The Detroit City Council approved a contract with Signet Golf Associates II Inc. to manage and maintain the services of Rackham Golf Course in Huntington Woods and two other Detroit-owned golf courses.

The Detroit City Council approved a contract with Signet Golf Associates II Inc. to manage and maintain the services of Rackham Golf Course in Huntington Woods and two other Detroit-owned golf courses.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

Detroit City Council approves Rackham site management contract

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published March 28, 2018


HUNTINGTON WOODS/DETROIT — The potential of Rackham Golf Course closing down because of a lack of a management contract has been avoided.

At its March 20 meeting, the Detroit City Council held another vote on a contract with Signet Golf Associates II Inc. to manage, operate and maintain the services of the Rackham, Chandler Park and Rouge Park golf courses, and this time passed with on a 5-4 vote.

Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield said she submitted the reconsideration for the vote, as they had one member absent at the last meeting, Scott Benson, and she felt that the whole body should have the opportunity to vote. Benson voted to approve the contract, along with Sheffield, James Tate, Andre Spivey and Raquel Castañeda-López.

“I do support a long-term contract and I believe ... before us is a bridge contract, and the city is investing capital dollars into the courses as well,” she said. “It’s not the best contract. I also have to echo the sentiments of my colleagues about the (selection) process, but at the end of the day, we do have a situation right now where we can see golfers not being able to golf this season. And so for me, it’s important to get the golf courses open to continue to work with the administration to figure out how, moving forward, we can have that 10- to 12- to 15-year contract.”

The contract’s terms are a two-year deal for $180,000 total. There was concern that if a contract wasn’t approved before the deal with previous site manager Vargo Golf Co. expired on March 22, the golf courses would have to be closed.

Members of the council voiced their concern with how Signet was chosen to manage the courses by Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration over the other candidates: Vargo, KemperSports and Billy Casper Golf.

Council President Brenda Jones said she was concerned with how the Golf Advisory Board was kept out of a decision. She also didn’t like the insinuation that the golf courses closing down would be the council’s fault.

Jones voted against the contract, along with Gabe Leland, Janeé Ayers and Roy McCalister.

“To just say it’s City Council is the reason why golf courses is closing, it’s ludicrous,” she said. “It’s nothing but dirty politics, and people say they hate politics; that’s dirty politics at its worst. … When you vote something down, and you had four people that put in RFPs, why not go look at one of the other companies that put in an RFP to find out which one of those companies is the best company, as opposed to saying council voted it down and so the golf courses are closing. 

“I’m saying council’s not the reason that the golf courses were closed. If it was voted down or if it is voted down, the administration would be the reason that the golf courses closed. We put people in place to sit on the advisory board for us, and yet we don’t want to listen to what those people have to say.”

Detroit Chief Procurement Officer Boysie Jackson said in an email that Signet was chosen based on several criteria that were evaluated by a large evaluation committee, and the city doesn’t have any concerns with Signet’s qualifications to manage the courses.

“The process of selection was criticized by City Council from bad and erroneous information (fed) to them from outsiders who did not have all the facts,” he said. “The Office of Contracting & Procurement and Law Department reviewed all protest questions and found absolutely no issues with the selection process.”

Huntington Woods City Manager Amy Sullivan said the city is pleased that the Detroit City Council was able to come to an agreement on a contractor to open Rackham on time. 

“We look forward to the investment into the golf course that the bid company has promised,” she said.

Huntington Woods City Commissioner Jules Olsman, who sits on the Golf Advisory Board, said Detroit ignored the whole purpose of the golf board and he has no idea how the city came to select Signet.

“We’re just going to have to wait and see whether they’re capable of managing these golf courses,” he said. “I don’t know why anyone would think they are, but we’re about to find out. I mean, it’s really a strange situation. I mean, (Detroit has) made it clear that they want to sell Rackham to Huntington Woods because, you know, Rackham is deed-restricted and has to be a golf course, and it has to be owned by a public entity. So the number of takers for that is very limited.”

Olsman said that if the course was properly managed, he believes it would be much more successful. 

“We tried to be a good partner with the city of Detroit and try to work cooperatively with the city of Detroit, and want to continue to do that, but if you ask me, are you happy with the Signet contract? Of course not. They don’t appear to have a single qualification to allow them to try and manage these three golf courses, which are in very, very distressed condition. They need a lot of work. As far as I can tell, the city of Detroit doesn’t plan on spending any money on infrastructure at Rackham. Whatever money is being allocated is going to Rouge and Chandler.”

Jackson said the Golf Advisory Board was never intended to be on the evaluation committee and was made up of mostly non-city-of-Detroit employees.

“Their responsibilities included advising on capital improvements and providing suggestions on golf course improvements and other matters,” he wrote.

Olsman said his interest in Rackham is to make sure that the golf course is kept in good condition and profitable.

“We want to see a money-making proposition. And as far as whether or not we can buy it, that’s an issue that needs to be resolved within the city. It’s clearly something that would have to be bonded, and it would have to be put to the voters for approval,” he said.

Signet could not be reached immediately for comment.