Board Candidates’ Answers to Candidates Night Questions on Berger and OGC

As reported in the January 1, 2018 issue of the Oakmont News, two of the biggest issues on the agenda for the Board of Directors are the plans for the Berger Center and the OGC appeals to the OVA for financial assistance.  Following are the questions asked of the candidates in the current election on these issues and their answers.

QUESTION ON BERGER PLANS:  Do you believe it is in the best interest of Oakmont to proceed with the Berger remodel, as recently approved?  Would you consider revisiting all the options with cost and design plans in a town hall meeting format with residents able to ask questions and express views?

WAYNE VAN BOCKERN:   Well, let me state my position on this right now for everybody. I am definitely concerned about this good old building.  I am on the Construction Committee and I know we have done the seismic on it.  I would like to remodel it.  I don’t mind extending it, any of the walls.  But I am not for a new building. I have looked at the prospects of where it would be.  So I would be in favor of the remodel or expansion.  Build new?  If the majority of Oakmont wants to review it all again — it’s already been passed by the Board to go ahead and start with the remodel.

LYNDA ONETO:   I stand by my decision at the February 6 board meeting on remodeling the Berger in its existing footprint.  And I have done considerable research.  I have read all the comments.  Overwhelmingly, the majority of Oakmont wanted a remodel.  And so I stand by my decision as fiscally prudent.  We have East Rec, we have the CAC, we have the Berger coming up.  We are needing to move forward with the remodel. If a new building is wanted down the road, yes, let’s revisit it.  But right now it is fiscally prudent to do the remodel just on the existing footprint.

DENNIS BOAZ:  Yes, absolutely I would consider a town hall, even a survey.  I watched the video of the February 6 meeting.  I was appalled, I was shocked at what was really I felt an undemocratic process.  There was a study that had been worked on for a year and submitted once and there was a vote.  The very first time it was submitted.  There was even a prepared response.  And there was very little discussion and the vote was just like that.  I am quite democratic.  I want to go along with the majority of what Oakmont wants.  But I don’t think it’s fair to Oakmont without having a thorough consideration of all the options before a final vote is given.  And so I have strong objections to the last meeting.  And if elected I would either vote to overturn that vote first or have a town hall first and then find out what is really wanted.

AL MEDEIROS:  I would like to be able to review and consider all the options.  I think that the way it was handled at the last meeting was extremely poor.  I mean, the Board didn’t even pretend that they cared about what anybody else said.  They made that decision long before the January 19 meeting.  If you were at the January 19 meeting you heard Lynda announce, You are going to give a presentation on February 6, we are going to kill the BAC right after that, and then we are going to vote on the remodel.  The decision was made before they gave a presentation, before anybody, including the Board, saw any numbers.  Also the Berger Committee was hamstrung for at least three months when the Board completely ignored them after the new Board sat.  The first time they got to do anything was when they presented the seismic study.  The Board immediately said we should do seismic and would ignore the fact there is no fire sprinklers in here because that is not a problem.  And then, of course, we had the fire, which delayed everything.  So nothing got done.  The Berger Committee wasn’t even done, that presentation was kind of cobbled together.

HEIDI KLYN:  No one in this community saw or heard about the comparative cost estimates and new renderings to remodel versus the new building until Art Fichtenberg from the Berger Action Committee provided a PowerPoint comparative data for the whole Central Activity Complex.  If you want transparency and voices from the community you would think everyone would like to know about the possible options that were made available before an important final decision is made.  The decision to just remodel the building as you see it here may not be beneficial to the today needs.  We had over 800 events in this building in one year.  And many clubs are clamoring for more space.  And, yes, it is many clubs.  And the OVA, we agree that this building is much too small, as you see here how it is today.  We had to use these kind of chairs, the folding chairs, we couldn’t use the maroon chairs.  But I think that with the renderings presented to the members of Oakmont that this just needs to be revisited.

STEVE SPANIER:  Any multi-million dollar project deserves our full attention.  And several of the people with whom I’ve spoken who were working on the project believe their process was completely short-circuited and that the Board’s recent decision was made without duly considering all the options and without sufficient community exposure and input.  If I were elected I would advocate revisiting that decision and letting the process we started reach its natural conclusion.  We may end up with the same decision.  But the enormous expense of the project and the process, the capability for it to raise our dues considerably, demands we be sure of ourselves before proceeding.  I would advocate a structured public debate between experts on all sides of the issue to inform residents of the options and their pros and cons.

MARIANNE NEUFELD:  Well, I think that decision was very premature with the new options being presented.  We need to go back and revisit it.  It is a big issue here.  The Berger is one of our biggest centers and we need to take care in deciding — making the right decision.

TOM KENDRICK:   I’ve had a chance to talk to a number of the people who were involved in the studies that were done and they weren’t quite finished.  The fire interrupted that process and there were other conflicts that got in the way.  We are going to be making a big decision about a very important asset here in Oakmont.  This is a very nice building.  And it may very well be that the best decision is to remodel it and to essentially leave it the way it is.  But the long term matters.  And I think that what it felt like at that meeting was that there was very little real cogitation around the question that was being asked, is, What should we be doing for the three, the five, the ten and fifty year horizon for this site?  And the process matters. Before a discussion we need to see the information as a community and certainly before a vote.  It’s important for the community to have the priorities and understand why the decisions are being made.

KAREN OSWALD:  I have studied this issue for over three years. I have gone through all of the documents provided by the past three committees.  I have looked at the surveys that were done and the drawings and comments that were posted up in this room.  The majority of the residents comments on the posted Berger options mirrored the comments that were provided to us by the Voices of Oakmont.  Concern was mostly over cost and actual need versus perceived wants.  This, plus the continuing overruns and escalating costs of previous projects leads me to see that does not happen with the East Rec or the Berger.  Since our required maintenance was repeatedly deferred, resulting in unnecessary costs and the current reserves are very underfunded, the best option is the one that Oakmont residents wanted for themselves, a remodel on the existing footprint without the cost of hazmat, tear down, additional parking.  I am committed to providing resident input for the upgrades on the remodel.


