A group fronted by Jay Dishman and Brian Navarro was scheduled to deliver a pitch to take over day-to-day operations of the Devine Golf Course at the Regular Devine City Council meeting on press night on Tuesday, February 15.
Dishman and Navarro first approached Council with the plan during a Special meeting held last Tuesday, Feb. 8, where Council also formally accepted SG Golf Management’s resignation letter and discussed what the City could afford to spend on the golf course.
SG Golf Management resignation
Council unanimously accepted SG Golf Management’s resignation letter, dated January 12, that requested a mutual termination as described in the contract between the two entities.
According to the letter, SG Golf Management’s last day operating the golf course will be Monday, Feb. 28 (see “SG Golf Management resigns from management of Devine Golf Course” in the Jan. 19 edition of The Devine News).
SG Golf Management submitted the resignation letter after Council voted not to approve contract amendments limiting the scope of the financial information the management company is required to turn in (see “Council votes down changes to SG Golf contract 3-2” in the Dec. 22, 2021 ed. of the News).
According to City Accountant/Treasurer Denise Duffy, it will cost the City approximately $20,000 a month to maintain the course itself, though that does not include keeping it open to play.
Mayor Cory Thompson said he had asked for the estimate for a variety of reasons.
“Most notably because we must keep the golf course obviously in good shape if we expect it to be worth anything as a golf course moving forwards,” Thompson said. “It took almost two years to get the golf course back into the shape that it is now, and we cannot simply let that go down the drain if we want to continue to see that it’s a golf course.”
According to Thompson, the estimated monthly cost is based off of figures from Fiscal Year 2018-2019, after the City took over the course from the bankrupt Devine Golf Association and before Council approved the contract turning daily operations over to SG Golf Management, run by Scott and Shirl Grego.
District 2 Councilwoman Angela Pichardo noted that $20,000 a month was less than the $32,536 the City has paid SG Golf Management every month since they took over day-to-day operations at the course. Thompson said that opening the course for play would bump operational costs to $62,500 a month.
Following an interlude that saw Pichardo tell the audience that disrupting a public meeting was a misdemeanor and Thompson’s response that he would ask Pichardo to leave if she continued to incite the crowd, District 4 Councilwoman Kathy Lawler asked where Thompson’s $62,500 figure came from.
“When we had the full year operational, it was something along the lines of $750,000,” Thompson said. “Divide that out over 12 months, it ends up being something like $62,000 a month.”
Duffy said the City’s General Fund cash has decreased over the last five years.
“As it stands, the General Fund is in a deficit,” Duffy said. “Sewer and water revenue this year is approximately $50,000. So where is the City going to get the money?”
Thompson added that if the City continues to run at a deficit its interest rate for loans and tax notes will go up.
“Yes, City Hall worked on a plan, there’s a plan here, but even this plan has to be very temporary,” Thompson said.
Lawler raised the possibility of finding volunteers to open the course to Devine ISD’s golf teams during the high school golf season. City Attorney Tom Cate said volunteers would have to sign a waiver indemnifying the City in case of an accident, and he suggested that the matter be put on the agenda of the Feb. 15 meeting.
A motion by District 5 Councilwoman Debbie Randall and District 3 Councilman David Espinosa to amend the budget for $25,000 a month passed unanimously with the support of District 1 Councilman Rufino “Flipper” Vega, Lawler, and Pichardo.
Following the vote, Randall called for a point of personal privilege and read aloud a prepared statement claiming that the City receives all paperwork required by its contract with SG Golf Management, that Council’s Dec. 2021 decision not to amend the contract and limit the scope of the required financial paperwork rendered it untrustworthy, and that “the entire city will suffer financially and morally.”
Randall also said that SG Golf Management offered to show their books “in private” and asked why that wasn’t done. “Is it simply because doing it in that format would not have allowed for the distribution of information so as to make a splashy headline, or cause an outcry on social media, or given someone a platform to run on?”
The text of Randall’s prepared statement is available on her social media page.
Navarro said the unnamed management group did not want funding from the City, but did ask that the clubhouse renovation, which is substantially complete but not turn-key, be finished.
“In return, we’re prepared to give back to the City a portion of all green fees, a portion of all memberships,” Navarro said. “This will be paid on a quarterly basis to the City for the duration of our contract.”
The City did not receive any of the revenue generated by the course in its contract with SG Golf Management.
Navarro also expressed interest in retaining course maintenance staff and having Charlie’s Daughter occupy the restaurant in the clubhouse.
While the name and additional members of the management group were not named, Navarro said it was a limited liability company and that those involved would be equal partners with different responsibilities.
“It would be the quickest way of getting the ball rolling, going this option,” Dishman said. “That’s our concern, is to not let the course sit idle, to continue what we have.”
Espinosa suggested forming a golf advisory board in order to better keep residents in the loop.
A Pichardo-Espinosa motion to have a presentation from the management group at the Feb. 15 meeting passed 5-0.
Jerry Stevens of Charlie’s Daughter requested that the Hole-in-One food truck be allowed to remain on its current location in the golf course parking lot.
Stevens said there was no rental fee with SG Golf Management but that there was a verbal agreement that Charlie’s Daughter purchase things that were shared with the clubhouse.
The food truck is hooked up to electricity and water, and Cate and Thompson asked if Charlie’s Daughter would be willing to continue paying the City what it had been paying SG Golf Management in order to stay at the course.
“There were certain items that we were paying for that was not a utility, as far as electric or water, but we were paying for things that both the food truck and the clubhouse bar area shared,” Stevens said, adding later that those payments varied from $700 to $1,200 depending on the circumstances.
After some Council discussion with Stevens, a Pichardo-Randall motion to remain at the course as long as its utility bills are paid passed 5-0.
After the meeting, Stevens provided an example of Charlie’s Daughter’s cost splitting with SG Golf Management, pointing out that there is no ice machine on location and that both the food truck and SG Golf Management’s bar had to purchased bagged ice offsite in order to operate.
Clubhouse punch list
Thompson said that Cate’s letter would notify Greco Construction that the punch list items must be taken care of within the one-year warranty period. Cate asked for the punch list. Details were not given at the meeting.
“We talked about asking them to actually do it in a reasonable and timely manner, because we’ve already asked for these items previously, at least some of them,” Thompson said, “and they haven’t actually been back out here.” (See “Council concerned about use of clubhouse while renovations still underway” from the Dec.22, 2021 ed. of the News).
A Randall-Vega motion to direct Cate to send the letter to Greco Construction passed 5-0.
Some of those in attendance addressed Council at different times throughout the meeting.
Billy Alvarado questioned the use of some of the taxpayer funds and missing funds received by SG Golf Management, and spoke in favor of selling the golf course.
Josh Ritchie also advocated for selling the course, and for the possibility of coming up with a lease-to-own agreement with a buyer.
Nicole Lafond said two high school golf tournaments were scheduled and wanted to know how the course could be opened to accommodate the DHS golf teams. Lawler suggested volunteers may be able to help out, laughs could be heard from the audience. Cate suggested waivers could be signed by volunteers and it could be placed on the next agenda.
Paige Williamson said that golfers should have a say in what happens with the course, and Jeff Wisenbaker, who was a member of the DGA Board when the Association went bankrupt, blamed the current situation on the City for not finishing the clubhouse renovation.
The archived live stream of this meeting can be viewed online anytime, as well as the Feb. 15 meeting, which are available at cityofdevine.org/live-council-meetings.
By Marly Davis