The Washoe Board of County Commissioners has chosen to stick with the current operators of the Washoe Golf Course. That’s despite an unpaid bill of about $1 million, according to the county.
Four potential vendors were up for consideration to take over management of the course, and the board selected today the lowest-ranked bidder — current operator, Bell-Men Golf.
Staff was looking at ability to improve and market the course, said the county’s David Solero.
While nationally owned Billy Casper Golf was the county’s top-ranked potential vendor, locally owned Mazz Golf, which operates county-owned Sierra Sage Golf Course, was second in line, with a county staff ranking that was much higher than Bell-Men’s ranking.
Billy Casper’s proposal would have given a share of profits to the county while Mazz Golf’s proposal would give the county a percentage of all revenue, Solero said.
Commissioner Bob Lucey called Billy Casper’s proposal speculative, while Mazz Golf would bring in revenue to the county immediately.
“I want to make sure we’re doing what’s proper,” Lucey said, advocating for a locally owned operator.
While Bell-Men’s outstanding fees to the county were criticized in May, the county narrowly voted to have Bell-Men continue operating the course.
Bell Men will now also take over course maintenance, which the county currently oversees.
Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler, who made the motion to have Bell-Men maintain course management, said that today’s decision angered her fellow commissioners.
“This group (Bell-Men) really knows this course, and maybe if we give them the opportunity to do all the maintenance and everything, it will be an effective agreement that will work for us,” she said.
When pressed on how the county will be paid back, Berkbigler said that’s not clear.
“That’s something we haven’t worked out yet,” she said. “So I’m not comfortable how that’s actually going to be done, but I think the new contract gives us the opportunity to earn back the money….”
It was estimated by the county in May that Bell-Men owes the county about $1 million, which includes $600,000 in past-due fees plus interest, according to Solero.
“That money … belongs to the taxpayers,” Berkbigler said.
Bell-Men representatives said that the recession, taking over the course’s restaurant, contract changes, drought and course usage contributed to delinquent payments. They said they made more than $3 million in payments in the last five years but that only covered late fees and did not apply to the principal owed.
Numerous people showed up in support of Bell-Men, citing their longstanding contributions to the community. Despite the supporters, those in favor of having Mazz Golf run the course expressed shock at the board’s decision.
Commissioners Vaughn Hartung and Bob Lucey voted against having Bell-Men operate the course.