At the Nov. 16 meeting, the Cottage Grove City Council approved a bid for a $2,146,921 irrigation upgrade at River Oaks Golf Course. As a municipal course, it is the city’s responsibility to maintain the operation of the course, and the irrigation system has not been updated in over 30 years.
The council rejected a previous bid of $3.76 million for the irrigation update, as it was more than $500,000 over a consultant’s estimate for the project in August. The newly approved bid includes engineering, design and project management fees.
About $60,000 was spent on professional consulting for the project. Although the previous bid did not take hold, the city’s consulting and design fees have been utilized. The costs were rolled into the new design, with the winning firm, Mid-America Golf and Landscape, Inc. The previous plans remain on file for the city to utilize as a master plan.
“The objective of the River Oaks Golf Course project is the complete replacement of the 1989 irrigation system. As our GM and our superintendent would say, the golf course is a living and breathing facility that needs constant care and attention, and the irrigation system is the lifeline of that golf course. It needs to be in good repair. It needs to be operating for us to make sure that we’re protecting that asset,” said Parks & Recreation Director Zac Dockter. “The goals are to convert the PVC piping to HD polyethylene piping, which a 50-year type pipe. The second goal is to convert to more efficient controlling systems, and then the third is to convert to more efficient mechanical systems.”
He laid out the city’s plan, which is for the project to come to fruition starting in the spring and summer of 2023, beginning by replacing the pump station. In July 2023, the replacement of the irrigation system would begin, while leaving the course open for play. Individual holes may be closed as the process continues, and greens fees would be adjusted accordingly throughout.
“The course will remain open through the duration of the project,” said Dockter.
The irrigation project is bolstered by an Interfund loan in the amount of $1.85 million from the city’s Golf Course Fund.
In addition to the irrigation updates was a grant agreement allotting safety equipment funds for maintenance technicians at the golf course to aid in the repair of mowers, snowblowers and golf carts. Concerns had been raised over medical issues resulting from technicians lifting equipment, and lifts are being installed to aid service without injury, Councilmember Steve Dennis said, “We know the golf course brings a tremendous amount of people here to Cottage Grove to spend money, and we benefit directly from that. When we support River Oaks Golf Course, we support ourselves. That helps to cover costs, and provides an incredible amenity that we have here.”
Councilmember Tony Khambata commented, “In government, it’s really rare that you have an asset that covers its own costs, let alone generates a profit at the end of the year. The fact that in the golf course’s budget they can cover the cost of the debt service on this, not even factoring the savings, labor, materials, and decreased water usage; if this were a privatized entity, this would still make sense to do. There are very few opportunities in government where we can have an asset that’s not only generating a positive impact for the community, but also covering its own expenses.”