Aztec City Commission discusses future of Aztec Municipal Golf Course in Tuesday workshop

Matt Hollinshead,

AZTEC — Aztec City Commissioners held a discussion workshop with Aztec Municipal Golf Course supporters Oct. 8 to weigh the pros and cons of the city extending the current lease beyond March 2020.

Hidden Valley of Aztec, Inc. board member Randy Hodge reinforced how much of a community "icon" the facility is, the health and wellness benefits and the overall community impact. Hidden Valley of Aztec is a non-profit hoping to keep the golf course open.

Hodge also said the golf course and Aztec High School's golf team plan to partner up in starting a mentorship program for local youth.

On the flip side, the issue of money came up.

Since the end of the 2015 fiscal year, Aztec has seen a loss of $322,450 in revenue to its general fund, according to city officials.

In addition to the course lease, some of the notable golf course expenses included roughly $1,300 for the annual liquor license cost and another estimated $20,000-$25,000 for the annual water rights costs.

The other point of emphasis was that the golf course is not within the city limits. And,  although only 7 percent of San Juan County is private land, it was also mentioned that developers would view the golf course as valuable land to obtain.

Hodge requested there be continued negotiations, that the city keeps paying for the property lease and the liquor license as well as the water rights, and continue marketing on the city's website and provide aid in the event of "catastrophic losses" at the golf course.

"Over the last 60 days, we accumulated more than 1,000 signatures on a petition showing support for the continued operation of the facility. This support comes from all areas of the region," Hodge said, adding the golf course even has patrons from neighboring Colorado and Arizona.

Supporters highlighted efforts to grow the outdoor recreation industry in the Four Corners as another reason to keep the golf course open.

And, as much as Commissioner Rosalyn Fry voiced her support to keep the golf course open, describing it as a "beautiful place," she also brought up the issue of taxpayer money for other city services.

Due to the financial concerns presented, Hodge said the "lease can be negotiated" and that the 501(c)(4) can help in obtaining the liquor license through the state.

Mayor Victor Snover said that although it's an emotional subject, people should be mindful of the financial side of the discussion.

Back on April 30, Hodge proposed a 501(c)(4) entity to ensure the course keeps operating beyond 2019. Hodge also proposed considering keeping nine of their 18 holes on the course a backup plan.

A 501(c) 4 is a social welfare organization. The IRS website states that to qualify as a social welfare organization, "an organization must operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community (such as by bringing about civic betterment and social improvements)."

According to Daily Times archives, the Aztec City Commission unanimously voted in March not to renew the operating agreement with Hodge and to end the current lease of the golf course at the end of this year.

The course’s property and golf cart leases are set to expire in March 2020, but the city can end the course's lease at any time if it gives a 90-day notice.

The City Commission had the choice of closing the course within 90 days, keeping it open until the end of 2019 or entering into a new operator contract and keeping the course open.

The city began leasing the course in 2015.

Fry said in March that keeping the golf course open would also allow the scheduled tournaments and activities to take place this year, including allowing the high school golf team to use the course.

Snover said the City Commission looks to discuss the golf course again on the official agenda sometime in the next couple meetings.

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.

The Aztec Municipal Golf Course could close at the end of the year.