The Devine Golf Course remained a hot topic of conversation during the Regular City Council meeting held last Tuesday, April 20, despite the only agenda item about it being tabled until next month’s meeting.
SG Golf Management’s request to purchase the golf course from the City of Devine was tabled until the May 18 meeting at the behest of SG Golf Management’s Scott Grego, who said he was waiting on financial information from his CPA and attorney.
Several residents shared their thoughts about the golf course both during the visitors/citizens forum portion of the meeting and during the agenda item discussion.
JC Zamora said he twice requested a financial report from the City on SG Golf Management, which the organization is required to provide as part of its contract with the City, and had only received copies of bills and deposits.
“That is not a financial statement,” Zamora said. “So I’m curious, if that is what the City Council is getting, how is the golf course operating? Do you guys even know how the golf course operates? Is it making money? Is it losing money? Is it just surviving on the $30k that you guys pay them a month?”
As per the terms of their contract, the City is paying SG Golf Management $32,536 a month until the ongoing clubhouse renovation project is complete. SG Golf Management has received $520,576 from the City since taking over the day-to-day operations at the golf course in January 2020, a number that does not include the cost of the clubhouse renovation or Devine Golf Association debts the City paid off when it took control of the course in 2018.
“It’s been like an open checkbook for the golf course,” Zamora said, adding that District 5 has benefitted. “But what about all the other districts? They’ve been neglected for the last year, year-and-a-half, while we pump maybe $3 million into the golf course. How is one thing so important to the City when we have so many issues and a lack of facilities.”
Zamora addressed Council last year as Devine Little League president and asked for help with the field.
“All I got was criticism saying there’s no money, there’s no land,” Zamora said, “to shortly find out we bought land out by Triple C. And there’s no money, but yet we increase the budget for the golf course restaurant.
“So how come there’s money there, but not for anywhere else?”
The City recently completed the purchase of approximately 28 acres of property next to QuikTrip on Hwy. 173, and Council voted to expand the scope of the clubhouse restaurant to include a full-service kitchen, though it rejected $55,594 in change orders.
Billy Alvarado said that he hadn’t seen the City purchase any equipment to help with street upkeep, and pointed out that the water pipe replacement project is currently at a standstill.
“It just amazes me that [the golf course] continues to be something that the City wants to put money into when there’s other things going on,” Alvarado said.
Alvarado also expressed concern about the golf course property getting developed if the City decides to sell it.
“I really hope that you consider, if y’all decide to do something like that, if this man decides to walk away and sell your City property, how many houses are going to be put up in there?” Alvarado asked. “How much money is going to be made off of that? And he walks away with half a million dollars of y’all’s money.”
Alvarado added that he hoped Council would take stock of the money put into the golf course and reconsider their position.
“You’ve got other districts besides District 5 that need to be addressed,” Alvarado said. “Other streets need to be addressed, other parts of the city that needs equipment. Something to bring this city back up to where it needs to be at.”
Agenda item discussion
Alvardo questioned whether it would be legal for the City to sell the course.
The City was granted the property that houses the course’s first nine holes in 1967.
“But if by chance the City Council decides to go forward and allow him to do that, if it’s legal for him to do it, will that put a stop to all the money that the City is being disbursed into this golf course?” Alvardo asked. “Or is he going to be accountable for monies that are in the process of being spent on this to be reimbursed to the City?”
District 3 Councilman David Espinosa said he was on board with tabling the matter due to the City’s ongoing water line, clubhouse, and street projects, and because new City Administrator John Vidaurri and at least one new Council member are coming on board in May.
Espinosa made a motion to table to matter until October, giving Vidaurri and City Attorney Tom Cate time to research the legal issues surrounding the possible sale of the course.
“I don’t want to table it for six months, Cory,” Grego said told Mayor Cory Thompson.
Resident Josh Ritchey was in favor of selling the course to a private entity.
“However, let’s ensure we’re getting an equitable payment for that if it’s legal,” Ritchey said. “That is my only concern here, is that we’re getting appropriate payment and reimbursement for the amount of money we’re throwing into it.”
Zamora agreed that selling the course would be the best thing for the community.
“Number one, getting that money back into the hands of the City to be utilized for the rest of the city, and two, it would put it on our tax rolls and actually bring back something to the City on an annual basis versus being City-owned and not taxed,” Zamora said.
Kevin Stephens, a candidate for the District 5 Council seat, said there were legal technicalities involved and said there could be some good and bad aspects about a privately-owned course.
“I would think that we would have to get somebody from outside the community to appraise it,” Stephens said. “This is a valuable asset to the City and we’ve got to look at that. We’ve got to make it viable for the City of Devine because that funds are going to have to be used somewhere. We need to fix some other districts, my folks.”
Stephens also voiced concerns about making sure SG Golf Management files quarterly employer reports and an annual report due 60 calendar days after the close of a calendar year, as is stipulated by the contract with the City.
Angela Pichardo, a candidate for the District 2 seat, pointed out that SG Golf Management keeps all of the revenue generated by the course and agreed that any possible sale needed to be equitable for the City.
Espinosa’s motion to table discussion of a sale until October failed for lack of a second.
After confirming with Grego that he wanted the item back on the agenda in May, District 5 Councilwoman Debra Randall made a motion to table it until then. That motion received a second from District 4 Councilwoman Kathy Lawler and passed 4-1 over Espinosa’s objection with support from District 1 Councilman Rufino “Flipper” Vega and District 2 Councilman Steve Lopez.
By Marly Davis