GREEN ACRES

How the Page Avenue extension has been good for influential road-builder Fred Weber Inc. -- through construction contracts, profitable land sales and a sweet deal with St. Louis County to expand its golf course

To get a table at Limestone's Bar & Grille at lunchtime, go early. Within 20 minutes of noon, every seat in the spacious, dark-paneled restaurant is filled with well-dressed businessmen, politicians and other St. Louis-area movers and shakers.

As part of the Crystal Springs Quarry Golf Club, the restaurant offers a properly playful lunch menu of omelettes, create-your-own burgers and colorful pastas in white sauce, though anemia sets in during the insufferably long wait. Fortunately, the steady stream of golfers and high-powered customers is stimulating enough to overshadow the culinary downtime, and besides, the patrons are the kind of people who can afford long lunches. Order salad anyway — it's quick.

The club's nine-hole course is equal in drawing power to the restaurant, with lush bluegrass fairways and rocky rolling hills that belong on a postcard. In fact, by anyone's standards, the Crystal Springs club, located at Prichard Farm and Creve Coeur Mill roads in Maryland Heights, was a success from its first day of operation in 1997.

Jennifer Silverberg
Jennifer Silverberg
"To ask a property owner not to develop his or her land on the promise of 'Later we might do something,' well, there's no obligation of anyone to do that." ó Mark Levin, Maryland Heights city administrator
County Executive George "Buzz" Westfall: "No matter what I did, no matter how good a deal it was for the county, somebody, if they want to ... would find reason to criticize."
County Executive George "Buzz" Westfall: "No matter what I did, no matter how good a deal it was for the county, somebody, if they want to ... would find reason to criticize."

Owned by the state's largest road contractor, Fred Weber Inc., the club won early accolades for its flaky grilled salmon and its par 3's and 5's, even garnering a nod from St. Louis Post-Dispatch gossip columnist Jerry Berger, who noted that the club was "fast becoming the home of our town's glam crowd." Indeed, a small country could scrape by on the value of the luxury cars moored in the parking lot on any given weekday morning. The golf course is open to the public — so for $25 and with proper attire (collared shirts and no denim), anyone can be seen with our town's glam crowd.

This July, the club celebrated the groundbreaking of a nine-hole expansion that will double its size. The mood was self-congratulatory, and understandably so, because most of the hazards that could have sabotaged the project had long been cleared by the time Fred Weber announced the additional back nine. In fact, at the time Crystal Springs first opened its doors in 1997, Fred Weber's own heavy construction equipment was less than a mile to the south, moving earth for the road project that made this all possible — the extension of Page Avenue as a 10-lane highway through Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park and across the Missouri River into St. Charles County, a project estimated to cost between $500 million and $1 billion.

The history of Fred Weber's golf course spans the past decade and is chained to the controversial expressway project, link for link. It is a history that details free-market transactions — how land was bought, developed and sold for a profit — and shows how, with a little foresight and a lot of muscle, public money can be used to leverage private profit.

The evolution of the golf course began in a different decade and at a different location, so the record of successive land purchases and sales reads a bit like a lesson in advanced plate tectonics:

In 1989, while the Missouri Highway and Transportation Department (later renamed the Missouri Department of Transportation, or MoDOT) is busy finalizing route plans for the Page Avenue extension, Fred Weber begins buying land around Creve Coeur Park.

A year later, the state picks a preferred route for the Page Avenue extension and identifies large chunks of land north and south of the park that it must buy to mitigate the damage the new highway would cause to the park. By 1992, Fred Weber has assembled a 125-acre chunk south of the park, paying a total of $568,729. The company operates a small driving range and a miniature-golf course on the property.

In 1995, Fred Weber asks Maryland Heights officials for permission to add a nine-hole golf course on its land south of the park — even though the property had been slated a year earlier for purchase by the state for wetlands development. The Maryland Heights City Council approves the request, but the golf course is never built.

That same year, the state buys — from private owners — property adjacent to Fred Weber's 125-acre parcel but does not buy Fred Weber's property. In all, the state buys more than 1,000 acres from other property owners for mitigation, spending about $20 million. The mitigation land is turned over to St. Louis County for new parkland.

In 1997, the state buys the 125 acres from Fred Weber for $3.3 million — the single most expensive purchase of mitigation land by the state.

