The sprinklers are back on at D’Andrea Golf Club, the 18-hole course that has become the focus of controversy in northeast Sparks.
A month ago, the future of the site was anything but certain. On March 8, D’Andrea homeowners voted overwhelmingly not to raise fees by $28 a month to keep the water flowing after the city shut it off in light of an outstanding bill of $146,000. Without skipping a beat, the absentee owner, D’Andrea Golf Holdings, LLC, immediately released a statement on the club’s website stating the company would be closing the golf course immediately and permanently.
A motivated group of homeowners living in the D’Andrea community have formed a company called the Committee to Save D’Andrea in an effort to rescue what to many is the neighborhood’s identity.
The committee has begged and borrowed money from friends and neighbors to buy just enough reclaimed water from the city of Sparks to keep the course green until an investor can be found to fully fund the purchase of the course, chief organizer Nick Oddo said.
“The D’Andrea community is trying its very best to put something together, because we don’t want to lose this beautiful piece of property,” Oddo said.
The committee, along with additional outside investors, have entered into a 60-day licensing and maintenance agreement with the current owners of the D’Andrea Golf Club. The group is able to use the clubhouse for administrative activities as the parties negotiate a purchase and sale agreement.
D’Andrea Golf Holdings still owes the city about $146,000, said Neil Krutz, deputy city manager of Community Services for the city of Sparks.
The problems started shortly after the course opened in 2000. Like most golf-course communities, many homeowners purchased homes for the views and the amenities. The D’Andrea course at the D’Andrea Golf Club facility is an 18-hole, par 71 public course designed by Keith R. Foster with a total length of 6,849 yards.
The course owners were the first to sign an agreement with the city to purchase reclaimed water, which is treated water from the city’s sewage treatment facility, Krutz said.
The arrangement was beneficial for both parties. It kept extra water filled with nitrates from being pumped back into the Truckee River and it was less costly for the golf course to purchase for watering its greens and fairways.
“This agreement went back several years,” Krutz said. “They were one of the first users of the program.”
The city of Sparks didn’t charge the owners any extra costs for the reclaimed water.
“We just recovered the cost to provide the water to them,” Krutz said.
Problems started a few years ago when the golf course owners stopped paying the bills, however.
“The bottom line is, they didn’t pay their bills for four summers,” Krutz said.
Each summer, D’Andrea Golf Holdings let the city water bills pile up to the tune of an estimated $80,000. But, the company spent every summer paying down its debt to the city.
This “arrangement” went on for years. The city never assessed any extra charges or penalties for the late payments, knowing that eventually the bills would be paid by the owners, Krutz said.
The city finally turned the water off completely last fall when the company’s unpaid bill reached $146,000.
The water remained shut off and the sod deteriorated until recently when the city turned the water back on and agreed to provide the water to the Committee to Save D’Andrea for 60 days while the committee attempts to find an investor to purchase the golf course.
The city is charging the committee a higher rate of 96 cents per acre foot of water — the same price it costs the city to provide the water. The city was providing up to 450 acre feet of water a year to the course.
“We’ll certainly do that with the next partners,” Krutz said.
By providing the water, the community will be able to save the existing sod until it is able to find an investor, Oddo said. Replacing sod, if allowed to completely die off, is extremely expensive.
The city continues to discuss internally what to do about the unpaid bill, Krutz said.
When asked what actions the city may take in order to recoup the money — including taking the company to court — Krutz said, “At this point, anything is possible.”