Hot Springs Village POA Public Services Committee met on Thursday, May 25, 2023. Topics of discussion included the extension of utilities to remote lots, Spiraline X demonstration, water meters, water plant conversion to sodium hypochlorite treatment, Pontevedra water main project, forestry management, fitness center update, and more.

Also discussed and reported on separately were:

  • Who is responsible for the maintenance of driveway culverts (drainage pipes)? (Click here)

In addition to information from the May 25 meeting, the above-linked reports contain additional data.

Chair David Childs explained that the Public Services Committee is in the annual transition phase. The committee has three new members: David Whitehead, Cheryl Dowden, and Walt Black (absent).

Steve Klomsten resigned due to being heavily involved in charitable activities. He desires to dedicate himself to those activities but may consider rejoining the committee.

Extension of utilities to remote lots

Ken Unger, Director of Public Services and staff liaison to the committee, said, “It is my understanding we are not obligated to extend utilities at our cost if it is not reasonable to us.” Recently, the HSVPOA Board of Directors passed a motion regarding this issue. “If we are not planning to extend utilities or roads for years [in remote areas] and the property owner is adamant about building on a remote lot, we can offer them the ability to build on it if they are willing to pay for the infrastructure costs.”

Possibly an opportunity to recover some of the money paid by the property owner to establish infrastructure will be offered if a subsequent individual builds nearby, using some of the same infrastructure. “That is something to consider,” stated Unger.

Rose Law Firm interpreted the governing document language. “The Declarations state we are not obligated to extend sewer… Regarding other utilities, it says ‘reasonable’ period at a ‘reasonable’ cost. The road requirement is subject to the utilities, and we would be required to extend roads within two years after the utilities are extended…We are not a developer and are not marketing to build in remote areas, but if people want to build in those areas, we need to give them a mechanism to do that without costing us an arm and a leg. I don’t want to say, ‘no,'” said Unger.

Unger continued, “We are trying to put something in place that gives property owners the ability to know our limitations. Reasonable and customary are undefined terms in the Declarations. We will be as accommodating as possible to people who want to build. We have thousands of lots. We will swap lots. We will do whatever we can to let somebody build in here without costing the POA tens of thousands of dollars where it shouldn’t.”

Spiraline X Demonstration

Interested Public Services Committee Members and others will be attending a demonstration of a new culvert lining product called Spiraline X. This product is in the exploratory stages by the committee and Public Services staff and no decisions have been made to use this product.

This product has been used in Australia and winds the PVC onto itself, like a slinky, and keeps pushing it through the pipe. It expands, and the installer pulls a line to lock it. Both ends are grouted. It is on a roll, and it is unrolled into the pipe.

Water Meters

Director Unger has talked about water meters in the past. He said he has been evaluating remote-read water meters. Unger said the question that needs to be answered is, “How much more do the property owners want to spend for the remote-read meter system?”

The disadvantages of moving to remote-read water meters are:

  • Remote-read water meters have a bigger upfront cost than manual-read meters.
  • Installing the new meters across the Village would cost millions of dollars.
  • When the battery dies, the whole unit must be replaced.
  • Communities that have moved to remote-read water meters have already had to replace 3G with 4G.
  • Ongoing cellular fees and ongoing fees to the meter manufacturers.
  • Meter staff (Meter Technicians) will still be needed to replace meters and do turn-offs and turn-ons, so staff reduction in this area would be minimal.
  • Although we could move to monthly utility billing with the remote-read meters versus the current bi-monthly billing, this would result in double postage costs. Many people in the Village will not accept digital billing, hence the need for paper billing.

Public Services Committee Chair David Childs said, “This topic was brought up four or five years ago. I almost immediately said, ‘before you can proceed with this, you will have to show the savings.'”

Unger responded, “There are no savings, only costs.”

Childs agreed, “There has never been a [satisfactory] answer to that.”

Unger said he does not deny that we must upgrade our water meters. Still, the only advantage to the remote-read meters is that usage information is more readily available. If there is a major leak, it can be determined much sooner than it can with the manual meters. We are already giving residents a break on their bill if they have a leak. “Frankly, I don’t think we see that many major leaks to justify a move to remote-read water meters. “It would be cheaper for us to do leak resolution and reimbursement if we felt this was the right thing than to spend over three million dollars plus $106,000 yearly ongoing fee paid to the meter company.

Board Member and Public Services Committee Liaison Larry Siener said, “We have zero business case to do anything but [continue] to put in mechanical meters. That is the bottom line.”

Unger said, “The people I checked with said that the only way this business case works is in cities with a large commercial base.”

“I am questioning why we even want to do this on a broad scale. The only place it makes sense to use the remotely-read meters would be in places where the location of the meter constitutes a danger to the meter reader,” stated Unger. Also, it could make sense to install remote-read meters in commercial situations.

There is a possibility the POA may still offer the option of remote read-meters to those who are willing to pay for the installation and all of the associated costs. This possibility is to be determined at a later date.

Water plant conversion of Chlorine Gas to Sodium Hypochlorite

Paperwork on the Water Plant Conversion will be signed this week. The bid came back at around $331,000, and only $260,000 was budgeted. Staff is looking at changes to reduce the bid. This was previously talked about in this report. Scroll down in the article until you see ” Conversion Of Chlorine Gas Water Treatment To Sodium Hypochlorite Treatment at Water Plant.”

Sodium Hypochlorite is more stable and safer for the community and employees than Chlorine Gas.

