Bob Williams is a concerned citizen who organized a protest today at the Owensboro Convention Center, where Mayor Payne is at a meeting with mayors from around the state. With signs in hand, a small group of supporters picketed in shifts throughout the day.
One of those sign holders, Zoe Barker, who enjoys fishing and other activities at the Hillcrest green space said, “I wish the mayor and city commissioners would not only listen to what the grown-ups want, but what the kids want too.” Barker started an Instagram page to hopefully influence others to share their memories as well.
Dale Roberts also turned to social media to raise support for Hillcrest Golf Course. Turns out the support was already there. In less than a week, over 2,000 people liked the Keep Hillcrest Open Group Facebook page.
“I’m not shocked (with that number), because so many people are upset and this is a great way to be heard,” Roberts admitted.
Dale grew up in the neighborhood by Hillcrest. He now lives near Ben Hawes but still plays golf at Hillcrest. “This is a great green space and it needs to be kept. This course serves a niche.”
Roberts feels the real reason Mayor Payne and City Manager Bill Parrish want to sell Hillcrest is “because they have built up a debt they can’t maintain and now they’re reaching for excuses. Bill Parrish says there are more than enough golf courses. But there have been this many for 20 years and it’s been okay. The city has supported and enjoyed Hillcrest for over 50 years. So why now? With everything else the city is spending, you’re telling me they can’t afford $160,000 to keep it open?”
Owensboro Living asked Commissioner Jeff Sanford to help explain the issue. “This is not an easy thing, but it comes down to a budgetary matter. We have a situation where we have spent lots of money on new buildings and improvements with the hope of bringing in more people, more money, and a larger tax base. Now as we look at next year’s budget, we have to find a balance. Right now, we can’t. So the money has to come from somewhere.”
Sanford says the solution is going to be painful. “The price of a building is one thing, but there’s also the cost of upkeep. All this (building) is done. Now it all has to be paid for.”
One suggestion, proposed by Bob Williams, is for members of Hillcrest Golf Course to take on some of that pain by incurring a rate increase.
The other issue is traffic. Dale Roberts says the state requires two more turning lanes at the intersection of Old Hartford Road and Fairview Drive. A roundabout is also being considered to help traffic flow. “I think they’re using traffic as an excuse to put Hillcrest on the chopping block. It’s ridiculous to sell the whole course for two turning lanes,” Roberts said.