City responds to concerns about golf course

Eric Chavez, professional golfer at Nancy Lopez Golf Course in Spring River, talks about plans to bring youth and tournaments to the course during a meeting Monday night at the Roswell Recreation and Aquatic Center. (Photo by Juno Ogle)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

More than once during a Monday night meeting about the future of the municipal golf course, City Manager Joe Neeb, city councilors and city staff asked golfers for one thing: patience.

The city needs to “fix its house first,” before changing fees and working to expand services, Neeb said.

The other message Neeb delivered was that with the city taking over management of the Nancy Lopez Golf Course in Spring River on Jan. 1, there will be no fee changes this season.

Neeb and city staff also heard many questions and concerns from the more than 50 golfers who attended the meeting at the Roswell Recreation and Aquatic Center. They addressed most, if not all, of these concerns during the nearly two-hour meeting.

The city had contracted Carlton Blewett for 12 years as a golf professional for the pro shop, with the city maintaining the course. Last year, options to extend that contract were exhausted and the city decided to outsource the management of the golf course entirely in-house, Neeb said.

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The city still has a monthly agreement with Blewett to provide golf carts, as it currently takes about nine months to get new ones, Neeb said.

After the city took over the course, Neeb said, staff discovered there were policies and procedures they were unaware of and incomplete records. Memberships, using punch cards, storing equipment, and using personal carts are just a few examples he gave.

He said the city would honor payment for those services through July.

“I hope you have a bill. If you don’t, we’re still going to take care of you one way or another, because our goal is to set this up as it is, with no changes to current operations or fees for this season,” he said. .

The return of golf club storage was a concern for many meeting participants.

Several people in the audience said they were told the storage was a liability for the city due to possible theft. A man said he would be willing to sign a waiver acknowledging that the city is not responsible for lost or stolen items to store his clubs on the course.

Neeb said the storage would be returned, but the city needs to sort out the equipment in there.

“The challenge is that we have a lot of equipment there and we don’t even know who it belonged to in the first place,” he said.

“There was no clear list of who had their clubs there,” said Jim Burress, director of special services. “There are a hundred slot machines, but the books don’t show it. We have clubs locked down with numbers on them,” he said.

Burress said it would take about a month before that storage area reopens. It is being cleaned and repaired, he said, including a new heating and cooling system, roof repairs and painting.

The city has hired new employees for the golf course. Eric Chavez is the pro and was most recently a contract golf pro for Carlsbad Lake Carlsbad Golf Course. Lenny Miller is the pro shop supervisor and “coach” Charlie Ward is also on staff.

Chavez said that with the exception of a position in the pro shop, the golf course is fully staffed and training is ongoing. Neeb said seasonal summer help would also be hired.

Among the duties of summer employees will be driving a food and beverage cart. The modified golf cart was purchased for $18,000, with city council in January approving a current year budget adjustment of $20,000 for the purchase. The trolley was delivered on January 20.

City of Roswell Special Services Manager Jim Burress looks at the new beverage cart that will be used at the Nancy Lopez Golf Course in Spring River Jan. 20, the day it was delivered to the city. (Photo by Juno Ogle)

The cart has coolers, cash tray, trash cans and more. Golfers can call the pro shop to order a drink or snack and have it brought to the course.

Chavez also talked about his plans to bring more young and tournament golfers to the course. He talked about the need for volunteers and said high school golf teams would be part of it.

“We want to bring them here and help us with all the junior camps. We want to run about five or so junior camps over the summer, get those kids playing here, get them involved,” he said.

Although Neeb said the fee would remain the same for this season, it was still a matter of concern. Any fee changes would need to be approved by city council, and Neeb said those conversations have yet to take place.

Some in the public were concerned about the drastic fee increases given that the city increased recreation and event fees last year and instituted new fees at the Spring River Zoo and Roswell Museum.

Councilman Barry Foster said he would like to see a tiered fee system by the end of the year, where out-of-town or out-of-state golfers pay a higher green fee raised.

“You are a citizen of Roswell, you already subsidize this golf course. They’re from out of state, they don’t subsidize it, and their rates should be higher than your rate,” he said.

Neeb explained that the city has a cost recovery target for the golf course at 70-30, which means it should generate enough revenue to cover 70% of its operating costs. The city expects to have a budget of just over $1.3 million for pro shop operations and golf course maintenance in the fiscal year 2022-23 budget. , Neeb said. That would mean the course should generate around $913,000, he said.

The golf course will likely be closer to its cost recovery goal than the Spring River Zoo or the Roswell Museum, which first began charging admission fees last year. They also operate at a cost recovery rate of 70-30.

“None of them will meet that target this year, and the city council will make a budget adjustment to protect that service. The same will happen at the golf course,” he said.

Course maintenance has operated at a close to 70-30 ratio in recent years, Neeb said.

“I think we can get there when we factor in all the other revenue streams from the pro shop,” he said.

Some in the audience expressed skepticism about the city’s ability to operate the golf course, but said they wished the city could bring golfers back. Others, however, demanded to know how the city came up with the budget and cost recovery numbers, whether or not the city had a plan in place for the golf course, and even how much golf Neeb was playing and staying on. he knew enough about golf to understand. deals.

Others were concerned about how the pro shop would be stocked, saying they couldn’t get name-brand golf balls and other equipment in town. Others have asked about the possibility of the pro shop offering services such as club repair.

Neeb said the city will investigate golfers to find out what they want and the quality of the course.

“I think everyone here feels that we loved this course to death and we need to bring it back to where it’s supposed to be,” he said.

Juno Ogle, City Reporter/RISD, can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or [email protected]

Michael C. Ford