City residents continue to say no to sale of Lemoore Golf Course as another offer revealed

By Ed Martin, The Leader Editor
Lemoore Golf Course club house
Lemoore Golf Course club house

There may be another offer on the table to buy the city’s golf course according to City Manager Jeff Laws, who during the second of two public hearings on the matter, told a packed council chambers Tuesday night, that he has been approached by an entity interested in buying the course. He said that on Monday, December 16, a private investment group approached the city about the course and need 60 to 90 days to review and recommend an offer, if at all.

Laws had no other information regarding the firm or its reasons for wanting to purchase the property.

So far there has been considerable interest in the course, with the Tachi-Yokut tribe creating the need for a pair of public hearings discussing the pros and cons of selling. The Tachi have offered the city $5 million and suggested that the City of Lemoore, in a way, help foot the bill by allowing the Tachi to pay in three installments over time, ending with a $2 million lump sum payment on November 1, 2027.

Lemoore Golf Manager Rich Rhoads also presented an offer to the city council and wants to lease the course from the city which would keep the property in the city’s name while he makes the loan payments. While the city, during its hearing Tuesday night, mentioned the possibility of Rhoads leasing the golf course, Rhoads himself hasn’t been approached by anyone from the city or asked him questions.

Rhoads, who didn’t want to get into specifics, told The Leader that he would like to structure a deal over 17 years to pay off the course and provide funds for an asset-replacement fund, to provide improvements to the course over time. But he added that’s he’s always willing to discuss the lease.

“Let me sit down (with the city) and see exactly what the numbers are,” said Rhoads. “I’m willing to negotiate these numbers.”

Rhoads has been with the golf course since the course’s opening in 1992 as either the head golf professional or the course manager, the job title he holds now.

Once again the public was allowed to give its thoughts on the sale, and by a nearly unanimous voice, told councilmembers that selling the course is not a good idea.

Longtime golfer and resident Dick Jacques told members they need to do due diligence. “I would highly recommend that before you make any decision that you have your own independent appraiser (appraise the course),” he said.

He also took issue with the placing of a covenant on the property which would stipulate that the property in question would have to remain a golf course. He said it was not true that this city council or a future council could not remove the covenant. “A future council can reduce those covenants,” he said.

“I’m against the sale of the golf course. You’ve got a jewel in the golf course and you should do whatever you can to protect that jewel,” he said, adding that Lemoore’s course is in the top 10 percent of municipal golf courses in the state.

Jacques said he contacted the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington D.C. regarding the possibility of the Tachi-Yokut tribe petitioning the government and have the golf course property placed into a trust, effectively creating a new tribal area, which could be spared the burden of taxes and, hypothetically, create a zone where gambling might be allowed.

Officials at the Bureau confirmed to Jacques that if the Tachi were to purchase the land, the tribe could petition the government to create a tribal trust. “They can petition the Bureau of Indian Affairs to have the Lemoore Golf Course property be designated as tribal ground or trust as they call it,” said Jacques. He said that any agreement between the city and the tribe would be null and void if the Bureau were to okay such a trust.

Stratford’s Gerald Mercer suggested during the public hearing that youth golf programs may go away if the course is sold to the Tachi-Yokuts. The Lemoore youth golf programs are “the best in Northern California,” said Mercer. “With new management I feel these youth programs will disappear.”

Mercer said he has approached the Tachi about sponsoring youth golf and he was told they were not interested. “That response makes me wonder,” he said of the Tachi commitment to keeping youth programs.

Karen Osterland, a nearby homeowner, has been a frequent critic of a possible golf course sale and told councilmembers, based on Jacque’s earlier testimony, a casino could be built right across the street from neighborhoods. She suggested that Rhoads is doing a fine job with the course and should be given an opportunity to lease it. “Most of us would prefer to lease that golf course to someone like Rich Rhoads whose heart is in the golf course. The people of Lemoore do not want you to sell this (golf course) to the Tachi Tribe.”

Once again the issue of California Codes regarding the sale of publicly-owned property came up. Normally, under normal code, it would require a four-fifths vote to dispose of public property. However, “surplus” property requires only a majority vote.

“Can you explain how the golf course can be considered surplus property?” asked Carol Campbell who also opposes the sale of the course. She said the golf course doesn’t meet the definition of surplus property and if voted upon to sale, should be done so via a four-fifths vote.

Tachi Chief Financial Officer James Snead defended the Tachi offer and payment schedule and promised the Tachi would immediately put money into course improvements. “The tribe is committed to making $1 million dollars in investments in the first year if we own the course,” he said.

Mayor Billy Siegel reiterated his longtime position on the sale, saying that at this point in time councilmembers are seeking input from the public, will gather the testimony, study it and come to a conclusion at some point in the future. “We want a golf course but we can’t bankrupt the city,” he said.


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