ElevatePolk

He's Our Ron Swanson

Episode Summary

Lakeland Parks and Recreation director Bob Donahay sits down with us to recent issues involving Cleveland Heights Golf Course.

Episode Notes

In the wake of community outrage over an idea pitched by the Lakeland Economic Development Council that included the possibility of developing the land that is currently the Cleveland Heights municipal golf course, we decided to start the conversation with the man in charge of it all. Bob Donahay, Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Lakeland shares his insight into the history of the course,  the challenges, the opportunities and how the future of the course can effect Lakeland for years to come.  Regardless of what comes of The Heights down the road, one thing is for sure.  Bob Donahay, a.k.a. Lakeland's very own "Ron Swanson," has spent a lifetime of making Lakeland's parks the best they can be. 

Episode Transcription

Chrissanne Long  

He's our Ron Swanson. This is the Elevate Polk podcast and I'm your host, Chrissanne Long and with me, as always is Rob Arturi.

 

Rob Arturi  

A very envious Rob Arturi.

 

Chrissanne Long  

Oh, you are envious. So let's introduce our guest. We have Bob Donahay, the director of Parks and Rec department at the city of Lakeland with us. Welcome, Bob.

 

Bob Donahay  

Thank you very much. I appreciate the invite. Thanks

 

Chrissanne Long  

for coming. And Rob wants to talk about how I'm a huge fan of

 

Rob Arturi  

covets your title Parks and Recreation. I love that show. Yep. I'm Rob. always joke to Ron Swanson is my spirit animal. So years ago, my brother actually bought me this bobblehead of Ron Swanson that sits here in the studio with us.  

 

Chrissanne Long  

I'm holding the bobblehead in my hand at the moment we'll take a picture.

 

Rob Arturi  

I never imagined the day would come where I would be having a conversation on the podcast with Mr. Parks and Rec director with My bobblehead of Ron Swanson, is it.

 

Chrissanne Long  

I mean, you just tell me who you want to talk to. And I just make a call and they show up.  

 

Rob Arturi  

I don't have another bobblehead. That's all downhill for me. Im on the back nine.

 

Chrissanne Long  

I was trying to get my hands on a Grady Judd bobblehead, but I have not successfully done so those are hard to

 

I know. that's why I want one. I'll see what I can do. Well, so Bob, we brought you on the show. First, I want to do a little background. Let's talk about your experience with the city how long you've been doing what you do. And and let's just talk a little bit about your story before we get into the work side of your life. Did you were you born in Lakeland? Did you move to Lakeland? How did you get to Lakeland? How did your family get to Lakeland? Tell us about your family?  

 

Rob Arturi  

come by.  

 

Bob Donahay  

This is great. I actually I've been with the city for 42 years now. It's been a great ride. I've worked through many different of our divisions and I actually grew up in Hialeah done in Miami. When I was in college. My parents moved up here and I was still in college. Then I came we got a part time job. I was hired. By the city and working recreation division, actually at Simpson Park, and it all started from there. I worked in recreation division for about 15 years. Then I switched over to the parks division for about 19 years. Okay, and then made it up into administration. Cool.

 

Chrissanne Long  

So you've just worked your way from from all the way from the bottom up

 

Bob Donahay  

the very bottom, very bottom.  

 

Chrissanne Long  

So what was your first job? Like? What was what did you actually do at Simpson park?

 

Bob Donahay  

I was a part time recreation leader. I worked 20 hours a week while I was in college and doing recreation programs there, racquetball, flag football, those type of things. It was really great. If you're from Hialeah,  Hialeah is 90% minority. Yes. And so working in the northwest actually was no big deal for me because that's what I grew up at. Right. And so it was and there were so many people there and they're the folks around the park are so athletic, and running flag football leagues and basketball leagues and it was fantastic because we've got a lot of guys who used to come home and from colleges and in play in our leaks and stuff like that and key guys just out of college, and the They were just starved for things to do and everything we ran went really, really well. So it was a great learning experience for me to be honest with you.

 

Chrissanne Long  

Cool. So did you decide one day in college you say, I want to be a Parks and Rec director, or did it just kind of happen? Because of like the way life ran for you,

 

Bob Donahay  

Actually, when I graduated from high school in 1975, a long time ago, was my second day out of and I was in my little Volkswagen that my dad bought me. And I was with my best friend and we were headed to the beach. We lived about 15 miles from the beach. And we were headed to the beach and the man Ed Hall, who was a parks recreation director at Hialeah knew me from when I played football down there. And I always talked to him at the stadium on Friday nights. And he pulled up next to me in traffic and he said, What are you doing this summer? I said, right now I'm heading to the beach. He said, Well, tomorrow you come to work for me. Oh, wow. Whatever looked down at me said wherever Get down to my office and fill out the paperwork. And if you're not there, I'm going to call your parents Oh boy. So I went and filled out the application and that's where it all started. That's awesome preordained. So

 

Chrissanne Long  

Little known little known fact I don't know if you don't know. I know neither of you know this, but I don't know if anyone listening knows this. My little brother is a Parks and Rec guy now he's, he's not the director, but he's somewhere kind of on his way into that direction in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Oh, that's just outside of Nashville. He's worked his way through a couple of different places. And they ended up in in that area. And he's, he's working, so I see his posts on Facebook sharing cool things that are going on in Hendersonville, and I'm like, that's my little brother.

