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AZTEC — The city of Aztec has about a year to decide whether it wants to continue leasing the Aztec Municipal Golf Course, located just outside of city limits.

In early January 2015, the owner of the Hidden Valley Golf Course shuttered the facility and placed it up for sale.

“I came down and spoke to the city manager and said we have to find a way to keep it open,” said course operator Randy Hodge said during a City Commission work session Tuesday evening.

The answer the city found was to lease the course, which was renamed Aztec Municipal Golf Course.

“It was a huge controversial issue,” said Commissioner Sherri Sipe.

The controversy ensued soon after the City Commission voted to lease the course. The course was closed for three months while the city did maintenance. While then-city manager Joshua Ray had said the city would likely break even on its investment into the course or could make some money, that never happened. At the end of 2015, the course was operating at a $95,000 deficit and the city anticipated losing $65,000 on the course in 2016.

Sipe said she thought the course was an important asset to keep in the community. She said no quality of life asset pays for itself.

At the end of the initial two-year lease, the City Commission voted 4-1 to renew the lease and contract with Hodge for operations. Instead of paying for maintenance, the city pays only for the course lease and the golf carts. Hodge reimburses the city for the liquor license and provides the city with 20 percent of the revenue from renting the carts out to golfers.

The operating agreement will end Dec. 31, 2019, and the other agreements will end in early 2020.

The city pays $20,000 a year to lease the course. It also pays $1,920 a month for 40 carts. At the end of the cart lease agreement, the city will pay $72,000. Then it will own the 40 carts.

“I just feel like the very best-case scenario was sold to the city when it was presented to the commissioners at that time,” said Mayor Victor Snover, who was elected to the commission in March. “And I feel like that best-case scenario was not really a reality.”

He expressed concerns with water use at the golf course during extreme drought, shrinking interest in the sport and spending money on the course when the city is struggling to pay for other priority projects.

Hodge said the course averages 11,000 rounds played each year. In addition, the course was used by a yoga class during the summer, and Aztec Trails and Open Space recently added a disc golf course.

Community members also highlighted the value of the course, including providing a venue for Special Olympics and the First Tee of San Juan County. The First Tee program teaches golf skills and core values like confidence, honesty and perseverance.

“It fills a niche that a few people can participate in that if we didn’t have the golf course it would be very difficult to have that program,” said Pat Swope, a coach for First Tee of San Juan County.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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