Meanwhile, Fred Weber assembles property near the northeastern corner of the park and — with approval from Maryland Heights — builds the nine-hole Crystal Springs golf course. This year, the St. Louis County Council, at the urging of County Executive George "Buzz" Westfall, approved a lucrative 30-year lease of 166 acres of new parkland to Fred Weber, allowing the company to expand its private, profitable golf course to 18 holes. In exchange for the company's pledge to make $2 million in improvements to the park, Fred Weber pays no rent and no property taxes on the county land.

These land deals, which suggest preferential treatment, raise several questions: Why did the state, which began buying mitigation land in 1995, wait two years before acquiring Fred Weber's property south of the park? Why did the company receive more compensation per acre than any other owner of planned mitigation land? Why did Maryland Heights officials, knowing that the property south of the park was in an area designated for wetlands development, approve Fred Weber's plan for a nine-hole golf course? Why did the county agree to the long-term lease of park property to Fred Weber?

MoDOT officials contend that taxpayers paid fair market value for the Fred Weber property.

Maryland Heights officials say they approved a golf course on land designated as wetland because they believed they didn't have a legal right to tell Fred Weber what could be built on the company's private property as long as the proposal conformed to local zoning laws.

County officials argue that in light of the improvements Fred Weber will make to the park in exchange for the lease, taxpayers got a good deal. "To me, it's a win-win deal for everybody," Westfall says. "This is an opportunity for Fred Weber to develop an 18-hole golf course, which it otherwise wouldn't have, and it's an opportunity for the county at no risk or pain to itself to give him that opportunity and to get $2 million in improvements that the county would otherwise have to pay for."

Thomas Dunne Sr., the man who has been at the helm of Fred Weber since 1980, did not respond to telephoned or faxed requests for an interview.

Missouri's most successful road-construction company was founded in 1928 by Fred Weber Sr., whose name became synonymous with concrete. It's been said that Weber delivered fruit and cigars as incentives to his road crews in the early days and later, after some success, followed up with generous bonuses and profit-sharing plans for work well done.

But it was the creation of the interstate-highway system in the 1950s that launched Fred Weber Inc. into asphalt stardom, and by 1959, when Fred Weber Jr. took over the business, the company had established its own material-supply business as well. By 1963, the state highway commission had named Fred Weber Inc. its contractor of the year, and when John Weber, Fred Weber Jr.'s brother, took control in 1974, the company — with quarries, cement plants and contracts — was literally pouring one mile of concrete every day.

Over the years, there has barely been a major road-construction project in Missouri that Fred Weber Inc. hasn't worked on. Between 1987 and the middle of 1997 alone, the company won 151 contracts from MoDOT. The company also ventured into other types of projects, including construction of a runway at Lambert International Airport, the infrastructure of Riverport, the Pattonville Community Auditorium and John E. Simon Hall, home of Washington University's Olin School of Business.

Dunne, a longtime employee, was elected president of the company in 1980, and in 1986 the business was sold to its employees, with Dunne heading up management. Today, from its headquarters in Maryland Heights, the company operates six asphaltic concrete production facilities, nine crushed-stone production facilities, a landfill and two sand-production plants. Last year, the company took in $138 million in revenue and is now also a partner in Winghaven, the $550 million, 1,000-acre golf/commercial/residential project in O'Fallon, Mo.

Hand-in-hand with its ascendancy in road-building came the company's entrance into the world of politics.

Fred Weber has long been an established player, contributing generously to political campaigns. The company is a big donor to the Missouri State Democratic Committee and to the political-action committees of trade groups such as Associated General Contractors (AGC), which in turn makes its political presence known even more.

Fred Weber and its executives have made significant contributions to Democratic candidates at the local, state and federal levels. For example, Fred Weber and its executives have given more than $20,000 to Missouri Democratic committees. Gov. Mel Carnahan, who has been a recipient of significant campaign donations from Fred Weber in the '90s, most recently got $7,000 for his bid for the U.S. Senate. At the county level, Fred Weber has donated more than $10,000 to Westfall in the last two campaigns. And County Council Chairman Jeff Wagener, who sponsored the ordinance granting Fred Weber the 30-year lease, has received $1,000 in contributions from the company since 1996.

According to information from the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C., Fred Weber executives — including Dunne, Tony Giordano and John Weber — gave a total of $89,250 to federal candidates in the years 1993-98. Those candidates include Carnahan; U.S. Sens. Christopher Bond and John Ashcroft of Missouri, as well as John McCain (R-Arizona) and Phil Gramm (R-Texas); U.S. Reps. Richard Gephardt and James Talent of Missouri; and the Democratic Leader's Victory Fund and the Majority Leader's Victory Fund.

