The Hot Springs Village Governmental Affairs Committee (GAC) met Friday, May 6, 2022, at 9:00 AM at the Ouachita Room at the Ponce de Leon Center.

Chair, Bob Pettey, said that the notified absences were Committee Member, David Childs – Superintendent of Fountain Lake School District, Michael Murphy – Superintendent of Jessieville School District, Melissa Speers.

Pettey said that he made his GAC Quarterly Report to the HSVPOA Board on April 20, 2022. Click here to read the article.  Discussed at this Board presentation were the Economic Impact Study and reconstitution of the GAC.  Pettey said, “There are 11 slots open on the committee and there are only six members.”  GAC is currently working to fill the empty committee slots.

Pettey also talked to the Board about the Tri-Lakes Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).  Pettey said the GAC would like to rebuild its relationship with the MPO.  The MPO will be meeting on Thursday, May 19.  The plan is to assign a new GAC  member to attend the MPO meetings and work with them.

HSVPOA Board Chair and Liaison to the GAC said that hopefully next week the MPO representative will be named at the upcoming Board Retreat.  (Public Retreat Meeting is on Tuesday, May 10, and private Retreat Meeting is on Wednesday, May 11).

Keith Keck Gives Broadband Update

Saline County Quorum Court Justice of the Peace, Keith Keck, updated the GAC  on the broadband situation.  Keck said, “The funding coming out of the state is still not going to happen until June.  One interesting comment.  I had a discussion with Representative [Charlene] Fite this week.  The focus of the American Rescue Plan dollars at the state level is going to be on broadband.”

Keck said water and wastewater projects are not drawing much attention at the state level.  “The feeling is that the bulk of that money is going to be directed towards broadband.”

Senator Bill Sample [in the audience] agreed with Keck.

Hale said, “I had a meeting last week with the CEO of First Electric and his team came in and we sat down and went through everything.  They are bringing in a second crew (contractor) to expedite getting the 5G broadband into the Village.”  The original plan was to finish phase one and then move on to phase two.  Initially, the thinking was to do this slowly so as not to cause damage to HSV infrastructure.  “They have gotten quite a bit of work done over the last four to five months and we have only had two occurrences [of damage to HSV infrastructure].  They are doing a nice job…We agreed that they would bring in a second contracting crew to go ahead and get started in phase two…” This does not necessarily mean we will get the First Electric Broadband service any sooner.  An update will be coming.

Keck said that First Electric is only working in Saline County.  “How do we figure out how to potentially tap into future dollars for Garland County?”

Legislative Affairs Update by Sam Sacco

Sacco said that Arkansas State Representative, Richard McGrew, said that after the upcoming election, we may have as many as 20 new representatives.

Sacco and fellow committee member, Steven Rittenmeyer, have decided that after the elections the two of them should travel to Little Rock and visiting the legislators to reestablish the voice of the Village.

A date needs to be set for the upcoming general election forum.  Sacco said the GAC needs to be first in establishing the forum date so the candidates can plan around the Village Forum date.  

Senator Sample said he agreed that the GAC should establish a date, making it more likely for the candidates to make the HSV general election forum a priority so more candidates will attend.

Karen Crowson Reports on Real Estate 

Crowson said that the real estate market continues to be strong.  “In my opinion, we’ve seen a little bit of a setback because of interest rates, but that doesn’t typically affect our residential market here in the Village because we see so many cash buyers.  That has not typically slowed down that much.”

Selling lots continues to be a challenge.  “The POA is making a great effort and Kevin [Sexton, Director of Tourism and Community Affairs] has done an amazing job, just on his own, selling lots that are owned by the POA.  The Realtor Partnership Program is running strong.”

General Manager, Kelly Hale, said that Kevin Sexton has been very active.  “The objective is to build rooftops.  We have a plan of putting 150 rooftops a year, on average…We have over 22,000 undeveloped lots in the Village.”  The POA is trying to help lot owners by swapping remote lots with lots where it would be more economically feasible for the POA to install infrastructure.

Hale said there are also those Property Owners that owe assessments to the POA.  “They haven’t paid their assessments in years,” stated Hale.  The Property Owners in arrears do not have members’ rights.  The POA has a very aggressive campaign to take the lots back with the expectation that some owed assessments will be paid. 

