Forward Together Forum – Outdoor Swimming Pool 

On March 11, 2019, the Hot Springs Village Property Owners Association held a Forward Together Forum during which the outdoor swimming pool project was presented and discussed.  This forum was presented by Tom Weiss, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Lesley Nalley, CEO, Stacy Hoover, Director of Recreation and Dave Gati, Outdoor Pool Subcommittee Member, former Chair of the Recreation Committee and present member of the Recreation Committee.  The meeting was professional and interesting, resulting in clarification of the planning process of the new pool.

Hot Springs Village pool site viewed from parking lot
Looking at pool site from parking lot

Outdoor Pool Presentation – Director of Recreation

We were led through a time line of the process by Stacy Hoover, Director of Recreation. 

In December 2017, a $700,000 outdoor pool project was unanimously approved by the BOD which met the following deliverables:

  1. Zero entry
  2. Sloping to a deeper end
  3. Same location as existing (previous) pool

In 2018 a recommendation was made to approve a design-build contract with Carrothers Construction.  The BOD approved the process after a review of the submitted proposals.  During April 18, 2018 regular BOD meeting, a motion was made to approve the project, not to exceed 1.16 million dollars for the design and construction of an outdoor pool with Carrothers Construction. This was to be funded with carry-over funds, fundraising, and escrow funds.  The motion failed unanimously.

During the May 16, 2018 meeting of the Board of Directors, a discussion was held on how to improve the process, where the process went wrong, and how to assist staff on moving forward with the proposed pool.

Path forward

Board Chair, Tom Weiss said the BOD was in favor of an outdoor pool but in order to move forward the BOD needed drawings, design and the costs.  He agreed to draft a “path forward” for the June 2018 BOD meeting. 

During the June 20, 2018, BOD meeting, Chairman Weiss presented the “path forward” and a “motion was made to approve specifications and funding identified in the project summary. Also, staff was authorized to obtain the necessary drawings, draft a contract with Carrothers Construction, and obtain the necessary Architectural Control Committee approval.  Once staff met these conditions, they were to bring the items to the Board Meeting for approval.  This “path forward” motion was unanimously approved by the BOD.

Working with Carrothers Construction & Larkins Aquatics

Since the June 2018 authorization and approval, the POA staff has worked with Carrothers Construction and Larkin Aquatics to develop the pool plan, meeting the features approved in the December 2017 BOD meeting.  This is the 3rd revision of the plans which are based on topographical and geotechnical surveys of the property.  HSV POA paid for these surveys.

At the February 20, 2019 BOD meeting, staff presented all information, including a draft contract with Carrothers Construction Company.

Hoover then went on to describe the features and specifications of the pool, including the Lazy L shape.

Further details were provided, including information about the dual check in and snack bar design which allowed the consolidation of both these operations into one.  The consolidation of the two operations will reduce staffing needs and costs.  While the snack bar meets all Arkansas Health requirements, it is not a restaurant and does not have a vent hood or a grease trap.  There are plans to work with the Desoto Club to offer full-service food options.

Looking from the area of the old pool at the DeSoto Club HSV
Looking from the area of the old pool at the DeSoto Club Hot Springs Village

Further details include separate men’s and women’s restrooms/changing areas with ADA showers with three additional outdoor showers.

Expected revenue and expenses

The anticipated revenue from the pool operation is:  $60,550 per year.

The anticipated expenses from this operation are:  $76,020 to $119,660 per year.  The reason for the wide expense range is is based on lifeguard staffing.  The options are

  1. No lifeguards,
  2. Part-time lifeguards (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) or
  3. Full-time lifeguards.
  1. Using zero lifeguards – projected subsidy of $15,500 per year.
  2. Part-time weekend only lifeguards – projected subsidy of $29,900 per year.
  3. Full-time lifeguards – projected subsidy of $49,100 per year.

The pool committee recommended the use of weekend lifeguards (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) in order to save money.

Outdoor Pool Presentation – Pool Subcommittee

Dave Gati highlighted the timeline of the old pool and explained the process the subcommittee used to investigate and make their recommendations for the new pool.  Gati also mentioned that even though a larger pool was desired, there were no funds available at this time, but by building a smaller pool, this left open the options of another pool at a later date.  This possible pool would be located on the East end and may possibly have a splash pad.   

“The outdoor pool subcommittee did an excellent job of investigating and presenting their findings.  It is obvious they did not take the task lightly and they were thorough in their examination of the options.  We thank them for their due diligence.” – Cheryl Dowden

Outdoor Pool Presentation – CEO

The CEO talks about “Why now, when we have all this other infrastructure to take care of?”  The CEO starts off explaining why they believe the new pool is infrastructure. She defined infrastructure as those “basic components that visitors and residents expect to see”. 

Making memories aka placemaking

Then to defend her position on why the pool is infrastructure, a short emotional clip was played where Nicole Bennett spoke at the last BOD meeting about why she desired a pool.  Nicole feels the pool is important since a pool has largely been a constant in her life growing up and it is the main street of the community.  Nicole gives a very visual and poignant story about her life as a little girl in pigtails all the way up to adulthood and how important a pool is to her.  This is a very well-orchestrated emotional plea to the BOD to vote yes for a pool.  We don’t blame Nicole for desiring an outdoor swimming pool.  We wish we had one too, when we are in better financial shape.