 

Rob Arturi  

So we have the parks and rec director and your brother is our Leslie Knope,

 

Chrissanne Long  

he's Leslie. Nope. Yeah. Shout out to Dallas. Shout out to Dallas. So Wow.

 

Bob Donahay  

Thank you.

 

Chrissanne Long  

Okay, so talk about the role of the parks and rec director, what you do, what kind of decisions you have to make as far as the parks and rec goes in the community. Just give us kind of the overview of the job.  

 

Bob Donahay  

I tell you what our parks recreation rec is really neat, unique. We're really actually a pretty large department we have about 420 employees. So We're actually a pretty large department in the general fund are made up where we have the parks, recreation, the cemeteries, the libraries, the golf course, Detroit Tiger baseball. And so we're pretty widespread. We're very diverse. We do a lot of different things. I always make a joke when I give presentations, the public and I said, Well, between parks, recreation, the libraries, cemeteries, one way or the other, I'm going to see. So, so but we offered the cost that there there is a customer service that we always offer our citizens. And we're big on that. As far as we're big on the look, when you drive to one of our parks, we call it the Lakeland way. You'll notice that every one of our athletic fields are our bermuda grass, none of them are bahia, none of them are St. Augustine, and they're all kept at a very high level. You look at everything that we do. We pride ourselves that fact that when we open a facility, if you go back three years later, that is going to be better than when we cut the ribbon. You know, because I always tell everybody, anybody can build anything. But what's it look like five or 10 years later? Sure. That tells you how really good you are. Wow. So we're really proud of that fact that was handed down for me from Joker Marchant to Ed Gandy to Bill Tinsley to myself. It was always a standard that we always had for our parks that we took great pride in.

 

Chrissanne Long  

So you're looking to the future when you're making those decisions for today?

 

Bob Donahay  

Oh, definitely. I mean, when anything that we build anything we look at whatever we were trying to do something different. For instance, this summer in July, we're going to open up a new facility called Lake Crago, which located off Lake hills Boulevard out of 33 it's right there by the cancer center. And right now we did phase one a couple years ago where we did a dog park and a boat ramp into a gorgeous Lake Lake Crago and that ties into Lake Parker Park. And but we're building a facility of our first water based Recreation Center in Lakeland cool. It was originally designed like a Kelly rec, but we scrapped all that it's going to be a gorgeous building overlooking gorgeous lake

 

Chrissanne Long  

when can we expect that to happen?  

 

Bob Donahay  

In July, we're excited. So we're getting towards the finish line and it's gonna have a gorgeous meeting space classrooms. We're gonna offer canoeing, kayaking classes, our we're gonna do some scuba classes. And we're going to do it also in the lake and also using some some bar pool. And there's a lot of land out there. So we're looking into some other activities that we want to get into. But we're going to hit the ground running is not going to be kind of where we open the doors and you know, in two months, we're going to have this program whatever No, we open the doors is going to be full boat programmed out. And but it's got a gorgeous meeting space, though.

 

Chrissanne Long  

I have one question before we really get into the meat. I'm curious, personally, selfishly, how do you interact and engage with the other municipalities in Polk County and through you know, with Polk counties, parks and rec? How does it how does that governance work amongst the entire county? How do you guys play together?

 

Bob Donahay  

Actually, we played together extremely well. I learned a lesson long time ago, you know, and when you have you talking about life experiences as you're doing, and I was fortunate to be part of different renovations we've done at marcha stadium and So you would think that different baseball teams are in competition with each other for who's got the best, right? It's not like that. When I started going around to other stadiums and seeing people open their doors freely open their books really tell you what they did what they did well, what they didn't do so well. And we do the same thing. Whatever I've given, I've given tours to the Yankees, to Twins, the Braves, numerous clubs that come in because they want to look good. They're done with their renovation, and they want to copy some of the things that we do right? partner extra, same way if lycans doing good. If winterhaven is doing good. If Polk County is doing good, we're all doing good. Yeah. So we all root for each other. winterhaven just opened their new basketball facility, their new gym, which is amazing, by the way, and I went over there for the opening just to congratulate them and tell them this was awesome, you know, whatever. So it's, it's the greater good, yeah, whatever if one's doing here and the other ones are doing so well. Well, that's your whole community is all Polk County, right?

