CASPER, Wyo. — City Manager John Patterson said recent talks with the Natrona County School District superintendent removed any urgency about the district's request for eight acres of the municipal golf course.
“It’s going to be a number of years before there’s talk of acquiring property for a future Grant School,” he told the council Tuesday.
Patterson said the school district had expressed interest in the land as recently as April, but changes in the state’s construction priorities list extended the time until land could be acquired for Grant Elementary School.
At one time, Superintendent Joel Dvorak said it appeared the school would be scheduled for construction in the near future, but now a number of other school projects take precedence over Grant Elementary.
“Now, it’s moved way down,” Dvorak said Wednesday. “So we’re hoping to get some stability in that list of schools. I think the biggest thing that’s going to drive the construction of schools in Wyoming over the next five years probably is going to be capacity, as opposed to condition.”
Dennis Bay, executive director of facilities and technology for the school district, said the 2009 state needs index list placed Grant Elementary at the 110th spot. The last list released in 2010 placed the school at the 61st spot, meaning construction wouldn’t start until four to five years from now.
Bay said the state is expected to release a new list soon, and the frequent changes make long-range planning difficult.
“If the list would ever stay the same, we could plan on it,” he said.
City Leisure Services Director Doug Follick said the school district first sought land from the city in 2009 and returned with revised plans in 2010. He and others involved with the golf course had been examining ways to reverse the operating deficit since 2008.
“After several discussions, we felt that a course redesign, including a regulation 18-hole course, a par 3 nine-hole course, new practice facilities and a new maintenance facility would accomplish the turnaround we were looking for,” Follick said.
The course has lost more than $200,000 annually for the past five years, according to a feasibility study by the consultant group Golf Convergence.
Follick said he proposed the plans in the summer of 2011, and council members that winter approved a feasibility study, which was completed by Golf Convergence in May. The study offered four options: selling land to the school district and closing the golf course, selling the land and undertaking extensive renovations, selling and undertaking limited renovations and not selling the land.
Without the option of selling the eight acres, Patterson said the city will continue with improvements to the course. The council has already budgeted $800,000 for irrigation and will soon seek bids for the work.
“We’ll do that pretty quickly, and so hopefully we can start seeing that next year,” Patterson said.
Golf Convergence consultant James Keegan estimated the city would need to invest about $4.5 million for the necessary irrigation and maintenance building upgrades, according to past reports.
Patterson said the city would seek funding for the maintenance facility after irrigation fixes are complete, and eventual improvements would include better use of marketing and technology.