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Directors debate Facilities Master Plan, Membership Transfer Fee

Planning, Finance committees asked to take a fresh look at topics

By Sam Richards

Staff writer

The long-term Facilities Master Plan remains bogged down in debate, with the possibility of increasing the Membership Transfer Fee now adding a wrinkle to the proposal.

Saying they want more choices both for projects for inclusion on the long-term Facilities Master Plan and for what the Membership Transfer Fee (MTF) should be to help pay for them, the GRF Board last week kicked both the plan and the transfer fee questions back to two committees for more options.

The GRF’s Finance Committee and Planning Committee would then bring back alternatives to the full GRF Board at its April meeting for recommendations for major projects to include on the GRF’s 10-year Master Facilities Plan and how to best finance them. Financing probably would involve a combination of new borrowing and an increase of the MTF paid by buyers of Rossmoor residences who don’t already live in Rossmoor.

It was clear at the April 3 Board meeting that there are still varied opinions as to what projects should be the top priorities, and how much money will be available for them.

The Board’s agenda included considering the Planning Committee’s previous recommendation for a final priority list of projects for inclusion in the Facilities Master Plan and considering the Finance Committee’s recommendation to increase the MTF charge from $10,000 to $12,000 immediately and bumping it up by $500 each year.

But no decision was made on either proposal, as Board members said there were still several important unanswered questions – chief among them how to pay for the ambitious plan. MTF is the primary source of capital funding, which pays for GRF facility improvements, road replacement, equipment replacement and existing and future debt service on certain facility improvements. Between 400 and 500 such fees are paid during a given year, a GRF staff report says, raising more than $4 million annually.

Though the proposed $2,000 MTF hike has drawn some criticism within Rossmoor, Board members said the Trust Estate Fund that the MTF replenishes is what will pay for these projects. Thus, the project list and the MTF are inexorably linked.

With the expected sale in 2023 of the John Muir Health Medical Center building in the Rossmoor Shopping Center – and the resulting loss of rental revenue from John Muir Health – the sole source of new revenue for the Trust Estate Fund (and thus for GRF capital projects) will be the MTF. That is why the Board is working to find the proper formula to increase the MTF amount in the next few years.

Board President Dwight Walker said the Board will have to impress upon Rossmoor residents the importance of the planned projects, and their funding.

“We need to roll this out to the community in a concerted, concise way,” Walker said. “This is a very important document we’re talking about, not just for us, but for future Boards.”

So, Board members said they will, over the next week and a half or so, consider various projects and funding scenarios and give them in writing to the chairs of the Planning and Finance committees for consideration. The GRF Board wants to receive responses from the committees at its April 28 meeting.

Rossmoor CEO Tim O’Keefe told Board members they need to offer specific guidance as to what the two committees are supposed to review again. Both committees, O’Keefe said, have already spent considerable time compiling their recommendations to the Board.

“To be fair to them, you should … be clear as to why you’re sending this back to them,” O’Keefe said.

Among the projects on the list recommended by the Planning Committee for prioritization were a Peacock Plaza Shade Structure (with plan modifications) to enhance the plaza’s use as a “town square;” a full renovation of the Dollar Clubhouse, and modifications to interior and exterior accessibility; planning and environmental studies for a possible water reclamation plant; a new MOD office building and garage/warehouse complex; and walking paths around Rossmoor.

The Facilities Master Plan process has been underway for more than a year, with two public workshops, focus groups, a survey and other outreach efforts designed to help determine what major projects Rossmoor residents most want to see completed in the next 10 years. The projects are being grouped into three categories according to how soon they should be done – immediately (within the next two years), near-term (3 to 6 years) and long-term (7 to 10 years).

The availability of funding to pay for them will play a large part in determining when the projects on the list will be pursued.

Employee COVID masking, testing changes

The GRF Board on April 3 voted to no longer require Rossmoor employees who haven’t had COVID vaccinations to wear masks or be tested weekly for COVID positivity.

On Feb. 9, Contra Costa Health Services said those were no longer mandates, but were now “strong recommendations” to continue indoor masking, regardless of vaccine status. But until last week, unvaccinated GRF staff were required to wear a mask while indoors, and to take a weekly COVID test.

Approximately 9% of GRF staff is unvaccinated.

Although individual employers may still require masking and testing, GRF Board member Leanne Hamaji said she wanted Rossmoor’s masking and vaccine policies to be “parallel to the county guidelines.”

The Board vote to remove the mask mandate was 7 to 2, with members Carl Brown and Neva Flaherty dissenting. The vote to no longer require weekly testing of unvaccinated GRF employees was unanimous.

Although figures specifically for Rossmoor residents aren’t available, 89.4% of residents in Rossmoor’s ZIP code (94595) are fully vaccinated, and 94.1% of residents have had at least one shot. Rossmoor residents comprise about 57% of the ZIP code’s population over the age of 5.

‘Hybrid’ GRF meetings shortly

Meetings of the GRF Board and its committees will soon go in-person once again, with the Board’s vote to spend $25,500 to buy three “Zoom media carts” that will allow in-person meetings at several Rossmoor venues to be simulcast over Zoom as well.

The first GRF “hybrid” meeting is expected to be April 28, the Board’s next regular meeting. The committee meetings can go hybrid once all the necessary equipment is installed at Gateway. Committees will retain the option of keeping their meetings virtual-only or holding them as hybrid meetings.

Each of these three carts – one stationed at Gateway, one at Creekside and one at Hillside – will contain a TV screen, a camera, a sound bar and microphones and can be wheeled into whatever room is hosting a meeting. O’Keefe said having a cart at each location is preferred because loading them in trucks and moving them around greatly increases the odds they will sustain damage.

The GRF Board meetings, which were virtual-only during the first 16 months or so of the COVID shutdowns, returned to in-person briefly in June for one meeting – June 25 – before reverting to Zoom-only upon the return to indoor masking. All Board meetings since then have been virtual only. GRF committees met in person during a three-week window in late June before also returning to Zoom-only.

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