March 4, 2015 – The situation at the Lemoore Municipal Golf Course is much more complex than previously thought.
The Lemoore City Council heard an update about the course Tuesday, which shed some light on how poorly many aspects of the facility were apparently handled for more than two decades.
For nearly two years, the council has been searching for ways to protect the city’s general fund against annual debt payments of about $190,000. Debt payments not covered by golf course revenues must be paid through the city’s general fund.
The city took over day-to-day operations late last year following the resignation of Rich Rhoads, who had managed the course since 2010.
Parks and Recreation Director Joe Simonson said much of the city’s efforts have been focused toward various deferred maintenance needs. During the city’s search to hire a new greens-keeper, Simonson said, he brought an ideal candidate to look at the course.
“When he came over and looked at the condition of the course – and even more so when he looked at where he would be working out of – and he saw the equipment, he said, ’Boy I was excited about the opportunity, Mr. Simonson, but I don’t want to ruin my career,’” Simonson said.
Simonson said buildings and equipment at the course had apparently been maintained using a “bailing wire and duct tape” mentality. Virtually all equipment was in need of maintenance or repairs, he said. Tires didn’t hold air, tractors had malfunctioning throttles,
Additionally, maintenance facilities were found to be in poor condition with a leaky roof, nonfunctioning bathroom and lack of hot water to wash hands. The mechanic’s workspace had a single light bulb.
Most of the equipment has since been repaired and the facilities have undergone remodeling and maintenance.
Even more disturbing, Simonson said, was the apparent purchase of unneeded supplies and using inefficient practices to make purchases. Although about 70 percent of the equipment used at the course runs on diesel fuel, records indicated 100 gallons of both unleaded gasoline and diesel were automatically delivered weekly.
After the city installed a camera and instituted a record-keeping system to track how much fuel was taken, gasoline use dropped by more than 80 percent. Diesel use remained the same.
“There was a police investigation,” Simonson said. “They could not narrow it down as to whom, but that problem has been solved.”
Other problems stemmed from the purchase of needed supplies. The course had been buying used sprinklers that didn’t necessarily have the correct spray pattern, causing dead spots throughout the course.
Simonson said maintenance workers had been buying sprinklers at retail price one at a time from a supplier in Fresno. The trip required using a tank of gas and half a day’s work to get the part.
Those problems, Simonson said, appear to have been going on for more than 20 years.
“People are saying, ’Well we met the debt payment,’” Simonson said. “Not even close. You can’t put this off for 20 years and fix it in a year. And it’s not going to be fixed in a year.”
The council briefly considered selling the course to the Tachi Yokut tribe. Amid opposition from the public, the tribe withdrew its offer of $5 million. A second offer of $3 million was later submitted and denied by the council.
Councilman William Siegel asked whether Simonson disclosed the course’s shortcomings back in 2013 when the tribe hired an appraiser to look at the facility. Simonson said he wasn’t tasked with showing off the equipment, so it’s unclear whether the appraiser considered it.
“Go ask them if they want to give us $5 million for that now,” Siegel said. “It’s mind boggling.”
The city’s finance department has not yet been able to provide an accurate accounting of the golf course’s finances due to a number of factors including staffing levels and other obligations within the finance department.
Preliminary figures have suggested that despite a decrease in the number of golfers, revenues have remained about the same as last year, Simonson said.
Lemoore resident Tom Reed told the council that he previously worked for a company where employees were found to be stealing gasoline. Due in part to that experience, he said he believes the golf course’s financial situation will improve as a result of better oversight.
“Maybe the golf course is not in as bad a situation as we thought it was,” Reed said.