Coronavirus: All Oakmont Facilities Close

Last Updated: 03-18-20

Al Haggerty

         All Oakmont Village Association facilities, including the pools and other outdoor venues, were ordered closed March 18 for an indefinite period due to the coronavirus emergency. This includes Berger Center, the Central Activities Center, which houses the library, and the East and West recreation centers.

         Outdoor sites include the pickleball courts, tennis courts, petanque and bocce and the community garden. All facility access cards were deactivated that night.

         A resolution closing the facilities passed by a 5-2 vote at the March 17 board meeting held in the East Recreation Center with no audience in keeping with the county mandate limiting gatherings to no more than 10 persons. Opposing the resolution were directors Carolyn Bettencourt and Heidi Klyn.

         The nearly four-hour meeting was live streamed to Oakmont residents.

Not a swimmer in sight at the East Rec pool March 18 after the Oakmont board ordered OVA facilities closed to avoid spread of the coronavirus. (Photoby Julie Kiil)

         While the resolution on the agenda addressed only the indoor facilities, Director Noel Lyons immediately moved to include all outdoor facilities.

         Board president Steve Spanier stated: “To comply with the county’s recent order and, more importantly, to do the right thing and protect the safety of those who entrusted us to lead this community, we must close our facilities. That means all our facilities, now, and until further notice.” He also cited reports that Sonoma County would be issuing a shelter-in-place directive effective March 18.

         Spanier received strong push back from Bettencourt and Klyn and Oakmont residents who voiced their opinions via email while watching the live stream. Bettencourt said she wasn’t in favor of closing the pools because swimming could be important to mental health and the pools have chlorine. Klyn wanted the Fitness Center and the pools left open because “it’s hard to isolate yourself.” Director Jess Marzak said outdoor venues are safer and should be left open, but he did back the directive.

         Director Marianne Neufeld, noting that the virus was multiplying quickly, said the board should “err on the side of safety” and “shouldn’t take chances.”

The Central Activities Center cardroom was empty of players the first day of the county ordered shutdown. (Photo by Julie Kiil)

      While the majority of the more than 20 residents who commented remotely favored closing all facilities, there was strong support for keeping the pools and/or the fitness center open. While one resident called it “irresponsible” to close the pools, another said residents need social contact. Another called it “ludicrous” to keep the fitness center open.

         Noting resident requests that the pools and fitness center remain open, Spanier said that while he sympathizes with those perspectives, “The problem is that, if the pools and fitness center are left open, all the surfaces around these facilities are exposed. That includes the doors and gate handles, the shower controls, the railings people grab when entering the spa and pool area, the chairs around the pools, the fitness machines, etc. The same is true of other outdoor facilities. The virus is active a long time on certain surfaces, including metal.”

EMERGENCY POWER

         In its continuing move toward energy resilience, the board unanimously approved spending an amount not to exceed $185,000 to purchase and install two generators, one each at the OVA office and the East Recreation Center, and to lease a generator for the Central Activities Center.

         An analysis of the need for the generators noted that the Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS) instituted by the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. often affect large geographical areas and can last up to 14 days before power is restored.          Respite centers, like those available at the Central Complex, ease the difficulties seniors experience during emergencies by providing critical support such as lighted, staffed shelter with emergency information, a place to congregate, a temperature-controlled space with access to showers and recreational activities, power outlets to charge phones and other devices and refrigeration for medicines and beverages.

         In a move that would make it easier to revise the OVA Bylaws, the board unanimously approved a resolution to conduct a vote of OVA membership to change the threshold for bylaw amendment approvals to “a majority of a minimum of 25% of the voting power of the association.” Current bylaws require a yes vote of a majority of the 3,200 association members for a bylaw change. This would mean almost all of the typical 1,900 votes would be needed, which is seen as nearly impossible.

         A resolution to rescind the approval to purchase five automatic external defibrillators for $8,475 to be used in OVA common area buildings was withdrawn following a discussion of liability issues. As a result, the purchase will go forward despite some concern over insurance coverage. 

         (Watch a video of the meeting at www.oakmontvillage.com/videos)