And last year, when environmentalists and local municipalities sought to block the Page Avenue extension, Fred Weber joined with business groups, developers, homebuilders, trade unions and other contractors in successfully fighting a ballot measure that could have stopped the road project. Fred Weber's $25,000 donation to the pro-Page campaign was the single largest corporate contribution.

Fred Weber's status as the state's largest road-builder also led to a professional intimacy with the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission. The commission, made up of six members appointed by the governor for six-year terms, runs MoDOT and is responsible for all highway planning and maintenance in the state. Commission members, all professionally associated with commercial, home and road development, dole out the proceeds of an earmarked gasoline-sales tax, which makes up the largest part of the agency's $1 billion annual budget. Unlike other state departments, MoDOT is not financially accountable to the state Legislature, and, according to a source familiar with state and local transportation issues, Fred Weber is an "insider's insider" to the department and its commissioners.

"The highway commission, the department itself, considers contractors like Fred Weber its customers," the source says. In other words, controversial road projects such as the Page Avenue extension are often seen not as a function of what the public needs but of what the agency's contractors want.

The massive Page Avenue road project was officially unveiled by the highway department back in 1973, when it was decided that another bridge was needed to span the Missouri River. At that time, the only things separating St. Louis County, to the east of the river, from St. Charles County, to the west, were the western fringes of Maryland Heights, the 1,260-acre Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park and the Missouri Bottoms area and all of its commercial potential.

The transportation agency predicted a glossy financial future for St. Louis and St. Charles counties if a major expressway was built connecting the two — free-flowing traffic and explosive development in the bottoms area. Indeed, even before ground was cleared for the Page extension, the Riverport Casino complex and the Riverport Office Park were rising from the western St. Louis County floodplain as symbols of what could be.

But back in 1973, the transportation agency was still looking at 15 possible routes for an extension of Page Avenue, which ended at Bennington Place, west of Interstate 270. Nothing was brought to the public table, though, until 1986, when the agency put together its "Reconnaissance Report," which soon led to the department's "tentative approval" of what it called the "Red Route" through the park.

This Red Route took Page Avenue from where it ended at Bennington Place across the south end of Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park, then across the bottoms area to the Missouri River and into St. Charles County.

The project wrestled with opposition from the beginning, and because the park had been enlarged in 1971 with federal grant money, it wasn't clear whether the highway could be built there unless other property of at least equal economic, recreational and ecological value was added to the park as mitigation.

In response, the transportation department issued its final report on the Page Avenue extension in 1990, outlining what property it thought should be bought by the state for mitigation of the environmental damage caused to the park by the expressway. It consisted of three areas of land, two to the north and one to the south of the park.

Though over the next decade there would be much calculating by county, state and federal agencies about how much more land should be added to the park for mitigation, the original three areas chosen by the state agency in 1989 and '90 were never once erased from the equation.

And over the next several years, as arguments broke out over what additional lands should be bought, whether they could environmentally replace what the expressway would destroy and whether the expressway could even legally be built, Fred Weber was winning contracts on the project, including $8.6 million to build bridge supports, $6.8 million to raise several local roads and $1.6 million to construct an interchange.

In the interim, the company was also quietly acquiring property near the route of the new road project.

It was the Page Avenue extension, the state's largest highway project, that provided the company the opportunity to profit — not just from construction contracts but from land deals as well.

In April 1989, as the state was finalizing its Red Route plan for the Page Avenue extension, Fred Weber bought 40 acres of land on Creve Coeur Mill Road, which butts up against the southern end of Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park. The property was purchased for $225,000 from an entity familiar to Fred Weber — the St. Louis Construction Training and Advancement Foundation, which trains employees for contractors and is administered by Associated General Contractors of St. Louis, which counts Fred Weber among its members.

Also in 1989, the state began putting together its environmental-impact statement, which publicly appeared in draft form in 1990, for the project. In that draft, state highway officials indicated which parcels of land around the park should be used as mitigation for the environmental damage caused by the extension. It would, after all, be a 10-lane expressway, 60-120 feet high, that would cut a swath 650 feet wide for right-of-way through Creve Coeur Park.

In aerial maps included in the report, the state marked two large swaths of land, adjacent to the northern end of the park, that it designated "Priority 1 Area" and "Priority 2 Area." To the south of the park was "Priority 3 Area." The three areas together made up about 264 acres, which the state proposed buying for mitigation.

