Columbia Council Rep Report

CA Board Meeting October 24, 2019

Columbia Association Board of Directors

Board Meeting

Thursday, October 24, 2019

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

Resident Speakout

Joan Lancos spoke about the Downtown Columbia Partnership.  She is asking for funding of $200,000 for the upcoming year and a couple years ongoing as we have in the past few years.  The DCP promotes Columbia and provides events and activities.  They are also involved in providing a transportation plan within Columbia as well as to and from downtown.

Patrick Harrington, a resident of Oakland Mills, is a parent of a Clippers swimmer.  HCC allows the Clippers to use the facility but it is too small and inadequate in other ways as well.  There is no place for viewers to sit.  He does have concerns about cost.  The Clippers fees are high and he doesn’t want others to not be able to afford to join.   Clippers is the largest swimming team in MD.  They need a 50 meter pool.  He asks that we consider finding a way to make this happen.

Children and Company Preschool, Wendy Allen, spoke about the Phelps Luck Neighborhood Center.  The center is a huge asset that presents a sense of place and quality of life.  Parents walk and bike with children to school daily.  Volunteering and participating in HOCO recreational sports activities helps people have healthy lives physically and mentally.  KIds Connection also uses the building and provides before and after school day care.  A church and karate program also make this home.  In the summer there is a camp for children 4-13 and after camp program so parents can feel their children are cared for while they work.  They have a wait-list because they have a successful program.  They cannot replicate these programs at a more expensive location.

Bill Santos, chair of CAAC,  reminded the board of the study of 2012 that recommended a pool.  In 2008, the county did a study that also suggests a pool should be built.  There is insufficient pool capacity for the Clippers and other users.   The CNSL and the Clippers interact with young children.  Some locations prohibit children.  This is one way CA can connect with young families.  To belong to the swim team, families must join the CA facilities.  They also pay fees and other costs for each event.  Bill said to try to enclose an outdoor pool would be more costly than to put in a new pool.

Ray LeVesque lives in Long Reach.  He is happily raising his two sons with his wife.  He is voicing strong support for another indoor pool.  He feels his family and many others would benefit.  Waiting only makes this more costly and prohibitive.

Ginger Scott from Wilde Lake spoke about the Haven proposals.  She isn’t happy with the facility and feels it’s a shame to have a kids space when they cannot use the facility.

Ed Coleman spoke about support for an indoor pool.  He also feels the appearance of the pool in a neighborhood would be nice looking.  He proposes a multi purpose building that can be used for a variety of uses including meetings.  “The community would win all the way around.”  He said his board wasn’t notified in time to meet and discuss these issues.  He wasn’t happy about that.

Pamela Kumar spoke about Haven on the Lake.  She loves Columbia and the Haven.  She goes every day.  She takes class, where she can improve her mind and interact with people.  As Columbia grows, the Haven will grow and reinforce what Columbia is: kind, open, diverse.

James Forest lives in Ellicott City but lived in Columbia as a child.  He is an alumnus of the Clippers and benefitted from it.  He was with the Clemens Crossing Cyclones from the age of 5 until he joined the Clippers.  He said swimming helped him get into college.  His wife is a fellow swimmer.  It all goes back to his years with the Clippers.  He says CA is here to make Columbia a better place to work live and play.  The Clippers do this.

Nina Basu president and CEO of The Inner Arbor Trust thanks CA for the support in many ways.  The 50.6 acres of open space encircling the Chrysalis are thanks to CA.

She is asking for us to support the grant of $183,000 for the next fiscal year.   The trust holds numerous free arts events for the community including the summer pops concert.  Maryland Winds and other programs that are new to HOCO.  The Chrysalis kids series brings children and families to the park.  A true cross section of the county as well as Columbia goes to the park already. It has proven to be very successful with great programming.  There are several ticketed events. In addition, they sell adult beverages and rent chairs for $5 to help support their work.

Rhonda-Cherie Johnson is a HOCO resident from Long Reach.  She just heard about the request to put in a pool in the LR area.  She has seen the farms disappear, the natural fields are gone.   The neighborhood centers are important for parents to have daycare close to their home area.  It was important for her to have her children go to school close by.  She feels it would be devastating to lose the neighborhood center.  She feels the pools that are here are enough.  She doesn’t think a pool should be located at a neighborhood center.

Budget- Category I and II Capital Budget

The Board agreed to put money away for neighborhood center enhancements based on a conclusion of further study and prioritizing which centers get work done first.

We also approved $100,000 to repair or recondition the “z-wall” along the lakefront at Lake K.

Tot Lot renovation was once again discussed.  With 173 tot lots in Columbia, the goal is to repair or refurbish 10 per year at the cost for the upcoming 2 years is $456,000 a year or $912,000 over 2 years.  This would repair 20 tot lots…thus it will take 17 years at this rate to update and improve all these spaces.   The Board needs to determine how to move forward generally with tot lots, but if there is repair needed, especially for safety purposes, they must be done immediately.   It was brought up that tot lots can be a great community builder when parents meet and children meet to play and develop a sense of community.  This is what Columbia is about.

