Golf Course Questions Dominate Candidate Forum

Last Updated: 02-22-19

 Al Haggerty

The Oakmont Village Association’s relationship with the Oakmont Golf Club and whether OVA should share maintenance costs dominated an OVA Board Candidates Forum Feb. 19 at Berger Center.

The candidates all agreed on the importance of maintaining a good relationship with the golf club regardless of who owns it, and are open to helping with maintenance issues. However, there is some reluctance regarding direct financial assistance.

A far smaller turnout than in previous years could reflect the absence of controversies which marked some past OVA elections. Rows of empty seats replaced previous standing-room-only audiences.

The questions focused on issues including future capital improvement projects, amending Oakmont’s bylaws, solar power on OVA buildings, traffic safety, installing sirens for emergency alerts and on OVA reserves. Solar power was the one issue receiving unanimous and enthusiastic support.

Responding to questions submitted beforehand by Oakmont residents were four incumbents, including Carolyn Bettencourt, Heidi Klyn, Noel Lyons and Al Medeiros, and Steve Huntley, who would be serving his first term. Election results will be announced after the annual meeting April 1.

Asked why they are running for a position some regard as thankless, the answers ranged from Lyons’ “Everyone should take his turn” to Bettencourt’s “I want to continue to help.” Medeiros said “It’s an important job and somebody’s got to do it” and Huntley said he is “looking for things to do in the community”. Klyn said “I would like to make a difference in the community,” adding that she wants Oakmont to be “the best retirement community in northern California”.

The forum was moderated by Ruthie Snyder, chair of the nominating committee, who said the 10 questions submitted to the candidates represented a distillation of 135 questions from residents, including 35 related to the golf course. She thanked committee members Marlena Cannon, David Dearden, Bob Giddings and Tony Lachowicz.

Ruthie Snyder (Photo by Kathy Sower)

In her opening statement, Bettencourt stessed the need for the board “to work together to help restore civility to our community.” Turning to Oakmont’s finances, she added: “There is no magic answer to keeping dues down while also keeping up with the demands of needed repairs and improvements.

“We cannot neglect fixing and upgrading our existing facilities, nor can we neglect working toward insuring that we maintain a quality of living that reflects a desirable retirement way of life. We must also try to do this while being mindful of the financial impact on all residents. Herein lies our biggest challenge as directors.”

GOLF CLUB ISSUES

            Medeiros, referring to the golf club being for sale, said he hopes OVA maintains a good relationship with the facility no matter who owns it. Sale or not, Lyons said he doesn’t want the golf course “to go away.” Klyn called closure of the golf courses “a dismal prospect” and Bettencourt said a good relationship is “important to home values.”

While Huntley acknowledged the importance of maintaining the golf courses, he’s against a non-profit organization like Oakmont giving money to a profit-making entity. Nevertheless, he said he does understand the issue regarding maintenance of the golf course waterways and the possible effects on Oakmont homes and is willing to meet with golf club management “to seek solutions”.

Lyons said there is “a role” for OVA to help with golf course maintenance, but he said he “balked at writing a check.” Medeiros indicated a willingness to reimburse some flood control expenses, while Bettencourt said OVA should “help dredge the waterways” because “we’re a community and should take some responsibility.” Klyn said OVA should share in the costs only if lack of waterway control “is detrimental” to homeowners.

The candidates ranged from lukewarm to flat out opposed on the issue of amending Oakmont bylaws to allow members to vote on larger capital improvement projects. Huntley responded with an emphatic “No,” adding that the community already has a vote when it elects the board of directors. He said amending the bylaws would be “excessively costly” and the community should “rely on its boards.”

Medeiros said the amendment issue “is fraught with problems.” while Klyn agreed the decades-old bylaws are due for changes, adding the caveat that “if you leave it to homeowners, nothing would get done.” Bettencourt said a threshold is needed so that only big projects are affected. Lyons said if other HOAs have had problems with this approach, he’s against it. Otherwise, he’d support it.

FINANCIAL RESERVES

            Asked if OVA financial reserves are adequate to meet future repair and replacement costs, the candidates’ responses ranged from Huntley’s “Yes” to Bettencourt’s “Probably.” Huntley said a “solid group” did the reserve study and he concluded that sufficient revenues are coming in to satisfy future expenditures. Lyons said he is “highly confident” that reserves are adequate, adding that no repairs or replacements have been delayed for lack of funds. Medeiros offered “a qualified ‘Yes’, noting that “you never know if costs are stable,” and Klyn called funding “Adequate.”

The candidates voiced no specific priorities when asked about future capital improvement projects, but Lyons and Huntley said the focus should be on the central complex bracketed by the Berger Center and the Central Activities Center. There was general agreement that future projects should reflect the findings of the Long Range Planning Committee based on input from the community. Medeiros said decisions should come “up from below, not down from the top.”

The idea of installing sirens for emergency alerts drew a mixed response. Huntley said a siren could produce “mass chaos” with people “freaking out,” while others stressed the need for an agency like the Santa Rosa Fire Department to be responsible for the system. Klyn said she is “all for it” if done properly.

The issue of traffic safety in Oakmont focused on police enforcement, increased use of radar equipment, speed limit signs and education. Lyons said the issue is “fairly minimal” in Oakmont, noting the general lack of serious accidents caused by speeding. There was some mention of adding escape routes so that Highway 12 is not the only choice in an evacuation, as in the 2017 wildfires.

(Watch the debate at www.oakmontvillage.com/videos)