Hale Serving as Interim Police Chief
On June 14, 2022, Hot Springs Village POA General Manager, Kelly Hale, conducted the “Coffee with the Chief” meeting. Due to the retirement of Chief Ricky Middleton, Hale is filling in as HSV Interim Police Chief until recently hired Kristi Bennett takes the helm of the Police Department. Hale said he stepped into this role temporarily because he did not want to create confusion.
Hale was accompanied to the meeting by his mother, Linda Hale, and Parks and Recreation Director, Terry Wiley. Also attending were Lt. Gary Vaughan and Board Director, Bruce Caverly.
A Little Bit About Kelly Hale
Hale said he was born in Louisiana and grew up in Bastrop. In 1972 the family moved to Phoenix, Arizona where his father accepted a job as a journeyman lineman. From there the family moved to Vancouver, Canada for a year. When Hale was ten years old the family landed in Kansas City. Hale said, “Kansas City is kind of home.”
At 19 years of age and fresh out of high school, Hale began his career with UPS as a dock worker, moving on to driving a UPS truck, and ended up retiring as the Vice President of U.S. Operations. “It is a very unique company – been around for 116 years…They promote from within…They don’t believe you can do the job with customers if you don’t understand that the customer needs to be served. That was the motto and it worked very well for them and still does.”
Hale worked in loss prevention for UPS for four years. “In my background, I had a little bit of time working security with UPS. The retired FBI agents out of Quantico taught us behavioral analysis. We did our own investigations. We were under ICC guidelines. Anytime we had theft or transit problems, we were the ones that came in – kind of like railroad police. We had the authority to detain and do all kinds of other things. I learned a lot with that.”
Hale continued, “I have always had high respect for law enforcement officials and firefighters. It was a big part of what we did in the community.”
Hale said the majority of his UPS career was in operations. “If you are not on the front line, you don’t know what is going on with the employees.”
He worked for UPS for 37 years, relocating 11 times. The last two and a half years of Hales’ UPS career were spent in Chicago.
Because Hale was on the old pension plan at UPS, he was able to retire at 55 years of age.
Hale’s mother, Linda, lives in the Village and he had been visiting HSV for five years. Hale has been married to Mary Ann for 32 years. Mrs. Hale’s 89-year-old mother resides with the Hales. He joked, “I have consolidated all of the women in my life. I tried to get them in one place as much as I can. It makes it easier so I can get around and see everybody and take care of them when I need to.”
Why Did Hale Become General Manager?
“I had no intentions of going back to work. I thought 37 years working for the culture that I did was more than enough for anybody. But I have been coming down here, looking from the outside in for about five years,” stated Hale.
“When you are looking in from the outside, you see all the ugly, all the noise. You see everything going on. I saw the beauty. I saw the good – the beautiful golf course and trails and people,” explained Hale.
Hale said when he was down here and had extra time he began looking at the financials. “I saw the opportunity.”
A group of people approached him about taking the General Manager position and at first, he was not agreeable. Hale stated, “After a long talk with the Lord and some conversation, I decided to go ahead and throw my hat in the ring.”
He told the Board of Directors he would take the job for three to five years in order to restructure the succession plan. “I am a firm believer that you have to have a good succession plan. It is not just the next man or woman up. You’ve got to recruit quality people and get them ready for the responsibility…I don’t want to be in a community where we are constantly changing out the general manager that comes in with a different idea every three years or so. It is kind of like electing a president. They all come in with the right ideas and then you have to start all over…We need to do what is right for the Village and get it going and keep it going. That is what we need to lean toward.”
Hale said there have been a lot of changes at the POA. People that have done excellent work for the POA for many years have decided to go do other things.
Hale said he is always recruiting. He looks at the Members as the customers. He is a Member too and works for himself as well as the rest of the community. He does his job in the best interest of everyone. He likes Villagers on his senior staff because they have a vested interest in the success of the Village.
What Does Hale Like To Do When Not Working?
Hale said he is a history buff and also likes to play golf and fish. He said if he ever gets the time, he likes to travel. Spending time with his wife and mother is important to him and they like to do music-related things and just generally have fun.
Honesty is the Best Policy
Hale explained that he would never lie or cheat someone, but they may not like what he has to say because he will tell the truth.
Spending Money on Projects
Hale said Staff brings proposals to him. If they want to spend more than $1,000, he expects them to bring him a white paper and do a detailed sales presentation on why the POA should spend the money. He also encourages his staff to stay under budget. They then take the leftover money and use it to buy other needed items.
