Winter Wonderland Causes Concern Over Watering Oversight
Sante Fe Golf Course Friday morning was transformed into a winter wonderland, with icicles over a foot long hanging from numerous trees and the grass surrounding them encased in opaque ice shells. On the surface, the landscape was beautiful, but with looming thoughts of the ever-more-dire water situation, several San Angeloans began wondering why the park should have been watered in the first place.
In an attempt to clarify the situation, the LIVE! team underwent an afternoon of telephone tag with City Parks and Two Pro Golf officials, the latter of which is the entity which manages this and other golf spots in San Angelo and beyond. The response on the surface appears to be the result of complex irrigation directives between City Council, City Parks and Recreation and Two Pro Golf Management. Those directives are then funneled down to one man, who emerged to relay the tale of the oversight that led to the sub-zero watering incident on Thursday night.
Advised that the City Parks department and Two Pro Golf have a contract together, we were directed to Carl White, Parks and Recreation Director for the City of San Angelo. White explained that as far as watering goes, the majority of those decisions rest with Two Pro, however City Parks does receive directives from City Council on the watering of trees in the area.
“They follow the same restrictions that’s in the ordinance in terms of watering as everybody else,” White said, explaining that the city ordinance allows one inch of water every 14 days. “On the other hand, I was asked today by a City Council member if we’re still watering the trees. It’s a catch-22 situation. We lost all those trees along the river earlier because of the drought and we got hammered for losing those trees, but they wanted us to take action and keep those trees alive, the rest of them that remain. We [also] get hammered if we water, so it’s a difficult situation,” he says.
White explained that the pecan trees on the Santa Fe golf course are among those Council has been directed to keep alive, and that while Two Pro is responsible for the irrigation, the City has on occasion turned water on for the trees. The most recent instance of this, White says, was last summer.
White said the water has been shut off for some time, but was started again at the beginning of the week. When Council directed that the watering again be stopped, the City complied.
But some zones, like the 64 comprising the golf course, are partially automated. The sprinklers on the Santa Fe Golf course are set on timers that have to be reset each week. While they run automatically for a week at a time, it is necessary to manually set each of them in accordance with Council demands, the needs of the course and with weather conditions.
Steve McNab, Director of Golf Operations for Two Pro Golf, alleged the sub-zero watering was caused by a malfunction. “We had a malfunction due to the cold weather and had the water come on,” he said. “It wasn’t something we had planned, it was just a malfunction due to the cold weather. We caught it after the fact, but we’ve turned it off to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Malfunctions are common to prolonged cold weather, McNab said. In response to what sort of malfunction would result in the watering, McNab stated, “We have to let everything thaw out first off, because the control box is frozen as well, but it looks like something has malfunctioned is the best we can tell right now. We shut everything off and are going to let it thaw out to see if we can determine what happened—if it was a timer that forgot to get turned off, or what happened. At this point, we do not know, other than we got it shut off so we’ll have, again, until we can get in and figure out what happened.”
McNab explained that the company employs a “man on the ground” who is responsible for switching the timers on and off. At the time of interview, McNab said he had “just left Duane a little before I called you” and that Duane Poss, his "man on the ground", had stated he did not turn the water on. Poss is the Manager of the property, golf course and the shop.
McNab was kind enough to provide Poss’ phone number, and Poss responded to inquiry with sincerity and honesty.
“As the manager, that’s my job,” Poss said, referencing irrigation, “but I also have to follow the guidelines set by City Council on the water restrictions. “Certain areas don’t get water but once a month. The greens get watered maybe once a week right now, the tees get watered once a week, other than that, the trees get watered once a month in certain areas, so it just all depends.”
Poss relayed that when there is moisture or precipitation, the timers are shut off in order to conserve water. Water conservation, Poss said, is a top priority. There are 64 sections on the stretch of golf course Poss is responsible for, and each requires one to manually shut on or off a timer that is set for a week.
“It went on automatically, that particular section,” Poss said of Thursday evening's watering. The timer had been scheduled to start at 8:00 p.m. for approximately 45 minutes. “I determine that (when to turn off the timers). If it rains or we have moisture, I turn it off.
Poss said he does not normally leave the water on when temperatures are below freezing, however assumed full responsibility for the wintry landscape witnessed on Friday morning.
“This particular section—like I said, was just for that section of trees—I forgot to—I just didn’t turn it off. I forgot to turn it off. Those 64 sections, that was the one that got left on…The weather around here is just crazy anyway. One day it’s here, the next day it’s gone,” he said, then reiterated how the icicle landscape occurred. “It was just an oversight on my part. I take responsibility for the 30 or 45 minutes that it watered.”
Poss stated that he does pay attention to weather conditions when determining where to water and that it was not his intent to water Thursday night. He did not try to make excuses for the oversight and admitted immediately that it was his responsibility and that he will monitor more closely in the future.
The amount of water dispensed on Thursday is unknown. The watering was localized around pecan trees on the golf course.
Get more stories like this by signing up for our daily newsletter, The LIVE! Daily.