Brookings mulls water pump for golf course

By Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer December 18, 2013 09:09 am

Brookings City officials are examining a proposal to pump water from the Chetco River to irrigate Salmon Run golf course.

The issue, discussed at a city work session Monday, would include the construction of a 6-inch intake pump with a fish screen and about 3,000 feet of pipe to get water to existing irrigation pipelines at the course.

The project is estimated to cost $380,000 and considered vital to the success of the course, a public, 18-hole city amenity tucked in the woods along the river and offering some of the tougher challenges around, golf pros say.

Bringing irrigation water to the course — “The only thing we’re filtering out is the fish,” City Manager Gary Milliman said — will not solve the problem of potable water needs.

 But it is a step toward what the city hopes will be a solution to making the course profitable.

The course’s management company, The Claveran Group, has only made a partial payment on its lease in the last 14 years — another twist city councilors considered in how to — and who should — pay for the improvements.

Under the term of its lease with the city, The Claveran Group owed Brookings $20,000 for 2013, a $15,000 reduction from year’s past, Milliman said. It was due Feb. 2, 2013, but was paid in August.

The late penalty of $747 has yet to be paid, either.

At its Aug. 12 meeting, the city council voted not to waive the late payment penalty and notified The Claveran Group the next day to pay the late fee. There has been no response, Milliman said.

The next lease payment of $20,000 is due Feb. 2.

When asked if The Claveran Group anticipated paying for the water the new pump would bring for irrigation, golf course general manager Ed Murdock paused before responding.

“Well, yes,” he said. “Obviously, the golf course has a limited capacity to pay for a lot at this point. That would have to be discussed and we’d need to find a number that works.”

Councilor Brent Hodges wondered if the water improvement costs could be included in yet another lease with The Claveran Group.

“To throw this chunk of money at it and not recoup it is not a good way to do business,” he said. “There’s got to be some way to assume we’ll get some back. Every year (lease payments) get pushed back and pushed back. Fourteen years is a long time.”

Murdock said the course if faring “OK” this year due to changes made there. He did not elaborate, and Milliman said the next day that the city is not privy to the business plans of The Claveran Group.

“And there’s much more in the plans,” Murdock said. “But this deal right here has everything to do with moving forward. It all comes down to water. We’re stymied because there’s no water.”

Councilor Kelly McClain, who has argued both sides of the issue in the past, suggested the city craft another new lease, “and set it up like it should have been set up on Day 1,” he said. “A lease the golf course can live with. Maybe not run the golf course purely as a business and getting our money back, but as something we have in the community.

“I hate to make all these decisions by what was done in the past,” he added. “It was done wrong in the past; let’s do it right now.”

The city in April gave Murdock five weeks to develop a business plan to get the financially struggling amenity back on track. Nothing has been acted upon since then.

“They made their (partial) payment, and the city council decided to let it ride for awhile and pursue this water source development project,” Milliman said. “We’ve just been running along until we come up with a water source plan.”