The City Commission of Arkansas City voted 4-1 on Sept. 18 to provide Spring Hill Golf Course with a one-time payment of $1,000 to help with the golf course’s current financial situation.

Three current golf course board members — Monty Potter, Eric Puchalla and Lee Velasquez — presented to the course’s current financials to the commissioners at their regular meeting. Both Potter and Puchalla also have worked for the course as employees since early 2017.

“We had no clue how to run a golf course … we started for the love of golf,” Potter said.

“We (had) a very successful 2017. (But) we had to cancel four tournaments this year because of weather.”

The golf course depends on income from those tournaments to pay its monthly bills and it does not have much margin for error.

During its peak months, Spring Hill employs two full-time and three part-time positions, with a total monthly payroll of $7,232.12.

There are 84 course members, an estimated 64 of whom are citizens of the City of Arkansas City.

Because of weather conditions this summer, Spring Hill was forced to cancel four of its tournaments this year.

That led to a loss of approximately $6,000 to $7,000 in expected revenue on which the course depends, according to Potter.

Spring Hill requested $1,000, but when asked if that sum would last until the end of the year, Puchalla indicated he and Potter were uncertain.

“We’re wanting to assess it. If we’re doing okay, you won’t see us (again),” he said.

“You all started in a hole (in 2017) and you’ve done a wonderful job (of recovering),” said Commissioner Jay Warren.

Spring Hill Golf Course came before the commission a few times previously, at the end of 2016.

At that time, the commission gave the golf course $3,600. The employees and board members who came at the time all have left since then.

“Something’s got to give eventually,” said City Manager Nick Hernandez, referring to the long-term financial prognosis of the gold course.

“We want to be self-sufficient,” Potter said.

“Don’t we donate all of the water to them?” asked Commissioner Duane Oestmann.

“Yeah,” Hernandez said. He and Potter clarified that the city does not charge the golf course for the water used on the course itself — up to 12 million gallons per year — but there is a meter on the clubhouse and the course does pay for that usage.

“We’re nowhere close (to using 12 million gallons this year),” Potter said.

Oestmann cast the only dissenting vote against the requested expenditure.

Emergency management Jeep

The commission also approved the purchase of a 2019 Jeep Cherokee Latitude for the Neighborhood Services Division in a 3-2 vote.

This purchase was tabled during the Sept. 4 meeting when Commissioner Kanyon Gingher asked to see a list of the items that needed to be fixed on the current vehicle.

Emergency Management Coordinator Bob Frazee came back to the commission Sept. 18 with only one item for repair, but said there likely were a few additional items that would come due soon. “It burns a quart of oil every 2,000 miles,” he said.

“There are lights and sirens, and some kind of logo on it … are you going to get new things?” Gingher asked.

“No, I’ll switch it over,” Frazee said. Having him perform that changeover only costs staff time, Hernandez said.

“The difficulty that I’m having with it — I understand what you’re saying, I rode in it with you — (is that) most of the citizens are driving vehicles with a lot more mileage than that,” Gingher said.

“And to have something that’s 14 years old and only has 71,000 miles on it, to me that would be, ‘Yeah.’ So I’m concerned about that. I’m concerned about asking citizens to spend $22,000 for a brand-new (vehicle).”

“I did send out a (request for quotes) on used ones. Four-by-fours are just not out there,” Frazee said.

“So if an engine were to be replaced, how long would the Jeep last then?” Gingher asked him. “I don’t know,” he replied.

“Another 14 years?” Gingher asked.

“I doubt it. … I wouldn’t be up here asking if I didn’t think it needed replaced,” Frazee said.

Oestmann then made a motion to purchase the new Jeep, which was seconded by Commissioner Karen Welch.

The purchase of the vehicle already was approved last year in the 2018 budget, which was three years after the vehicle originally came up in the rotation for replacement, according to Frazee. He deferred it at that time to save the city money.

Citizen Gareth McGee inquired why the city would purchase another Jeep, given how many issues have cropped up with the current vehicle.

“Obviously, it’s an unreliable vehicle — we have a Jeep in the family that’s been a bucket of bolts,” he said.

“I would say we should look at different models. Why not a small pickup or another small SUV?”

The two commissioners who cast dissenting votes were Gingher and Mayor Dan Jurkovich.

In other business, the commission:

  • approved the agenda with the addition of one item of new business.
  • proclaimed Oct. 2 as National Night Out in Arkansas City.
  • recognized and gave a ceremonial key to the city to Hannah Klaassen, Miss Kansas 2018.
  • heard from citizen Mell Kuhn about his concerns regarding trash pickup, specifically related to pickup of excess bags and cans of trash.
  • unanimously approved the consent agenda, which consisted of approving the Sept. 4 regular meeting minutes, scheduling a study session at noon Sept. 20 at the Agri-Business Building and approving a third agreement related to the Water Treatment Facility loan.
  • unanimously authorized the transfer of title of real estate located at 1203 South G St. to Cindy Weaver, in accordance with the city’s Land Bank policy.
  • voted 3-2 to appoint Kuhn to the Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals. Oestmann and Welch cast the dissenting votes.
  • unanimously authorized the city to enter into a contingent engineering design, construction administration and inspection contract with Smith & Oakes, Inc., of Arkansas City, for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Sleeth Addition Waterline Replacement Project, for an amount not to exceed $130,290. The contract only will be awarded if the city receives CDBG funds.
  • unanimously authorized the levy of a 1-percent citywide retailers sales tax (the “Health Care Sales Tax”) and related matters.
  • unanimously authorized the city to apply for a Moderate Income Housing grant from the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation.
  • unanimously approved some small additional expenses involved in re-striping several streets in Arkansas City.
  • heard updates from Hernandez about the reduced costs of operating the Water Treatment Facility and the upcoming study session.

Editor’s note: Gareth McGee is the husband of Ark City Daily Bytes co-owner Jeni McGee.