Dog parks. Fitness stations. A real driving range.
The Brookings City Council and its budget committee Monday evening hashed out a list of projects they would like to include in the upcoming fiscal year budget, a discussion to hone in on city priorities and determine their financial feasibility before budget talks begin April 18.
Salmon Run golf course has historically had its challenges — notwithstanding the lower participation numbers during the Chetco Bar and Klondike wildfires — but Deputy Public Works and Development Director Jay Trost thinks it just needs one more big push to become profitable.
He cited three issues — irrigation, drainage and the lack of a quality driving range — as items the city should pursue to transform it into a high-quality venue.
“The golf course is viewed as a bit of a burden, financially,” Trost said. “I’d advocate we push it (into) sustainability, but areas need improvement to do so, to increase membership play and even its reputation. When systems are faltering, it provides us with opportunities.”
The irrigation system there has been in disrepair for years, with patchwork repairs done to keep it running. He said a conservative estimate to replace six holes each year over three years would be about $90,000.
He also proposed realigning the driving range to give golfers a better experience.
“It’s hokey at best,” Trost said of the current range. “There’s like a 15-degree area to hit into, and you’re limited to the clubs you can use. It’s not a reflection of how amazing that golf course really is.”
A realignment, he noted, might require forging an agreement with South Coast Lumber, which owns a wedge of a hillside that would work better for golfers.
Trost said the course and a driving range, the restaurant and pro shop and the occasion hall currently under construction could all be major economic drivers.
“We need to capitalize on this,” he said. “EMT (Early Management Team) has done a great job with the tools they’ve been given. We just need to do this last little push to get it into sustainability.”
Councilor Ron Hedenskog said he wants the city to have a golf course — even though this one has never turned a profit — and is willing to put the money into it to get it there.
“We know our demographic,” Trost said. “A lot of people love to play golf. A lot of the reason people want to retire is so they can do that. If we can offer that level of experience, it could enhance the city.”
Councilor Brent Hodges, however, said he doubted the course would ever bring in “buckets of money” to city coffers, but acknowledged it does attract people traveling along the coast.
“I know it’s not going to be money hand over fist,” he said. “But I’d hate to lose it. We’ve put a lot into it.”
Another concern is that the lease contract with EMT ends in April; the couple has said they’d like to take on one more year despite all the challenges they’ve faced there. City Manager Janell Howard said EMT wants to get issues there stabilized before possibly transitioning management to another party.
Trost has even more dreams for city parks.
The city hopes to hear back from the state Parks and Recreation Department next month regarding a grant requested for the fourth phase of work at Azalea Park to pave the parking lot near the Capella.
The organizers of Nature’s Coastal Holidays, which hosts the month-long light display at Azalea Park, has almost reached its goal of $40,000 to contribute to that project. The remainder will be funded by a grant.
And Trost would like city leaders to consider building a patio gathering area outside the Capella where people can mingle after events such as weddings. He estimates it would cost about $15,000.
He would also like to re-sod the formal gardens, where grass was planted, not maintained and died. That would cost about $6,000, he said.
Another idea he has is to incorporate fitness equipment along the trail in Azalea Park that now encircles the park. Such parks are popular in many cities, and offer people strolling the paths to stop for a short aerobic workout at various stations. Trost estimates it would cost about $10,000 to install 20 stations.
He would also like to convert the unused volleyball courts at the park into basketball courts.
Trost also envisions a dog park near an unused area near the new restrooms at Chetco Point Park.
“I’ve noted that 80 to 90 percent of people who go there all take their dogs,” he said. “Let’s build the greatest dog park on the West Coast — a dog park with a view. It’s ready to go, and I think it’d be fantastic.”
He estimates the cost of that — the majority of which would be fencing — to be about $12,000.
Councilor Bill Hamilton, however, suggested the city wait until another Boy Scout seeking his Eagle Scout badge proposes building one, as was done in Stout Park. He also expressed concern about “adventurous” kids on the edge of the bluffs there and wondered if the city shouldn’t invest in fencing to prevent people from slipping off the cliffs.
“We’ve put a lot into parks; could we slow down some of the park stuff, maybe put some capital into the golf course?” Hedenskog posited. “We’ve been talking for years and years about solving the drainable problems down there — why hasn’t it been done?”
The gasoline tax voters approved almost five years ago generates almost $300,000 a year, and work has ramped up throughout town in the ensuing years to repair roads.
This fiscal year, the plan calls for repairs on Hub, Hemlock and Spruce streets, as well as Lundeen Road, at a cost of $299,646.
Next fiscal year, which begins July 1, work is slated to include Ransom Avenue from Kevin Place to Fawn Drive and Kevin Place from Hassett Street to Ransom Avenue at a cost of $299,143.
In 2020-21, work will include Ransom Avenue from Fawn Drive to Pioneer Road, Mechelle Lane from Kevin Place to Fawn Drive and the cul-de-sac on Chetco Lane, at a cost of $262,496.
Public works projects include ongoing work at the waste treatment plant and studies of Ferry Creek Reservoir at the end of Marine Drive to determine if it’s feasible to replace the dam and use the water for municipal needs and recreation.
Most of that money would come from System Replacement Fees that are paid on customer’s water bills.
Howard suggested the city council consider replacing its water meter heads with ones that can be read by bluetooth technology, which would enable those who read the meters to merely pass by residences and retrieve information via internet signals.
The $275,000 investment in the new technology would be recouped in about 7.5 years, and the equipment has a 20-year warranty. The new system would also cut down on employee time, from two weeks to about a half-day, to read the 3,600 water meters in town.
Currently, meter readers must get out of their vehicles and pass a wand over the meter heads to get readings, she said.
“Obviously, the way things are going — personnel costs keep growing, we’ve gotta use technology to combat that,” Mayor Jake Pieper said.
Police Lt. Donnie Dotson explained that his department recently completed an update of its dispatcher’s radio consoles, but would like to get spare radio components for the office. Those units run about $25,000.
“Ours have been great; they’re robust,” he said. “I’m not worried one will break but they’re 10 years old. At some point, we need to.”
Wages, benefits and other employee expenses are another issue the city tracks, Howard said, noting that by subcontracting out the wastewater treatment plant, the city’s full-time employee numbers have dipped from about 52 to 46.
And union negotiations are coming up, although little information is known about what they might request, Howard said. Health insurance is expected to increase by 6 percent, workman’s compensation by about 5 percent and cost-of-living increases from 1 to 4 percent.