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Council makes exception; allows club to drill well

Demopolis County Club was scheduled to host a golf tournament this weekend. It’s cancelled.

Combine a lack of “natural” rain with an irrigation system plugged into neighbors’ spigots, and golf course greens quickly become little more than hard spider webs.

Thursday evening, the flood finally came.

The country club, which drained its irrigation lake during the winter, has had little — if any — water to keep the golf course alive. For the past two months, board members of the club have worked on an approach — beyond Divine intervention — to get water in the lake, and their only option seemed to be drilling a well in the lake.

Mayor Austin Caldwell, among many others, scrutinized the plan. In most cases, the city and utility board do not allow wells to be drilled in city limits because of the array of circumstances that can follow. For starters, a well on a golf course can easily absorb fertilizer and pesticides. And when the aquifer for the well is the same one used to cook the potatoes, the city takes a hard line against drilling.

Jack Cooley and Chuck Smith worked with an engineer and members of the water board to devise a well that would seal off back-flow and generate enough water to fill the lake at the country club. And Thursday, Smith finally asked members of the Demopolis City Council to approve the drilling of a well.

Some members of the council said little. Others, like Thomas Moore and Caldwell, made sure to question the ramifications of the project.

“The biggest thing I’m concerned about is the precedent it sets,” Caldwell said.

Moore agreed, hinting that others will come behind the country club and ask that they, too, be allowed to drill within city limits.

“You know, we denied the school board the same thing for some of their ball fields,” Moore said. “If we do this, I sense we’re going to see it again.”

Councilman Woody Collins, a member of the country club, took up for the project. Mike Baker’s district encompasses the country club, and he also gave vocal support for drilling a well.

The key issue, to Caldwell and some other council members, is the future of the well once the country club lake is filled.

According to Cooley, the club could begin drilling as soon as next week.

“I think Chuck is going to get one more bid,” he said. “But I expect it to start immediately… We had to cancel a tournament this weekend because of the condition of the greens.”

Once the well is drilled and the lake is full, club officials have agreed to put a lock on the well and turn the keys over to the water board. If they ever want access to the well again, they’ll have to go through the same legal channels they did this time: getting approval from both the city and the water board.

Caldwell, Collins, Baker and Ronnie O’Neal voted in favor of allowing the country club to drill the well. Moore and Willard Williams voted against the request.