By Anton Riecher
By a 3-2 vote, the Devine City Council rejected a motion to release the management group previously in charge of the city golf course from responsibility for an outstanding balance of $36,000 due for lawn chemicals.
The council chose to wait until the matter could be reviewed by the city attorney rather than pass an immediate motion absolving SG Golf Management of any responsibility as requested by the owners.
“I want due diligence first,” said District 4 Council Member Josh Ritchey who voted against the measure.
The motion by District 5 Council Member Debbie Randall, seconded by District 1 Council Member Rufino Vega, was voted down by Ritchey, District 2 Council Member Michael Hernandez and District 3 Council Member Stacy Pyron at the Aug. 22 council meeting.
An offer by a property owner neighboring the golf course to discuss an alleged illegal water tie-in to the golf course system was turned down by Mayor Butch Cook.
“It’s not on the agenda for this meeting,” he said.
At the previous council meeting Aug. 15 information was brought forward by the Devine Golf Group, current management at the city-owned golf course, that a chemical supplier had blocked any further deliveries due to the $36,000 unpaid bill.
“The issue is that someone still owes for it,” DGG agent Jay Dishman told the council again on Aug. 22.
DGG took over day-to-day operation in March 2022 after the council unanimously approved a 10-year lease contract. The city receives $1 a year lease payment, plus $1 per paid green fee and $2 per membership every quarter for the first five years.
SG Golf Management held the contract from December 2019 to February 2022 (recieving $32,500 from the City of Devine per month for golf course expenses). In 2022, the SG asked to terminate its agreement after the council, in a split decision, rejected their proposed contract amendments that would have limited the scope of financial reporting required from the company.
Scott Grego, co-owner of SG Management Group, former administrator at the course, argued that DGG should be responsible for at least $30,000 of the outstanding balance based on its contract with the city.
“It was asked that the city do their own inventory on the equipment, fertilizer, golf carts and everything else left behind,” Grego said. “Was that inventory ever done?”
That inventory should have shown that the chemical and fertilizer in question from Harrell Chemicals is stored in three golf carts sheds behind the 18th green, Grego said. The supplies were ordered in October 2021 in what is called an “early order program.”
“Chemical companies allow you to order in October, then give you terms through June interest-free so you can pre-load everything you have,” Grego said. “We have done that for the previous two years and we did it this time as well.”
SG Golf Management brought the chemicals to the attention of the council, asking to return them to Harrell, Grego said. The company was instructed to keep the chemicals because they would be needed regardless of who was managing the course.
“During COVID stuff was hard to get,” Grego said. “So we were instructed to leave it behind for the city and the new management company.”
Interim City Administrator Dora Rodriguez said that city staff has been unable to locate the inventory done when SG Golf Management left. Ritchey said he agreed with Grego that an adequate inventory of the product on hand was not done.
Grego said he had been in touch with Harrell Chemicals about the unpaid balance.
“There is probably a couple of thousand dollars in finance fees involved,” he said. “They said if they did receive partial or any payment in the next 30 days they would wave all finance fees.”
Dishman confirmed that the chemicals were stored where Grego said.
“We’re not using it,” he said. “Every time you get a different grass guy he’s got a different way of growing grass. And so the next guy we brought in didn’t want to use any of that stuff. He wanted different stuff.”
DGG was probably liable for $3,000 of the chemical used during the approximate month between the end of the SG Golf Management lease and the beginning of the DGG lease, Dishman said.
“We just know what our part of what has been ordered has not been through Harrell because they will not sell to us,” he said.
With regard to the water tie-in, Cook told property owner David Grego that the matter could be taken up at the next council meeting. At the Aug. 15 meeting, Cook requested an investigation by the Medina County Sheriff’s Department into water drawn for private use from the golf course water system by means of the recently discovered water line tie-in.
“I think this needs to be turned over to the sheriff and have an outside investigation,” Cook said. “Whatever the sheriff determines is how we will proceed.”
Brian Navarro, golf course superintendent with the Devine Golf Group, revealed the existence of the tie-in during a status report on the golf course during the Aug. 19 council session.
“We have just actually had a call with David Grego who neighbors the number five hole to ask if he was tied into our water system,” Navarro said. “He said yes and had been expecting a call.”
The tie-in was discovered after District 4 Council Member Josh Ritchey recently requested the golf group investigate rumors that property nearby was benefitting from water used to sprinkle the course.