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Jim Bulkley

Jim Bulkley

At our July 15th Committee of the Whole, the city administrator gave an update regarding our discussions with FEMA and what we could expect regarding their financial participation as we look to move forward with Quail Run repairs. I then presented to the City Council my vision for moving forward:

We have been presented with three options that we could work within moving forward with Quail Run repairs.

1. Do nothing. Leave Quail the “hybrid” 9-hole course that we have right now.

2. Redo Quail to as close to “pre-flood conditions” as possible. With FEMA blessing and participation of 75%. The estimated cost for this option is approximately $2,000,000. Cost to the City $500,000.

3. Mitigation. Where we look at the option of creating the necessary “new holes to replace those damaged by the flooding. This would require being laid out on the north side of the levee and would necessitate the purchase of land. The approximate cost to do this building of the required new holes (with land purchase) $6,000,000. And then for mitigation to work we MUST PROVE A COST/BENEFIT to option 1.

Looking at all of this and trying to make sense is a daunting task. Option 1, option 2, option 3-all have something that appeals to some residence. As with so many things-what excites one person isn’t always important to others. We need to try and find balance.

It is paramount that we look at the BIG picture and consider what is best for Columbus. As our community continues to grow and attract business and new residents, we need to offer the amenities that people expect.

Golf is an amenity the same as our water park, baseball fields, soccer fields, tennis courts and walking trails. Our citizens expect to find much of this available. There will always be discussion and/or disagreement on how much is needed but not that a certain level of participation by the City is expected.

Looking at all of this, I believe Columbus deserves an 18-hole golf course! I’m not thinking a hybrid 9 at Quail along with 9 at Van Berg. Nor do I believe it is fiscally responsible to build a new course at the tune of $6,000,000.

I am proposing to our Council to move forward with the repairing of the damaged holes at Quail. Doing so in step with FEMA, thus qualifying the City to get 75% reimbursement. Costing the City approximately $500,000.

I don’t think we can assume we will never flood again. BUT will we encounter the “PERFECT STORM” that we had this spring causing our issues? Odds say no. We will have flooding. Heck, on multiple occasions those fairways flooded and as spring turned into summer those fairways were fine. The difference this last time was the ice, frozen ground, and the right combination of all of these. Remember, ALL the greens survived!!

So in working with FEMA to bring back to “pre-flood” conditions, we will see what type of tweaking we might be able to do. We might have to restore to as was with FEMA dollars and then look at any changes to help lessen future flood damages that we might have.

The course will never be exactly the same once back to “pre-flood” conditions. We know that the tree damage will linger. And the trees were part of the beauty of the course. But not all the trees will go and we can begin a planting campaign immediately.

With the rebuild must come a management and operating philosophy that sees Quail as a business. We must recognize that revenues and expenses have got to be watched and checked. Just because this is an amenity does not relieve it from being run in a fiscally responsible manner.

Along with this we must recognize and accept that the demographics of golf have changed drastically since Quail was built. Columbus CANNOT support 27 municipal holes of golf! When the rebuild of Quail is complete we will close the Van Berg golf course.

This should come as NO SHOCK to anyone. The facts were presented to the City 30 years ago by the consultants that were hired to develop Quail. They said then Columbus CANNOT support 27 holes of golf. And the dynamics that went into that recommendation are stronger today than they were then.

The demand for golf courses has changed. Ask Omaha!! Look at our neighboring communities and how many have nice facilities competing for our golfers. Humphrey, Leigh, North Bend, and many other courses pull Columbus golfers away every day.

None of the amenities that we have pay for themselves. Some do a better job than others but all need help. Whether it is supported by a designated sales tax amount (as with the water park and Aquatic Center) or subsidized from the general fund. So as good stewards of your dollars we must do what makes fiscal sense.

Getting Quail back to 18 holes is a sound fiscal decision that with FEMA’s help we can afford. We can cash flow what’s needed and if we feel it is prudent we can look at bonding the amount needed. It is possible to bond the 75% FEMA participation and have payback coordinated with the FEMA reimbursement to us. Thus assuring that we are working with their dollars and not carrying all of this on our shoulders.

When I started putting this recommendation together I knew I would not please everyone. Some want to do nothing, others build new, and still others have different opinions. There will be plenty of naysayers—THERE ALWAYS IS! And there are always those that know better.

We don’t have all the answers and some more issues will evolve as we move forward. And yes there will be challenges. But I believe this is a sound decision for our community. We need to get started, keep moving forward, and follow through with all aspects.

Something Good Columbus!

Jim Bulkley is the mayor of Columbus.

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