Included at that time in the Priority 3 Area was the 40-acre property Fred Weber had just purchased from the construction foundation.

After the environmental-impact statement draft was released in 1990, the state secured funding for the first phase of the Page Avenue extension. That same year, the right-of-way corridor for the extension was "secured," meaning that St. Louis County blocked any construction taking place along the proposed route.

Later in 1990, the transportation commission officially approved the Page Avenue extension and announced that it would be buying at least 639 acres of land at the north and south ends of the park as mitigation for the expressway. This included the three priority areas. That September, the Maryland Heights City Council also approved a resolution supporting the extension through the park.

In early 1991, the state took out a $3.5 million loan from the Federal Highway Administration to start buying land for the extension's second phase, in St. Charles County. When the state requested the money for the buyouts, it argued that it needed to buy the land early on to discourage any speculative development, thereby saving the state money in the long run.

The state did not start buying mitigation land in St. Louis County, however, because the route for the extension had not cleared all official hurdles. In the meantime, as the state began its buyouts in St. Charles County to save money, St. Louis County land adjacent to the park was still changing hands — private hands. In July 1991, Fred Weber made a second purchase of land adjacent to the 40-acre tract that the company bought from the foundation, this one a 69-acre tract bought from Tom E. Glosier of the Amherst Partnership for $204,729. Weber now owned 109 acres of land along the southern boundary of the park — all slated for mitigation by the transportation department.

Then, in May 1992, Fred Weber made another purchase of land, a third lot south of the park consisting of 16 acres abutting the 109 acres it already owned. This third lot, bought from Timothy Gamma and adjacent to the other two lots the company purchased, cost Fred Weber $139,000. It, too, was land the state wanted to buy for mitigation.

In all, Fred Weber paid $568,729 for 125 acres of land, according to records from the St. Louis County Recorder of Deeds. It now owned most of the property to the south of the park that the state transportation department had marked as mitigation for the Page Avenue extension. It constituted the state's entire Priority 3 Area.

At this point, however, the Page Avenue extension still had a major federal hurdle to overcome. The state transportation commission had approved its construction, but, years before, the county had accepted a $1 million federal grant to enlarge the park, and under federal rules no highway could be built through a park bought with federal funds. Though the highway commission approved the concept of extending Page Avenue, it still hadn't garnered federal permission to do so.

The problem was resolved in 1992, when Missouri Sen. John Danforth attached an amendment to the Pipeline Safety Act that absolved the Page Avenue project from the requirements of the federal regulations. In exchange, the state agreed to substantially increase the number of acres that would be acquired for mitigation.

That same year, Fred Weber petitioned the city of Maryland Heights to enter into a joint venture with golf-course developer Hale Irwin and construct a golf driving range and miniature-golf course on the property. Despite the fact that the state was scheduled to soon buy the property, the city approved the plans. In 1994, the National Park Service concluded two years of negotiations about mitigation land in order to comply with the Danforth amendment. As a result of the negotiations, the state agreed to expand the number of acres that would be acquired for mitigation. Bob Anderson, program leader for the Park Service, says the agency didn't dictate which land would be acquired by the state. "It was just a supplement to what had already been done," Anderson says. "The project sponsor, in coordination with other agencies, came up with the proposal, and ultimately that proposal was accepted by the Park Service."

After looking at the different proposals, the park service determined that the 265 acres originally slated as mitigation land chosen by the state highway department — the "priority areas" to the north and south of the park — should be included but enlarged by 729 acres.

In 1994, the entire proposed mitigation area was valued by state and federal officials at about $3.4 million, according to a supplemental environmental-impact statement issued by the Park Service. The "priority area" south of the county park, which included Fred Weber's 125 acres, was valued at $1.8 million, according to the Park Service, which based its estimate on appraisals performed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Added to the Park Service's report was its "Conceptual Master Plan," which indicated that the mitigation land originally proposed by the state agency to the north of the park should be used for recreational purposes. The plan also stated that the mitigation land south of the park, owned by Fred Weber, should be converted to a wooded wetland habitat.

The Park Service's report came out in 1994, and on April 17, 1995, the official record of decision was signed. In other words, the entire mitigation package was officially chosen on April 17, 1995, and, indeed, later that year the state bought the first two pieces of mitigation property — an 11-acre lot to the south of the park bought for $7,290 per acre and a smaller 2-acre lot bought for $8,450 an acre.

