13 Investigations: Colorado Springs golf courses receive millions from federal COVID recovery fund
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) – Federal money intended to help communities across the country recover from the pandemic is being used by elected leaders in Colorado Springs to benefit the ultimate recreational sport – golf.
The City of Colorado Springs plans to spend millions of federal dollars earmarked for COVID-19 recovery at the city’s two public golf courses, Patty Jewett Golf Course and Valley Hi Golf Course.
Some elected officials say 13 Investigations This is a responsible financial decision for the city, but others feel that these funds should be directed to more applicable needs.
In March 2021, the United States Congress passed the $1.9 trillion American Bailout Act (ARPA). In the bill is a $350 billion fund called the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. The fund is intended to provide billions directly to local governments across the country to “support their response to and recovery from the COVID-19 public health emergency.”
- The City of Colorado Springs Received $76 Million
- The city of Pueblo took in about $36 million
- El Paso County almost got $140 million
In September 2021, the Colorado Springs City Council approved the city’s plan for how to spend its $76 million. The plan included two controversial payments that sparked a dais on the council dais: $3.8 million for the Patty Jewett Golf Course and $2.8 million for the Valley Hi Golf Course.
The City of Colorado Springs intends to purchase new irrigation systems to support water conservation efforts at the two city-owned golf courses. Currently, the city spends an average of approximately $700,000 on water at the two golf courses each year according to the golf course manager.
“The irrigation systems at both golf courses are approximately 37 years old,” said Patrick Gentile. 13 Investigations.
Gentile manages the development of the 45 holes of the two city-owned golf courses. He says the old infrastructure is hard to miss when golfers approach the tee.
“There are playability issues at times,” Gentile said. “It’s an aesthetic problem, but we’re not using our water properly.”
Gentile, the golf division manager for both courses, explains that a new irrigation system is not just a new sprinkler system. He says a new irrigation system brings a modernized approach to utilizing grassy space and being more efficient with water.
“Unlike your home system where you open a valve and six heads appear along your garden. With these new systems, you’re allowed to turn on one head, let that area water a bit, and then shut it off,” Gentile mentioned.
The city of Colorado is also spending $10 million from ARPA to help businesses recover from the pandemic, $5 million for a new dispatch system for the Colorado Springs Police Department, $250,000 for support vaccines and many other projects.
However, the use of $6.6 million from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund for golf courses has one elected official wondering.
“So we irrigate better, okay. There are better ways to spend money than the sprinkler system,” said Colorado Springs councilman Bill Murray.
Murray, along with his fellow Colorado Springs council members, approved the city’s plan to spend ARPA funds last year. Still, Murray believes the money should be spent on more pressing issues.
“911,” Murray said when asked which projects he would prefer to receive federal funding.
“There are always police requirements, new police cars, that sort of thing. Also, the ARPA funds were supposed to help us with the COVID-related issues,” Murray said.
Criteria for the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds state that the funds can be used to “respond to large-scale public health and adverse economic impacts of the pandemic, supporting the health of communities and helping households, small businesses, affected industries, non-profit organizations and the public sector are recovering from the economic impacts.”
However, the US Treasury Department’s criteria also stipulate that local governments use federal funds to invest in water.
In a statement to 13 InvestigationsCity Chief Financial Officer Charae McDaniel said the new irrigation systems will save the city’s water and help advance water conservation goals.
“A portion of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds received by the City of Colorado Springs has been allocated for water quality and conservation, which includes infrastructure projects to replace water systems. aging, inadequate, and outdated city-run irrigation systems Water conservation is an eligible expense under the guidelines of this federal funding, and the Patty Jewett and Valley Hi municipal golf course irrigation systems are among the projects selected for funding in this area.These systems are over 30 years old and the technology is outdated, inefficient and not using modern technology and water saving techniques.The implementation of modernized irrigation will enable to save water, help protect our community’s water resources, and advance state and regional water conservation goals.
When the City was determining how to allocate its ARPA funding, we looked at eligible items that were not only not being funded, but were also having difficulty finding another source of eligible funding. Golf courses have been trying to finance new irrigation systems for several years, but due to the corporate structure of the City, it is very difficult for them to make large capital investments, even for something this large. than water conservation. Water conservation is a City priority, and we are working diligently to update irrigation systems on City properties. Achieving water savings on golf courses benefits the larger picture of water conservation across the city. »
Charae McDaniel Colorado Springs Chief Financial Officer
“I think it’s a good decision,” said Colorado Springs board member Yolanda Avila. 13 Investigations. Avila lives minutes from Valley Hi Golf Course. Unlike fellow council member Murray, she believes the irrigation systems at the two city-owned golf courses are the ideal use of federal funds.
“It’s a one-time expense and we wouldn’t be able to fund the project through our general fund,” Avila said. “With the virus in full effect, golf courses have contributed to community health and well-being.”
Gentile says golf has become increasingly popular during the COVID-19 pandemic across the country. Much of the impact of COVID-19 has been beneficial to golf courses, but not all has been positive.
“Golf is a great socially distanced sport. We did a lot of other things to improve it. We’ve seen an influx of new golfers, and that adds a lot to the irrigation as well,” Gentile said. “The more traffic you put in it, the more damage you have. He begins to be trampled and he begins to be beaten. It’s harder to recover and you have to spend more resources to put it back.
The city of Colorado Springs still needs to hire an architect before it can begin construction. They hope to start the process by the end of the year.
As a result of our investigation into the $6.6 million purchase of new irrigation systems at the two city-owned golf courses, 13 Investigations took a closer look at all the data on how our local governments in El Paso County and Pueblo County spend federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.
The Pueblo County Board of Commissioners has received over $32 million from ARPA. After receiving about $16 million in their first allocation, Pueblo County commissioners elected to spend more than three-quarters of federal funds on water infrastructure throughout the county. More than $12 million goes to water districts in rural communities like Beulah, Avondale and Colorado City. A county spokesperson said each water district has its own control over how the money will be spent, but the funds are earmarked for water infrastructure projects such as water towers and factories. water treatment.
El Paso County
Meanwhile, the El Paso County Board of Commissioners is expected to spend another $10 million on the road projects of their nearly $140 million. The county has already budgeted $14 million for road repairs for 2022 in addition to ARPA’s $10 million totaling $24 million for road repairs this year. El Paso County has also identified 7 stormwater repair projects totaling $10 million, and they have also set aside an additional $5 million for a future stormwater management project in the county.
Town of Pueblo
As for the City of Pueblo, so far 28 projects have been approved for federal funding by Pueblo City Council members after reviewing a total of 207 submissions from the public. The largest allocation of federal funds, about $2.8 million, went to the “individuals and households” category.
Posada received $395,000 to meet its affordable housing and accommodation needs; $250,000 has been allocated to Care and share to meet the growing demand to fight hunger during the COVID-19 pandemic; even Colorado Legal Services received just over $280,000 to provide legal services to approximately 200 people at risk of eviction each year.