DeBell Golf Club to receive helping hand

Elected officials said Thursday they aren't ready to forgive any loans given to DeBell Golf Club, though they did agree to fund $75,000 in capital needs at the facility, which is expected to boost the club's revenue stream.

Club operators have reportedly noticed a drop in revenue in the evenings at the driving range, which city officials said is due to a lack of lighting. It has been a problem for several years.

"(Scott) Scozzola is saying that if we can fix that, and at least get back to the level it was, we can bring our revenues up, which is a win-win for both of us," said Judie Wilke, director of park, recreation and community services.

Scozzola took over the club's operations in January, and leases the facility from the city for $300,000 annually.

Officials will tap the General Fund to fund the one-time improvements, which the club will not have to pay back.

Without the city stepping in, the club wouldn't be able to afford the improvements for another two years, according to budget projections.

But council members felt the lighting needs were critical.

"There's no way you can run a golf course without a driving range lit at night," said Councilman Gary Bric.

Councilman Jess Talamentes concurred.

"We can't wait two years," he said. "That's just ridiculous."

Mayor David Gordon added that the issue is also one of safety.

City officials had also suggested forgiving one or both of the loans given to DeBell in recent years. Three years ago, the city approved a $1-million loan to lead the cash-strapped club to financial solvency after it had depleted its $6 million in reserves and borrowed $2.9 million from the city to build a new clubhouse.

Council members said they weren't prepared to consider forgiving loans, especially given the club is only two months into the new contract with Scozzola, and the restaurant has just recently reopened under new management.

"We've got to dig ourselves out, and we're doing a good job," Bric said, adding that the restaurant is "utilizing that facility like it's never been utilized before."

Even so, city officials reported a backlog of additional capital-improvement needs, such as seismic retrofitting the facility, which the club currently cannot afford.

The council will have a final vote on funding the $75,000 lighting repairs when it considers the fiscal year 2014-2015 budget next month.


Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.


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