 

Chrissanne Long  

What does it matter? Right. So I went to Haines City. Last Friday. Listen to Yeah, totally. Listen to sister Hazel out in their little amphitheater. And I'm walking out of that place going I love this. Like I did a shout out to the parks and rec team that was out there. They put that event together. That was their event for their ribs on the ridge, which is similar to the pig fast and what's the one in winterhaven smoke on the smoke on the water? You know, I walked away going okay, this is awesome. I loved it. And I will continue to go back whenever there's, you know, opportunities, but I really feel like we need that live venue space in Lakeland, like mud Park is a perfect opportunity. I don't know how that would work for parking and things like that. But I long as a selfish request. I'm putting it into the top here saying let's see if we can find some kind of live music venue that can just permanently be there a structure that is permanently there for the public. And then we can have some really cool acts and bands come into town

 

Bob Donahay  

Richie's the parks recreation director and only four years used to be with Polk County sports marketing and they do a great job over there. They have a great venue. They have a great pool. The playground in the middle. I love and like say they got the amphitheatre and then also they have that gorgeous building that has multiple kadian catches inside of it. So like say when people develop you go over there and congratulate you'd like, right?

 

Chrissanne Long  

Yeah, super exciting. Yes. I was super happy to see sister Hazel which is my longtime most favorite band in all of my life in Polk County again, so that was fun, but just really cool checking out what's going on over in Haines City, so shout out to all of them over there.  

 

Rob Arturi  

And I was at tiger town for the first time. I've been living here for 18 years. Never been to Tiger town. Right?

 

Chrissanne Long  

I think that's almost like something you don't want to admit.

 

Rob Arturi  

That so but just forgive me. Forgive me Lakeland people

 

Chrissanne Long  

By golly, you need to be over there more often. I'm really important that you start getting more familiar.  

 

Rob Arturi  

It's It's It's to me that's Northside.  

 

Chrissanne Long  

Oh, we talked about this.

 

Rob Arturi  

So I'm I'm a creature of the southside  

 

Chrissanne Long  

We don't need to fuel that fire. Divide the north and south.

 

Rob Arturi  

I understand but there is a it's a thing.

 

Chrissanne Long  

I'm going to invoke a new law. Okay, we can no longer say that's on the north side on this show or anything referencing it knows

 

Rob Arturi  

come up with a different you know,

 

Chrissanne Long  

notes it that's up there, no euphemisms, nothing about up there over there down there.

 

Rob Arturi  

None of that we don't have any directionality. Yeah, we're just free floating compass is gone. three dimensional black hole of geography here all right but thanks for the scolding but here's here's my, my, my piece about it. What a beautiful place. Yeah. What a gorgeous facility and my wife's big baseball fan. I'm more of a football fan, but she was telling me about it being voted number one, and I get it because we took the kids there last weekend. Beautiful day, beautiful place. I mean, just top notch. I can't wait to go again.

 

Chrissanne Long  

But I know that there are a lot of teams that come to look like you said and I think There's almost a little bit of stadium envy in there, they see all of that all that we were able to do with our, with our renovation, and they're coming to like, like, what, how did you do this and, you know, all of that great stuff. So it's just a really nice piece of our landscape and the culture of the community that I love. And we're going on 80 years with the contract with the  

 

Bob Donahay  

Tigers 84 now, okay. And you know, it's kind of cool to is you talk about how how, years later you network and you meet people, and they come back? Well, Al LaVila who's our general manager and vice president of the Detroit Tigers, he runs the baseball operation. We grew up in Hialeah together, oh, wow, we went to high school together. That is amazing. So when we do things together, it's not just the city and the Tigers. It's Bob and Al getting together, and hey, let's do this. And let's do that. And we trade invoices back and forth. And we never have a bad meeting. And it's two months of old high school buddies get the hang out together. That's fantastic. So those things don't happen very often, which is kind of cool.

 

Rob Arturi  

That's neat. That is neat. So We want to talk about one Park. In particular. It's full of holes. It does have a lot of holes 27 to be exact. Twenty seven of them. So there has been some conversation Chrissanne what was my word? That kerfuffle? There you go,

 

Chrissanne Long  

it's been a kerfuffle

 

Rob Arturi  

over an issue surrounding Cleveland. I'm sure most people are aware of it. But it's kind of reaching a boiling point in many ways.

 

Chrissanne Long  

Well, all right. Yeah. So I was invited to a group on Facebook called save the heights 27 and I really didn't know what was going on. I got kind of caught out in left field so to speak. And I I don't generally jump right into groups, just like that. So I kind of sat on the sidelines and waited to see what exactly was going on. So I read some of the posts was trying to figure out where did this start what's going on here caught a reference to an LEDC presentation, Steve Scruggs made to the commission. January, where he was going through his annual recommendations of ways that economic development might be framed and improved over the course of this current coming budget year, and the budget season is upon us. So that happens every year. And I've watched and listened to those conversations several years, you know, now going and, and I'm trying to connect the dots. I'm trying to connect what Steve did in the Steve's presentation to now we've got this Facebook group and I'm, I have a lot more questions that I have the ability to answer. Yeah. So I just watched and what I really just saw was a lot of conjecture, and a lot of opinion and a lot of things that I couldn't really get a pinpointed answer on Facebook,

 

conjecture on Facebook shocker. So that led me to start you know, kind of doing some research and figuring it out. That's my frame for you know, where we need to go from here.  

