City of Devine takes over golf course operation on six-month lease

The City of Devine looks to keep the golf course operating for at least the next six months after the Devine City Council voted last Tuesday, July 31 to enter into an agreement with the Devine Golf Association (DGA) to lease its property.
The City will assume day-to-day operation of the 18-hole course as it works to acquire all of the DGA’s assets, as that organization dissolves due to financial insolvency.
The golf course closed last Friday, August 3 and will stay closed through at least the remainder of the week as City administration continues to investigate the state of the DGA’s assets, finances, and debt.
Mayor Bill Herring said that the DGA has been losing money to the tune of $5,000 a month.
“But that doesn’t count bills that haven’t been paid,” Herring added.
Herring said that a representative from the United States Golf Association surveyed the course last Friday and will provide the City with an assessment of it, including what needs to be repaired or upgraded, how the course should be staffed, and an estimated cost.
Public Works Superintendent Rob Flores will oversee daily maintenance of the course. The salaries of any employees retained or newly hired will be paid for by the City, as will the benefits for those who are full time.
Both the cost to the City to maintain and operate the course, as well as how much, if any, of the DGA’s outstanding debt the City takes on remains to be seen.
“We’re trying to figure all this out,” Herring said. “It’s going to take a while.”
Herring said that the City is open to any and all options regarding the course’s long-term future, including turning over operations to an outside management group or an outright sale to an investor or investment group.
“We will listen to any group that comes forward,” Herring said. “Everything’s open on the table.”
Around a hundred residents of Devine and the surrounding area attended the July 31 Public Hearing about the course’s future, with over 20 choosing to address Council on the issue. Of those who spoke, nearly all wanted Council to vote to have the City take over the course.
“Our town is growing, and one of the things that helps a city to grow is recreation areas,” Larry Stacy said. “If we give up and [the golf course] becomes cow pastures or a concrete slab, it’s gone for good.”
District 2 Councilman Steven Lopez and District 3 Councilman David Espinosa initially put forward a motion for the City to take over and run the golf course on its own for two years.
Ernie Morales was one of several people in the audience who expressed concern about the financial flexibility of that proposal.
“I don’t think the City has the funds to get the course back to where it needs to be,” Morales said. “If this motion passes, it’s taking away the possibility for outside capital.”
His sentiment was echoed by resident Collie Sliva.
“Does the City have a million dollars to put into the course right now?” Sliva asked. “If not, it’s like putting a band-aid on a cut throat.”
After half an hour of Executive Session, Council returned to Open Session and Espinosa withdrew his second of Lopez’s motion, rendering it dead. A motion by District 5 Councilman Cory Thompson for the City to lease the DGA’s half of the course, operate it, and acquire the DGA’s assets received a second by Lopez and passed 4-0, with Espinosa and District 4 Councilwoman Jennifer Schott voting for the motion.
District 1 Councilman David Valdez was absent due to a family emergency.
The lone speaker at the Public Hearing who was not in favor of the City acquiring the DGA’s property in order to keep an 18-hole course operating was District 3 Parks Board representative Mary Allison, who pointed out that the DGA was down to just 50 active members in a town of over 4,000 people.
“The community’s got to support this golf course,” Herring said. “And if it doesn’t, it’s not going to work out no matter who owns it.”
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer