CALIFORNIA CITY -- A planned budget and Tierra De Sol was tabled at the July 14 California City council meeting, but approved money to spend on materials for rehabilitation of its clubhouse and restrooms.
The council, in a 3-1 vote, applied late water fees from a previous year to pay for the materials. A group of contractors will provide volunteer manpower for the renovations of the clubhouse, rest rooms and pro shop.
Councilmember Don Parris dissented and Councilmember Bill Smith was absent.
A number of contractors have agreed to provide volunteer labor, according to planning director Joe Barragan.
The city can continue to pay for normal maintenance on the golf course under a continuing resolution. Mayor Chuck McGuire said the Tierra De Sol budget will be part of the overall FY 22021 loss.
According to the TDS proposed budget, expenses would be nearly $400,000 less in FY 2021 than the previous fiscal year. According to June reports, it cost the city $1.07 million to operate the golf course, including $560,000 in water expenses alone.
The proposed budget would cut water expenses down to $197,000, if the city council adopts changes to water rate structures it charges. Operation and maintenance would also be reduced in half from $709,101 to a proposed $325,793.
Reopening Tierra De Sol would be led by James Robinson. Little detail was provided at the Tuesday meeting, but
Robinson brought forward what he called an “opportunity and vision for the city.”
“What I’m offering is to get the golf course reopened and structured in a way that will allow us to bring business back into the city,” Robinson said.
He added that Tierra De Sol is the only golf course “within 80 miles that is not open right now.” Robinson stressed while COVID-19 presents a challenge, he could “mimic any one of their ideas to bring safety and security to the public.”
He stressed any plan would require time to implement and bring the golf course up to par.
“The golf course is going to need some TLC,” he said, referring to Tierra De Sol’s deteriorated state, “but I think over time and with a budget that is appealing to the city, we can make something special out of the course.”
According to Barragan, part of the goal will lie in re-structuring the water rates associated with the golf course. Barragan told the council that the city plans to conduct a water rate study that will include an acre-foot-based rate based on cost-of-service.
He said he was confident the acre-foot rate would be “comparable to what it should be in terms of cost of service” and would help the golf course.
Barragan added he will show the council “how the golf course was incorrectly charged for water in the past” going back three years, and then let the council decide whether to reimburse the general fund for those charges.
Mayor Pro Tem Don Parris expressed reservations about water rate structure changes, especially as the golf course already had a number of large meters on it.
“I’m concerned the cost of service to pump water onto Tierra De Sol does not come back on residential rate people,” he said. He stressed the numbers need to be correct before anything can be done.
Parris also advocated the city would be better off selling the golf course than spending an average of $1 million a year, with years before it can be brought back up.
“If the council continues to pay a million dollars a year, it’s going to bankrupt us,” Parris said.
Parris added he had been told it would cost $12 million to bring Tierra De Sol up to professional standards.
“I feel we need to sell this thing and let someone else take care of it,” Parris said. “We’ve got an offer already on the table for it and it’s up to the council ... if we do sell it, we need to make sure the contract reads that it needs to be brought back to PGA standards.”
City Manager Anna Linn said local developers have offered to renovate the course’s bathrooms and restaurant on a volunteer basis and reimbursement for cost of materials.
Mayor Chuck McGuire said the city would have to “put a little bit of money into it to sell it.”
“It would be a good decision to where we can get the restaurant and clubhouse looking nice for people to come when they play golf,” McGuire said.
Councilmember Ron Smith agreed renovations would be good for at least the clubhouse and restaurant, adding a local contractor has offered assistance and has pull to get others involved. He could see spending some money on the materials
“What James is offering the city is a good storm,” Smith said. “As much as I would love seeing that money going into reserves going down the road, we are probably get the most bang for our buck by putting it into materials and getting that donated labor.”
He noted that both Parris and McGuire’s notion of selling it would provide the city with some income. However, he added, depending on the proposed water rate structure changes, “this gives us an option of a Plan A and a Plan B.”
“It could probably make so much money that James might say ‘Please, let me buy it,’” Smith said.
Nick Lessenevitch expressed disappointment about not seeing proposed water rate changes.
He also agreed the course will eventually need to be privatized but the current issue, he said, remains re-opening the golf course.
“Tierra De Sol needs to re-open, we have to make it acceptable to have people come through there,” Lessenevitch said. “It is an important part of our community.”
Lessenevitch was hesitant to approve the TDS operation budget independent of the city’s overall FY 2021 budget. He said the council could justify approving money for materials on the renovation of restrooms and the clubhouse.
The money expended on overhauling the restaurant area made no sense, he added. While city staff have said there are parties interested in operating the restaurant, no contract has been formally approved.
“If (interested parties) say they want to do it (operate the restaurant), then we have the money to spend, it comes back to us,” Lessenevitch said.
Linn, the city manager, said the club house would likely be one plan, the restaurant another.
“We wouldn’t build out the restaurant until we had a specific person telling us how to build that, but it would be an overhaul,” Linn said.
Smith suggested approving some money for operations “to get them going.” Lessenevitch noted the continuing resolution the council approved at the end of June allows the city to spend up to 1/12th of the previous year’s fiscal budget to keep operations going.