QUESTION ON OAKMONT GOLF COURSE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE:   What would be your response as a director if Oakmont members were asked to financially subsidize the Oakmont Golf Course?

HEIDI KLYN:  Golf courses promotes an active adult image.  They are essential in flood control.  You get open space, it impacts property value, it’s a social center for us all.  I would really be very cautious about bailing out the golf course.  I think we need to look at their financials.  We need to discuss what really is going on, what can be done to eliminate having this done.  And I think we really need to put our heads together, the whole community involved in resolving this issue.  Golf courses throughout the whole United States are not doing well.  Generation X, millennials are just not playing like, you know, our generations did.  Board meetings are not held over golf games.  So this is an issue that, you know, we are all in it together and we just need to work it out with them.

STEVE SPANIER:  There is no question that the golf club is one of Oakmont’s most visited and most important amenities.  But the process of deciding whether to fund it has just begun.  And I believe we are nowhere near its conclusion.  Questions I would need to seen answered prior to determining what’s in the community’s best interests on this issue include, What is likely to happen if we don’t help the golf club?  If one or both golf courses were to close, what would happen with that land?  What are the legal issues associated with the OVA funding the golf club?  What are other options for helping the club besides getting financial aid from the OVA?  How much help does the club believe it needs and is it likely to require more and more over time?  And there are many others.  If elected I would advocate we answer all the questions, explore all the options and do so completely transparently so the community can follow along and comment along the way.

MARIANNE NEUFELD:  Well, the golf course is certainly an important issue that is facing Oakmont right now.  My response would be that I want to see the legalities of a non-profit giving to a profit.  There seems to be different views on that.  I would like to see an opinion from an attorney exactly what that is.  Then we go from there.  We need to get something in return, possibly a dog park.

TOM KENDRICK:  So I am not a golfer. And the majority of people who live here aren’t.  But I do believe that it is an important part of Oakmont.  It is one of the things that makes Oakmont look the way it looks, feel the way it feels, and it’s crucial that it survive and that it be sustainable.  I do think that it’s very likely that at some point down the road there will be a need to help the golf course.  And it’s a good example of something that Lynda mentioned where the real solution to the problem was 15 or 20 years ago.  We are now paying for that. So how we do that, it’s going to require a lot of study.  And I absolutely agree that if there is money that goes from the OVA to the golf course, there needs to be value provided in the other direction.

KAREN OSWALD:  Well, I think we all know there has been much speculation, rumors and legitimate concerns about the Oakmont Golf Club, their expectations of the OVA, impact on residents and impact on property values.  It’s premature to assume any path has been decided.  It has not.  We have not seen their books, there are many things that need to be researched and discussed, such as internal changes that might improve the current situation, other events to provide income.  Golf courses have turned around financially and are those options viable in Oakmont?  Right now there are more questions than anything else.  I do not believe in subsidies, I believe in sustainable solutions and I will work to help determine what those might be.  Legally, we have had an opinion from our attorney who has worked with the golf club for numerous years.  And we can actually do that if the residents choose to.

WAYNE VAN BOCKERN:  I think we all moved here when this golf course was here for the ones that play golf and don’t play golf.  I don’t live on the golf course, I wanted a backyard.  But I know plenty of my friends do live on the golf course.  It’s a positive asset definitely for us.  I like to listen to all concerned.  As of yesterday, Lynda Oneto and Karen and I met with the president in this room on the golf course.  So I think it’s a little premature but you have to listen to all the information.  And they are going to have a town hall meeting on the 26th at the East Rec Center and they are going to present a lot.  So the best thing to do is let’s all go to that.

LYNDA ONETO:   I also believe that the golf courses are assets to our community.  I did meet with Barbara Robinson yesterday, too.  We need to set goals, we need to see options.  And they are going to be presenting some options on the 26th.  We have to set some goals for them.  And I don’t believe in just subsidizing, we do need to see something back also.

DENNIS BOAZ:   As an attorney I often look to the Articles of Incorporation to find out the purpose of any organization and in this case our community.  And it has been referred to but not necessarily in the Articles of Incorporation.  But the Articles do state that Oakmont was set up to provide athletic, recreational and club facilities.  Now things have changed and maybe we can move beyond that at some point.  I mean, that has been a long time ago.  But I’m for following the original purposes. So I do value the athletic wonderful golf courses. I’m a hacker and I get out there, I love it.  So we have to consider the devaluation of property.  There are some studies that show there is a staggering loss of valuation of property when you lose your golf course.  So there are a lot of considerations and I’m just beginning to learn about it.  But I don’t believe in a subsidy.  We will have to negotiate the best deal.

AL MEDEIROS:   Well, in addition to us getting a lot of information, essentially looking at the books, getting some financial information from the golf club, I think we also need to know what are their plans to improve their business.  It’s their business.  They have three levels of membership now, maybe they need some different levels of membership, maybe they need to do something where the people that live on the golf course may have some contribution and they get something in return.  Maybe we have to look at more options that just let’s take X dollars a month from every Oakmont resident.  I don’t want to see the golf course go away.  I think it’s very important to Oakmont.  And even though I’m not a golfer and I never wanted to live on the golf course, the home that we walked into that we ended up buying is on the golf course.  So, sure it would hurt a lot if it went away as far as I’m concerned.  But, again, we don’t want to just say everybody in Oakmont has got to contribute.  There has to be something they can do to improve their business, it’s their business.