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Enterprise fund for Woodlawn is a must for 2013

HAMBURG TOWN HALL
It is nearing two years since the Town of Hamburg reached an agreement with the state to assume control of Woodlawn Beach State Park.

At that time, the board was split to begin with on whether the town should take on such an enormous endeavor. It was certainly a gamble on the part of Hamburg Town Supervisor Steven Walters, who put his belief – and possibly political future – into a beach that the state failed with for many years. If it failed, then the sun might not have been setting only at the beach.

Walters believed in the product. He believed that if run wisely, Woodlawn Beach could become a great asset for the Town of Hamburg.

When 2011 rang in, the town began preparations to assume operations of the beach, and Walters proposed creating an enterprise fund, similar to that of the Hamburg Golf Course (now the 18-Mile Creek Golf Course) to make it easier to track revenues and expenditures for the beach.

In the winter of 2011, Walters was heading a four-person board by that point, with former Councilman Kevin Smardz having just begun his first term as a State Assemblyman. The Hamburg Town Board did not fill his position with the board set to reduce to three members at the start of 2012.

That left two Republicans, Walters and Councilwoman Amy Ziegler, and two Democrats, Councilmen Joseph Collins and Jon Gorman (Gorman’s seat was eliminated on Jan. 1, 2012).

When the vote came before the board, it finished in a 2-2 tie, with Walters and Ziegler voting yes to create the fund and Collins and Gorman voting no.

When 2012 rolled around, discussion of creating an enterprise fund for the beach never came about, until recently.

Collins, one of the two who voted against the creation of the fund in the first place, said he would now vote in favor of it.

He told the board on Sept. 24 his major concern was that he read an enterprise fundcould create a false sense of how much revenue was being generated by operating the beach.

Under the current accounting system, Walters said he estimates the beach, which he put about $204,000 in the budget for it to operate on, has generated about $270,000 in revenue so far, with a few events left to go in 2012.

When Collins pressed Walters as to why he did not create the fund in 2012, the supervisor told him it was not in the best interest to change accounting practices in the middle of the year. The change needs to take place at the beginning of the fiscal year.

For the next month-and-a-half, the 2013 budget is going to be at the heart of a lot of discussion for the town board. Walters submitted the budget with all the requests of the department heads with the goal of he, Ziegler and Collins chopping it down and making the difficult choices as a board.

This decision should be an easy one. Collins said openly he would vote in favor of creating the enterprise fund. Do it. If it means more precise, up-to-date figures, then create the fund. There is no reason not to. Set it up to take effect in the 2013 budget.

From year-to-year, there will always be factors that can make the numbers at the beach go up and down, including weather conditions. One thing that 2012 has shown is that during the hot weather months, people came out. They did not mind paying the $7 gate fee to bring the family in and enjoy Woodlawn Beach.

It also seems to have made a profit in 2012.

The returns of the first two years have been favorable to Walters belief that this beach could be a crown jewel for the Town of Hamburg.

So take the guess work out of it with dedicated funds. When the 2013 budget is completed, Woodlawn Beach State Park should be listed under an enterprise fund.



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