Both lots were adjacent to Fred Weber's property, which wasn't acquired until 1997. According to MoDOT, additional purchases of mitigation land were delayed for a couple years because improvements to the Howard Bend Levee, which protects the bottoms area from flooding by the Missouri River, caused property values to increase, complicating negotiations with property owners.

But Fred Weber executives didn't just sit and wait for the land to be acquired.

Despite the fact that the company's 125 acres south of the park were now sealed within the final mitigation package as a proposed wetland habitat, in September 1995 — a full five months after the record of decision was issued — the company petitioned Maryland Heights to construct a golf course on the land, which already contained the driving range and miniature golf course run by Hale Irwin's company.

The Maryland Heights City Council approved the company's request. City Administrator Mark Levin says the company first applied for a change of zoning with the city's Planning and Zoning Commission, which then sent the plans to the full City Council for final approval. "The petitioner, the owner of the property, had a right to do that," Levin says. "It was still his land, and the city planning commission approved it, found that what was being proposed was in conformity to the city's comprehensive plan, made a recommendation to the City Council, and the City Council approved it.

"The only way to have prevented that, I suppose, was for the state to have purchased the land right then. To ask a property owner not to develop his or her land on the promise of "Later we might do something,' well, there's no obligation of anyone to do that," Levin says.

Maryland Heights Mayor Michael O'Brien says he can't remember specifically whether back in 1995 the City Council questioned whether an approval of a golf-course development would interfere with the state's plan to buy the property. "I don't think that land had actually been purchased from Weber by the state, so I guess back in '95 it wasn't an issue. It was still under private ownership, so I would assume it was handled like any other private development — it would go through all the city planning and zoning, and the approval or disapproval would be based just on the merits of the project alone.

In all, the state of Missouri has acquired 24 properties from private landowners — most of it farmland — to mitigate the damage Page Avenue would cause to Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park. Other properties include a 41.8-acre parcel acquired from Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District and a railroad easement.

According to records supplied by MoDOT and verified with the St. Louis County Recorder of Deeds, the state paid MSD and private landowners other than Fred Weber an average of $15,517 per acre. Fred Weber, by comparison, received $26,287 per acre.

One of the landowners, Harriet Byington, says she believes she received a fair deal for the 11 acres she sold to the state for $7,207 per acre. "The process went very smoothly, and we're satisfied with what we got," she says. Another seller, who asked not to be identified, said that his family could never be compensated fairly for the farmland the state bought from him through condemnation proceedings. "They cannot put a price tag on your livelihood," he says. Neither property owner was familiar with the prices paid to Fred Weber or other landowners.

Pete Donovan, MoDOT legal counsel, says the state paid fair market value for the properties. "Generally speaking, a lot of things can affect the fair market value," Donovan says. "For example, one property may have utilities while the property across the street might not. One property might have topography problems, whereas another might not. One area might be in a floodplain; another might not. Two pieces of property might be right next to each other but have different fair market values."

MoDOT won't release its appraisals on the properties, but in response to an inquiry about the different purchase prices, MoDOT Director of Project Development Bob Sfreddo last week sent The Riverfront Times a letter stating that the Fred Weber property was "valued at $16,500 per acre but it had over $1,200,000 in improvements."

Despite the 1994 Park Service report, which valued the land south of the park at $1.8 million, Sfreddo says subsequent improvements to the nearby levee helped boost the value of all the property in the area. By the time MoDOT got around to buying Fred Weber's property in 1997, its value had increased significantly. "We looked at comparable sales at the time, and the land appreciated quite a bit, so we went ahead and settled with Weber on that basis," Sfreddo says.

The profitable sale of the company's property south of the park for $3.3 million did not signal the end of its attempts to build a golf course. While Fred Weber was negotiating the sale with MoDOT, it was also assembling land for another golf course near the intersection of Creve Coeur Mill and Prichard Farm roads, near the northeast corner of Creve Coeur Park.

In 1996, Fred Weber, which already owned a 112-acre parcel in the area, bought a 13-acre lot on Prichard Farm Road for $200,000 from Andrew and Edward Baur, major St. Louis-area developers. Twelve days later, the company acquired an adjacent parcel that had been sold by Prichard Farm Properties for $900,000.

On July 17, 1996, Weber applied to the Maryland Heights City Planning Commission to build another golf course on this land — the 112 acres bought in 1992 and the parcels bought later on Prichard Farm Road. The planning commission and later the Maryland Heights City Council approved.

By the beginning of 1999, as the golf course and its restaurant gained in popularity, the state had already bought the company's $3.3 million lot to the south of the park and had awarded several contracts to Fred Weber Inc. for work to extend Page Avenue. The company would soon profit again.

