DIXON – Kreider Services is looking to take over the historic Timber Creek Golf Course to keep it from closing down and provide jobs to community members with disabilities, but it’s going to take sizable investment to fix longtime problems at the facility.
Kreider, which serves more than 600 people with developmental disabilities each year, would become the new owner of Timber Creek after purchasing it for $1, basically making it a donation, and employ 40 to 50 people with disabilities with part-time and full-time jobs, Kreider Executive Director Jeff Stauter said Thursday to the Lee County finance committee.
They would need around $1 million to replace the irrigation system and pump house as well as dredge the pond.
Kreider has raised about $200,000 in private donations and received a $300,000 grant from the state. The agency is seeking $400,000 from the Dixon City Council and $250,000 from the Lee County Board, a request the board voted down in August.
Stauter and project supporters approached the county finance and executive committees asking them to reconsider the funding request.
“The bottom line is it is viable, and it’s a great opportunity to not only keep an amenity open in Dixon for an economic development opportunity but also to employ 40 or 50 people with disabilities,” Stauter said.
The plan would also be to set up a large tent at the tennis court area for hosting events of up to 500 people.
Stauter said there’s currently a course in upstate New York that’s done what Kreider is trying to do with Timber Creek.
“It’s not new ground we’re plowing,” he said. “It meets our mission, it improves our community, it keeps an amenity intact, and it checks a lot of boxes on public/private partnership.”
Kreider would contract out for golf course management, food and beverage, and the pro shop, with the requirement that they would employ people with disabilities.
There are a variety of low-skill jobs that would be available for people with disabilities including maintaining the grounds, Stauter said.
The current irrigation system is more than 50 years old and breaks down regularly. It also plugs up, leaks and doesn’t deliver adequate water to maintain the course. Cost estimates to fix the system and make other improvements are at least $700,000 to $840,000.
Lee County Treasurer Paula Meyer asked if they had considered doing a public capital campaign to raise the funds needed as there’s plenty of expensive obligations the county has ranging from repairing bridges to expanding broadband in rural areas.
Stauter said they’ve received pledges for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the project is time-sensitive.
“If we don’t do something with the golf course this year, there probably won’t be a golf course in Dixon ever again,” he said.
Dixon City Council member Mary Oros said the city plans to commit $400,000 for the project, and they’ve had “many hours of deliberation” on the project.
Board member Tom Kitson asked Oros if the public is aware of the city’s plans or if anyone contacted the news media.
Oros said they’ve had private meetings but haven’t made public discussion or an official commitment for the funds.
The council would have to vote publicly at a council meeting to spend the funds but can meet behind closed doors if there aren’t more than two council members in a meeting.
A golf course can be just as important as housing when it comes to attracting people and businesses to the community, she said, and it would improve quality of life for people with disabilities. Making it available for large community events would also be a benefit, rather than losing events to Deer Valley Golf Course in Deer Grove or Barnacopia in Polo, Oros said.
Kitson said taxpayers view the golf course much differently than economic development projects, and he questioned the city donation when there are roads to repair and water system upgrades to make.
Don Vock, a member of the Kreider Board of Directors, said the state hasn’t increased its funding for agencies like Kreider in at least 18 years, and Kreider is struggling.
The event venue at the course could help bring in more revenue, and more importantly, it would provide a sense of belonging and normalcy often denied to those with disabilities, Vock said.
“I think it will be great for the community, and I think it will be a funding source for Kreider, but I think we can touch lives,” he said.
Project supporter Rich Boysen said he heard that part of the county’s decision to deny the funding was because there wouldn’t be a sufficient return on investment.
“It really isn’t about return on investment,” Boysen said. “It should be about doing what’s good and what’s right for this community.”
The finance committee made no recommendation to reconsider the funding, but the executive committee approved having the item on the agenda for the next full board meeting taking place at 6 p.m. Thursday at the old Lee County Courthouse.
The County Board rejected the $250,000 request in a 10-11 vote on Aug. 25. Board Chairman Bob Olson had asked if member Rick Humphrey wanted to change his yes vote to an abstention because he’s the current manager for Timber Creek.
At the time, Humphrey said the money would go to Kreider, so he wouldn’t have a financial interest in it.
After being closed down for a year, Timber Creek reopened in 2019 after owners Ron Keith and his son, Brett, signed a lease agreement with Rick and Brenda Humphrey to help revive the facility after failing to find someone to buy it and keep it as a golf course.
[ Timber Creek revival underway, owners sign lease with Humphreys ]
Timber Creek includes the 18-hole golf course, a banquet center, Bogey’s Bar and Grill, an outdoor swimming pool and tennis courts.
The Keiths bought the former Dixon Country Club as it was going out of business on Feb. 1, 2007, for $1.1 million. At the time, membership had dwindled to less than 100.
They renamed it and changed it from a private to a semi-private club, opening it to the public for the first time since its inception in 1915.
They operated the course at a financial loss for years wanting to preserve it in the community and competed with the area’s municipal-run courses that can be subsidized by taxpayer dollars.