Devine mayor requests sheriff investigation into private water tie-in at golf course

By Anton Riecher

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 an Aug. 19 session of the Devine City Council.

By Anton Riecher
Mayor Butch Cook requested an investigation by the Medina County Sheriff’s Department of water drawn for private use from the city-owned Devine golf course water system by means of a 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.”

Ron Richards and Brian Navarro with the Devine Golf Group address the Devine City Council during its Aug. 19 meeting. (Photo by Anton Riecher)

“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.
Navarro said the golf group took immediate action to shut off the tie-in.
“At that point I got together with Ron (Richards) and went out there,” Navarro said. “We came back off the property line, cut it, capped it and shut that valve off. We did notify (Grego) that he would no longer be using water from the golf course.”
Navarro and Richards told the council that the tie-in predates the golf group taking charge of the course in early 2022. Devine Golf Group took over management of the course from SG Golf Management owned by Scott and Shirl Grego.
Navarro said golf course employees “knew exactly where (the tie-in) was because they were the ones that dug the hole, ran the pipe and tied everything in back when SG was managing the course,”
Richards told the council that from the discussion with Ritchey during a previous council session it was assumed that the water leaving the course was by means of a misdirected sprinkler head hitting nearby private property.
“When I talked to (Grego) he said he had just got off the phone with (Precinct 5 Council Member) Debbie Randall and to had been told to expect my call,” Navarro said.
Randall denied talking to Grego at first.
“I didn’t tell him a word,” Randall said.
The information led to a heated exchange between Ritchey and Randall in which Randall admitted she had spoken to Grego but only about the possibility of a misdirected sprinkler, not about a direct tie-in to the golf course water system.
“I thought we were talking about property being watered by a sprinkler,” Randall said. “I didn’t know it was a tie-in.”
Cook said the tie-in was especially egregious in view of current drought conditions.
“Here we are under stage 4 water restrictions,” he said. “We have trouble watering the course and then somebody who already has a well it appears has tapped into the (golf course) water.”
Cook said the case would be referred to county authorities since the portion of the golf course involved lies outside the city limits.
The tie-in issue became linked to a budget request from the golf group for $40,000 to purchase a new pump to serve the area of the course where the tie-in was found. Plans call for the existed pump to be refurbished to serve as a backup in the future.
Navarro said the golf group has been having issues with the existing pump shutting off unexpectedly at night.
“That’s why it was shutting off,” Navarro said. “We had too many (sprinkler) heads going to one pump. When (Grego) watered and we had the water on, the pump would shut off. Now that (he) has been cut and capped the pump is running better.”
Richards said if the well the pump draws from is lost “you’re going to lose the whole backside of the golf course because of this type of heat and the fact that we’re watering two to three times a day.”
In an unrelated matter, Richards informed the council that at least one golf course supplier –Harrell Chemicals – refuses to make future deliveries to Devine owing to an outstanding bill of $28,000 linked to the golf course’s address predating the new golf group takeover.
“Harrell, the chemical company, is saying they delivered the chemical,” Navarro said. “I think it was on consignment to be paid for as it was used.”
A portion of the chemical totaling $13,000 was delivered during the approximate month between SG Golf Management leaving the course and Devine Golf Group taking over, Navarro said. The shipment involved products used to prepare the course for spring.
“That was put down before we took over,” Navarro said.
The chemical company is not specifically holding the golf group responsible for the outstanding balance, Richards said. But because the golf group operates from the same address, the company is refusing to ship anything until the matter is resolved.
“Harrell has a lot of what we need,” Richards said. “They just won’t deliver to us.”
Richards also asked for an investigation into whether the city is still is paying for tractor equipment leased to maintain the course when SG Golf Management was in charge.
“Right after we took over we bought that lease,” Richards said. “So we own that equipment lock, stock and barrel.”
Regarding the air conditioning situation at the golf course clubhouse, Richards said the golf group has received a quote of $800 to install an exhaust fan in the ceiling of the room housing several ice machines that have had problems operating in excessive heat.
Cook spoke in support of the city taking responsibility for maintaining its property – “the things it owns, to protect its investment.”
“It has always been my position that we do need to support (the golf group),” Cook said. “The last few years it has been a controversial issue here, and the city has put out a ton of money because it decided this community needs that golf course.”
Richards said that to-date the golf group has put $156,400 of its own money into the facility.
Ritchey told Navarro and Richards that he appreciated all the work done by the golf group.
“This is the definition of serious community service, the investment you’re taking from your own pocket to put into it.”
Richards also listed a number of promotional events held by the golf group including National Night Out, golf tournaments for local children, Easter egg hunts, Fourth of July celebrations, and participation in the Coach Sanchez scholarship program.
“We are trying to do our part in making sure this is a family oriented place, and its worth coming to,” Richards said.