WALNUT CREEK -- The city is ready to spend $6 million at Boundary Oak Golf Course, but much of it will be on fixes few will notice.
That has some city leaders questioning whether it's worth the money.
Despite soaring interest rates and climbing project costs, the plan to issue bonds to pay for upgrades at the city-owned course is moving forward.
But some council members aren't thrilled that instead of an entire renovation of the 40-year old clubhouse, the fixes will focus on unseen things such as the eradication of dry rot.
"If this project is completed as proposed, it will still not be a project or a building that I feel I can be proud," said Councilman Bob Simmons at a City Council meeting Tuesday. "It will be a building that we will get through the next 20 to 30 years on, but it's not a building where we can say we have this really great clubhouse."
Simmons ended up voting for moving forward with the project. The proposal is similar to the scope of work the council passed in April.
The work at the clubhouse is needed because maintenance of the facility has been neglected for decades. Problems include a kitchen floor that leaks into the golf-cart barn below, a problematic sewer line and cracking stucco.
Because costs estimates came in about $2 million more than expected, in an effort to cut costs the city will not hire an outside architect and project manager but rather do the work in-house and split it into several projects. This means instead of the total closure of the clubhouse for a year, the work will be done over a three-year period in the golf offseason.
"It would be excellent if we could have this stellar clubhouse facility, but our first and primary responsibility is to protect the asset we have," said Mayor Cindy Silva. "If we don't protect this asset and keep it here for the long haul, we don't have a golf course."
The antiquated bathrooms and outdated fixtures will be redone, as will the pro shop and the snack bar. Also, an outdoor patio will be added. Other fixes include plumbing, electrical and roof patching. What had been proposed in April but now won't get done because of costs include replacement of the stucco and upstairs windows, and making the slanted windows vertical. Instead, the windows will be resealed and the stucco will be repaired, said Barry Gordon, director of arts, recreation and community services.
After the work is complete, the food and beverage portion of the Boundary Oak business will bring in $1.8 million in 2019, compared to $1.6 million this fiscal year. But according to the city's own financial projections, by 2019 that side of the business will bring in $284,000 after yearly debt payments -- $8,000 less than this current fiscal year.
Some are concerned that the fixes to the clubhouse won't translate into more bookings, as was originally hoped.
Mayor Pro Tem Kristina Lawson said Wednesday, "I don't know how that's going to happen when we are not doing anything new out there."
The city plans to issue $6.6 million in revenue bonds; some of that will go toward paying off the course's 1997 irrigation bonds. The new bonds will have an estimated interest rate of 5 percent on a 25-year term, which means when all is said and done, $5.8 million will be paid in interest. The bonds and interest are paid back by user fees generated at the course and clubhouse, with the city's general fund used as financial backing. So if the course for some reason wasn't making enough money and couldn't pay the debt, the city would be on the hook.
Some city leaders believe the financing is necessary now because interest rates are going up and the building desperately needs attention.
"We need to move forward. ... The building will continue to get worse and worse," said Councilwoman Loella Haskew. "Sometimes you have to settle for something that is better than most but not as good as you would like to have."
The City Council will likely have to sign off in December on issuing the bonds.
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.