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CITY RE-CONSIDERS GOLF

 

December 14, 2018

Tuesday's ACC Golf Course Workshop was crowded with golfers lobbying to renew lease - PHOTO- TALON

By Jacque Ritchie, TALON

On Tuesday before a large contingent of concerned citizens, Aztec City Commission weighed the pros and cons of renewing the lease on the golf course property. Located at 29 Rd. 3025, Aztec Golf Course also known as Hidden Valley Golf Course was originally opened in 1961 with nine-holes. The course expanded in the 1990's into an 18-hole course with a par of 72. In a fiscally controversial move the city took over the course in 2015 to avoid losing the resource. Since then citizens have been split on the viablility of keeping the course open with some saying it is an unsustainable millstone around our collective necks while others argue that it is a quality of life expense like the parks and the library and was never meant to be a money-making entity.

The Aztec Municipal Golf Course lease between HVCC (a limited liability company) and the City of Aztec commenced on May 1, 2017 and expires February 28, 2019. Year one of the lease the city paid $10,000. Year two of the lease the city paid $15,000. Year three the city paid $20,000. If renewed the city will pay $25,000 annually with no increase for the two year life of the lease.

The city also has a contract with Yamaha Motor Corporation for 40 golf-carts for a total purchase price of $188,002.32 to be completed in April 2020.

The current operating agreement for golf course management between the City of Aztec and (contractor) Randy Hodges, owner of Rubio's and Ruby's in the Valley, commenced on December 20, 2016 and is due to expire December 31, 2019. Under the terms of the agreement Hodges is responsible for the reciepts and the accounting of all revenues for the course and associated costs. The contractor will pay 20 percent of golf-cart rental fees to the city. The city will pay the $1,300 annual liquor license lease fee so the contractor can use the city owned license, the contractor will reimburse the actual cost to the city. The contractor operates the bar and grill located at the course. The contractor is not an agent or employee of the city and is responsible for paying wages and benefits to all staff and employees he hires.

"This is more complicated than I thought," offered Commissioner Rosalyn Fry at Tuesday's meeting. "Where we are now is, the contracts are coming up for renewal and we need to decide whether we are going to opt out, that is what it is up for discussion," said City Manager Steve Mueller. "The golf course is a huge asset to the community and I will fight for it," Randy Hodges argued saying 11,000 people annually use the facility. Hodges explained that the golf course is, "not only about golf," saying the non-profit group Aztec Trails and Open Spaces (ATOS) recently purchased 18 chain metal baskets for placement as a frisbee golf course at the facility, yoga classes are offered in the summer, along with kids soccer practise, wedding receptions and more. "The rates are the most reasonable in the area, we try to stay competitve...we fill a void, some people do not want to have to go in to play Pinon Hills...we bring in people from Pagosa Springs, Chaco , Chama...all over the place." Currently there are 25-30 AHS students on the school's golf team including Izzy Peralta who recently recieved a scholarship to play golf for Western New Mexico University in Silver City. Peralta credited her parents, coaches and having the golf course in such close proximity to her home as the reason she can attend college. Madison Current is an AHS student who is hoping for a scholarship in the future. Addressing the commission Current said, "I was always nervous about getting a scholarship, these golf scholarships present that opportunity I may not have had." AHS english teacher Patrick Swope coaches "First Tee" which is a nationally recognized youth golf program that not only teaches the game but valuable life-skills essential to early child-hood development. If that weren't enough special needs chilren use the facility to practise for Special Olympic events. "We've got to find a way to keep it open," said Hodges admitting that the economy and the drought have dealt undeniable blows to business, "The drought hurt us but we are coming back..." For Hodges running the golf course is about serving the community, "It's never been about the money for me...we have been operating off what we bring in."

"No quality-of-life issue is cheap," said Commissioner Sherri Sipe. "If it goes away, I worry we won't ever get it back," Sipes said putting herself squarely in the pro golf course camp.

Mayor Victor Snover has serious reservations about renewing the contracts in their current form, "The way the agreement was done leaves a lot to be desired." Snover argued the agreement originally offered the possiblilty that the land would be ultimately annexed and become city property, "My understanding is, the agreement going in was annexation was the end game. That was the best case pie-in-the-sky scenario but that is not the reality...When I first ran for City Commission people were always comming up to me saying, 'you gonna get us out of that blankety-blank golf course or what?'" Along with listing environmental and water availability problems, Snover explained his concerns about the "long-term sustainability" of the city's continued stewardship, saying the city has a list fiscal priorites including the East Main Arterial and revamping the reservior system saying, "We must be pragmatic about costs."

The commission did not reach a final decision on Tuesday, local lawmakers welcome community input on the issue. To inspect the Golf Course Summary Discussion and related documents go to aztecnm.gov click on agendas.

 

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