As a former co-owner of the facility known as Club Rio Rancho, I experienced a profound sadness as we all watched the facility go up in flames on Oct. 4.

Thousands of residents utilized the club as a “surrogate downtown meeting place” and a place to celebrate a special event or play a round of golf since the facility opened in 1970. This facility is iconic and part of our fabric, but at the same time was one that suffered by the deafening silence of the mayor and city government of Rio Rancho; thus the sadness turns to anger.

The mayor and the city will proudly tell you that they assisted past owners with a low water rate to allow them to irrigate the golf course. This “low water rate” still meant a water bill to the owners on an annual basis of approximately $250,000.

What the city will not tell you is that it would have cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean the “sewer water” up in order to re-inject it into the basin or into the river, thus the golf course owners were doing the city a quarter-million-dollar favor annually.

Why has the city not participated in a public-private partnership with the owners of the club, which would have, and can allow for, the development of this entire facility? Public-private partnerships are not new; the city has participated in dozens of them over the past 20 years, with the best example being the Cabezon housing development.

Public-private partnerships do not cost the city any money whatsoever and do not place the taxpayers in harm’s way. In fact, state law prohibits the repayment of any portion of the public participation utilizing city tax dollars.

The city must become involved in this 223-acre property that is in the middle of the city and has been allowed to become home to coyotes, mice, rodents and the homeless. A PID, TIDD, industrial revenue bonds and other financial mechanisms are available and are utilized by cities throughout the state of New Mexico in order to assist in the development of quality-of-life, residential and manufacturing projects.

The fact that a city of 100,000 residents does not have an event facility that can seat more than 100 and does not have a golf course is evidence quality of life is not important to the mayor and city leaders!

The city must utilize its tax-exempt status to form a very strong and sustainable public-private partnership with whomever owns and/or develops this property. The city spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on recruitment of new businesses; one just has to look at the city’s 223-acre failure right in the heart of the city to say, “no thank you.”

The citizens of Rio Rancho deserve to have elected leaders who care about “quality of life,” who are innovators and who are not afraid to think outside the box!

Bob Gallagher

Rio Rancho