Water district says country club is using them as excuse for closure of golf course

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The Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District claims that they are not the reason behind the Monument Hill Country Club's closure of the golf course.

The Monument Hill Country Club is not offering golf this season and has stated that the current water rates and fees imposed by Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District has made it impossible to keep the golf course going and Vic Harshberger, COO of the country club has said he has tried to meet with WWSD on several occasions but the water district could not make it work. WWSD board president Barrie Town and district manager Jessie Shaffer said they have been willing to look at anything to help the country club lower their operating costs.

Shaffer said they told the country club they could lease Kings Deer water from them and the money they would pay the country club would offset the costs of operating the golf course. He said during an initial meeting with the country club, WWSD told them to run an analysis on what it would take to build a pipeline to WWSD, dump it into the headwaters of Dirty Women Creek and then WWSD would capture it at their diversion structure and bring it back to Lake Woodmoor.

“The golf course position after that meeting was that it was not economically feasible for them and then they asked us to do an analysis where we put the infrastructure in and we came up with the exact same conclusion,” Town said.

Harshberger disagrees with that saying it was WWSD that said it was not feasible. He said in discussions Town said they would have to drill another well but that would be too expensive so the idea of the pipeline was brought up. Harshberger said Town and Shaffer initially said they would look into it and then he said he received an email from Shaffer stating that “there isn't much value in Woodmoor building a pipeline from King's Deer and then leasing the water” and that it was just too cost prohibitive.

“It wasn't our decision at all,” Harshberger said. “I never said it wasn't feasible.”

Reason behind increase

Town said regarding the country club's water rate increase from 2007 to the present, the reason behind that is because the country club was using water that didn't belong to them. He said the state water commissioner came down and discovered that the country club had been irrigating the golf club from the ponds that were built when the golf course was originally built and they did not own the rights to use that water. Town said during the month of June when it would get really dry, the golf club asked WWSD to augment them with irrigation water however when the state forced the golf club to stop using the water from the ponds the golf club had to come to WWSD earlier.

“They (commissioners) did it on their own. We were not part of that,” Town said.

Harshberger said the reason the golf course had been using water from the ponds was because an augmentation plan had never been put in place. He said the state commissioner told them down stream water rights holders would not be happy that water runs into their ponds and then was not being released. He said the state commissioner told them that they had to file an augmentation plan but WWSD came back and told them they weren't allowed because the water district owned the rights to the water and they had to file it.

Harshberger said that put the country club in the middle and put them in a difficult situation.

Beth Courrau, secretary for the WWSD board, said the water district was the one to help facilitate talks between the country club and the state water commissioner to allow the country club to store water in its ponds.

Shaffer said they talked to the commissioners about letting the country club store the water that was purchased from WWSD, just like a bank account. He said they could use that water in storage in their heavier irrigation months.

“It's just adding efficiency to their system. They could store the water in early spring and they could buy it at the cheaper tier one and tier two rates from us and then bank it and pull it out of storage in the heavier irrigating months.”

Arrangements made

Town said the country club has made it look like they increased their rates 110 percent when actually they have lowered their rates for non-potable rates. He said their rates for non-potable customers are sold to them at cost.

“Literally they get the water for paying for the electricity that it takes to get the water to their tap,” Town said.

In regards to the leak that was discovered in one of the ponds last summer Town said the country club asked the water district to not charge them at the upper tier, forgive the money and to delay the payment until after the irrigation season.

“All of which the board did. We did exactly what they asked them to. We erased the debt of the charged by the higher tier rate,” Town said, adding that they had to charge them at the tier one rate in order to recoup the water district's cost for the electricity.

Shaffer said anything over the 3.4 million gallons was charged at the tier two rates. There were no tier three assessments. Town said that was on the condition that they would repair the leak and the country club agreed to it and they have not heard from them as to whether the pond has been repaired.

Harshberger said during a board meeting in 2011 Shaffer said the cost to WWSD to pump electricity was $1 per 1,000 gallons.

“Then why am I paying (approximately) $3.50 for tier two water. It's surface water, not pumped from 2,000 feet,” Harshberger said. “They can't justify their costs.”

For non-potable water the charge for tier one is $2.21 per 1,000 gallons for zero to 3.4 million gallons used, tier two is $3.65 for 3,401 to 5.6 million gallons used and in tier three anything over 5.6 million gallons is $6.38.

The tier one cost has been reduced slightly more than 50 percent since 2011.

As far as meeting with the board in executive session Courrau said during a board meeting in September she asked about the health of the golf course and Harshberger requested to talk about it in the board's executive session which Harshberger confirmed in a previous interview. He said it was inappropriate to discuss the golf club's potential closure in public. Harshberger said the request was refused but Town said because the water district is an enterprise, quasi-governmental, the board isn't allowed to bring in anyone to an executive session because it's against the open meetings law.

He said he understands that Harshberger didn't want to talk about a sensitive issue in public and it's not that they didn't want him in there but it wasn't allowed.

“I want our community to realize that we are not the reason for this decision. We may be the excuse for the decision but I certainly don't think we're the reason,” Town said, referring to the golf closure. “We want them to succeed.”

Difficult decision

Harshberger said the decision to close the golf course was a very difficult one. He, like many residents, lives on the golf course and that was the last thing he wanted to do. He said the history between the country club and water district doesn't change the cost of his water today. He said in an average year, based on today's rates it will cost them more than $200,000 to water the golf course.

Another factor that played into their decision was the fact that members quit the country club when WWSD started charging their customers the renewable investment fee, which Harshberger said the country club's is $20,000. Many members said they couldn't justify paying membership dues because of the fee WWSD imposed.

“At this kind of costs we can't be successful with any number of rounds. That's why we shut down the golf course. We can't keep the golf course open until we find some kind of solution here that makes sense,” adding that he doesn't want to go to war with WWSD.

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