BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Following a lengthy agenda item involving three presentations and multiple public comments, Los Alamos County Council voted 4-2 Tuesday evening to direct staff to “maximize the use of $2.5 million to develop bid ready documents as soon as possible using existing documentation (technical drawings and specifications) with a goal of work completion in 2022: to make improvements to holes 4 through 18 and to install two new restrooms (one on the front nine and one on the back nine).
The three presentations were by Parks and Rec Board member Jaime Aslin, County Engineer Eric Martinez and County Community Services Director Cory Stryon. Councilors Sean Williams and David Reagor voted against the motion.
The motion that passed continued, “To support securing the design services of a golf course design professional to in parallel develop design concept options for improving holes 1-3 and the driving range/practice tee areas including cost estimates”.
The motion included seeking public comment in coordination with the Parks and Recreation Board and returning to Council with recommendations for a phased implementation of golf course improvements. The motion further stated that the concept design options will consider permanent improvements for addressing safety without impacting the teaching and learning quality of the facilities, will include evaluating the following:
- Expanding the course to accommodate one or two new holes so not to shorten the overall course length while minimizing impacts to existing trails and open space to the greatest extent possible;
- Expanding the driving range to minimize or eliminate safety netting and include driving and short game practice improvements; and
- Practice area improvements, cart path upgrades, and any other course improvements identified during the design process.
The vote included a directive for staff to return with a budget revision as soon as possible.
Originally there were two motions in the agenda: Motion 1 which followed the suggestions of the Los Alamos Golf Association (LAGA) and was chosen by the Parks and Rec Board. Motion 2 was prepared by County staff and the motion that was passed was a revised version of Motion 2.
Background on the golf course provided by the County indicates that in December 2017 Council approved a $4.524 million budget for golf course improvements with the primary goal of replacing the irrigation system with other elements to be prioritized as funding allowed with safety netting improvements at the driving range identified as a project consideration. The planned design and construction of the irrigation project was completed in February 2021.
In May 2021, a design concept created by a design professional was presented to the Parks and Rec Board (PRB) at a public meeting that included an expanded driving range that proposed to renovate holes 3, 4, 5, and 6 and improve bunkers on the front 9. The agenda packet states that “the design professional and staff addressed questions, and with no apparent objections or further suggestions regarding the design, the golf course architect completed design documents in June 2021 in accordance with the project schedule and the services agreement”.
The background provided says that as the project was prepared for construction bid advertisement, staff received numerous concerns about the design from LAGA members and as a result, staff paused any further activities on the project and held a public meeting with LAGA members in July 2021 and more fully understood LAGA’s response and opposition to “shortening the golf course associated with the proposed design”.
In October 2021 there was another public input and information meeting followed by a presentation to the PRB to continue dialogue, address concerns and feedback from LAGA, and obtain further input. County staff provided an overview of the project history and existing conditions and reported on various scenarios developed including budget impacts for consideration by the PRNB. Staff also received recommendations from LAGA supporting the use of restricted flight balls at the driving range as a method of addressing safety. Staff also met with Los Alamos Youth Golf Association members and received input.
Meanwhile the design consultant left the project stating that the project entered into a direction beyond the original scope and any additional services associated with restricted flight balls would place his company in an uncomfortable position of making recommendations beyond the professional expertise ordinarily provided by golf course architects.
In November 2021, the County obtained new technical information from Tanner Consulting that included a ball flight study of the Pointfive 60% restricted flight/low compression ball recommended by LAGA to address safety issues at the driving range.
“The ball flight analysis does illustrate the current netting layout is sufficient with the use of this type of ball and may even allow for some partial removal or lowering of the existing netting,” the packet states. “Also during this time, LAGA also provided Pointfive balls for use by golf course patrons and a customer survey was conducted. The results show mixed results by patrons on the proposed use of this ball at the range. Additional feedback on the use of this specific restricted flight ball was offered from Tanner Consulting, Shamrock Hills Golf Club in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and the Pointfive Golf Company. Other design options were considered over the last six months, however there was no consensus was reached.
Motion 1 and Motion 2 were as follows:
Motion Option 1:
I move that Council direct staff to use the currently available remaining CIP funds to issue an RFP (potentially design/build) for a golf course designer/construction contractor to:
– Rehabilitate/add bunkers, tees, greens, trees and areas in disrepair on holes four (4) through eighteen (18);
– Install two (2) new restrooms (one on the Front 9 and another on the Back 9); and
– Continue the use of restricted flight balls to temporarily address the safety concerns at the driving range while a new design can be developed.
I further move Council consider a [future] budget revision for a new golf course design consultant to complete revised design concepts; conduct public involvement; apply for necessary rezoning approvals to the Planning and Zoning Commission and Council; and complete technical design and bid documents for the following improvements to the golf course:
– Expand the course to accommodate one or two new holes so not to shorten the overall course length for holes one (1) through three (3);
– Expand the driving range to minimize or eliminate safety netting and include driving and short game practice improvements; and
– Design additive alternatives for cart path upgrades.
Motion Option 2:
I move that Council support securing the design services of a new golf course design professional to:
– Develop bid ready documents (technical drawings and specifications) to make improvements to holes 4 through 18 as recommended by the Parks and Recreation Board;
– Simultaneously develop concept design options for improving holes 1 through 3 and the driving range/practice tee areas including cost estimates;
– Seek public feedback in coordination with the Parks and Recreation Board; and
– Return to Council with recommendations for a phased implementation of golf course improvements including associated budgetary proposals.
I further move that, to address the golf course safety concerns, restricting ball or club use at the driving range should only be a temporary solution. The concept design options will consider permanent improvements that address safety without impacting the teaching and learning quality of the facilities, and include evaluating the following:
– Expanding the course to accommodate one or two new holes so not to shorten the overall course length while minimizing impacts to existing trails and open space to the greatest extent possible;
– Expanding the driving range to minimize or eliminate safety netting and include driving and short game practice improvements; and
– Practice area improvements, cart path upgrades and any other course improvements identified during the design process.
As previously noted, the final motion was a revised version of Motion Option 2.