WFTV creates false news about city selling museum, golf course

Don’t believe what you see on local TV news, especially if it comes from Channel 9.

With great fanfare and hyperbole, WFTV Channel 9 “reporter” Tim Barber, proclaimed that Sanford leaders were in talks to sell the city’s museum and golf course.

His performance – I won’t call it reporting – made it appear that a sale was imminent. He even had the requisite man-on-the-street interview to find out what “the people” thought about this impending action.

FailWFTVWhat he did not have was any interviews with Sanford elected officials, city staff or anyone else who might have knowledge.

Here’s the deal with the museum and golf course:

In early 2014, the city contracted with a consulting firm, Management Partners, to do an organizational review of all city operations. In October 2014 the firm presented its final report, which made dozens of recommendations including staffing, organizational and procedural changes.

Two of the recommendations the report suggested were to sell the museum to a nonprofit agency and sell the golf course as a way to gain cost savings from the city’s operations.

In the months since the report was issued, city manager Norton Bonaparte regularly brings one or two recommendations made in the report to the commission to get direction on what action, if any, commissioners wish to take.

Monday afternoon, there was an item about selling the museum and golf course on the city commission’s work session agenda.

The consensus among city commissioners was that neither recommendation was a good idea.

Commissioner Art Woodruff said that the golf course was “too good of an asset” and provided recreational opportunities for Sanford residents. Commissioner Patty Mahany pointed out that the golf course counts as part of the city’s overall parks and open space, and selling it would require the city to provide additional park space.

In fact, the golf course, for the first time in decades, is being managed and operated in a professional manner thanks to the city’s partner, Integrity Golf Company LLC.

As to the museum, Commissioner Velma Williams said “it is important for a city to have a museum,” and that having one was a quality-of-life issue for residents.

Furthermore, most of the exhibits in the museum were donated to the city, said Mahany, and selling the museum would require all of those things to be returned to the families that made the donations. What is the point in selling a museum that has no exhibits?

“I don’t know that this recommendation is doable,” said Bonaparte.

The commissioners agreed.

So there you have it, neither the museum nor the golf course is up for sale (***See update below).

I doubt you will see a follow-up story by Channel 9 and Tim Barber. But hey, getting the story right is not really the goal of local television news, as Don Henley sang about 30 years ago:

“We can do ‘the innuendo,’
We can dance and sing
When it’s all said and done, we haven’t told you a thing.”

– by Dan Ping

***Update – As a point of clarification, the city pays Integrity Golf $60,000 per year to manage the golf course. As such the city collects all revenue and pays all expenses. After the third year of the contract (2016), the city and Integrity can discuss changing the contract to a lease agreement. Under that scenario, Integrity would collect all revenue and pay all expenses, and the city would receive lease payments and possibly a percentage of the revenue. So there will be future discussions about the golf course.


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