Imagine you inherit the world's largest diamond.
Market value: $90 million.
Even though you need the money, you can't bear to part with your heirloom. The gem's sentimental value far outweighs its dollar value.
So you devise a scheme to sink deep into debt to erect a $20 million exhibition hall to display your jewel. People will travel from far and wide simply to stand in awe of the world's largest diamond.
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You will pay off your debt over 30 years from the admission fees to your shrine. And from the sales of concessions such as Diamond Iced Tea and Shaved Diamond Ice. From the sales of merchandise such as replica Diamonique jewelry and T-shirts that say, "I Saw The World's Largest Diamond And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt."
Plenty of folks, frankly, tell you they think you're nuts - and they're not talking about cashews.
Perhaps they're right. What if your plan doesn't work out? Well, at least you've still got the diamond. And you can enlist an expert diamond cutter to carve off a chunk, sell it to pay your debt and still have plenty of diamond leftover to pass along to your heirs.
Welcome to Pierce County.
Last week six members of the County Council voted to go $20.77 million into debt to transform our diamond in the rough - an old gravel mine in University Place - into a precious gem of a golf course.
The Chambers Bay Golf Course will draw well-to-do travelers from across the U.S. who will pay big bucks to enjoy the scenic beauty and matchless experience of playing a Scottish-style course right here in Washington.
Are council members Shawn Bunney, Roger Bush, Barbara Gelman, Terry Lee, Calvin Goings and Tim Farrell drinking from the same bottle of crazy juice that County Executive John Ladenburg is?
Hardly. The vote should rank as one of the easiest decisions the council has ever made.
Will the golf course become the huge drawing card county officials hope it will?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Yes, the latest cost estimate for Chambers Bay Golf Course came in 7 percent higher than the previous one. That's a concern.
But if you read through the 40 pages of legalese in the two ordinances required to build the course and sell the bonds, you'll see Pierce County has strung up more safety nets than a high-wire act at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
First, golf course revenues - green fees, golf cart rental fees, practice range revenues, pro shop merchandise sales revenues, restaurant food and beverage revenues, and meeting room rental revenue - will pay down the debt.
The county's financial analyst, Golf Catalyst, projects the course will generate enough money to cover annual operating expenses and debt payments, with some left over, every year.
If Golf Catalyst's projections don't come true, then the county can use money from its sewer utility or general tax fund, according to the ordinance.
Those two legal options don't sound politically palatable. Who wants to pay a higher monthly sewer bill or sacrifice sheriff's deputies to keep a golf course afloat?
That's why the council added these words to its ordinance:
"As an additional safeguard against the use of sewer revenue or general fund revenue, the council notes that the Chambers Creek Properties are a significant financial asset, with the land upon which the golf course would be located having an estimated net developable value for residential use of $90 million.
"It is the intent of the council to sell or lease real property assets at the Chambers Creek Properties to satisfy the golf course's bonding obligations prior to pursuing any sewer rate increases or using any general fund revenues."
By Dec. 1, Ladenburg must present the council with a written strategy for using the 610 acres of land under and around the golf course for paying down the debt - should the course turn into the financial boondoggle some predict.
I don't think that will become necessary. In the best case, with the design of pre-eminent golf architect Robert Trent Jones II and the private management and maintenance of KemperSports, Chambers Bay Golf Course will become the economic boost for tourism and conventions we hope it will.
And we can enjoy the public trails, nature preserves and beaches around the course whenever we want.
But even if the county eventually must carve off and sell a few chunks of its $90 million jewel to pay the debt, the county will still have plenty of public land left to preserve for generations to come.