At the May 10, 2022 Board Retreat, Ken Unger, Hot Springs Village Property Owners’ Association Public Services Director said that after living in the Village for ten years, he had a real desire to help “steer the Village on the path of sustainability for future generations.” Unger also shared with the Board his philosophy for streamlining staff and operations, his ninety-day commitment, the challenges he faces as the HSV POA Public Services Director, and how he intends to begin to address these issues.
Unger intends to do “whatever is in his power and talent to fix infrastructure and meet the needs of the current members.”
On his first day on the job, Unger received a two-week notice of resignation from Brad Meredith, Lakes Manager. Unger immediately began researching who was on the Lakes team and what would happen if Brad’s position was not filled. He looked across the organization, it occurred to him that there was “potentially a synergy” and with only two weeks notice it would be difficult to ‘backfill’ Brad. In order for me to make that happen, it would have to be pretty quick. It made more sense after talking to my other superintendents, especially Todd Noles and Matt Broome. Matt is over roads and Todd is over forestry…maybe there was a synergy there, in sliding in some of that. After talking to everybody, it seemed like the right move. I also talked to Scott McCord [Chair of the Common Property, Forestry, and Wildlife Committee] just yesterday about possible synergies there. Is there synergy there to not backfill the [Lakes Manager] position and the answer, at least right now is ‘yes’.”
“What that does is, hopefully, streamline things.”
“My opportunity is to find changes in our organization that can be made that will solve problems that we don’t know exist today…by working as a team and figuring out what is the most effective way to approach [issues].
Unger said he did not take the job lightly. As Rolland [White] will tell you, “I started participating last year in Public Services Committee for the most part and the Finance and Planning Committee, on secondary. For the most part, I kept my mouth shut and my ears open.” Unger said he has been investigating the Village issues for a while.
Scott McCord talked to the Lakes Committee about whether it makes sense to combine forestry and lakes committees now so that we are more streamlined than ever.
Unger said he is committed to “doing wise things. We will spend every dime of that budget by the end of the year on wise things.”
Ken Unger’s Commitment For First Ninety Days as the Public Services Director
- “The key is understanding your customers’ needs first.” Although he has talked to a lot of people, he plans on talking to more to find out what the needs of the Villagers are.
- “We can’t be successful as an organization if we are out there doing one thing and our customers expect something else.”
- Unger defined the customers as Board Members, his peers in the organization, and clearly the members in the community who have issues.
- Unger believes in making organizational structures that are wise and efficient. Unger believes that by combining positions he can incentivize some employees while putting salaries back into the budget. Unger also plans to address some weaknesses and gaps in the organization. He said that he comes from a background where the employees are everything.
- “If you don’t have happy employees – productive employees – employees who want to stay in an organization, then you are not going to be successful. The key is leadership, not management. It has to do with how we recruit. In my experience, it is much easier to recruit the best and the brightest at the lower levels and work development plans within your organization to keep them interested in growing and earning more over time as they move into different positions in the organization. That’s how you build future leaders and leaders and leaders who want to stay in your organization.”
- If we want our employees to be more efficient and to save money, we need to reward them for that, explained Unger. “If we see somebody doing something good and saving money or being more efficient, we recognize that. Maybe they get a bonus.”
Computerized Work Order System – This was Mike Sykora’s idea
- Tracking of work from start to finish – Unger thinks this will change the entire dynamic of the Village as far as keeping people in the loop.
- Unger said this will help his team because right now the process is “untenable.”
Review of Operations and Maintenance Tables
- Unger also committed to reviewing all the Operations and Maintenace (O & M) Tables for the calendar year.
“In order to solve a challenge, you need to document what it is,” explained Unger. “For the most part, the infrastructure of the Village has really depreciated.”
- Unger said that we have to make a decision of how we attack the road issue. “Do we want to go and build super roads that get destroyed if a water main breaks? He said he is formulating a plan that helps us address as many streets as possible from further degradation. “There is crack sealing everywhere. There is a reason for that. That is how you stop a road from crumbling. Cracksealing is the cheapest thing you can do to protect a road surface. And it is the thing we do the least of.”
- Unger said he is trying to find an approach, at least on our major heavy streets that allows us to quickly and with the least amount of impact to the customer, fix a section of roadway in a manner that will last our lifetimes. “I will throw it out there. I don’t know if it is going to work, but the answer could be precast concrete slabs.
- “Our treatment plants are still inaccurately sized. We need to invest capital there to get them up to snuff.”
- “We have water invading our sewer systems. We need to stop that – find where those holes are and patch them.”
- “The Village was built for a certain population that has yet [indecipherable] itself.”
- “Some of the infrastructures are not designed to support a lesser load.” The reason for some of the sewer odors is lack of flow causing stagnation in our lines and this causes gas to form. Unger said he would be attacking this issue. It could be as simple as flushing the lines. If this does not solve the odor problem, Unger said he has some other ideas.
Unger has a plan to use slip lining for the culvers and deal with the bad ones on an urgent basis as the road actually fails. “The reality is, we’re trying to fix a broken arm on a patient who is suffocating.”
Leaks in Water Lines
Smart Hydra Caps can be screwed onto the hydrants and when you open the water up, they can ‘see’ what’s happening between those segments of pipes. This technology will tell us if we have leaks.
Look at manholes during rain events to locate possible problems.
Cover image: Board Director, Bruce Caverly (left); Public Service Director, Ken Unger (right)
Contact information for Director Unger:
Director Public Services
Hot Springs Village
Cheryl Dowden, Publisher
” Is there synergy there to not backfill the [Lakes Manager] position and the answer, at least right now is ‘yes’.”
I am not a citizen of Buzzwordia, could someone please translate that into English for me?
Michael, thank you for your comment. Very good questions. Here is your translation: “In the context of employment, the definition of backfill refers to the act of filling in a position left by an employee who has been moved to another role, went on a justified leave of absence, or quit/lost their job.”
“1 : synergism broadly : combined action or operation. 2 : a mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility of distinct business participants or elements (such as resources or efforts)”
Please do not combine the 2 committees. I served as the Board Liaison to the Lakes Cttee and was very instrumental in getting the Common Property, Forestry, Wildlife Cttee restarted in the Village, I ask that you do not combine the 2 committees. A lot of good, valuable, important work is being done by both committees. If combined, I believe the meetings would be too long. I also think the detail and experience could get “lost.”
Frightened by the idea of combining lakes into other committees and eliminating lakes position. Sounds very short sighted . A great deal of specialized knowledge and concern is needed to manage these lakes.
You got a GM and a public works director that have not relevant experience but rest assured they know what they are doing