Hershey Links closing for Milton Hershey housing

Dozens of hearty duffers braved gusty winds on the wide-open Hershey Links Golf Course the day after Valentine's.

By next Valentines Day, the course will be closed so homes for Milton Hershey School students can be built.

Officials say it's just par for the course.

“That was always the intention,” said Lisa Scullin, a spokeswoman for Milton Hershey School. “We bought that property with the intention of expanding our campus and building student homes on that land.”

The new housing will help the school help more needy kids. It plans to expand from 1,800 to 2,000 students. Neighbors we spoke with support the plan.

“Anything that helps underprivileged youth, or if we're closing down a golf course that's recreation-based to help out kids, I think it's a great idea,” said Brian Buehler.

Milton Hershey house parent Jill Singletary is excited about the expansion plan.

“I think that's gonna be the right thing and what Milton Hershey would want to have happen to his town,” Singletary said.

But there is bitterness in Chocolatetown. Milton Hershey graduate Ric Fouad supports the plan for the future, but wants the state attorney general to investigate actions of the past.

“All of a sudden they want everybody to forget how we got here,” said Fouad. “There's no way they should get away with this.”

Fouad is a constant critic of the Hershey Trust, which oversees the school. He says the 2006 purchase of the golf course was a bad deal that wasted millions of dollars. Newspaper reports suggest then-Wrendale Golf Club was appraised at $4.5 million. The Hershey Trust paid $12 million.

Fouad says the $5 million clubhouse and yearly operating losses to run the course add up to a lot of squandered green on those greens.

“When you bungle your duties to this degree, when you engage in essentially a $25 million dollar loss, which is a loss to needy, kids you don't get to away with it,” Fouad said. “You don't get to just click your heels and wish you were back in Kansas.”

Fouad wants trustees to pay back the money to the children's charity and he's calling on Attorney General Kathleen Kane to make them. An AG spokesman confirmed that it does oversee the Hershey Trust, but would neither confirm nor deny that the 2006 golf course deal is being investigated.

Scullin denies wrongdoing. She says the clubhouse was built with students in mind and it will be converted to student meeting rooms or recreation areas.

She's also unconvinced that the trust overpaid for the land.

“What dictates cost is the need for that land, and that land is vitally important to us,” she said. “That land had great value to us in our efforts to build a contiguous campus, to have a cohesive campus.”

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