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South Jordan pays off Mulligans bond early, plans to keep course

SOUTH JORDAN — The future of Mulligans Golf Course and Games is on the upswing after the threat of redevelopment loomed all last year.

The South Jordan City Council designated more than $4.6 million to pay off the city's bond on the golf course at 692 W. South Jordan Parkway. Paired with the early payment is a stated intent from the council and South Jordan Mayor Dave Alvord to secure the future of the city's popular entertainment center.

"Mulligans is here to stay," city spokeswoman Tina Brown said.

With its bond paid, Brown said the course is in a healthier financial position and will be able to cover its own costs. Retiring the bond early will save the city $1.8 million in interest.

The decision came after city officials spent the past several years considering the 67-acre course for redevelopment, citing annual losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But the group Save Mulligans protested the prospect of the course's closure, saying the facility is a valuable community asset. After a city-conducted survey found that most residents didn't want to lose their city's golf course and open space, council members began to step away from redevelopment deliberations.

"Residents wanted us to keep it and preserve it, and that's exactly what we're doing," said Councilman Chris Rogers, adding that paying off the bond will free up money to invest in the course. "It's a win-win for everybody."

But Carol Brown with Save Mulligans said the facility's early bond payment does not secure the facility's fate, and the organization is still skeptical of the city's intentions.

"We hope they will honor the wishes of the people of South Jordan, and we will be expecting them to keep this promise," Brown said.

Rather than looking at the bond payment as a victory for Save Mulligans, Brown said, the funds should have been used to bolster other city projects.

Alvord said the roughly $3 million pulled from the city's general fund to pay for the bond was done in a year of surplus, after all needed projects had already been funded.

Eventually, that money will need to be repaid, so the city is charging Mulligans $20,000 annually, with no interest, until the funds are returned.

The mayor urged residents to take his and the City Council's statements of intent to keep the facility at face value.

"Let's all take a deep breath and unclench our fists because we've been able to resolve this, and it's a time to no longer be suspicious," Alvord said.

Councilman Steve Barnes said while he believes the council is making a "sincere effort" to preserve the golf course, the bond payment doesn't fully protect the facility's future.

Three City Council seats will be up for election this year, Barnes said, and the council has not created a formal agreement, such as a conservation easement, to secure the land.

"It's very difficult, and for good reason, for one council to bind the actions of a future council," he said.

Barnes also said based on his conversation with the city's finance director, he believes closing the bond may make it easier to sell the land. Additionally, Barnes, who voted against paying off the bond early, said he believes the city should have refinanced the bond and used the saved money to man and equip the city's new fire station.

"I don't think the bigger picture was considered as much as it needed to be by paying off the entire bond when we have other financial obligations as a city," he said.

In contrast, Councilman Mark Seethaler said paying off the bond relieved the facility of an "unfair" debt. Throughout the process, no city official held any "malicious intent," he said, adding that it will take time for council members to regain public confidence.

Seethaler said the best thing the council can do is prove to residents through its actions that it truly means to keep Mulligans secured.

"The council is quite sincere," Alvord said, "in wanting to move on and do the right thing."

Email: kmckellar@deseretnews.com