Can We Obtain Money From The Government?
The General Manager said he is trying to work with state legislators to receive funds. He said this has been done many times in the past. The caveat is that they will give us some money if we take the gates down. “That’s not going to work,” stated Hale.
He said he was told there was a rumor that he was going to take down the gates. This is not true and the rumors are like how it was in junior high. “I don’t do social media…You can say whatever you want about me. I am not going to read it anyway.”
The federal government printed $1.4 Trillion for infrastructure. The State of Arkansas received $4.3 Billion of these funds. The Arkansas Constitution states that Hot Springs Village is not entitled to receive any of the tax dollars. He said he has been working with the politicians. Hale said that the language in the U.S. Constitution can change and the same is true for the Arkansas Constitution.
“I don’t want it for the Village. When we say we want it for the Village, people think we will use it for golf courses, lakes, and tennis courts…That is the problem. I need it for the water and sewer treatment system so we can be a responsible community for the discharge that we are putting back into the Saline River that goes down to Benton and Bryant. About 18 years ago, we got into a fight with those two cities about discharge, saying we were putting polluted water in the Saline River – which was untrue…If we don’t move on that now, that money is going to be earmarked and spoken for. So yes, I am trying to get a $20 Million infusion just for the water and sewer treatment plant. What that will do is it will springboard our Village, as far as finance goes, ten years ahead of schedule. We have roughly $42 Million in infrastructure we need to repair. The Village is 52 years and we have been kicking the can down the road for too long. Cooper ran the Village up until 2009 with a Board and a large company bankroll. Cooper was a builder and when the housing market crashed, he pulled away from the Village. They retained their voting rights and still have a very large interest in here, as they should.”
Hale continued, “Mr. Cooper was a great visionary. This is a fabulous place and we need to be very thankful for what he did.”
“When Cooper left, they pulled the ship from the port and left a POA which has never had to run a business model before.”
Strategic Use of Money
Hale said he is a dollars and sense, black and white business person that uses a “3” x 5″ card and a number two pencil”. “I am used to big budgets. Before I retired, I had a budget that was $2.8 Billion. I had over 48,000 people that were underneath my umbrella. So I get it. And I come from a company that would hold onto a penny that would make Abe Lincoln’s eyes squeeze out before they let go of it. I’m real tight with money, but I am not stupid. I know where we need to spend and right now we are being very strategic. So what does that mean? That means we are maneuvering through all this inflation. Asphalt has gone up six-fold, just in the last three months.”
Hale continued, “There is a difference between being frugal and being stupid with money. We need to be patient and smart. So what you are going to see is, that we’re going to do a lot of crack sealing. Crack sealing has not been done very much in here. If you don’t know what that is, that is just a guy with a wand, putting down this nice heavy tar in these [road] cracks to keep the water out so we are not losing our asphalt. It deteriorates every time we get heavy rains. That water gets down into the sub-base and causes it to break up. We want to protect what we got. And then we are going to do a few other things that will be cost-effective, but they are going to help save what we need and allow us to be able to go three maybe five years with our roads before we need to make major investments into them. But by then we will have the cash saved to be able to do it – bring a contractor in here with big equipment and get that done at a reasonable price. My gut says we are going to see the economy tailspin like it is right now a little bit. And I think we are going to go into a recession that falls right into our wheelhouse. If you remember what happened in ’08, ’09, and ’10, contractors and builders were begging for work. So that is what I am looking at right now. Let’s be calm, do what we need to do right now, and then what we are going to see is…we’re going to see an opportunity. When that window opens up, we’re going to go to town on doing what we need to do.”
Hale said that right now they are working on the clubhouses – power washing, painting, caulking. We need to get caught up on these types of maintenance.
“I just met with the Raintree people because I keep hearing about Balboa Golf Course. Balboa Golf Course. Balboa Golf Course. I got it. What about the other seven? Apparently, everybody has been promised heaven and earth that we are going to redo Balboa. Here is a number for you. Just the irrigation system alone, which is broken and leaking all over the place every day…Juan does a phenomenal job keeping it together – $2.2 Million, just for the irrigation system because we kicked the can down the road too long. You can imagine what it would be like to redo the whole course. Bunkers on an 18-hole golf course, we need to billy bunker them. They are horrible. The storm wiped out Isabella. I went out Saturday and Sunday and looked at it. It is devastating to look at them. So now we have to re-groom them, but you are talking anywhere between $600,000 to a million dollars per course, to go through and redo the bunkers. Very time-consuming too, because they haven’t been redone. The pipes collapsed. That is why you see the water sitting in them. It is not a good revenue model that we need. So they’ve got to be addressed. They are 25 years past due. These are all infrastructure things. That’s what makes the Village. The same things with the lakes. When we start talking about draining out the lakes. We haven’t done a really good job of that over the last ten years…To do one of the [smaller] Lakes $250,000 to $350,000. To do Balboa, probably cost close to $600,000. And you have to do two lakes a year.”
