County poised to get into the golf course business

Kitsap County is poised to take ownership of Rolling Hills Golf Course in a deal that would also give $4 million to a group that provides meals for homebound people.

The best part, according to Central Kitsap County Commissioner Josh Brown: it’s free.

Don Rasmussen and Kerma Peterson, owners of the golf course next to the county owned Illahee Preserve in East Bremerton, and Brown negotiated the deal that would deliver the deed to the golf course to the county and eventually inject dollars into the county’s parks and recreation budget.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it is because of Don Rasmussen,” Brown said Tuesday, adding the county can bow out of the deal at any time. “If there was an expense to the county, or a risk to the county, we wouldn’t be doing this agreement.”

Brown and South Kitsap Commissioner Charlotte Garrido discussed the proposal at a study session Wednesday — North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer did not attend — and a vote is planned for Monday.

Illahee resident Jim Aho attended Wednesday’s meeting and said Rolling Hills is a fixture of the Illahee community, a place people go for affordable golf and also to socialize. He said he didn’t want to see an outside buyer turn the course into something else.

“It’s a course for the blue-collar workers,” Aho said. “The locals love it.”

Brown said the deal requires no borrowing, no county money, just the cost for county employees to perform “due diligence” investigation of the proposal.

Both Commissioners Charlotte Garrido and Steve Bauer expressed support for the proposal in a statement issued Tuesday.

“This agreement will touch the lives of thousands of seniors in need and preserve a recreational amenity forever,” Garrido said.

Brown said the proposal had been discussed by commissioners during executive sessions as it involved a real estate transaction.

The current employees of the privately owned course would form a company.

The arrangement would

pay the Pink Light Foun-dation, which supports Meals on Wheels, $200,000 a year for the next 20 years.

After that, Brown said, proceeds would go toward parks and recreation maintenance and programs.

The intention, Brown said, is for Rasmussen to find a way of donating his money to the charity.

Rasmussen also wants to keep the golf course from being bulldozed into housing developments and ensure working class Kitsap residents have access to golf facilities.

Brown said the county would have authority over setting greens fees on the 38-year-old, 107-acre golf course.

“We’re not getting into this deal because we want an expensive Pebble Beach,” Brown said, adding that the negotiations started about nine months ago. “We’re trying to preserve an amenity.”

Brown said questions for Rasmussen, who Brown said is in his mid-80s, were referred to his attorney, Ronald Templeton of Silverdale.

“He believes it’s important that there’s an affordable golf course for the average resident of this county, for the people who can’t afford the country clubs and more exclusive courses,” Templeton said.

The price to play at Rolling Hills ranges from $18 for nine holes mid-week to $30 for 18 holes on the weekends. Gold Mountain Golf Complex, owned by the city of

Bremerton, charges a weekend rate of $60 for 18 holes on the Olympic Course.

Central Kitsap Reporter sportswriter Wesley Remmer contributed to this report.

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