Earlier this year, the Crystal Springs Quarry Golf Club — now to the north of the park — announced the opening of a Pro Golf Discount store on the site, and Nick Sansone, director of golf for the club, also hinted to a Post-Dispatch reporter that the nine-hole course would soon be expanded to 18 holes. The story appeared on March 15, 1999, and at that time, Sansone "declined to discuss the course's efforts to secure more land." The story also quoted Levin, the Maryland Heights city administrator, as saying that the company had not yet filed an application with the city for any permits to increase the size of the course.

Eight days later, Fred Weber did submit its application to the Maryland Heights planning and zoning commission to expand its golf course, an application that was approved by the full City Council.

At that time, however, the only available land for the course's expansion was recently purchased mitigation property, which the state had just turned over to St. Louis County for the park.

Susan Poling, speaking for the St. Louis County Parks Department, explains the events that soon followed:

"Weber had already developed a nine-hole golf course adjacent to Creve Coeur Park, and they knew that in order to be competitive in the market, you have to have an 18-hole golf course. So they had a need, and they approached St. Louis County. In talking to them about it, we pointed out that our property was immediately adjacent to their golf course."

After pointing out this coincidence, the county also informed Fred Weber that the master plan for the park (the one published by the Park Service back in 1995) indicated that the land on the northeast side of the park was to be used for "active recreational" purposes. Because golf is "active recreation," and because the county felt that more golf courses were needed for the county's aging population and because Fred Weber's golf course was right there ....

"Normally, if we were going to develop something in St. Louis County parks, we would have to go through a bidding process, where we would ask general contractors to bid on the development of, let's say, a community center or a playground. But Weber was a contiguous landowner, and when you have a contiguous landowner, we are allowed to enter into agreements with them."

The agreement, brought to the St. Louis County Council by Chairman Jeff Wagener, said that in exchange for $2 million worth of infrastructure improvements to the park, Fred Weber could lease at no cost — and pay no property taxes on — 166 acres of mitigation land in the park to double the size of his privately owned golf course.

The $2 million in infrastructure improvements include the following: bringing water and sewer facilities for restrooms to the Creve Coeur Lake sailboat cove; bringing utilities to the site of a future sports complex; grading the sports-complex area; and seeding and installing an irrigation system in the sports-complex area. Poling says there may be enough money left over to do more, but the exact terms of the lease have not been worked out yet.

Fred Weber will then be able to use the 166 acres of parkland to build a second nine-hole course that will be used by the company for the next 30 years. Under the agreement approved unanimously by the St. Louis County Council last April, after 30 years, the 166 acres will be turned back over to the county.

Westfall says he fully supports the lease agreement, because the county otherwise would not have had the funds to build its own golf course. The deal is good, he admits, for Fred Weber as well.

"My goal as county executive is to do what I think enhances the quality of life in St. Louis County. In this instance, we're talking about golf, and though I don't golf, this is a golfing community more now than ever. It's growing, with young people getting involved and women getting involved more than ever, so the fact that he (Dunne) was a smart enough businessman to buy that land and now this has happened, that's to his benefit," Westfall says.

"In this case, I think we're going to have a spectacular golf course, one of the nicest in the community, $2 million in improvements to the park in general in exchange for that deal, and it really doesn't matter who's running the golf course or benefiting from a financial point of view, as long as they're doing a good job and as long as the golfers in the community, and the community as a whole, is benefiting from it, and I think they will. I think people will be thrilled with it."

Westfall bristles at the idea that his support of the Page Avenue extension and the 30-year lease with Fred Weber had anything to do with the company's political influence or its campaign donations to him. He insists that the deal is a good one, whether Fred Weber profits or not.

"So no matter what I did, no matter how good a deal it was for the county, somebody, if they want to — either for legitimate reasons or for political reasons — would find reason to criticize. It comes with the territory, and I've grown used to it," Westfall says. "Any deal that makes good sense for the county, I'm willing to pursue it, even it means it's profitable to some person who's given me money. That doesn't bother me in the least, as long as it's a good deal for the taxpayers."

"Obviously Tom Dunne is one happy fellow that he owns that property. He speculated when he built that nine holes. If this thing (the Page Avenue extension) had been defeated when it went to the voters, he'd be sitting on a nine-hole forever. Fortunately for him, it passed."

Tee time for the new nine holes is scheduled for the summer of 2000.

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