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GRF Board approves HVAC upgrade to help limit spread of COVID-19

By Cathy Tallyn

Staff writer


Up to $250,000 will be spent on modifications to GRF buildings’ HVAC systems to help limit the indoor spread of COVID-19.

System upgrades for air purification would be made throughout Rossmoor, from the Fitness Center and Gateway to Hillside, Creekside, the Event Center, and more.

“The recommendation of the CDC is to make modifications to HVAC systems for the healthiest environment for residents and staff,” Director of Resident Services Jeff Matheson told the GRF Board at its meeting last Thursday.

Those changes have worked successfully on SARS, said consultant Steve Babb, owner of K&S Mechanical.

“The COVID virus has a similar molecular structure,” he added.

The changes will include the installation of special air filters and other measures such as needlepoint bipolar ionization so that more outside air is let in and small particles that traditional HVAC systems cannot catch will be drawn to the air circulation system.

Director Kathleen Stumpfel wanted to know if it would work on pathogens similar to COVID-19 that might come along in the future. “It can’t be guaranteed,” Babb said. “But because it’s been effective, I assume it would be effective for other viruses.”

He suggested two options. Spend $25,000 for some improvements to meet minimum CDC standards or $250,000 to provide the cleanest possible indoor air.

The Board voted unanimously on the more expensive upgrade. Babb said installation could begin within 60 days, depending on the availability of parts.

Directors were so impressed with what the system provides that they opted to delay opening Peacock Hall for movies – even on a limited basis – until the HVAC modifications to the building are completed.

New health guidelines allow up to 25 people at a time into the theater for movies, which Matheson said would be shown multiple times a day, three days a week.

Initially, Director Ken Anderson had reservations about opening Peacock Hall.

“This is a really good example that just because the county allows it, Rossmoor should also,” he said. “It’s very bad to put 75 year olds together for two hours.”

However, the other directors were satisfied with guidelines Rossmoor will impose to help stop the spread of COVID-19.  Those include a cap on how many can attend. Although movies will still be free, residents will need a reservation to attend. When making the reservation, residents will choose a seat.

Attendees must wear masks. Two people in the same household can sit together; for everyone else, three seats will be left empty between viewers.  Every other row also will be vacant.

The theater and restrooms will be cleaned in between showings.

“Staff will be there to make sure everyone is in the right seat and  wearing masks,” Matheson said. “We’re trying to be as safe as  absolutely possible.”

It was Stumpfel that suggested going one step further. “We should wait until the upgrades to Peacock Hall’s HVAC system are done before opening it up for movies,” she said.

Anderson countered that even after the system was upgraded, the theater should not open until the GRF Board gave its permission. Director Dwight Walker questioned if the Board would have to do the same before any building could be re-opened.

The Board voted 5 to 3 to eliminate the need to ask for its OK. Voting against were Anderson, Dale Harrington and Neva Flaherty. Board members then voted to allow the  theater to open after the HVAC improvements. Anderson was the lone “no” vote.

Solar expansion

Rossmoor is a step closer to becoming one of the nation’s first retirement communities to go 100% solar and save millions in electric costs. The Board referred to the Finance Committee for analysis  the idea of adding more solar farms.

The GRF Board liked hearing from its solar consultants that in its initial  year of operation, Rossmoor’s first solar farm, located near Mutual Operations (MOD), will likely generate enough electricity to offset 53% of GRF’s electrical usage. This means a savings of $125,259 this year or $5.1 million over the system’s estimated 25-year life.

Consultants recommended the Board consider financing through a lease/purchase agreement so  GRF would own the solar farms after 7 years.

Phase 2 calls for solar panels to be added to Gateway’s front parking lot and roof and over the  Event Center parking lot to offset GRF’s Rossmoor-wide  electric costs by an estimated 77%, for an estimated savings of  $3.5 million over the estimated 25-year life of the  system, said solar consultant Jeff Parr.

If more panels are added at Gateway, then Hillside Clubhouse also would benefit and Rossmoor could conceivably become 99% powered by solar, he said.  However, it’s more realistic it would be 80% to 85%,  he said. The savings over 25 years  could be $6.4 million, he said.

‘Harmony Garden’

The GRF Board was happy to accept the Chinese-American Association’s offer to pay for a small “Harmony Garden” at Gateway at the end of the Ceramics Studio, near the Fireside Room.

The very small space between a wall and the sidewalk already has azaleas, camellias and crepe myrtle, which are of Chinese origin.

The club wants to add a small pagoda, wisteria vines, some small grasses and a specially selected boulder for an accent. The club will donate the needed funds, estimated to be no more than $1,100.

The garden will have a plaque and will help celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Chinese-American Club, said President Sharron Fong. “It would be in gratitude to the life we have in  Rossmoor.”

The club started with 20 members and now has 450, she said. It has expanded its programs to all of Rossmoor, she said. “One of my goals is for our club to be inclusive.”

Other business

The Board also unanimously approved a policy that deals with harassment in Rossmoor. It will look at other proposed policies for on-site demonstrations and the consequences for not following GRF policies, procedures and rules at its next meeting on Thursday, Dec. 3, at 9 a.m. via Zoom.

Board President Bob Kelso announced at that December meeting the Board also will discuss whether to increase the late afternoon hours residents can walk the Creekside Golf Course, Tuesday through Saturday.

Residents are now allowed to start walking at 6 p.m.  During the Residents’ Forum, Mary Anne Clark and Mary Franklin asked that walking start earlier because the end of Daylight Savings Time means it is dark around 6 p.m.

In other business, the Board appointed fellow member Dwight Walker to the Retirement Planning Committee. Deborah Thomas was appointed chairwoman of the Audit Committee until June 2021. Walker and Thomas replace John Kikuchi, who resigned from the GRF Board because he was moving to San Diego.