January 13, 2015

City asked to back loan for expansion of golf course

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

If Watford City’s Fox Hills Golf Course & Country Club is going to expand to an 18-hole golf course, the time to do it is now.
That was the message that City Councilman Aaron Gravos shared with fellow council members on Monday, Jan. 5 during the council’s regular monthly meeting.
The big caveat, however, according to Gravos, is that in order for the project to move forward quickly, the city would have to take on the responsibility for the $3.5 to $4 million debt associated with the first phase of the expansion of the golf course to 18 holes.
And the possibility of the city being on the hook for that amount of debt, didn’t necessarily sit well with many members of the council.
“We’ve (the city) made land purchases around the golf course to help with the expansion project,” stated Brent Sanford, mayor. “But can we just approve a guarantee on a contract we haven’t seen?”
According to Gravos, he has been meeting monthly with the golf board on the proposed expansion, and the architect now wants a signed contract in order to ensure the project could begin this spring.
“The golf course is a city park, and the demand for the expansion of the course is there,” stated Gravos. “It makes sense to make a commitment to get it done.”
But for Councilman Doug Bolken, it was a matter of the council not being in the loop as to the contract.
“I’m very uncomfortable with the city backing something we have never seen,” stated Bolken. “We have never seen any of the documents or the agreements.”
While Gravos admitted that the process may not have been to everyone’s liking, it was his job to bring the issue before the council.
“This (the golf course expansion) has the potential to make the course one of the top golf courses in the state,” stated Gravos. “It would be comparable to Hawktree or The Links.”
According to Curt Moen, city planner, while the city hasn’t been actively involved in the expansion project, the opportunity is now for the project to move forward.
“There’s about $3 million in land next to the golf course that the city could sell,” stated Moen. “That would pay for half of the cost to expand the golf course.”
But according to Moen, the city would have to have third party oversight of the agreement and the project going forward.
While the council took no action on the golf course’s request for the city to back the contract, the council was receptive to continuing to look into that possibility.
“If timing wasn’t an issue, I’d like to see the city bid the project,” stated Wyatt Voll, city attorney. “Currently, the golf course board has obtained the bids for the project.”
Voll also noted that the city needs to have all of the land involved transferred into the name of the city, which so far hasn’t happened.
“The city needs to review the current bid documents and have the golf course bring in their financials for the council’s review,” stated Voll. “In addition, we need to get the deeds to the land transferred.”
According to Gravos, he doesn’t think that moving forward, there would be any cost to the city, other than the time needed to iron out the details.
And with the clock ticking, Councilman Justin Voll asked if the architect would be agreeable to waiting until Feb. 5 for the council’s decision.
“Everything that we have done in the past three years for the golf course has led us to this point,” stated Justin Voll. “We need more information. Can we have until Feb. 5 to get things worked out?”
According to Gravos, the golf course board has yet to work out its fundraising plan, but the board still wants to move forward with the project this spring.
“They (the golf course board) knows what it’s going to cost,” stated Gravos. “They’ve just got to get their fundraising planning done.”