The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Golf course project to cost $1.5 million


The city council decided on Tuesday night to split up the golf course improvement between two separate companies. Members were hesitant about a slightly higher cost than expected, but issued their approval anyway, considering the golf course an asset to the community.

"I think I have a little better news than the last time I was up here," said Andy Staples of Staples Golf Design, the company that designed the project.

Staples adjusted the work schedule and relaxed or reset many of the specifications for the project after receiving only one offer in its first attempt to bid out the work earlier this summer. The initial setback came much to the council's displeasure. Staples also allowed the contractors to break out the different portions of the overall project into smaller individual projects during the second round of bidding.

"I think it's really important to note that we gave the city the utmost flexibility as to how we go forward," Staples said. "It's really important to understand that we took what was an all-inclusive bid and this time around broke it into three individual bids for the pond construction, the building construction and the overall irrigation system."

Staples recommended that the city go with Mid-America Golf and Landscape for the reservoir and the building portion of the project while awarding the irrigation and pump station work to Duininck, Inc. This would put the project at a total of around $1.5 million.

"We've been able to go into the bidding process and tailor what we think might be the best interest for the city," Staples said.

Possible alternatives that the city could add on to the work were very competitive, Staples added.

"I would also propose for consideration that the alternate bids be considered for additional work because they are really in our minds, very in line and a very good deal," Staples said.

Councilman Joe Arterburn was concerned that the base of the project, without any add-ons added up to around $280,000 over the original projected budget.

The council did allocate $1.5 million for the golf course project, City Manager Gary Person said.

Chuck Christensen, golf director at the course, would be willing to forgo the Golf Development Fund throughout the 10 years that it will take to finance this project, which would probably bring in $16,000-$18,000 toward the project each year. This money could potentially cover more than $150,000 of the project, Person added.

"I think we can make it work," Person said. "But it's your decision."

Re-seeding the fairways and leveling the tees were the most important possible alternate add-ons for the council. The body wasn't sure, however, if funds for these extra additions to the project were available.

"If we were to get some additional money to do the tees, we could work with Mid-America," Staples said.

The leveling of the tees would help dispose of some extra dirt resulting from other portions of the project.

"As of right now if you do not do the tees, you will have an extra 10,000 yards in the vicinity of the proposed pond," Staples said.

It is estimated that $1.2 million for this project will be raised through sales taxes. but, if the local economy keeps doing well, sales taxes might generate quite a bit more than that, Person said.

Arterburn wondered if there were any private efforts at the moment to raise money for the golf course project.

"We could host some golf tournaments and have some of that money go to the project," Christensen said. "We're probably looking at $5,000 per year from that. It's not a lot."

Christensen touted the benefit to the city of having a nice golf course.

"People that are coming from out of town are saying that it's the best golf course, the best value they get from anywhere else," he said.

Some in the golf community are very passionate about the project. Some golfers worked very hard to get the sales tax election adopted to raise the funds for the project, Person said.

"I think there's wide ranged support among the golf community to get this done," Person said. "We've been living on borrowed time and we've got a huge investment out there and we couldn't go another summer like we had if we lose our irrigation system and pay the consequence."

Some portions of the irrigation system are very old, and could give out at any moment.

"We've got fairways burning up, drying up, the grass is dead," Christensen said.

He added that when grass dies, weeds spring up and the course has to spend a lot of money to get the grass back.

Christianson said that doing the tee renovations when the companies are already on site would be great, but if it's not feasible for the city, then the golf course could do the renovations in-house over the course of a few years. The irrigation system needs to be replaced soon, he added.

Councilman Mark Nienhueser questioned whether the low bidders met the necessary qualifications to complete this project.

Both companies are furnishing performance and payment bonds to ensure their quality of work. Person called references for both companies.

"I can say from a staff perspective, I'm comfortable with whatever direction you go," he said.

Mayor Wendall Gaston wondered what the value of the golf course would be, if the city had to build it today. Staples estimated the value of Sidney's course at around $3.5-$4 million.

"This is gonna be pretty tight all around," Gaston said. "I guess I'm looking at what happens if we lose this asset and then in ten years we've saved enough money and we bring it back, what's that gonna cost us?"

Staples assured the crowd that the value of a golf course should be measured in more than just dollars.

"It's awfully hard to put a cost on the intangible value of a green space to a community and the value of golf to a community," Staples said. The brand that the city had developed is also valuable to the city, he added.

"As much as I don't like to we're gonna have to figure out how to get it covered in the future some way," Gaston said. "I don't know if we can stand to lose the asset. The day's gonna come when you turn the switch and it's not gonna come on and it's getting closer every day."

Arterburn agreed that the irrigation portion of the project needed to be completed because the taxpayers had already spoken about this issue, but commented that other funding would have to be obtained for the add-on projects.

"I'd like to see the golf community get behind this somehow," Arterburn said.

He thinks that if people are passionate about golf there might be a grassroots effort to backup the extra projects.

About 10-15 percent of the fairways were lost this summer due to irrigation issues.

"I don't know how we can not go ahead and do the re-seeding," Nienhueser said.

Nienhueser proposed accepting Staples suggestions of using the two companies and also accepting Duininck for the alternate add on of fairways renovations. He suggested the council ask the low bidder on the tee renovation if it will hold the proposed price for 60 days.

It would be nice to see them do one tee and then see what the city would get for its money, Gaston said.

"I don't think we can probably swing them all," Gaston said.


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