Pontevedra Water Main Project

The Pontevedra Water Main project will begin in June. Completing this project solves three problems and takes two things off the Master Plan from seven or eight years ago.

This project will replace the Pontevedra water line, which continues to suffer ongoing breaks.

Forestry Management

We have been working to enter into a forestry management plan with Greenbay Packaging, Inc. There is a serious problem in the village with an Ips beetles infestation and a leaf disease. Unger said, “If we don’t take action soon, we will lose whole stands of pines if we don’t start cutting soon. We have a couple of areas identified to cut. If the tree turns brown, it must come out because it is infested with beetles or has a leaf needle fungus. I will ask Greenbay Packaging to come to next month’s Board meeting for a presentation and to answer any questions the Board may have. It isn’t good. In the Nature Conservancy area, whole stands are dead. If you don’t take trees out while they are still usable, then you have to pay for the removal versus making money off of selling the lumber. This isn’t about money, per see, but this goes from us making money to losing money when we pay for tree removal.”

Unger said he is doing this project under three auspices “Beetles, Needles, and Safety.” Where there are pine trees deemed to be in unsafe areas because they are along power lines, etc., we are going to begin thinning these trees along our right of way. We are going to start protecting roads and golf courses from damaged trees. The problem is mostly spreading on the east side.”

Unger plans to bring a presentation to the Board so that all residents can see what is happening with the trees, what needs to be done, and why it must be done.

Fitness Center Update

The reopening of the Fitness Center spa area is tied to an inspection from the health department. While the final renovations are tentatively scheduled for the first week of June, we still must wait for clearance from the health department. The colors used will be similar to some of the new logo colors.

The only aspect of the fitness center spa area not receiving a renovation is the tile in the whirlpool. We are hoping to smooth out the edges of the rough tile. The floor will hopefully be installed next week.

Additional miscellaneous issues

  • Equipment storage sheds are being erected.
  • Outdated HVAC systems are being replaced.
  • The Public Services Department is still trying to recover from the recent storms and continues to clear drainage issues.
  • B 3 water tank repair- (This is the Jarandilla tank that leaks in the base.) The estimate to seal the inside of the tank is around $110,000. Sealing of the tank may help to extend its useful life. Bid prices will be coming soon.
  • The water plant needs a different meter so we can accurately determine water volumes. Engineers are working on how to install the insertion valve so we can obtain accurate readings.
  • Twenty-two actuators on the filters at the water plant will be replaced. This is a $250,000 budget item. Unger anticipates this item will be sent to bid soon and hopes to finish this project before the year’s end.
  • There are around seven or eight concrete lift stations in need of work and we hope to have all but one addressed by the end of the year. Some lift stations were installed on top of a hill with homes pumping up to them. Because of the uphill installation of the lift stations, the lines are always full of waste, resulting in an odor problem. The problem is being addressed. Flushing helps on some of the lift stations. “We are looking at opportunities to install inline pumps. We just found out about this option and do not have prices yet. You do not need a lift station with the inline pumps,” explained Unger.

“It may be of long-term benefit to us to insert inline pumps in various locations to ensure effluent isn’t sitting in the lines constantly,” said the Public Services Director. More to come on this subject.

  • An operational plan for the optimal flushing of lift stations is being developed so that we are not wasting water. Some places may need more flushing than others. There may be times of the year when we do not need to flush. Unger said, “So far, we have made a big difference and will continue to seal the lift stations and flush.”
  • Unger is working on department structure and getting the right people to manage the various projects. He said he couldn’t manage all of the projects, and it is sometimes impossible for the Superintendents to fully manage all of the projects under them. There are too many. “We are working on creating a structure in the organization where certain staff can help execute projects, so we can get things done,” stated Unger.

Childs responded, “The number of projects has dramatically increased.

  • A visitor asked about testing lakes for E. coli. Unger responded, “Last year we took readings. When it rains, the E. coli readings sometimes exceed the threshold. We were two points above the threshold [last year]. It was so marginal on Balboa Beach. We took the readings right after a rainstorm. For safety purposes, we shut the beach down.

“We just tested Lakes Balboa and DeSoto, and we were fine.”

“There are influences from geese. That is one of the consequences of having geese around the beach.”

Sewer lines along Lakes Cortez and DeSoto periodically experience overflows during heavy rain events. When this happens, the overflow is mainly stormwater and can spill into the lakes. This subject is discussed more in-depth in an article titled “HSV proposed sewer upgrade plans.” Unger said, “Until we fix this problem, which is what I am doing as hard as I can…”

The visitor asked if residents receive a notification when lakes have E. coli contamination.

Last year when one lake tested positive for E. coli, residents received an email notification (E-blast), and the lake was closed for a brief period until the testing came back under the E. coli threshold.

Staff is working on a testing plan for all Village lakes.

  • In the opinion of Unger, if the POA does something that creates an issue, the POA is obligated to address the situation. If the resident has done something that results in a problem (putting a ditch in, landscaping, or installing something that restricts drainage), then it is up to the property owner to remedy the problem.

There are situations where natural events happen. Culverts (storm drain pipes) are generally designed for what they call a ten-year storm, which is one or two inches of rain per hour. “Sometimes, when people put stuff in the ditches, they don’t appreciate the purpose of the ditches until it rains,” said Unger.

The Public Services Committee’s next meeting is scheduled for June 8 at 9:30 a.m. and will be a discussion session. Vice-chair Rolland White will chair the meeting.

Click here to read “Hot Springs Village road work update.”

By Cheryl Dowden

Contact Information for Public Services Director

Ken Unger
Director Public Services
Hot Springs Village