By Sam Richards
(Friday, Jan. 21) An emergency evacuation road from Rossmoor east to Alamo, the long-discussed water reclamation project, roof repairs at the Tice Creek pools, the second phase of studio renovations at Gateway and a prospective pickleball court location are among a host of capital projects GRF Board members will prioritize ahead of a planned Feb. 8 discussion and finalization of the 2022 capital improvements budget.
These were among 21 prospective projects discussed during an almost three-hour session at the GRF Board’s Jan. 18 mid-month meeting. Rossmoor CEO Tim O’Keefe said GRF likely can’t afford to approve them all, with a preliminary combined price tag of $4,666,775 – at least not this year.
Board President Dwight Walker said the Jan. 18 meeting was “not a time for Board members to be expressing an opinion on projects nor deliberating the merits of a project,” but instead to ask questions and gather information to help them better understand these projects to help so they could prioritize them. And though opinions did crop up here and there, inadvertently or not, Board discussion on this day was mostly nuts-and-bolts queries. Some of the more prominent items discussed included:
Eastern evacuation route
There was a substantive discussion regarding what could be an evacuation route from Rossmoor, connecting Grey Eagle Drive on the southeast edge of Rossmoor with Castle Crest Road over the hill in Alamo. Public Safety Manager Tom Cashion said paving what is now a fire road and adding guard rails would make this dirt road into a viable evacuation route – to be used only in emergencies.
The connecting road wouldn’t be long, perhaps a third of a mile, but would include steep drop-offs on one or both sides on the one-lane road, Cashion said.
The work for paving, guard rails, grading and a gate is estimated to cost about $500,000. There also are private property owners involved, Cashion said, and they would have to sign off on the project. Access to the road would be controlled by the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District, the Walnut Creek Police Department and the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department.
There are other emergency access roads leading from Rossmoor, Cashion told the Board, but most lead to Lafayette or to Tice Valley Boulevard. If a wildfire was burning on Rossmoor’s west side, some of those roads may be impassable, making an Alamo connection that much more important.
The Rossmoor Pickleball Club has been requesting a dedicated outdoor pickleball complex for several years; GRF staff estimates a 7- or 8-court complex could cost $1.2 million. That amount is strictly an estimate, Director of Resident Services Jeff Matheson said, based on current plans for a four-court Creekside complex; the real cost, he said, won’t be known until design and construction bids are secured.
Several locations are currently being evaluated, including Creekside, Buckeye, Hillside and a joint use location with the city, located at Tice Valley Park.
These and other locations have been the subject of intense debate in Rossmoor. But the Jan. 18 discussion centered mostly on which areas presented the best parking availability (Hillside was deemed the best), and on the possible new four-court covered complex near Creekside, with courts end-to-end to get around having to build a retaining wall near Tice Creek.
Board members discussed the next steps for possibly building a plant to treat household wastewater to use for irrigating Rossmoor’s golf courses. Completing an environmental impact report for the project and preparing requests for proposals from design builders are key elements of that, at an estimated cost of $232,775.
One key element that hasn’t been settled is where the reclamation plant would be built. As of Jan. 18, there were still two potential sites – just outside the gate near St. Anne’s Church and adjacent to the golf maintenance yard at Creekside.
About $284,000 has already been spent in planning for the project, according to Matheson.
Walker questioned whether the project is ultimately worthwhile, given the expense and time needed to obtain the regulatory approvals, and whether pausing the project is prudent. Matheson said it makes sense to keep moving forward and that the reclamation plant is a good insurance policy against drought. O’Keefe said water from Tice Creek or from East Bay MUD will only become scarcer, and more expensive in the future. And keeping the greens green doesn’t only help golfers, he said, but also provides “a fire break for the valley” should a major wildfire hit Rossmoor.
Other golf course water issues
Mark Heptig, Rossmoor’s director of Golf, told the Board the gunite liner at the bottom of the course’s irrigation pond is failing and that the upper section of the liner needs replacement to stop significant water leakage. That work is estimated to cost about $125,000.
“It is extremely important because water is extremely important,” said Heptig, adding that the sooner the work is done, the better.
Also, Heptig advocated for a new pump-and-piping system that would capture runoff water before it reaches Tice Creek. The estimate for that work is $115,00.
While Rossmoor has “riparian rights” to the water in Tice Creek for use in golf course irrigation, those rights could one day disappear. The state Department of Water Resources in 2021 initiated the process to suspend such water rights in certain parts of the state; though Heptig said this hasn’t yet affected Rossmoor, it could in the future.
Capturing runoff water before it hits the creek, he said, “is a long-term fix for us.” Heptig also said it wouldn’t take long for such a system to collect and divert $115,000 worth of water.
Fitness Center pool roof
Matheson said the roof panels and mechanical systems at the Tice Creek pools are old and need to be replaced. That work, he said, carries an estimated $250,000 price tag.
Walker asked whether the failing roof panels present a safety issue; Matheson said they don’t, and that replacing the panels and other equipment is a basic maintenance issue.
MOD facility improvements
Matheson described planned changes in the MOD building to accommodate several new GRF employees, and to better space out others in this time of COVID. He acknowledged that the building is too small for all the people who work there.
“Every nook and cranny is in use currently; every storage space has been converted to office space,” he said. The anticipated work, he said, is estimated to cost $87,000.
Board member Paul Moderacki said he believes that work would be “just making things worse.” He said he is “appalled” by the lack of space and conditions at MOD and impressed with how GRF workers are making do in such conditions.
Moderacki asked whether portable buildings at MOD might be a better solution; Matheson said finding room for buildings large enough to be useful would be problematic.
Gateway studio renovation
The ceramics and sewing studios are currently being rehabbed, and now the Board is considering whether to spend an estimated $950,000 for major work on the lapidary, woodshop and art studios. Work would include new flooring, lighting and ventilation systems, and reorganization of some spaces.
Matheson said this spending would be comparable to what was spent on the earlier phase of studio renovation work.
‘Urgent’ equipment requests approved
Separately, the Board on Jan. 18 approved three items on the 2022 machinery and equipment budget that cost a combined $225,860.
The Board approved spending $55,229 for a new Rossmoor Television broadcasting system. Rossmoor Communications Director Ann Peterson said the current broadcasting system should have been replaced last year, but that it was delayed by the pandemic. Parts to maintain the current system are now only available through sources like eBay; losing the system, she said, would mean the station couldn’t broadcast.
The system upgrade will allow Rossmoor Television to add closed captioning and broadcast programs independent of Comcast, through a streaming app, which would be crucial should GRF decide not to renew its Comcast contract in the future.
The Board also approved spending $170,631 for a refresh of the Nimble SAN core network server and its storage functions, key components for business operations. The Nimble SAN, which hosts more than 20 servers, was installed in 2016 and is no longer supported by its manufacturer. This project includes upgrading the hardware, software and licensing at MOD and Gateway.