For the first time in the 40-year history of Monument Hill Country Club golf will not be offered to its members. Management has made the tough decision to cancel golf this season due to high water rates.
“We can't support golf in Woodmoor based upon the rates of water,” Vic Harshberger, COO of the Monument Hill Country Club, said.
Instead golf will be offered at nearby Kings Deer Golf Club. The rest of the country club will remain open and continue to offer aquatics, tennis, a fitness center, dining and other social activities.
Harshberger said over the past three years MHCC has paid approximately $180,000 in irrigation per golf season. That is compared to 2007 and 2008 when they were only paying $85,000 per season. Their annual renewable water investment fee is close to $20,000. The renewable water investment fee pays for bonds issued to finance the purchase of the JV Ranch. Despite their golf rounds increasing by 80 percent and using extreme conservation efforts to conserve water, MHCC is still paying eight times more in irrigation than Kings Deer Golf Club.
Harshberger said that current water rates and fees imposed by Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District make it impossible to keep the golf course going. Harshberger said he tried to meet with WWSD on a number of occasions to work with them on water rates and even offered to meet with the board of directors in executive session but he said WWSD couldn't find a way to make it work.
“I'm very disappointed,” Harshberger said. “I really don't see anything in the future that will provide us reasonable rates.”
Jessie Shaffer, district manager for WWSD, said to his knowledge the district never received a request from the country club to meet about closing the golf course.
“District staff and individual board members have met, upon request, with representatives of the country club several times over the past few years to discuss site specific operational practices and to suggest ideas for more efficient water use that could lower the cost for the country club,” Shaffer said.
Shaffer also said the district has met with representatives to discuss using Kings Deer water but necessary project improvements to deliver Kings Deer water into the district were deemed unfeasible by the country club. He also said that the district met with representatives in the late summer to discuss a substantial leak and significant loss of water, approximately eight million gallons, which was occurring on one of the course ponds. He said the discussions resulted in a deferral of payments and reduced water usage charges because of the circumstances and with the understanding that the country club would fix the leak by December. Shaffer said that they were never notified that the leak was fixed.
Harshberger said that is inaccurate and during a 2012 WWSD board meeting he requested to meet with the board to discuss the “health of the golf course” in the board's executive session and was refused. He said it would have been inappropriate to discuss a possible golf course closure in a public meeting that was covered by the press.
“Jessie was present when that request was refused,” he said, adding that several email requests were sent to board members asking for a private meeting and Shaffer was copied on at least one of those messages. He said none of the board members agreed to meet with him in private telling him that, “This is a discussion that should happen with the board as a whole or with Jessie as a conduit to all of us.”
Harshberger also said that WWSD never suggested ideas for efficient water usage.
“They have never exhibited knowledge of golf course agronomics. We did discuss utilizing the main irrigation pond to store water to avoid the penalty rates of bracket 2 and 3 for non-potable water. We had to get the approval of the state, not WWSD in order to use our pond to store water for later use,” Harshberger added.
As for the idea of using Kings Deer water Harshberger said Shaffer was the one who rejected the idea. He said in an email sent to him by Shaffer in December of 2011 Shaffer said that transmission loss would be over 25 percent to move water from King's Deer to Woodmoor and that there was no value in building a pipeline between the two.
Regarding the leak Harshberger said they were required to pay WWSD for millions of gallons of water they didn't use. He said WWSD insisted they pay for the water which the experts the country club hired say was seeping back into the same water table the wells draw from, but did agree to only charge them at the tier one rate.
“When we asked to extend the payment plan at the Sept. 2012 board meeting, Jessie presented us with a non-negotiable plan that required a letter of credit from a bank within 25 miles, only 24 hours to respond, and we had to agree to pay their attorney to prepare the agreement even before we could secure the letter of credit. The overall terms were onerous and we declined. We didn't notify the district about the pond repair because it has not been repaired,” Harshberger said.
Harshberger said the dam engineer they met with on a number of occasions offered some information on the JV Ranch that Woodmoor Water purchased more than a year ago.
Water and rising costs
Woodmoor Water purchased the JV Ranch in Fountain for close to $30 million in October 2011 as part of their renewable water plan much to the disappointment of their customers who were against the purchase. The water district's long-term plan is to construct a storage and treatment facility at the ranch and then have water pumped 44 miles to the district. The estimated cost to deliver the water will range between $30 -$100 million according to Woodmoor Water's website. Harshberger, who believes customers should have had the opportunity to vote on the purchase, said on top of that there is a dam that, according to a state dam engineer, needs about $5 - $10 million of repair work done.
“I can't imagine a 2,000 acre community absorbing that cost,” Harshberger said.
The dam referred to is the Calahan Dam and Shaffer said the dam is not damaged and does not require any mandated repairs from the Dam Safety Branch of the Colorado Division of Water Resources.
“The district has not been contacted by anyone from that agency regarding damages or repair mandates,” Shaffer said.
Dam safety engineer John Hunyadi said he has been out to Monument Hill Country Club on a number of occasions to look at their pond. He said that upon inspection of the Calahan dam it is conditionally satisfactory if WWSD stores approximately 300 acre feet which is typical. He said he has heard that the water district might want to store more than that and in that case it would cost money to raise the dam to hold the storage and he said what he told Harshberger was that he's seen that type of work typically cost between $5 - $10 million. However he said that doesn't mean it would cost that much to raise the Calahan dam and has not looked at any designs for it. He's not sure that WWSD even has a plan to store more water and for now it is satisfactory.
Options and concern
Harshberger said a vast majority of their members are concerned with the water situation and there is concern from nearby property owners as to what the impact will be on the values of their property if the country club is not irrigating the golf course.
“I am very concerned that Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District and Monument Hill Country Club could not reach an agreement on water rates to keep the golf course open. I am concerned about our property values with a potentially unsightly, un-maintained golf course,” Jim Hale, Woodmoor Improvement Association president, said. “Woodmoor has nearly 130 lots on the golf course and many more in close proximity. Those residents are going to look out on a dry, brown weedy view by mid-summer. The country club has bent over backwards to try to negotiate a compromise and has even suggested alternative water sources, but WWSD has stood firm on their outrageous water costs to the club.”
Harshberger said artificial turf is not a solution and opening up the golf course to the public is not an option either because they wouldn't be able to get enough rounds from the public to offset the cost.
“The ideal solution is to get competitive water,” Harshberger said, adding they might have to shorten the length of the golf course if they want to offer golf again in the future.
He said members join Monument Hill Country Club because they enjoy golfing in the trees.
“Members are disappointed. We didn't want to have to do this at all,” Harshberger said.