City officials: Country club negotiations ongoing

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Portales resident Eldon Merrick said he feels there are enough golfers in the area for the city to have two golf courses, both Clovis Municipal Golf Course, shown here, and the Chaparral Country Club course.

Kevin Wilson

Clovis city officials confirmed Saturday they are in negotiations to purchase the Chaparral Country Club, but are denying talks they have made an offer, or formally agreed to purchase the 18-hole course.

“Nothing has been decided,” Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield said. “We are still in negotiation.”

Her comments were echoed by City Manager Joe Thomas, who said he could only confirm the city was in negotiations.

Purchasing the country club, which has been in operation since 1964, would allow the city to move forward with a quality of life master plan. Under the plan, the city’s nine-hole Municipal Golf Course would be renovated into open park space, which could be filled with features including youth soccer fields, walking trails and a dog park, officials have said.

“It is an overall master plan that’s been worked on for years,” Brumfield said, “and the opportunity came up with Chaparral to make all this happen. The emphasis is as much on the parks plan as anything.”

Minutes from previous parks and recreation board meetings indicate the golf course was on the market for $3.5 million, but could be negotiated to $3 million.

The country club, open since 1964, has been owned by Norman and Dana Kelley since 2003. Attempts to contact the Kelleys Saturday were unsuccessful.

City Commissioner Fred Van Soelen said negotiations have been going on, but said the city can’t buy anything without a commission vote.

“Anything that happens has to be voted on in an open session,” Van Soelen said. “Nothing like that has happened yet. Until something is voted on in an open session, nothing’s final.”

Money for the golf course, and other park improvements, would be done with monies from a 1/16th tax increment dedicated to parks and recreation, officials said. That increment is currently being used to pay off bonds for creation of the Potter Park pool and upgrades at various city parks. Those bonds will be paid off in 2013. Brumfield said that tax increment does not expire unless it is specifically lifted by the commission, and any money acquired through that increment can only go toward city parks.

The city is about a month away from a special election for a .25 percent gross receipts tax increase. The proposed increase, which would sunset in 10 years, could only be spent on the city’s share of the Ute Water Project, officials have said. The ordinance was approved by the commission on a 7-1 vote, but the High Plains Patriots citizen group organized a petition drive to force a special election on the ordinance.

That election is May 3.

Brumfield said she can understand how it looks for the city to purchase a golf course while it is also asking for a tax increase. But she said park money can’t pay for the multi-city water project, and the city’s $36 million share must be paid through water sales, property taxes and/or gross receipts tax. She said the gross receipts tax the commission approved is an across-the-board move that inflicts the least tax effect for an individual.

“Opportunities come up,” Brumfield said. “We can’t use this parks plan money for anything else. This money is dedicated, and has been dedicated, allocated and committed to parks for many, many years.”

Portales resident Bob Sikes, 59, played nine holes at the municipal course Saturday.

“This golf course is a landmark here. It’s part of Clovis’ history,” Sikes said. “I would be really upset if we lost this course. But if Chaparral was the municipal course, that would be good too.”

Portales resident Eldon Merrick, 48, said he believes there are enough golfers in the area to have two courses.

Both said they would enjoy an 18-hole course.

Clovis resident Paul Pacheco, 66, and friends Desi Pacheco, 69, and Gabe Tapia, 75, golfed two rounds of nine holes Saturday.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Paul Pacheco said of the city buying the private course. “18-holes is better than nine twice, you know.”

Pacheco said he believes the city transforming the current course into a park is a good use of city resources.

“If the city can afford it, I’m all for it,” Desi Pacheco said.