The CEO says a pool is about making memories, which is called “placemaking”.  Placemaking is a New Urbanism term, which she defines as addressing people’s basic needs to connect with others outside of their home”.  She likens placemaking to being as important as water coming out of the faucet and road maintenance. 

Arguments in favor of outdoor pool

The CEO goes on to give a comparison of golf course use to pool use and finds the use to be similar. “Both the pool and the golf courses have the same usage during the summer.”   One flaw in this logic is the golf courses are open year round, whereas the pool will only be open a few months. The golf courses support year-around recreation and generate year-around revenue.  The pool will only be used for recreation and generate revenue for a few months out of the year.

A list of other planned communities is mentioned because they all have outdoor pools.  Also, there is a list of retirement communities mentioned because they too all have outdoor pools.

The CEO feels that because people interested in our community see all of these things (roads, tap water, and swimming pools) as being important, we must talk about infrastructure differently and include the swimming pool as part of the infrastructure.

Anytown vs THE nation’s premier active lifestyle community

A no vote from the board means we have decided to be “Anytown, USA.”  A yes vote from the board means we have decided to be a “THE nation’s premier active lifestyle community.” It is not known whether or not the other communities with an outdoor swimming pool have 11 lakes and 9 championship golf courses and many miles of hiking and cycling trails.

Outdoor Pool Presentation – BOD Chairman

Tom Weiss, chairman of the BOD, acknowledges that property owners are either for the pool, against the pool, or for the pool to be built, but later.

He talks about kicking the can down the road.  “We need to make a decision to move on, one way or the other.”

 “I believe it is now time for the good of the Village to make a decision, up or down (gesturing thumbs up and thumbs down) on the pool and I will be challenging the board to do just that at the March board meeting, coming up.” – BOD Chairman, Tom Weiss

Understand where we are in the decision

Weiss wants all property owners to “understand where the board is at in the decision-making process and what the board will actually be voting on.  In order to do this, he reviews the history of the board decisions.  When the board passed the 2018 budget, in October 2017, the budget included funding of the pool. “

Quoting a slide at the pool forum, “Approval of the capital plan (October 2017 for 2018 budget) was in effect the Board’s directive to management to proceed with defining the project and bring it to the board for approval.”  If the Board did not approve of the pool, at this time, they could have removed this from the budget.

In April 2018, the board defeated a motion for the outdoor pool because the Board had failed to outline what they needed from management.  “Bottom line, the board failed to do its job.”

In October of 2018, the board unanimously approved the budget which included the outdoor pool project again.  Again, this means the Board agreed with the approval of the outdoor pool.  If they did not approve the pool, they would have removed it from the budget, according to Weiss. 

The 2018 approval of the 2019 budget was different than the 2017 approval, in regards to the ability to proceed with the pool.  This last budget approval (2018 for the 2019 budget), the board of directors had previously given management clear instructions on what needed to be done to move forward with the pool project. Board chairman Weiss told us that management has followed through on these clearer instructions.

One more step

All that needs to be done at the March 2019 BOD meeting is passing of the motion to approve the pool. This passing will be based on whether management was successful in meeting the requirements issued from the BOD. These requirements were outlined in the June 2018 meeting and the October 2019 budget meeting.

“The decision as to whether we will have an outdoor pool has already been made.  The BOD is only making a decision at the March meeting as to whether all the requirements for approval have been met.   They no longer want to kick that can, they are going for it.  It is fait accompli and thumbs up.” – Cheryl Dowden

Tom Blakeman’s Summation of Pool Presentation 

 “We learned several things at the pool meeting on 3/11/2019:

1. We are getting a pool, it’s already been decided – twice – all they are going to be approving at the next board meeting are the final details.

2. The pool will be paid for in cash, apparently, we have plenty.

3. The POA is in great financial shape with debt ratios far better than most other similar size organizations.

4. Because of that, we can expect soon to be doing debt financing for other projects like culverts.”

How does this work?

“I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m confused. Last year we were led to believe that unless we bumped our annual dues adjustment up to 5% (we voted that down) we would be broke in a couple of years. Last year we also lost $2 million on golf, $750+ thousand on Homes and Land and $450 thousand on Food and Beverage. That’s not to mention a few other areas in the red. Oh yes, and last year the board approved a flawed budget based on numbers taken not from actual performance but from the previous year’s failed budget. And that budget was unanimously approved even though one board member admitted many of the obvious flaws. Can someone explain how all this works?”

Pool will not solve problems

“The Village is not growing because we do not have a pool. The Village is not growing because there has not been sound and effective management or marketing for many years. Putting in a pool will result in no new growth whatsoever and will only cost us in yearly maintenance, operating costs and potential liability. Let’s fix the problems we have like lawsuits, lack of golf revenue, subsidizing restaurants and the like. Then talk about a $1.25 million new amenity that won’t pay its own way. “ – Tom Blakeman

Written by Cheryl Dowden

Commentary by Tom Blakeman