Letters to the Editor on the One Golf Course Initiative
There is a need for many public services. Our Police and Fire Departments are essential, necessary and appropriate services. Our Recreation Department provides many fine youth and general recreation services to all residents of Boulder City with reasonable, or no, fees.
However golf courses operated by governments have been described as "…perhaps the most non-essential of non-essential public services." Boulder Creek Golf Club is a prime example.
BCGC is probably regularly patronized by 400 to 600 (say 500) Boulder City residents. Given financial losses of well over $1,500,000 per year this equates to a taxpayer subsidy of about $3,000 or more annually per local golfer. Further, as the Boulder City's budget is roughly $22,000,000, BCGC consumes about 8% of the cities budget.
BCGC's $1,500,000 plus losses have been taken from our Utility Fund each and every year; a primary reason for our steadily increasing utility rates. As such the rest of us, including the less fortunate, are forced to subsidize the wealthy 500 or so BCGC golfers to the extent of roughly $200.00/round
Upon its predictable failure BCGC apparently was deemed by our Council to be a non-competitive, essential, necessary and appropriate city service. This argument is facetious. There was already one profitable municipal golf course in Boulder City (now losing money) and numerous other golf courses within a 30 minute drive.
As the City Council has ignored, for many years, requests to investigate financial/operational alternatives at BCGC it becomes necessary for the voters to take a necessary and drastic step to curtail this financial disaster in the future.
Your vote is necessary to allow the city to operate only one 18 hole golf course.
Boulder City Resident
We need signatures to put three initiatives on the November ballot. First issue: BOULDER CITY ONLY NEEDS ONE GOLF COURSE.
Back in the 1990's Jonathon Conk, senior project manager for Golf Dimensions predicted "A second course could provide another caliber of play, create additional revenues while enhancing the city's image." Conk was talking about developing Boulder Creek Golf Course. The cost was estimated at $10.3 million with a net estimated income per year of $1.1 million to pay off the loan after which Boulder City would net $192,000 a year.
Wendell Whitman, a financial investor in Boulder Creek Golf Course, was quoted in the Las Vegas Sun in November, 1997 saying "If you don't develop houses around the golf course you have junk bonds on your hands."
Given the financial collapse, those golf course homes would now be underwater or foreclosed. Same goes for the Hawthorn Suites. So we're...stuck with a 27-hole golf course we don't need and can't afford. Financial wheeling and dealing by speculators with little transparency or accountability and trusting in the quality of officials to engage in business investments can be very dangerous to the economic health of any community.
Boulder Creek was touted by Joe "golf is good" Hardy who campaigned with club in hand, former councilman Bryan Nix, former city manager John Sullard and the rest of the "over the hill gang" with grandiose investment ideas. Residents argued that it was "risky financing" to have more than one 18-hole golf course in a town of Boulder City's size. Time has proven them right.
Golf Courses are being shut down all over the United States, including nine courses in Las Vegas. Our distressed economy and water shortage aren't going away anytime soon. When it comes down to water for golf courses or water for people to drink, thirst wins out over toys of excess. If the unemployment rate gets any worse in the State of Nevada, we'll need that golf course land for a tent city.
Boulder City resident
For over seven long years roughly $2,000,000 annually has been taken from our Utility fund and transferred to Boulder Creek Golf Course to cover it’s losses. This loss has required our utility rates to be increased in the past and will cause them to increase in the future. In this matter our City Council(s) have failed miserably to represent the best interests of Boulder City ratepayers.
What are some of the annual obvious and hidden losses? Roughly and briefly:
1. $1,300,000 in net income;
2. $400,000 promised interest on the $8,700,000 loan from our Utility fund;
3. $600,000 not charged BCGC for water to pay the bond for the water line primarily built to supply the needs of BCGC;
4. $200,000 for losses at our Municipal course which was profitable before BCGC;
5.Some $3,000,000 in needed maintenance/repairs/improvements at the Municipal course deferred primarily due to BCGC debts;
6. BCGC’s depreciated equipment and deferred maintenance will soon require up to $2,000,000 dollars in additional BCGC financing.
All of this indebtedness was foisted upon us by our Councils without a vote or approval by the residents of Boulder City.
Bond payments on the original $9,800,000 are $477,000 annually and these payments must go on. But, to avoid this direct loss we annually, directly or indirectly, transfer to BCGC roughly $2,000,000 from our Utility fund. Obviously we could save well over a million dollars annually if we just close BCGC and pay the $477,000 annual bond payments from the city budget. A bitter pill to swallow but it is time we cut our losses.
Please study this complex issue. If you concur support Charter Initiative 2 curbing our Boulder City Council’s ability to operate more than the one eighteen hole golf course.
BOULDER CITY RESIDENT
I have lived in Boulder City for almost six years. When I speak to other residents about golfing, I frequently hear how they were denied the opportunity to vote on the building of Boulder Creek Golf Club. Additionally, many talk about the vote “not” to build Adams Boulevard and that it was constructed contrary to the election results. Others say that putting houses around Boulder Creek will pay off the outstanding bond debt and make Boulder Creek profitable. In my opinion, if Boulder Creek were a profitable business, then why haven’t golfing professionals stood in line to own and manage it? In realty the numbers fail to show that Boulder Creek can make a profit even if the City gave this golf course away without its debt or payment obligations.