 

Rob Arturi  

Our instinct is to go to the source, right? Because I don't like to have theoretical discussions. Okay for five minutes. My You know, waiting in line. Sure, but about a serious topic. I don't think it's very productive. Right. So I want I want the facts. Yeah. And I think it's important that everybody, I don't think we're not here to change anybody's opinion. We're not here to sell or pitch anybody on one idea or another. I don't think so if you're listening to this, that's not the point, right? And that's not what you're going to get.  

 

Chrissanne Long  

I just wanted some clarity. So that's why we reached out to Bob to say, all right, so give us the facts. Tell us some of the numbers, the nuts and bolts of the function, how the heights was functioning over the last five or six years, the future where we're going with the heights and just give us that information so that we can all walk around with factual based knowledge instead of just some conjecture and opinion.

 

Bob Donahay  

Okay, I'll give you where I start out, is that this is a 95 year piece of property in Lakeland has been a part of our history. Many people many generations have grown up, up up around the heights and as many different forms as had over the years. I've been parks recreation director since 2012. And so it's eight years now. And after I became director is that I ran the recreation divisions at one time, and I ran the parks Division One time, I never oversaw the golf course. So after becoming director, I went down there. And that commission at the time was fielding a lot of complaints from the coffers and local residents on how bad that shaped the course was. And so, I was called upstairs and said, Okay, what are we going to do here? And because I one thing I do en`joy doing is I love to grow grass, that's from the park side.

 

Rob Arturi  

We need to talk whatever cause I can't

 

Chrissanne Long  

can you come to my house

 

Bob Donahay  

Lets say Bermuda grass

 

.So let's clarify. So you know, so that's one of the things we are good at where we are very good at and I have a great group that works for me that share that passion. And so I went out to the golf course. The place was a dirt track, greens, tee boxes, bunkers, trees. dead trees. I mean is a gorgeous piece of property and with a great history, but it was horrible irrigation was the old galvanized system that was put back in the 50s and 60s. And if you have an irrigation break in your front yard, it's PVC pipe, you go out there with a hacksaw some glue and you're good to go again, whatever with galvanize, you got your with a torch, you're digging a huge hole. And back then the irrigation system the way it was, it was built, it was which was just horrible. All 27 holes were tied together. So if you had a break, you had this huge hole, cut it off, cut the whole irrigation off to thing, let it drain for 24 hours, fix it covered back up and then turn it back on. That means your grass didn't have have any any irrigation at all for anywhere from 42 to 52 hours. Wow 48 to 52 hours. So for two days, and you had to do that and they were having multiple irrigation breaks during the whatever so So anyways, those are some of the accountant challenges. We saw so they went back and I got direction from the commission at that time to fix it, make it pretty. Also the food and beverage for that year, right made $8600 and a full bar and a full restaurant. The whole year that was the revenue.  $8600. You have to work to try to lose that much money. That doesn't come easy. I'm gonna tell you that right now.

 

Chrissanne Long  

And that was when it was city run food and beverage.  

 

Bob Donahay  

Yes,yes. Whatever. Now, let me clarify that the city has always owned that property. Yeah, it was run by the men's Association for years. And then prior to me becoming director when Mr. Strickland was a city manager and Bill Tizzy was director to city took over the run the managing of it from the Mens Association, okay. And back with the old club house or whatever, and guess what it became under parks recreation. Okay, so it's been under parks recreation for a few years now. Okay. So anyway, so I had all those challenges. So what we decided to do was because I didn't have a bucket of money, is that we were going to do I took all my ball field guys that work for me in the parks division, as many as I could take away from Tiger town and also from the south athletics along with the greens greens group that we had at Cleveland heights. I formed a greens committee made up of Ron Garl Brock Wittmeyer and I did to give us ideas and they offered did all their consulting work for free.

 

Chrissanne Long  

Now let's just let everyone know Ron Garl is a golf course architect located in Lakeland yes known for a lot of huge core huge world world renowned golf course. Yes, so this is when we're talking about bringing in the experts we're bringing in some people who know what they're talking about.

 

Bob Donahay  

They all had history with Cleveland heights anyone to help right and they were going to charge a dime. So when I put a bid out for to see how much would it cost to renovate greens, tee boxes, drainage and whatever not irrigation but those those fast has is basically came down to $100,000 a hole to bring a company in. Wow, well if you do nine holes as $900,000 so you've already got a subsidy. Well guess what? How much you just added to it. And you got to pay that money back, unfortunately, yeah, whatever. So we didn't have that money. So what we did was I said, here's what we'll do, we'll add $1 to on to each golf round. And we'll do it all in house. So the first nine I believe it costs us, we spent over three year period we did this three years consecutively. We spent a little under about 560 to 570,000. Total on a project that should have cost us $2.7 million dollars. Wow, we saved the city over $2 million by doing it in house. Okay. But what happens is, is That's my Ron Swanson, everybody, yeah. But what happens is when you do that is that it's just like, if you go somewhere else, if you go to a restaurant ago, whatever you hear they're under construction. Well, you don't want to met regularly, whatever. So you just go somewhere else, right? So your revenues go down, but your subsidy goes up because you just incurred a loan that you'd have to pay off. So that's when your numbers start to swell. Okay, so this has been a one year problem. Whoever when we did that, and I versed the commission well on it. I said look, first of all, I said the golf course will never never make money in my lifetime. No golf course in Polk County makes money. None, zero. And there's more golf courses in Polk County and worldwide in United States wide than there are McDonald's restaurants. Yeah, count them up and you'll see.  

