, who noted that for every year that loan repayments are deferred, another year will be added to the repayment schedule.
“We are still awaiting full repayment of the loan,” he added.
Several city councilors suggested it was time to delve into the River Bend Golf Course’s financial records to determine if the repayment schedule for the loan made in 2004 was fair – or even possible.
Com. Vesna Higham, the town’s representative on the River Bend board, said after talking to society members about the revenue, she doesn’t think there was ever enough capacity to repay that loan. .
The City of Red Deer owns everything in River Bend – the land, the clubhouse and all the amenities. So Higham wondered why a nonprofit board, responsible for operating the facility, had ever been asked to repay that loan? She noted that the city has never asked the YMCA to pay for the construction of the Northside Community Center, which it operates.
Com. Kraymer Barnstable thinks different repayment terms are clearly needed since the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.
He and other advisers want to know more about River Bend’s earnings — that they want to be in the public domain, not just accessible via a Freedom of Information request.
If the deferral settlement receives final board approval on Nov. 21, Red Deer’s River Bend Golf Course could have an additional two years to make the next repayment of the 18-year loan. Meanwhile, a proposed new master plan for the future development of River Bend will be presented to councilors on November 7, which could help shape that decision.
MacIntosh told council that the timing of loan repayment isn’t ideal, but the city can pull through.
Financial constraints, due to the fluctuating use of golf courses, had been cited as one of the reasons why loan repayments had to be deferred. In 2019, the city ordered a financial and operational review of the River Bend Golf and Recreation Area, which was impacted by the pandemic.
This fall, online public comment on the future of River Bend was collected as part of the new master planning process.
Red Deer City Council