Columbia Council Rep Report

CA Board Budget Work Session October 17, 2019

Columbia Association Board of Directors

Budget Work Session

Thursday, October 17, 2019

NANCY’S NOTES  (Click here for the agenda and background material.)

Resident Speakout

Lynn Foehkrolb, Town Center Village Board member, spoke about the need for an elevator at Historic Oakland.    She spoke of the difficulty that she has had when there are holiday markets and she had to take her heavy pottery up the steps to get to her table where she sells her wares.  This is a beautiful building but isn’t accessible above the first floor.  This needs to change.  There has been request sent to the CA Board for many years to install an elevator.  She was told there was a study that was supposed to be in the fy20 budget but so far hasn’t heard anything about it.

Bill Santos, Columbia Aquatics Advisory Committee Chair, spoke again about the need for an additional pool.  He asked for funding for an architectural and engineering feasibility study to begin the process of looking at this need.

Kevin Fitzgerald, Town Center Village Board member, also spoke about the need for an elevator at Historic Oakland and the need for accessibility.  He suggested that CA speak with Jeryl Baker, TCCA Village Manager, to learn more about the need and the means to make this building accessible to all in the community.  The Board will vote at the next meeting to make sure the feasibility study can be streamlined for the elevator.
(Note: I apologize to the residents who spoke.  My iPad lost my notes and I’ve had to recreate this from memory.)

Discussion of Board and staff major capital projects and new operating initiatives and community stakeholder requests.

Pathways in some places will be expanded to ten feet.  In order to replace 1.9 miles of pathway, the cost over 2 years would be about $1,000,000.   Keeping Columbia beautiful is expensive.  This is where your money goes.

There will be improvements to Lake Elkhorn that will cost approx. $240,000. CA continues to turn over ponds to the county. There are 40 ponds within Columbia.

CA plans to improve connection to Columbia Gateway Park via pathways that would be on CA property.  The pathway would loop around Gateway.  It will be considered in the new budget.  Final vote on budget won’t be until February.

One item included in the budget is for improvements to Lake Kittamaqundi Lakefront. There was discussion about removing the money from this project to take it to $100,000 and save about $500,000.  There are some improvements that are needed to be made.  But at this time it appears the Board isn’t willing to make unneeded changes in this area.  CA owns a portion of the lakefront.  HHC owns a portion as well and is preparing to construct an area near the Whole Foods building.  CA would like to address some improvements but not at this time.

The Board discussed a tot lot policy.  This budget includes about $912,000 over the next two years.   Tot lots need to be looked at more carefully before funding is included in the budget.

Columbia has 173 tot lots.  The idea is to refurbish about ten per year.  $456,000 per year was proposed to begin this process for the first two years.  It was suggested that rather than planning to spend so much that we take a closer look at the tot lots and determine which ones need safety issues resolved and not upgrade until we do a study of the tot lots.    A plan to make them inter- generational had been presented to the Board years ago. This could be looked at again.   The Board seems to want to develop a policy before spending money on improvements. Currently CA is finding ways to right size replacements for the tot lots.  This is a method that has helped keep the tot lots maintained to this point.  If there is a safety issue, the broken or risky item is removed from the tot lot.

There is money in the budget for work on Fairway Hills Golf Course.  Before that money is allocated, the Board needs to determine the future of the golf course.

An Elevator at Historic Oakland would need engineering plans and architectural drawings for FY2021 (Category 3) and construction for FY2022 (Category 2).  I fully support this project and hope that others will as well.  CA spends a lot of money on a great variety of issues.  Accessibility for the community centers such as Historic Oakland must be considered. Weddings take place there but some guests cannot attend if they are physically disabled and not able to walk up the stairs to the main room. This is so unfair.  Town Center would have more events if the facility was accessible.  People who ask about accessibility have turned away from Town Center, costing rental income because of the lack of accessibility.  It is time this stops and the Board pays attention to this need.  Funds for architectural and engineering drawings ($50,000) is now to be included in the budget for FY2021.  We cannot stop there.  We need funding for the actual construction of the elevator.  Appeasement doesn’t work after all these years.  Town Center, Oakland Manor, the residents of Columbia need and deserve an accessible space.  Speak to your CA representative and let them know you want them to vote in favor of the elevator.  Remember, Oakland Manor is located right next door to the Residences of Vantage Point, a continuous care facility.  Many of these residents cannot access Oakland Manor.

Money is set aside for Neighborhood Centers for FY2021 and FY2022.  There was money planned for two centers but the Board said that first a decision must be made about how CA will move forward with the NCs before money is spent on upgrades.   The pre-budget meetings will evaluate the many details that determine how the dollars will be spent to improve and maintain Columbia.

Operating Budget

Phillip Dodge, Executive Director of the Downtown Columbia Partnership spoke about the Partnership and the need for support from CA.  Over the past three years, CA has contributed $200,000/ per year supporting this venture.  After HHC, CA is the largest donor.

The Partnership’s total budget is $600,000.  CA was asked to fund through 2024 at $200,000 per year.   Over the years CA will have contributed to the organization well over $1,000,000.

CA has asked to have additional members on the Board but have been overlooked.  Because of the housing and commercial space that HHC has built in downtown, CA’s income will increase.  But the entire community, not just CA benefits from this expansion of housing and commercial space.

CA donates a small amount of money to non-profits.  This one organization gets a lot of money from the donation funds.  But CA has not gotten the seats at the table that has been requested.  The County Executive chooses the Board members. After these past few years, several Board members agree CA doesn’t need to fund at this level.  The county can step in and fund since they make the decisions and CA doesn’t have a seat at the table.

CA doesn’t have an obligation to fund the partnership at the rate of $200K a year.  There are a number of non-profits that also need funding and CA provides a large portion of donation funds to this one organization. This question will be on the agenda next week.  I ask that if you have thoughts about this, please feel free to contact me with those thoughts.

One Board member suggested tabling the donation to the Partnership.  I spoke in favor of the festival and asked for more money for them.  However, others didn’t want to spend more than is necessary.

The Board also talked about donations and how to handle them moving forward.  Members discussed options for how to do this best and most efficiently to benefit organizations located in Columbia. No conclusion was reached so the issue will be discussed further.   One thought is to let the Community Foundation of Howard County handle the distribution of funds to local non-profits with certain stipulations by the Board.

The Board discussed again having board training.  After seven years of asking for this, I was told tonight that the board has to agree to this.  I believe that the Board needs to be trained by a professional with a good reputation in this specific field.  I plan to attend the next Board Operations Committee meeting on November 2 to make sure this issue gets on the agenda for upcoming meetings.

There are a great number of items that the board discussed or generally approved but these items may come up again before the final approval date in February.   There was a discussion about the cost for a feasibility study for a new pool.   It should come to the Board at the next meeting on October 24.

The meeting lasted until nearly 1 am so next week we will take up additional issues.

Please feel free to contact me at [email protected] with your thoughts or concerns.

Happy fall.  The leaves are turning and the wind is blowing.  Enjoy the sunshine.