 

Chrissanne Long  

Wow, good piece of trivia for our next trivia show.  

 

Bob Donahay  

There you go. So remember those things. So these are the factors you're fighting. And so so saying that I can make it pretty and I can do things to fix the f&b. But there's still going to be a subsidy. At the end of the day. Remember that it's gonna be like any other Park, because that's what it is is a park and they said try to make it more Park like, do it economically, and at the same time, improve the f&b. Okay, well, fast forward. Okay. We did three years of renovation on the 27 holes. The last piece was the irrigation that was just horrible. We did that and we paid off the first renovation for the 9, the 3 nines  so we paid That off with the one to $2 subsidies that we're getting from the golf course. And then we had to take out another loan for $1.7 million to do all the irrigation. Okay? Well, what that does that makes you bulletproof against droughts. That's what it is. And it's amazing to you, whatever  

 

Chrissanne Long  

We are inFlorida, and we do have a risk of drought seasons where we don't get the rain that we need. So having a risk of closed up by making sure that's not going to happen is a good thing.

 

Bob Donahay  

So this has been a five year journey. But it was a five year journey that I versed everybody very well on and said, Look, revenue is going to go this way. It's going to go down. Subsidy is going to go up as we go through this. Everybody has to understand that and agree to it, you know,

 

Chrissanne Long  

and be prepared for what that means over these next five or six years.

 

Bob Donahay  

Exactly. But at the end of the journey, the less let the dog hunt, where we're going to end up right. So I can tell you that you can look at numbers you can see where the subsidy went from 7000 now at the 1.2 million but I would warned everybody i'd right you know it wasn't hidden.

 

Chrissanne Long  

So let's compare that original subsidy to some of the other parts just give us a reference point of of you know, Simpson Park Peterson Park

 

Bob Donahay  

In round numbers, Kelly rec costs around approximately $650,000 as a subsidy, the swimming pool Simpson Park Kelly Rec,  that's 1.1 million. Simpson Park again is 650,000. Okay, whatever that gives you, the lake mirror the entire complex, including Barnett Park, sunflower Park, and all amphitheater, the outdoor amenities, that whole complex cost around 900,000. All of those combined all of those combined. And so that gives you how much you know how much we subsidize. Now, I can tell you this is that thank God, this five year journey is over. I can tell you that we have a fantastic restaurant in their Irish pub 1916. Yep.

 

Chrissanne Long  

Shout out to Chuck Jamison and his team. He's doing an amazing job and revitalizing the food and beverage atmosphere. Yes, at the golf course. And I've been several times and he's he's worked with me a lot. So I'm pleased What I'm seeing from that end,

 

Bob Donahay  

yeah, he's been fantastic. And he has also his own catering business. So he kills the catering and the golf tournament, stuff like that. He has a whole new dimension to that. And then I can tell you that the course itself is oh my gosh, it's gorgeous. Whatever. I thought it would turn out good. Dustin plemons and his croaks, who's our head grounds who are green superintendent is amazing. I tell you what, every day I get, I get compliments on it every day now, where six, seven years ago, whatever. We were getting beat up left and right. And now you know, now that people think we're the best things as corn on the cob. So but I can tell you that since October 1 to now to today, whatever we are 171,000 above where we were last year. Oh, wow. That's huge. We're 6300 rounds more than we were last year.  

 

Chrissanne Long  

So the budget cycle starts October one. Yes. And so now we're how many months is it into the cycle.

 

Bob Donahay  

We're about to finish up our fourth month, fourth month, fifth month. So and we haven't even gotten into March yet, right? March is using a big, big month, right?

 

Chrissanne Long  

Spring Training just started, we've got a lot of people coming down. golf courses are going to be popular,

 

Bob Donahay  

right? Always during that time. So I'm not discouraging people from having the discussion about the heights, I think it's healthy. And what I what I just ask is that all these things before we started this, I told him how is going to play out? Whatever now that we've been through all this, and we have all this capital investment into the grass into the irrigation, into we did a lease agreement for the golf carts, and the equipment for the take care of it. And we signed a five year lease with a great restaurant. Let the dog hunt, right? Let's give it three, four years, see what it does. And if it doesn't do any better, by all means we need to talk. But until then, let's find out how what it is. Right. Right. Is that some?

