Golf courses to be funded on pay-as-you-go basis in Oro Valley

Oro Valley golf course funding

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It’s a contentious issue in Oro Valley and residents are now talking about recalling the Mayor and Vice-Mayor over their handling of the town-owned Community Center and golf courses.

In the beginning of October, town council voted to keep the 36 holes at El Conquistador and La Cañada open. Oro Valley purchased the club five years ago and town staff say operating the course has cost millions of dollars.

Improvements are desperately needed, and on Wednesday, the council voted on how they are going to pay for repairs.

The meeting was standing room only as residents waited for the decision.

“When people drive up La Cañada Drive, that’s what they see,” said Linda Bock. “They see beautiful golf courses, it’s part of our town.”

Linda and her husband, Erich Bock, own a home on one of the golf courses. Having their property value closely tied to its success, the two brought their own chairs to assure themselves a seat at the meeting.

“Neither of us are golfers, it’s just a beautiful addition that enhances this whole community,” said Erich.

Dozens who packed council chambers, sporting ‘Oro Valley Thrives’ T-shirts, were adamantly against Mayor Joe Winfield’s proposal, seconded by Vice-Mayor, Melanie Barrett.

“I move all golf course repairs and improvements will be funded on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ (PAYG) basis,” he told council.

PAYG essentially means funding new projects with cash saved from current or prior appropriations.

“If they don’t use the plan that combines the bonding at very low interest rates, and a combination of community funds and pay-as-you-go, then there’s no definitive time that [projects] can be completed and therefore, [council] can keep kicking the can down the road,” said Erich.

Councilmember, Steve Solomon, offered an amended motion that would allow projects to be paid for through the community fund. Additional funding could also be borrowed from the general contingency fund, if need be. His option allowed for a faster timeline on improvements.

“[We need bonding] for the Community Center, instead of waiting five to seven years for its completion,” he told council.

Cheers for this option were short-lived as Solomon’s amended motion failed. Council ultimately voted in favor of the Mayor’s PAYG plan.

The Bock’s are worried about uncertainty in the housing market near the golf courses.

“The Community Center and the golf course thrive because everybody knows it’s going to be there,” said Linda. “[Council] has already hurt membership on the golf course, we know that. We know people who have decided to sell their houses on the golf course because they don’t know what’s going to happen. The problem is the property values go down, property taxes go down, which means we won’t have as much to put into the community.”

There is a petition that’s been circulating for about a week to recall the Mayor and Vice Mayor. It needs just under 4,000 signatures to prompt a recall for the Winfield and just over 3,500 for Barrett. Those who attended tonight’s meeting say it already has a lot of signatures.

Irrigation and repairs on the Conquistador course are scheduled to be completed in 2021, while irrigation and repairs on the La Cañada course are set to wrap up in 2022. Improvements on the Golf Clubhouse are scheduled for 2023. Oro Valley will retain a $100,000 minimum reserve in the Community Center fund.

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