Selectmen voted unanimously Dec. 8 to follow the Golf Course Committee’s recommendations for spending an estimated $127,700 on upgrades to the irrigation system at the municipal golf course.
The final numbers will be determined once the bids for the hardware and software come in, but the improvement plan includes upgrading the control panels in the office, at a cost of about $23,400, and equipping the pumphouse with two new 60 horsepower pumps, said course superintendent Steve Tibbles.
The new computer control panels and the replacement of an older 30 HP pump with a new 60 HP pump would boost system water flow from about 700 gallons per minute up to 920 gallons per minute, and should also help cut electricity costs, Tibbles told the board.
The irrigation system is at the end of its 15-20 year life cycle, and needs major upgrades soon, Tibbles suggested. Better system controls and newer and bigger pumps would also help cut power costs and reduce lost playing time, he indicated.
The Golf Course Committee voted last week to support a plan to upgrade two major components in the five-part system – the computer controls and the main pumps, member Manny Goulart told selectmen. Piecemeal upgrades mean greater risk of future problems, he explained.
Chairman of Selectmen Kevin Gaspar agreed, saying, “I would feel better doing the whole system purchase.” He prefers looking forward to another 15-20 years of trouble-free irrigation operations, he said.
“The last thing we need is an irrigation system that goes down” in peak season and hurts income numbers because of reduced play, he added. Both colleagues also voiced support by way of their affirmative votes to pursue the improvements.
In related action, selectmen also voted to move forward with the Golf Committee proposal to refinance the golf course debt service in order to free up more money in the budget for maintenance operations and improvements.
Adding almost six years of repayment time at a lower interest rate should generate a $160,000 to $180,000 per year reduction in debt service, said Golf Course Committee member Ed Isaac. He listed a clubhouse, bridge repairs, and parking lot maintenance as long-term issues needing to be addressed in future operating budgets.
Isaac noted that the underground piping portion of the irrigation has a life expectancy of about 30 years, so the replacement of those components should be a 15-year item on the long-term capital plan as it is halfway through its useful life.
Any cash saved from reduced debt, costing about $490,000 per year right now, could be diverted to upgrades and maintenance needs each year, he suggested. “That helps us maintain the asset, which helps us maintain the revenues” coming from the course, he said.
Town Administrator Alan Coutinho noted the bond re-issue date is August of 2015, so now would be a good time to alter the debt terms. There would be a $52,000 estimated cut in debt service in FY16, and about $160,000 or so in savings the next five fiscal years, he indicated.
The plan had Gaspar’s support, but Selectman David Wojnar convinced fellow members to table a vote on pursuing town meeting action until a future meeting. Wojnar said he wanted to do a little more research on the financial issues before taking a vote, and got the matter tabled until the Dec. 22 meeting, planned for 3 p.m. at Town Hall.