 

Rob Arturi  

Yeah, I think that's a fair. That's a fair point. Whenever you make a change, if you're constantly in a state of flux, it's very hard to get your bearings. Sure you You have to have some bigger sample size to see is this working? So now you just explained very, very thoroughly the the budgetary challenges of the heights and where some of the increased subsidy came from and gave some, I think some insight as to what we can expect in the future in terms of a lower subsidy as a result of those improvements, right, that investment into it. But at the end of the day, it's an amenity, it's a city owned run amenity just like any other Park and government itself doesn't really make anything they don't really make I don't know how many parks out there around the world. I mean, you might are their Park conventions, there has to be something that every does anybody ever stand up and go Yeah, we have a city run Park, it makes 5 million. This is a profit center for our city. I mean, we you know, maybe in San Francisco, they'll charge you 40 bucks to go on a swing. I don't know. But, you know, they could get away with it, maybe but my point is we as a community. It's important to have the conversation. But we have to have it rationally, we have to have it. We have to have it with people like yourself and take at least those positions into account and kind of look at the whole big picture and not make snap rash decisions  

 

Chrissanne Long  

Right or draw conclusions that aren't right there to be drawn yet. I mean, like you said, we're letting the dog hunt. We're going to give it some time, if it is not, does not continue to improve as any entity should. We got to assess the situation and make those decisions when that time comes. But we're not. I don't think we've had enough time to see the return on the investment that we've made in the improvements of the golf course to truly show us what we can do in 20 in the 2020s.

 

Bob Donahay  

Well, we talked about you know, there's those intangible things. We talked about how much money that the f&b was making when I became director $8600. Right. Okay. Right now we have 1916 in there and we get $45,000 a year from them on a lease agreement that will consistly rise over the next five years, okay, so we'll get it's going to go up and up and up. And we don't serve of first cup of coffee. We don't have to worry about liquor liability insurance, right? We don't have their hire, hire the first employee, or do anything else. If somebody wants to have their favorite event there and all I say, hey, call this guy, Chuck Jamison. He'll take care of you and glad to do it. Right. We talked about the other things, too, is part of the renovation of the last year where we, while we were doing all the irrigation on 27 holes. We also work with our water department to put a force main through the golf course. Well, here's how it works in the private industry. If you Chris, Chrissanne,  if you and I own the golf course we own that property. And somebody wants to take a big pipe and run it through our property. Okay, and it's a 30 foot shot or whatever it's, and this pipe is the swath of digging is 30 foot wide. Yeah, I was out there. I saw whatever and then you have to fix it all back and you have to resod it and mend it before your golfers can come back. Whatever Well, they're watching all this take place. We look like whatever. Like we look like a junkyard right now because we got all this going on to the golf course. Well by them running it through the golf course instead of through the neighborhoods or down the Polk Parkway that saved our project $6 million. Wow. Okay. And that's by their own estimates that I have a slide on $6 million now. But that force main is going to connect to all those new houses that they're building four to 5000 houses in southwest Lakeland. Well, don't those new houses pay taxes? Yes. So we just help another amenity we save 6 million for the city, allowing them to do that. And Chrissanne if that's our property, and you're going to run that pipe Ron Garl told me the other day that there was a similar golf course that Cleveland Heights that ran a gas line had to run a gas line through it and that company wrote that golf course a check for over $3 million dollars

 

Chrissanne Long  

Wow.

 

Bob Donahay  

So we didn't charge nobody nothin right will allow that save another city department 6 million took it on the chin with rounds. Right, right, a cost. It cost us over 10,000 rounds by doing that, wow. And then at the same time, and they're looking at the longrun. Whenever we talk about raising money for taxes, stuff like that to increase the tax base. Well, we just helped build four or 5000 houses just now Did we?

 

Rob Arturi  

So if you had to write that check for lost revenues to a private corporation, that's always gonna be bigger than just taking your own losses. Right? Well, you mentioned taxes. This is another important part. So in the Facebook group, I see a lot of people talking about save the heights, and I've played there for a long time, and I don't want anything to happen to it. Thank you, right? Sure. Here's the problem. How many of those people will stand up and raise their hand and say, raise my taxes? Right? We We live in a world where people and some would, I'm sure there's some people that say, Sure, charge me an extra $10 hundred dollars, whatever it might be a year but leave the heights. But the fact the matter is that most people want to The same or more for the same money, they don't want their taxes to go up, but they want their amenities to stay the same or get better shark. And we have to be cognizant of that. We have to, I think, most people, if they hear all of the components, how many people talking about what a disaster it was to run the water main through the golf course, knew what you just described, right? So if anything, I think, I don't know how you do this better. Maybe it's just different media. Maybe it's stuff like the podcast, where we talk about some of this stuff. But essentially, people could find out about these things. They if they really paid attention, they went and listened to a commission meeting or, or something like that. But that doesn't happen all the time. And unfortunately, it's just easier to get on there and just give your opinion and go with it. And then pile on those opinions. And I think we owe it to our city and our self government to make informed decisions and to to be a part of the conversation. But to listen to all of the voices

 

Chrissanne Long  

or get all of the facts to at the same time,  

 

Rob Arturi  

because everything has a cost, this is not a static thing. You can't just say, well, it's been there for 95 years, and I want it to stay there, right? That's not how any of this stuff works. So we have to, if we, if we truly, if you really want it to be there, then you have to invest some of the effort into the process. And you have to have a rational conversation about it, you have to listen to all the pieces. I thin k if you really do care about the future of the heights, you have to be a part of the rational conversation. And you have to talk about value propositions cost benefit, because those are the things that move the needle. And the commissioners, people love to complain, but

 

they

 

every one that I've met is willing to listen.

