City commission approves purchase of country club

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Residents packed the north annex of the Clovis-Carver Public Library on Thursday evening for a special meeting of the Clovis City Commission. The commission voted 8-0 to purchase the Chaparral Country Club for $2.81 million.

Kevin Wilson

The city shelled out green Thursday night, and got 18 greens in return.

By unanimous vote in a special meeting Thursday, the city commission approved a $2.81 million purchase of the 47-year-old Chaparral Country Club, which features an 18-hole golf course in Colonial Park.

The move will allow the city to convert its current nine-hole municipal golf course into open park space for youth sports fields, walking trails and other amenities in line with its parks and recreation master plan.

The master plan budget is $5.7 million — $500,000 from the Sisler Foundation, the rest from refinancing bonds paid by an existing .0625 percent tax dedicated to parks and recreation.

City staff opened the meeting by outlining years of parks and recreation master plan elements, which Mayor Gayla Brumfield said often sat on a shelf because funding didn’t exist — including an $8 million to $10 million price tag for a new 18-hole course. When she ran for mayor in 2008, she felt a need to act on those ideas.

“The thing I heard the most,” Brumfield said, “is, ‘What are our kids going to do?’”

With the golf course purchase, the city would transition the country club into the municipal course, likely through an outside contract similar to the city’s civic center.

“We don’t want to run a country club,” Commissioner Fred Van Soelen said. “We don’t want to run a restaurant.”

Brumfield said she had talked with many residents who asked her if the timing was right, especially considering the city has a special election for a .25 percent gross receipts tax increase.

“There’s probably never the perfect time,” said Brumfield, but she said the timing is right because “the opportunity is there.”

Brumfield said the parks and recreation move is a different issue than the gross receipts tax increase for Clovis’ share of the Ute Water Project.

Many of the 60-plus residents who attended were in favor of the plan.

“There’s no question in my mind Clovis needs to have an 18-hole golf course,” Richard Rowley said. “Chapparal has a good layout. It just needs to be taken care of. One nine-hole golf course for a town of this size is a disgrace.”

But there were citizens with questions, and others in opposition.

Gloria Wicker, a former city commissioner, said when she agreed to fix Potter Pool, she was given an either-or choice between that pool and fixing the Hillcrest Park pool and was told the Hillcrest Park pool would be fixed when money was available. She didn’t want that pool eliminated, nor did she want to see hundreds of golfers have to move to a different location to golf.

“I do not,” Wicker said, “nor do they, want to see the golf course destroyed.”

Tim Ashley felt the city was taking on too much by expanding city-owned acreage and responsibilities.

“Everybody likes parks, everybody likes golf courses,” Ashley said. “I’d like a bigger house. But it comes back to … what my budget can stand.”

He mentioned potential costs for running the 18-hole golf course — which would be more than the $400,000 Clovis currently spends a year on its municipal course — and residents held signs noting annual losses of $262,000 for the civic center and $400,000 for the Curry County Events Center.

Brumfield responded that a “money in, money out” viewpoint of those facilities misses the point, because it doesn’t address the new hotels built, the extra gross receipts taxes and the extra lodger’s taxes since those facilities were built.

Ernie Kos, executive director of the Clovis-Curry County Chamber of Commerce, echoed Brumfield’s point about more chances for events — including the New Mexico High School Rodeo and the Resistol All-Around Ranch Rodeo at the county events center.

“We wouldn’t have had the home and garden show,” Kos said of the civic center, “and I don’t know where 300 of us would have had breakfast with the governor on Tuesday. And that’s just this week.”

Commissioner Bobby Sandoval said the people with the signs knew how to say no, but they didn’t seem to have any other suggestions on what the city and county commissions should do instead.

“We’ve got things we didn’t dream of when we didn’t have the event center,” Commissioner Bobby Sandoval said to Ashley, “back when you were a (county) commissioner.”

Stephanie Marshall, a military spouse and member of the parks and recreation board, said she lives on the 16th hole and approves of the plan.

“I don’t want to make generalizations,” Marshall said, “but as a spouse, most of them are stay-at-home mothers with young children. They need somewhere to go.”

Commissioners Juan Garza and Randy Crowder each live on the course, and mentioned it prior to their votes to cover a city requirement that potential conflicts of interest be mentioned.

Brumfield said she had been on visits to Hurlburt Air Field, the home of Air Force Special Operations Command, and had seen the numerous improvements by that city. She sees those same possibilities for Cannon Air Force Base, and noted the military is spending $165 million this year on construction and another $350 million on a move to privatized housing.

“We’re not obstructionists,” Brumfield said, “and we want to see things happen.”

Parks plan overview

The master plan would primarily be paid for through $500,000 from the Sisler Foundation and $5.2 million from refinancing a bond dedicated for parks. The bonds were used for the Potter Park pool and other enhancements, and expire in 2013.

Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield said the city could also seek funding from private companies in exchange for naming features, much like companies buy naming rights for sports facilities.

Plan components include:

• The purchase of the Chaparral Country Club ($2.81 million, approved by the city Thursday), which would then function as the city course. The city would then run an 18-hole golf course.

• Closure of the current municipal golf course, which would be used for soccer fields and walking trails.

• The municipal course’s driving range would be used as additional zoo space and parking.

• Removal of the Hillcrest Pool, built in 1932, and creation of a splash park. The south wall, a Works Progress Administration project, would be retained and potentially used as an amphitheater.

• The current youth soccer fields would be converted into softball fields adjacent to Guy Leeder Softball Complex.

• Renovation of the Youth Recreation Building.

• Creation of space around the Wellness Center.

• Improvement of basketball courts at Hillcrest Park.

• A new walking trail at Dennis Chavez Park.

• A soccer field and walking trails at Potter Park.

• A walking trail at the Iris Arbor Playa area. The land is used by the city for drainage.

• A dog park at the intersection of 14th and Hickory streets.