CA will evaluate the tot lots and determine what needs to be done moving forward.  We may decide some of these lots can be removed, especially if there are two almost adjacent to one another.

Operating Budget

The Asian community is the fastest growing community within Columbia.  There was discussion about a community outreach position for a diverse Community.  This would be a part time position.  Michelle Miller will determine how to work out this position regarding demographics and how many hours are needed.   It was suggested that if we had bi-lingual people reaching out it would have a greater impact.   $25,000 would be for resources as well as staff and events to contact and communicate with people.

The Board approved $100,000 for the Festival of the Arts 3 days long free lakeside event in June.  This is the biggest Columbia event of the year and brings in many people from other areas to see and enjoy our fair city.

The Downtown Columbia Partnership has gotten $200K for the past few years.   The major money that comes from the development flows to the developer.  The county will also benefit financially from the taxes.  CA is asked to give a lot of money but doesn’t get a quid pro quo.  This money goes to the Partnership and not community organizations that need the money more and CA has traditionally supported community programs but isn’t now. Some of us feel this is a major mistake.   Some feel this is a growing organization.  It is important for downtown and does a lot of events now.  It will grow in the future. The board voted against the $200K for the DCP.

The board voted to approve $183,000 for the Inner Arbor Trust.  Some board members asked for additional information.  Other board members fully support the IAT.  The board discussed and voted to support the $183,000 operation funds.

I moved to raise the assessment rate by $.01 from$.68 to $.69 cents which would add on average $20 to each homeowners cost each year while adding approximately $500,000 to Ca’s budget.  People want a new pool, want to donate to various entities, and to renovate neighborhood centers, and tot lots.   We have lots of costs and continue to borrow money each year.  We do not work in the black.  We have huge costs to maintain our facilities, and our open space as well as create meaningful events.   This all costs money.  Would you pay $20 a year to maintain what we have and add a 50 meter pool and improve our neighborhood centers and improve our tot lots?

The Board wants to hear your opinion.  What do you think about raising the rates?  What do you think is reasonable? Please contact me with your thoughts.  My email is at the end of these notes.  The board voted to not continue this discussion any further.

The Haven on the Lake needs to be rethought.  The Board talked about how we move forward and what do we do to improve what is happening there.  Dan Burns, Director of Sports and Fitness, said we’ll know in 2 years how we are doing financially.  We hope to bring in a new spa.  We would hire a management company to operate the business for the spa, but the business is CA’s.  We will pay about $100,000 a year for the management company.  At end of month we would get any money above the $100,000.  If there is a shortage, we won’t earn anything.  The current loss over the past year was $1.452,000. This opened too early because downtown is just beginning to open up now.  Over the next couple years there will be many more residents downtown with the new residents opening in the Merriweather District and downtown.    There is a lot of interest in a spa at the Haven.

The new company, Exhale, will be the spa operators but CA will own it all.  It will be Exhale at Haven on the Lake. Staff recommends that we continue to provide spa services and maximize the opportunity for the Haven to continue into the future.  The Board asks that staff provide 6 month updates to keep in touch with what is happening with the new spa and Haven.

Pool Feasibility Study

Dan Burns talked about the study.  Pro Forma was added.  It makes more sense to build a new pool and not put a shell around an outdoor pool.  The Swim Center pool has new locker rooms, and other amenities were added.     There was an investment in aquatics of several million dollars.  They received an investment like other sports received.   It was suggested that large universities or government build 50 meter pools.  They never make money.  Finding land to build it is also a problem.  Neither CA nor the county has land to build it.  It is thought that 2027 is the earliest they can even consider it.

The initial study looked at what local pools could be considered as the most possible.  Locust Park has the most viable location.  It has more parking and space.  A simple box with a 22,000 sq ft. with a 10 lane pool and 60 parking spaces with very basic amenities would be the least expensive.   A 2nd option has a training pool, and a multi purpose room with 100 parking spaces and allows more variety of programming.  The. 3rd option has the main pool, training room etc. with 41000 sq ft., and 140 parking spaces and more facilities.   The Clippers and Masters would move to new facility.  This would all be wonderful and possible if CA didn’t have constant, ongoing updating, and renovating and maintenance costs.   It doesn’t seem feasible for CA, at this time, to move forward with a very costly construction that will add another 2-4 million dollars in deficit annually.

Please let me know your thoughts, especially concerning adding another penny or two or average of $20 to $40 annually to your CA fees.  The board voted down my motion to add 1 cent or average of $20.   I think we are short sighted because of the demands on our budget.  We have a special city.  We want it to remain so.   We need your support to do this.  Thanks for reading.

To contact me, please email me at [email protected]

Happy fall.  Enjoy the beautiful colors and cool temperatures.


Nancy McCord

Wilde Lake CA council representative.