Devil's Thumb has been a failure from the get-go

By Jay Stooksberry


Dear Editor:

A few weeks ago, I shared some unsettling figures related to the Devil's Thumb Golf Course. It turns out that I only scratched the surface of the problem.

Originally, I wrote that the golf course ran a $3 million deficit over the past 10 years. A little deeper dive into City of Delta records reveals that the city has already transferred over $12 million from other public funds -- including sewer, capital improvements, water, and others -- to make up the difference. That is close to half of the bond issued to finance the truck route.

While many people struggle to put food on the table, this golf course unjustly robs other public funds for the benefit of the diminishing minority of golf course patrons. Without the nonstop transfers to the golf course, our water, sewer, and electric bills would be cheaper.

But instead we are forced to subsidize the recreation habits of a select few. Can you imagine the city paying for hunting and fishing permits of other outdoor enthusiasts?

Devil's Thumb was a failed boondoggle from the get-go. As a reoccurring pattern, City of Delta ran headfirst into the investment with no cash on hand. The City does not own the land outright, so selling the land is complicated. Based on my understanding of the current situation, City of Delta would actually have to purchase the land first before it could put the golf course on the market.

On top of this, the loan used to develop the land -- which was nothing more than acres and acres of scrub oak -- was tied into an existing powerline project, which totaled about $2.6 billion initially -- $1.7 million going to the golf course. The remaining balance on the loan is roughly $900k, and -- as I mentioned in my previous letter -- is set to balloon in 2020. Based on projections, the city will likely have to refinance, because -- shocker -- we don't have the money to pay it off.

So our options are to either 1) purchase the land so we can sell it (in a market where nobody is buying golf courses), 2) pay for a private entity to manage it (which may make it more profitable but doesn't solve the overall liability of Devil's Thumb), 3) increase our sales tax (which will not be well received by the voting public), or 4) just keep doing what we are doing (the definition of insanity). All of these options involve money we don't have.

As irresponsible as it sounds, our best option -- not originally enumerated -- would be to default on the loans, close up shop, and let the over-watered grass dry up.

Jay Stooksberry
Outreach Director
Libertarian Party of Delta County