Being Proactive With Lakes
“There are different ways we are going to look at doing things. The other part of this is, how do you stop that type of spending? We used to not spend that much. That means we have to go up and mitigate upstream. All that silt is flowing in from somewhere, so there are different techniques that I have my Public Works group working on that will mitigate, and then maybe instead of having to do it every five years, maybe we have to do it every eight years. So now we can save a little bit of money. These are smart investments because riprap and some silt line that we have upstream to permit that from getting into a lot of these lakes, it is not going to stop all of it, but it could reduce it by 60%. These are things when we talk about being smart with our money, and being able to prevent what is going on. All it is is a cause and effect.”
Tracking of Work Order
The POA is working on instituting a computerized system to track work orders from start to finish.
Debt And Other Money Matters
Hale said, “We have $3.4 Million in debt. In 2016, the POA took out a bond. I don’t know what we did with it – still doing some forensic analysis on it…I don’t like debt. I don’t believe in debt. I think it creates a problem down the road. But it is what we have. We have a bunch of little things that I am trying to unwind. We sat down and start digging through the books with the accounting group…They already found $100,000 in annual renewal fees that the Village has been paying for the last three to four years, in reoccurring charges – like an alarm system that we paid for that was over $56,000.
An audience member asked, “It doesn’t exist?”
Hale responded. “No. The checks were good. But it hasn’t been hooked up. We haven’t used this service but nobody ever turned it off.”
Continuing, Hale said they have been combing the books and finding items like this.
Hale feels the POA is antiquated and we need to modernize what we are doing. “We still print paper checks.” Hale said, “It looks like 1984 in the accounting department.”
Did you Move Here For What Is Already Here or Move Here to Change the Village?
Town Center – Instead of members fronting the money to build a town center, let an outside investor do this. “If you have an investor that wants to do this, knock your socks off. I’ll look at it all day, but we’re not writing one plug nickel for something like that. What we have is more than enough. Who moved here for what this place is going to have? Or did you move here for what it has? We don’t have that kind of money and I didn’t move here for what it may be. I thought it was gorgeous the way it is. My whole plan is to take care of the things people left us. Fresh paint. A little polish. Cleaning the windows.
Hale urges Villagers to support the restaurants. “We have to make the restaurants successful.” When the POA ran the restaurants, they were subsidized by $1.5 to $2 Million each year. Hale said he has told the restauranteurs that Villagers want quality food and low prices. They do not want large portions. “People just want to get out of the house. They want a good quality meal and a couple of drinks with their friends,” said Hale.
“That is why we are going after all the clubhouses and making them fun and festive,” explained Hale. It is time to get back what we had and “get the energy going again. Let’s have fun. Support your restaurants. Support your amenities. The revenue comes in and that is how we balance out the cost and keep the prices low.”
Water and Sewer Treatment Plants
Hale said, “Our water and sewer treatment plants need about $22 Million worth of work. Our roads need about $12 Million. Our golf courses – you don’t want to get me started on those – they need a lot of work.”
New Police Chief
The new police chief is Kristi Bennett who is currently the Chief of Police in Texarkana. Originally from this area, her mother was an interior decorator for the Cooper group in the ’80s. Her brother was a Village firefighter. Bennett plans to continue with the Police Academy classes and Coffee with the Chief meetings.
The Defenders Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club is having its national convention in Hot Springs and on June 25 at approximately 10:45 AM, 300 to 500 of them will be riding their motorcycles down the length of DeSoto Boulevard. Garland County Sheriffs will escort them to the West Gate. The Hot Springs Village Police will escort them to the East Gate, where they will be handed off to the Saline County Sheriffs. They are riding for military, police, firefighters, and first responders.
There are safe designated staging points where the public is encouraged to view the parade of bikes. The public is being asked to not drive on DeSoto Boulevard from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM.