Sentiment on the Devine City Council leaned toward partnering with an outside entity to run the Municipal Golf Course during discussion held at the Special meeting last Tuesday, September 3.
A Special meeting to discuss and consider a proposal by an independent third party to manage the golf course is scheduled for this Thursday, Sept. 12 at 6:00 pm.
Mayor Cory Thompson asked each representative to come to the Sept. 3 meeting with ideas about how to handle the golf course, which has cost approximately $1.3 million since the City took over operations from a bankrupt Devine Golf Association in July 2018.
The course’s projected day-to-day budget for fiscal year 2019-2020 is $638,563, a figure that District 4 Councilwoman Jennifer Schott has said she will not vote to approve.
“Obviously we have to deal with it, but how far apart are we from actually coming to an agreement on something?” Thompson asked.
District 2 Councilman Steve Lopez’s suggestions included giving the course another six to eight months to try and improve the greens, and scaling down the maintenance crew.
There are currently four grounds workers at the course, as well as Course Superintendent Ruben Chapa.
Lopez also suggested investing in advertising the course, and said he had recently spoken to people in San Antonio who receive text messages about tee times.
Chapa said tournaments are advertised on Texas Golf Insider’s radio show on Thursdays, and that regular tee times are through EZLinks, the course’s point-of-sale software.
“Every so often it’ll pop up on my phone too as an advertisement,” Thompson said.
District 3 Councilman David Espinosa said he wanted to keep the course and see it succeed, but that it was obvious the City wasn’t familiar with running that type of business and needed an outside source to help manage it.
“But I would really like to see it succeed, which is why I’m kind of leaning toward bringing in an outside source and at least give them the opportunity to talk to us and to see just what they have to offer,” Espinosa said.
Thompson asked if Espinosa wanted the course to remain a municipal course that was run by an outside entity, or an outside entity taking over entirely.
“Once again, I am not familiar with this territory,” Espinosa said. “If we can go with an outside source and have them offer what they’ve got to offer, and then we can digest that and see if it’s worth pursuing or not.”
Thompson said he had a call in to Foresight Golf, a golf course management and marketing firm, about Devine’s course.
“I do want to see it succeed, but we have to watch our budget,” Espinosa said. “It’s very critical. The last thing we want to do is be in the hole.”
Interim City Administrator Dora Rodriguez asked City Attorney Tom Cate what the steps would be should Council decide to go in the direction of outside management.
“We’ll have to look at the management companies and see what they’ve done in the past, do our due diligence, make sure we’re going to get somebody in here, if that’s what we really want to do to keep the golf course going,” Cate said.
Cate added that he wasn’t sure if the City would have to go out for proposals since outside management would fall under professional services.
“You may want to just go out for Request for Proposals anyways, just to see what’s out there,” Cate said.
Schott said that her first choice was to outsource the course, but in the course of researching management companies had gathered that they would want the course to be completely up to par.
“And for me, I’m already sitting very uneasy with the money that we have spent,” Schott said, adding that the City would have to pay for the management services.
“There was a gentleman here [at the August 27 Special meeting] that I have been speaking to that did mention that there might be a possibility, so I have been in touch with him,” Schott said. “And that’s a work in progress, right? But I would like to exhaust all options before we go. If there was a way for us not to continue to spend all this money, I would like to try that first.”
Schott said that she had spoken with Jerry Busby, the Supervisor of Hondo’s 9-hole municipal golf course, about their budget and situation.
“Honestly, looking at the numbers, you could maybe squeeze $200,000 less out of there, $150,000, but that’s still not going to get us where we need to be, which is basically not a deficit of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Schott said.
Hondo budgeted $305,719 for their golf course in fiscal year 2018-2019, and brought in around $80,000 in revenue.
“Now, [Busby] did say they have a well thought out plan of action, which we don’t have,” Schott said. “But their five-year plan, he said their Council is okay running the golf course at a deficit of around $75,000, but they’re not there. I mean, they’re years off from that.”
Schott said that Devine is not Hondo, and that Hondo has more money to spend on amenities.
“We don’t have the economic growth that they have and the tax revenue that comes in at the end of the year,” Schott said.
She also looked into Uvalde’s 18-hole municipal course.
“Their budget was $688,236, and their revenue was $367,576,” Schott said. “And that doesn’t make me feel comfortable.”
Thompson said he didn’t think Council was as far apart on a solution for the golf course as he had initially believed.
“Let’s all put our heads together and just try to resolve this in a positive direction,” Espinosa said.
The next Regular Council meeting is set for next Tuesday, Sept. 17.
By Marly Davis