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Fore!: City-owned golf property reopens

Golf Course Reopens
By Troy Foster
   News Editor
   A portion of the Nine Peaks Golf Course the City of Madras acquired in a court ruling Aug. 3 reopened to public use Friday much to the satisfaction of city officials.
   The nine city-owned holes marked by new, red flags were traversed once again by area residents over the weekend who took advantage of the free golf available for a limited time.
   Public Works Director Tom Gellner told the City Council last Tuesday he was "very happy" with the way the city has handled the acquisition and the steps that have been taken to reopen the course.
   "Now we'll get a revenue stream going to where we can start paying for the expenses," Gellner said.
   The city is asking golfers headed to its portion of Nine Peaks to play their nine holes on the honor system. Golfers are expected to deposit $5 into a red Bureau of Land Management box that will be placed near the first hole later this week. Until then, the golf is free.
   The reopening of the city-owned portion of Nine Peaks marked an interim solution to a dilemma the council had gone back and forth on since acquiring the nine holes two months ago. Council members had tossed around many possibilities, including searching for someone to run it through a private contract, but ultimately decided it needed to be available for residents and revenue now.
   "We just needed to move on with this because the community needs to move on with this," Madras Mayor Rick Allen said. "We know we're going to have to have it for a few years this way."
   Suddenly thrust into the golf business, the city council has elected to form a committee to oversee the course.
   That committee will have many management issues to tackle. The city has used a borrowed mower from the school district and rented a greens mower from the Bend Golf & Country Club.
   Gellner said he thinks the city has spent $3,000 to $4,000 in labor expenses but has benefited from the use of free laborers provided by the juvenile department.
   The school's mower and a city-owned mower leave the grass one inch in length. Golf fairways are typically 1/2 inch long. And with the owners of the borrowed greens mower asking for it back, Gellner said the city will need to spend about $1,500 to purchase a used one and look into purchasing a fairway mower later this winter.
   "We've had so much success growing it that now we need to figure out how to cut it," Gellner said jokingly at the Oct. 9 city council meeting.
   That same night, Mayor Allen said he had lost six balls on the course when he gave four holes a spin last week with some Warm Springs leaders. All six vanished in the fairways, he noted with a touch of sarcasm.
   "We decided whoever lost the least amount of balls won," Allen said.
   One man, however, who is not humored by the reopening of the course's west side is Nine Peaks owner Kevin O'Meara.
   "I'm just sad about the whole thing," O'Meara said. "It's just ridiculous. They've done nothing to try to work out a settlement."
   O'Meara lost the nine holes when the city canceled his lease on that portion of the land following a dispute of land-use and irrigation methods. A senior Circuit Court judge sided with the city's decision when O'Meara challenged it in court.
   The half he still manages has remained open but costs $10 for a round of nine holes. O'Meara stopped short of saying the city's half would pose a serious threat to his business: "Have you seen the shape it's in?" he asked.
   "I'm just trying to go on with life and let them deal with their problems," O'Meara said. "We'll make money but not much money. It's going to be very interesting to see how people react as the city continues to lose more and more money on it."
   A few business men have inquired about buying him out, O'Meara said, but withdraw their interest when they learn he only owns nine holes and the city has taken back the remaining land.
   "The city has no idea how to run a golf course," O'Meara charged. "They don't have a clue what they're doing out there."
   O'Meara has filed an appeal of Senior Circuit Court Judge F.J. Yraguen's ruling but the legal dispute has no clear end in sight. In the meantime the city will operate its nine holes indefinitely.
   At least one golfer made his way out to the city's course Friday to try his luck on the nine holes.
   Sam Brown, a retired U.S. Department of Agriculture employee, showed up around 11 a.m. saying he was delighted to see 18 holes open to public use regardless of who owned which half.
   "It looks pretty nice from what I can see," Brown said as he surveyed the course. "Madras needs 18 holes one way or another. I just wish they didn't have to go to court to settle this."