Editorial: Juniper Golf Club deserves some heat

Things got a bit heated in the city of Redmond’s budget committee meeting Wednesday. Budget committee member and City Councilor Ed Onimus stirred things up when he strongly objected to continuing financial support for the Juniper Golf Course.

The city expects to use about $328,000 of general-fund dollars to help service the debt owed on $5.9 million in bonds issued in 2003 to build the course at its new location near the southeast corner of the Deschutes County Fairgrounds and Expo Center.

The course, which is owned by the city, was located north of its current site until 2005, according to The Bulletin’s archives. It moved because the Federal Aviation Administration required the city to charge it fair market value for rent on the 134-acre original site, which had been part of a military airfield. That would have bumped rent costs to as much as $100,000 a year, from the $1 per year it had been paying.

After the move, the course was able to make its debt payments for the first several years, but doing so required some juggling, with winter payments being caught up each summer. Even that became impossible in 2009, however, when revenues fell short of projections.

Since then, the city has put about $1.1 million toward debt service. And, while the level of city support is declining, it’s doing so slowly.

Unfortunately, there’s no simple solution to the city’s and course’s problems. Considerable time and money have been spent on the course in the last decade, and that cannot be undone.

Nor can anyone accurately predict if the course will draw enough golfers in the coming years to be able to wean itself from the city’s financial support. Such things as the state of the economy and the weather play a major role in the course’s financial health, and both are unpredictable and outside the city’s control.

Onimus apologized for his outburst Wednesday, but he was right to bring the subject up. While the city may not be ready to abandon the course, and while doing just that may be a bad idea, the costs to Redmond are something to be frustrated about.