Now you can finally decide and cast your vote in the upcoming November election. You will have the belated opportunity to let the City Council know whether or not you want to continue subsidizing Boulder Creek for over $2.5 million each year. As of June 30, 2009 Boulder City taxpayers have paid over $28,000,000 to build and keep this golf course open for the benefit of about 300 resident golfers. This amount will increase the longer we keep the golf course open, because the expenses generated to operate are more than the revenues received from play. Of course, the bond debt will still have to be paid regardless if the golf course is open or closed. However, we could save at least $1 million per year by closing Boulder Creek. In good or not so good economic times, I do not believe we need to spend more money to continue this business failure.
As taxpayers we have learned an important and expensive lesson when five City Council members were given free reign to encumber us and our children with this 20 year debt. “Golf is good” is their slogan. Where are those Council members and city staff now that the truth is known how ill conceived and costly this government’s venture into the business world has been? They do not care because they used “other people’s money.”
By design, government agencies are not prepared and ill-equipped to operate any business profitably. In lieu of investors and/or stockholders who hire management and require a return on their investment dollars, governments are not accountable to anyone. There is no incentive to operate the business efficiently to earn a profit; they use their ability to tax to cover losses. In the real world, Boulder Creek is bankrupt and has been for years using our tax dollars to keep it operational.
The primary reason residents were not given the opportunity to decide on building Boulder Creek was the fact the City could incur bond debt to $10 million without voter approval, and it did for $9.8 million. Then with a questionable transfer of $8.7 million from a restricted Utility Fund account, voila’, Boulder Creek became a reality. More funds have been added from the General Fund over the years to construct the golf cart barn, the parking lot, mend leaks in the pond membranes, construct a break-room area and more. No one bothered to ask the taxpayers how much debt and additional funds they wanted to put into developing Boulder Creek.
Furthermore, I will not mention the value of the 389 acres of prime city land that is dedicated to the Boulder Creek complex. As a golf course, this land area is worth less than it would be for just about any other use
However, we must remember the $34 million bond debt that the City obtained to construct the extra waterline for this golf course. The reason given for this bond debt was that Boulder Creek would be paying the retail water rate that would be applied to pay down this debt. For the recent 2 years, Boulder Creek has not paid the retail water rate, but only the cost of raw water. To recapture this reduction in water costs from Boulder Creek, the City is charging the utility ratepayers, you and me, increased water, electricity and sewage rates to make up this difference.
Some will ask, what do we do if we close one of our two golf courses? We have a planning department and planning commission; so we should let them do their job. If nothing else, encourage the residents to offer suggestions on how this land should be developed.
By signing the People’s Initiative to limit Boulder City to owning only one 18 hole golf course, you will permit the residents to vote on this ballot question in November 2010. Afterwards our City Council would be compelled to discuss and address the future of golfing in Boulder City. Hopefully, they will “do what’s right” to correct this ongoing financial drain on our residents.
Nancy A. Nolette
Normally, I agree with City Attorney Dave Olsen and his interpretation of words and phrases, but his opinion at the July 13 council meeting regarding the initiative dealing with the city’s ownership of golf facilities completely baffles me since I believe it was so off the mark.
The language of the initiative states “…it shall be the policy of the City to own no more than one 18 hole golf course.” So how can Mr. Olsen’s interpretation be – after he conceded the city owns two golf courses and a third, Cascata, when the lease runs out – that he doesn’t see anything in the initiative that says the city must close a golf course and that it just prohibits the city from building any more golf courses? If you don’t build any more courses, you still own three courses -- Muni, Boulder Creek and Cascata (at a later date). So how does not building a fourth course limit the city to ownership of just one course? Duh.
Please, Mr. Olsen’s opinion is the most illogical conclusion to draw when, by his own admission, the city already “owns” two or three golf courses and the policy being addressed is to “own” only one golf course. Regardless that the initiative specifically is silent on closure, the language speaks otherwise and implies that one, or possibly two, of the two, or possibly three, courses would be required to close or be sold.
I don’t understand the difference of opinion between the city attorney and the proponents – black is black, white is white and one is one.
Mr. Olsen further opines that the initiative is not an advisory question since it’s not asking whether to keep one or the other golf course open. Good thing it doesn’t because on legal challenge such a question, if in initiative form, would be readily judged by the courts as “administrative” (specific action to be taken) in nature and not “legislative” (action applies broadly to a policy.) To qualify as an initiative and be placed on the ballot, questions shall be legislative in nature (setting broad policy). Otherwise, by specifying a specific action to be taken, it would be usurping the council’s authority to make a decision on a specific issue, which has been ruled as not allowable.
While the legal dust settles, perhaps somebody should be considering buying Dave a new dictionary for Christmas.
Boulder City Resident