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The State of Louisiana just can’t seem to wean itself of its involvement in the golf course business.

Even though several golf courses in Louisiana have gone under in recent months, the state continues to invest its resources into the construction and management of several facilities across the state.

Most recently, the Office of State Purchasing received proposals for the management of the Black Bear Stay and Play Lodge at the Poverty Point Reservoir State Park near Delhi.

While the proposed bid opening was on Jan. 4, no contract has been awarded, nor has any information been forthcoming as to the bidders’ identities or if the bid opening was even held on schedule.

The 7,100-yard, 300-acre course was designed by Bechtol Russell Golf of Austin, Texas, and constructed by Weitz Golf International. It is operated under the administration of the Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism (DCRT).

The request for proposals (RFP) stipulates that lodge personnel shall include a “first-class” hotel manager, meaning that he or she must be knowledgeable, experienced, and effective, and that the contractor shall submit a detailed monthly accounting of all transactions.

The lodge includes 17 guest rooms, a swimming pool and fenced tennis court and maintains a 61 percent occupancy rate, according to the RFP, which also said the DCRT “intends to work diligently with the successful proposer to ensure the profitability of a Stay and Play Lodge operation at Black Bear Golf Course. The economic, professional, social, and recreational elements critical to the success and image of a quality golf environment are foremost in consideration.”

The RFP also said the State Legislative auditor, federal and internal auditors of the Division of Administration “shall have the option to audit all accounts directly pertaining to the contract for a period of five years” after the contract goes into effect. “Records shall be made available during normal working hours for this purpose,” it added.

A check of the Legislative Auditor’s web page could find no instance of an audit ever having been conducted of either the Black Bear Golf Course or Poverty Point Reservoir State Park.

The Louisiana Legislature last year appropriated $301,000 for the Black Bear Golf Club and since 1997 the state has poured more than $141 million into golf courses all over the state.

The Black Bear course was constructed on private property owned by the Poverty Point Development Corp. under the auspices of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development as part of a retirement community developed by State Sen. Francis Thompson and his brother, Mike Thompson. Once completed, the golf course was donated to DCRT with the proviso that a “professional manager” be appointed to administer the day to day operations of Black Bear.

The manager who was initially appointed was Mike Thompson. Thompson was convicted in federal court in January 2010 for violation of the Hobbs Act and in July, he was sentenced to 18 months in the federal correctional facility in Pollock. Specifically, Thompson was charged with having an employee of the Poverty Point Reservoir District perform work on Thompson’s private property during the time the employee was on the clock at the district.

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