ActivePaper Archive City out of bounds on golf course - Hobbs News Sun, 3/2/2014

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City out of bounds on golf course

To the Editor:

The City Commission finds itself with a very tough lie to return to the fairway. By choosing to renovate Ocotillo Park Golf Course rather than to build a new one on the 250 acres the city now owns on the Seminole Highway, the City Commission squandered what could have been a substantial and cost-effective beautification and redevelopment project for the east and south parts of Hobbs. What’s more, the Ocotillo renovation appears to have enabled a thinly veiled public bailout of a troubled private organization — the Hobbs Country Club.

At one time, the city was considering building an aquatic center on the corner of Marland and Sanger. Plans for a “multi-generational recreation facility” have since moved north. When the city bought 250 acres at Taylor Ranch, it made sense that the city would build a golf course there.

Although a golf course is enormously water intensive, if new links were going to happen, they should have been built on the Taylor Ranch land, where a new course would have beautified a stretch of the primary road that takes thousands of drivers through Hobbs.

It would also have attracted new private investments nearby, and those would have spread south on Marland and lifted a depressed part of Hobbs. Instead, the public golf course remains north. South Hobbs has been historically neglected by the city commission, and this is just the latest snub. If the city had chosen to build a golf course on its newly acquired land, the construction could have started without disrupting Ocotillo golf play. Once the new course was finished, Ocotillo golfers could have moved over to the new course on the east side of town. The Ocotillo part of the Hobbs Industrial Air Park could have been turned into industrial land for economic development. The multi-million dollar clubhouse that was completed last year, being called a reason to renovate Ocotillo instead of building a new course, could have been used for a meeting space for HIAP companies, as well as for Harry McAdams Park events, such as family reunions.

Instead, the city chose to shut down and renovate Ocotillo. Since the city would be displacing golfers from Ocotillo, it struck a “deal” with the Hobbs Country Club, where, for the price of $600,000, the country club agreed to allow them to pay Ocotillo’s standard, daily rates. We need to ask just how many Ocotillo regulars have taken the country club up on its offer because I suspect the Eunice, Lovington and Gaines County golf courses have picked up some new members.

This year might be the first in a long time the country club’s income appears in the black because looking up the Hobbs Country Club’s recent tax returns shows on Page 1, Line 19 (Revenue Less Expenses) of each return: 2011, $-90,134; 2010, $-158,562; 2009, $-167,222; 2008, $-88,344. Yes, those are negatives. Every single year.

Decisions to move on with the renovation and the country club agreement moved disturbingly fast. Before the IRS had given its final blessing on the country club’s public use pact, construction on the $10 million course was beginning at Ocotillo. There was little opportunity for the public to cry for a mulligan.

I understand the city is working on a master plan for the Taylor Ranch land, but we’ve already read that among the items on the wish list is a lake. But wasn’t it just last summer homeowners were placed on very sudden water use restrictions? And how many tens of millions of dollars will such a grandiose project cost? And when construction of a multi-generational facility appears to be imminent, how can both monstrously big-ticket items be undertaken?

Lastly, since the City of Hobbs chose to pass on building a new golf course in a new location, there was no reason to create a new name. It’s interesting that the city manager made himself responsible for collecting the emailed votes for the new name, and it was his entry — Rockwind, “since we have plenty of rock and plenty of wind” — that was selected. If someone were to request to see those emails, would we find that Rockwind was in fact the favorite of most voters?

Wanda Bell