Liberty City Council weighs financial burden, benefit of municipal golf course

Liberty Municipal Golf Course, formerly known as Magnolia Ridge, is owned by the City of Liberty. (File photo)

Two years after the City of Liberty purchased the Liberty Municipal Golf Course, formerly Magnolia Ridge Golf Course, expenses for the course continue to pull from the City’s coffers with the golf course absorbing roughly 40 percent of the annual budget for the Liberty Community Development Corporation.

At a special-called Liberty City Council meeting Tuesday night, Council convened a workshop to discuss how the City can help the nine-hole golf course flourish or if it should instead sell the property to another entity as a golf course or land for a development.

That decision is still years away, said City Manager Tom Warner, as the City is committed to another three years with the golf course.

“When we bought the course in 2018, Council agreed to operate it for five years. The more we get into it, the expenses are continuing to rise,” he said after the meeting. “At some point in the future, a decision will have to be made if Council wants to keep the course beyond the five years.”

To maintain the golf course annually, the City has established an operating budget of $501,000. The golf course is taking in roughly a quarter of that, leaving an annual deficit of more than $400,000, according to Warner.

Warner said the expenses for the golf course did not come as a surprise. They were part of a master plan that projected $4.5 million would be needed for improvements to the golf course and another $890,000 to $1.26 million for non-golf renovations, such as on-course restrooms, pro shop expansion, maintenance facility and cart storage facility, and renovations to make it into a wedding venue or fishing lake.

While the golf course is costly to operate and renovate, Warner said it holds value since it is an amenity for residents, attracts new residents and is used for recreation and high school golf teams.

No action was taken by Council following the workshop, but Warner was directed to maintain the course to the best level that can be maintained given the City’s resources.

The Council also agreed to move forward with plans to host an Independence Day fireworks show on July 3, one day before the actual holiday as is the tradition in Liberty.

“All we are going to do is have the fireworks display unless the governor says we can’t hold fireworks shows,” Warner said.

Family-friendly events, such as inflatable playgrounds and live music, will be canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The City Council also authorized Warner to act on the City’s behalf regarding Cares Act Coronavirus Relief Fund documents. The City is getting reimbursements for its pandemic-related expenses from the U.S. Department of Human Health and Services and the Texas Department of Emergency Management.

“We have approximately $25,000 from the U.S. Department of Human Health and Services and can get up to $536,000 from the Texas Department of Emergency Management,” said Warner. “It can only be used related to COVID-19 expenses, such as protective equipment, cleaning supplies and overtime for emergency responses, for example.”

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