 

Chrissanne Long  

Right? They do. And I think the other Yeah, definitely. The other piece of that is that we are at a time in history where people can quickly Gather, share ideas, have a conversation and capitulate a situation to a point where now, you know, there's, you kind of reference it as hysteria. It feels a little hysterical at this point in time. But at the same time, we know that we care about our community. And those voices are coming together out of concern for something that they value and they think is important, and they don't want to see go away. And we know and I know, like you said, the commissioners are open, their ears are open. They're watching. They're listening. They're they're growing in their understanding of how to use social media, in a way to hear the voices of the people. Because traditionally, how I see it is this is public record. Bob has been doing reports to the commission every year, and sharing all this information for the last five years about the progress of the course about the irrigation about all the things that they needed to make those decisions on to get to this point. So this isn't just like a surprise. Hey, here's all the story we haven't told you before. We've been telling This story all along. But we haven't been following along until it capitulates to a point of now we're all interested now we're paying attention. But I think that the the side of things that to me, I want to continue to go back to. And it was really great when we had Grady Judd on the show, because that was when it really triggered in me, our staff at the city level have the institutional knowledge, they have the background, the experience there that we have to do a little bit more trusting. I think that they have our best interests at heart and staff is going to do their due diligence to make sure that the Commission is informed about all the options, and then allowing allowing the commission to make those decisions because it's the Commission's job ultimately, to let to establish the policy and what the decisions are going to be made are going to be based on facts that the staff are going to provide. So it doesn't happen overnight. Nothing's just going to you know, tomorrow we're not pulling out the bulldozer and knocking down you know, the building and putting up houses. So we've got to just we have to be more informed as citizens to know this is a process and here's who I need to reach out to the commission, or you know, share my thoughts via an email.

 

Rob Arturi  

Half of it is what you say it's half of it is that message. The other half is the method.

 

Chrissanne Long  

And I think the Commission does do a really good job of listening. I think that it's challenging because it is so volatile. And so sure, name calling and, and, and just it gets personal. So I think if we could educate ourselves as to the best way to communicate on issues that are going to be made, decisions are going to be made. We've got to take the personal side out of it. And I think we can improve as a community. I think the entire country can improve. But I'm mostly concerned with the Polk County area myself, so we'll start there.

 

Bob Donahay  

No, you know, I just caution people, as we talked earlier, I just caution people that is that good. be informed, be engaged. And you said you're a South sider and we talked earlier about being a southsider. I'm a north sider by the way, so I get that, whatever. So I wasn't with Chrissanne, I wanna tell you that right now. Whatever. But the thing about it is is that you look at Cleveland Heights Blvd. It starts like I told you earlier starts at Petersen park with the baseball fields, league baseball fields, and the boardwalk and the lake and everything in the picnic chairs. It goes to the YMCA, it goes to Cleveland heights. We have the 27 hole golf course you have the walking path. You have the ostriches out there, you have all the wildlife, and then it goes to the f&b. Then it goes across the street to common ground, to the tennis courts to the walking path and the multi use field there. And then it goes on Lake Hollingsworth being someone who lives on the south side that is an unbelievable recreation amenity. Absolutely You as a voter, you as a resident you have to decide what you want Lakeland to be. Are those the enemy amenities that you want, giveen up? Whatever is you know, good or you want developers to go somewhere else, because once it's sold, is gone. Yeah, it's a great point. And and and I always caution also whatever is that if you put houses and condos and stuff on there, whatever the traffic you're going to have to deal with, and also the loss of control. If you're a South sider and you don't like the way it looks, well, you got Bob's number, you call Bob and you complain and say, whatever, what the heck heck just happened over here. Just like those commissioners seven years ago complained to me about the condition of the golf course. I didn't leave it in that condition. I didn't put it in that condition. But staffs job I do what they say they're policy makers, we carry out to the best of our ability. And I and we went and fixed it, we did exactly as instructed.

 

Chrissanne Long  

UmHmm. I appreciate you being who you are and the commitment you've had to Lakeland for the last 42 years.

 

Rob Arturi  

Yeah,  go to a big city. Go go to Chicago, and see how fast you can get somebody, a director from a local branch of government to come down and talk about what what is somewhat of a sensitive issue. Let's say Doesn't happen now doesn't happen.  

 

Chrissanne Long  

Well, you'd have to make an appointment with somebody, and maybe they'll pass the message on.