“Enough is enough.  You can’t hold us hostage here,” stated Hale.

A lot of the LLCs owing large numbers of lots are set up out of the country and we have no legal recourse because of this.  

“We are talking about $1.7 Million a year in bad debt on assessments on these lots.”

The Cooper Land Evaluation Ad Hoc Committee Report by Crowson

Crowson said the ad hoc committee is winding down its findings. It has been a very interesting and very involved committee with site visits and gathering information.

“The findings are that while there are a lot of properties they [Cooper/CCI]  own, there may be not as many that we feel like the POA would actually need to acquire or to acquire easements for.  Most of those really would be an easement factor and not acquiring the property.  We don’t have a budget to buy property, so that was off the table from the very beginning…A meeting with Cooper is coming up at the end of the month.  We will be discussing with Cooper, protecting our access to water intake areas, gate access, and making sure we are protected there.”

Regarding Cedar Creek Trail, if the Property Owners decide this is something that we need to purchase, then we will need to have some special interest groups step up to help. 

Garland County Justice of the Peace, Larry Raney Reports on Bridges

Raney said they are working on prioritizing needed bridge work in the county.  

Saline County Justice of the Peace, Keith Keck Gives Further Updates

Metroplan – The original Greenway Plan is proceeding on pace.  This plan is for biking and pedestrian trails for Pulaski, Saline, Faulkner, and Lonoke Counties.  Keck said this plan doesn’t come close to the Village at this time, but the plan is to eventually connect with these trails.

Villager, Jim Patton, has served the last three years on the Saline County Board of Equalization and has been reappointed.  Larry Griffin is the Villager who sits on the Garland County Board of Equalization.  

Keck asked, “Why is that important?”  

“Reappraisal,”  answered Keck.  He said there will be some property tax adjustments, especially for new people moving in and also for those under 65 years of age.

Chair Petty – Phase Two of the Economic Impact Report; Revisions of Timing of Committee Members Reports

Pettey said that Phase Two of the Economic Impact Report project is making the information accessible to people.  Groups that need the information need to be identified.  All groups won’t necessarily need all of the information provided in the report.

Pettey said that revisions of the Agenda and the GAC Meeting Format may be needed.  Frequent reporting from some members may not be necessary, due to a lack of inactivity/updates on the subject covered by the member.  Pettey asked, “Do we need to have reports from every committee, every month? ”  Or would it be better to wait until they have something to report?  Or should the committee member reports be scheduled anyway?

Pettey said the GAC “helps bring good things to the Village!”  That is what Pettey sees as the GAC’s goal.  Another goal for the committee is to determine how they can help the POA.  “How can we assist you to do your job?… We have a lot of talented people around the Village.”

Pettey feels this is a good time for the GAC to determine, “who are we and what are we doing and how can we do it better?”

Keck said that in the past the GAC had a game plan and they knew who to engage with, and what the committee focus would be.  

The GAC wants to rebuild relationships with entities outside of the Village.  Hale said they have been working on this behind the scenes.  “The state of Arkansas received over $4 Billion from the infrastructure bill, that is sitting there.  A large portion of that was set aside for high-speed fiber-optic…When people see the Village, they see a bunch of rich people.  ‘We don’t need the money.’ ”  They want to use the fact that we are a gated community to justify that HSV doesn’t receive any of the infrastructure tax money, even though Villagers pay taxes.  “All I know,” said Hale, “is that we have been here for 52 years and have been paying in a lot of taxes and we have a $400 Million annual impact on two counties in the state.  We also have 16,000 votes that live here year-round.”

“Our focus is going to be on first responders and water/sewer, because those [categories] fall under  guidance that we found some language on…I am going to focus on what we need to do that will get people’s attention, that there is money in there.  We’ve got a different approach that we are going to take.”

“We have a different message.  We have a different approach.  It’s not going to be the same old, same old.  We’re not going to go through the front door.  We are going to climb through the window to get in – be creative and polite.  But we want to educate and we want to have a very laser-focused approach through the language that is already there and help get some of the other [language] rewritten to help benefit us in the future in this community – because we are a part of the state as well.  You can’t discriminate against us just because we have gates.  I am not asking for a lot.  Just a little bit of that money that is there.” – Kelly Hale

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