CLOVIS — Thursday night turned into quite an expensive one for the City of Clovis, with commissioners begrudgingly acknowleding it was just par for the course.
With commissioners noting they’ve invested too much into Colonial Park Golf Course to stop now, they unanimously approved $1.32 million to replace the back nine irrigation system.
The current system, first installed in the 1970s, is at or near the end of its useful life, City Manager Justin Howalt said. He noted 200 breaks in the last year, leading to expenditures of $120,000 in labor and materials.
Howalt said that the system was looped by crossing Diamondhead Drive and St. Andrews Drive. The city knew about the Diamondhead portion, and discovered the St. Andrews crossing location when a leak surfaced under a homeowner’s driveway. The loop was shut down as a precaution, Howalt said, but the decision has had impacts on the course.
The work would be paid through cash reserves in its general ($320,000), infrastructure and capital improvements funds ($500,000 each).
Course Manager Keaton Aucutt said the course has been popular in 2020, with rounds played up about 35% from 2019.
“We had our shutdown for a few weeks,” Aucutt said, “but even at that we still have a huge uptick in rounds along with the restaurant really picking up. It’s been a great asset.”
Mayor Pro Tem Chris Bryant said the golf course, purchased by the city in 2011, is a significant asset and a big expense now is a wiser investment than using labor and materials to fix breaks on an almost daily basis.
Commissioner Juan Garza concurred.
“When the city purchased the golf couse,” Garza said, “it was a big investment. We had an idea the sprinkler system was going to be coming to an end. I think it’s a waste of resources not to have it fixed. It’s a big investment; we need to protect that investment.”
Howalt said he was shocked the bids came in so high due to PVC prices, but other engineers across the state confirmed they’d seen similar impacts in their bids. Howalt said he hopes the irrigation system would be in place by spring, but irrigation pond construction could stretch a little longer.
The commission also approved a salary increase for 11 city employees in line with the state moving the minimum wage from $7.50 to $9 per hour.
Howalt said the change covers five classifications of city employees with expenses of $6,322.52 for 2020, but warned there would be a ripple effect throughout the city’s class and compensation plan. Yearly increases resulting in a $12 wage by 2023 will eventually affect 23 job classifications.
“Currently our library assistant is a Grade 10 within our pay scale,” Howalt said. “By the time 2023 comes around that position will be at a Grade 21 in our pay scale. That means our employees who are now at a Grade 21 in our pay scale will have to get adjusted so there’s not compression.”
“We’ll have to adjust for that compression and spread it out in our pay raises. Because of this, tonight, I’m only recommending increasing those positions that are below minimum wage. I wish we were at a point where I could say we could adjust our pay scales now, but we’ve been thrown a curveball here in 2020 and we’re not sure and want to be cognizant of what our economy looks like.”
Commissioners, like the golf course vote, admitted they really didn’t have much choice on the matter and were glad they could provide salary increases for those employees. Commissioner Rube Render said over the upcoming years, “we’re going to have less and less wiggle room” with the state-mandated increases and that small businesses would have a tough time with the wage increases in the coming years. Bryant said he had concerns about compression, as well, and that it didn’t seem right that a longtime city employee making $11.50 sees a new person making $10.50 on their first day.
In other business during the Thursday meeting:
• The commission approved binding property and liability insurance with Travelers for the upcoming year. The premium of $1,299,617 is a 5% increase from the 2020 calendar year, and was budgeted.
• Commissioner Helen Casaus thanked Xcel Energy for its lighting donation to Greene Acres Park, to Rocky Bernard for helping set the lights up and to Lisa Pellegrino-Spear for organizing the Christmas parade.
“I think she did an outstanding job,” Casaus said. “I know she heard a lot of complaints about the traffic, and all I have to say to the public is you can always volunteer.”
• The next meeting is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. Jan. 7.