 

Rob Arturi  

And in six week you'll get a letter in the mail that says no comment, right? You know, for what it's worth, we're pretty lucky here.

 

Chrissanne Long  

Yeah, we are.  

 

Bob Donahay  

what I'm telling you is, is that, you know, that's what you have the control over that facility. Because if you don't like to look, or if you think it's going downhill, or if you play golf there yesterday, and two the greens, half of the grass was dead. Well, you know who to call. It's true. You know, if that's a housing development, and how it looks, and if somebody don't cut the grass, you got no control?

 

Chrissanne Long  

Wow, that's a great point.

 

Rob Arturi  

As we talk about the future of lakelyn. Right? Yeah, we have to think about that, that community, and if the golf course is 95 years old, so it was a lot of the residential area around it. Sure. And it's, it's a very nice, very well kept area, people. The property values there have been pretty strong, but let's face it, that's an older area. And my fear is that it's really easy to talk about the The financial cost of some of this stuff, right? But as we look ahead to the future, as that area ages, one of two things will happen. Either people will come in and invest in that community and fix up their homes, modernize them as they age, and invest and keep that a stable, vibrant, you know, nice community or it will just decay, and property values will go low, and development will go elsewhere. That the difference might very well come down to those amenities and the accessibility to those amenities in that area. If I lived right by those tennis courts, I would be playing tennis far more often. If I could walk to the golf course. If you take those things away, there is an opportunity cost. And I think that it's important that the LEDC brings up the the financial costs and those numbers and I think it's important that we as a community talk about those societal costs as well. And that we have a calm discussion about all these things together. Right. And I think that's how we get the best decision.

 

Chrissanne Long  

And I think to me, it's a balance. You know, I'm doing like the pendulum, you know, it's not all one side, and it's not all the other. It's somewhere in the middle lies the answer. And it's always great to have people thinking about the future and opportunities and what options exist and what could we do and what are the possibilities. Just basically, knowing that we kind of

 

I don't even have

 

Bob Donahay  

I'm so glad to see somebody who's younger. I feel so good about myself right now.  

 

Chrissanne Long  

I'm glad that I was able to get up this morning and make you feel good about yourself.

 

Rob Arturi  

We started early today Bob

 

Chrissanne Long  

So basically, I'm just looking forward to the community that we love so much going to where the puck is going to be not where the puck is today. So as we get together as a community and we we all want to elevate the future. We want to leave a better place for Our children, we want to we want a legacy that we can leave for the future. We don't want them to look back at us and go, Wow, why did they do that? That was a dumb, dumb decision. But at the same time, we're going to make the decisions based on where we are, you know, and that's a true that's what it boils down to.

 

Bob Donahay  

As you just said, you hit it on the head. It's balance. Yeah, it really is that what do you as a taxpayer want Lakeland look like? What amenities are you willing to pay for? And at the same time, Steve Scruggs and the LEDC that we talked about earlier, they do tremendous work in our community. Sure, they are a partner in our community, they brought great developments that's increased our tax base has made our community grow and made Lakeland what it is today. So it shouldn't be a competition with anybody. If they're good, and we're good, folks. We're all good. It's just that simple. Yeah. And so we have to remember that, but I say about, I'm on the parks guy. I'm that guy. I'm gonna be your hero guy right here. Even looks kind of like me by the way.

 

Rob Arturi  

I know the mustache, it really sells it there Bob.

 

Chrissanne Long  

I think we're gonna get a picture of Bob and Ron Swanson together

 

Bob Donahay  

I told my wife this morning I gotta get up and go get a haircut cause I was looking like Geraldo. So

 

Chrissanne Long  

that's great.

 

Bob Donahay  

But the thing about it is is that it's all that balance and of course when the Park side I'm going to defend the Park side whatever and try to keep those amenities because I watched us sold property off years ago. And and and watch how it affected his specific area.  

 

Rob Arturi  

It's about we need those, it we need those, that perspective we need to that input, you know, right

 

Chrissanne Long  

so I am just grateful for your time. Thank you. We're looking forward to the growth at the heights and the opportunities that will exist in the future there and all of the great things that are going on and all of the other parks and RECs and I I told myself when we when we started I actually wrote it down I wanted to squeeze this in my two favorite Parks and Rec guys besides you Bob are the two Steve's Steve Platt and what Steve Williams Williams those guys you see them all over the place and and if you don't know which one Steve Platt is he's the one with the iconic Boat hanging out of the boat trying to catch the swan on the swan Roundup. So, you know, I just shout out to those guys and all of the parks and rec staff and team, because you do such an incredible job of keeping this city beautiful and the quality of life that you bring to us is unequaled by any stretch of the imagination. So I appreciate everybody shout out. Thank you. Thanks for listening. And remember, we have a new episode each week, so be sure to subscribe on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen and remember to leave us a review. We promise to read every one. You can always find all of our episodes at ElevatePolk.com and if there's something you want to hear about on an upcoming episode, reach out to us on Facebook at Elevate Polk.

 

Transcribed by https://otter.ai