Is Club Rio Rancho golf course closed? - Albuquerque Journal

Is Club Rio Rancho golf course closed?

Golfers play at Club Rio Rancho in this 2014 file photo. (Marla Brose/Journal)
Golfers play at Club Rio Rancho in this 2014 file photo. (Marla Brose/Journal)

Struggling Club Rio Rancho appears to have shut down its golf course.

On Friday, no one was on the course, the greens had no flags, and the pro shop’s doors were locked and the lights shut off.

A sign on the shop’s front door read: “Golf course practice facilities closed for the winter.”

Owner Jhett Browne declined the Observer’s request for comment, but former minority shareholder Bob Gallagher and a source at the club said the course was closed to the public at the beginning of December.

Gallagher, who left his shareholder’s position in September, said Browne made the decision to stop watering and maintaining the nine west holes of the golf course in mid-September for cost savings.

On Dec. 1, Browne stopped watering the remaining nine holes, Gallagher said.

Gallagher said PNM has taken action for unpaid electricity bills and shut off electricity to the golf course.

“There’s no way to water the east course now. He now doesn’t have a golf course, and he’s just operating the clubhouse, the restaurants and bars,” Gallagher said.

A PNM spokeswoman said the company does not comment about customers.

The club, meanwhile, has fallen far behind in water payments to the city.

According to city spokeswoman Annemarie Garcia, the city has filed a property lien against Club Rio Rancho for unpaid water/wastewater services totaling $333,658.75.

In total, the club owes the city $357,532.53 in water services and penalties, she said.

The club’s most recent payment was for $1,931 in April. Garcia said the city has considered shutting off all water service to the club, but has yet to do so.

Gallagher and the source at the club said club members were notified of the golf course closure.

Mayor Gregg Hull said he has not been notified by Browne or any official at the club about the status of the golf course.

“I’m hearing about 50 different rumors a day and I keep saying the same thing: Once we get notification from the golf course, or once we get notification from the leadership of the golf course directly, I’m taking all of those little rumors with a grain of salt,” Hull said.

He said the city will continue to work to help keep the country club open.

“It’s a community fixture that we want to see survive and stay in the community, but ultimately we have to let them work out their issues and see where that leaves us all,” Hull said.

District 4 City Councilor Marlene Feuer said that, although she was aware of the city’s efforts to get Club Rio Rancho to pay its water bills, she said did not know about the closure of the golf course.

“We need to move forward one way or another,” she said. “I’m concerned about all the people who live in that area, golf in that area, go to the club, have memberships – I am concerned.”

Club member and former City Councilor Kathy Colley said that, although she has “heard through the rumor mill” the golf course is closed, neither she nor any club members she knows had received notice about its status. She has been paying a monthly $325 family membership fee.

“I’m as upset as all the other members that we don’t have a golf course,” Colley said. “We haven’t been billed yet for December, which I would understand since how are you going to bill for golf when there’s no golf?”

Following the country club’s purchase by Browne and Gallagher in May 2014, the Rio Rancho Governing Body approved a 99-cents-per-1,000-gallon rate for the golf course’s use of recycled water. Browne requested the rate, saying the proposed $1.64-per-1,000-gallon rate would be economically unfeasible for the country club.

In January, the governing body voted to set the recycled water rate at $1.24 per 1,000 gallons for nearly all customers, a decrease from $3.46 per 1,000 gallons for Vista Verde Memorial Park and other city reuse water customers. Club Rio Rancho’s 99-cent rate has remained the same.

Gallagher said he was unaware of the extent of unpaid water bills while he was at Club Rio Rancho.

“What hurts me is, unbeknownst to me, from the very start, we weren’t paying (the water bills),” Gallagher said. “Quite frankly, I feel betrayed because I spent three hours in front of a work session and an hour and a half in front of the city council, speaking on behalf of the club and working with them in a cooperative manner to get a deal done.”

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