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Some 2024 GRF fees will see big hikes

By Sam Richards

Staff writer


(Sept. 5, 2023) Anticipating significant increases in insurance costs that figure to boost the coupon, the GRF Board on Thursday approved fee hikes for 2024 for facility/meeting room rentals, Handyman repair services, residents’ golf rounds, and RV storage – in some cases, larger hikes than GRF staff had recommended.

Regarding meeting room rental fees for individuals (not for clubs), the Board voted 8-1 to raise fees from current levels to what GRF Director of Community Services Ann Mottola had proposed for 2025. Board members said that with most of the existing fees significantly below market rate, getting them back to near-market levels was better accomplished over two years than over three.

With that idea in mind, most of the increases the Board approved Thursday take an extra jump ahead of what staff had proposed – intended to bring the rates nearly to market levels by 2026, in many cases. Board President Dwight Walker asked GRF General Manager Jeff Matheson why it needs to take three years to bring Rossmoor’s rental rates to even near-market-rate levels. Matheson responded by saying the longer timeline would blunt the impact such a jump would have on residents.

Board Member Maxine Topper also said she favored moving more slowly with the increases and spreading them out over three years. Topper was the lone dissenting vote on the facility rental rate increase, saying it shouldn’t necessarily be Rossmoor’s goal to offer market-rate services.

“Rossmoor is a different animal,” she said.

The Board voted Thursday to raise annual RV storage rates from $850 to $1,000 a year for a covered space near MOD, and from $450 to $500 for an uncovered space. GRF staff had proposed increases of $850 and $450, respectively, for 2024.

Handyman program fees, for the Rossmoor repair service, will go up 10% in 2024, from $250 a year to $275.

The Board deferred action on Fitness Center rates and opted to get more information about rates for rental space in the contractor yard, typically used by contractors working in Rossmoor to store tools, materials and other related items, before deciding on any fee increase there.

The stated goal was for any GRF fee increase planned for 2024 to be set ahead of the 2024 budgeting season, which for GRF starts in earnest with a two-day GRF Board/Finance Committee meeting Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 12 and 13. The new fees, Matheson said, will be built into various departments’ 2024 budget planning.

One Rossmoor resident, Mary Ramos, told the Board during Residents Forum that even the lower staff-proposed jumps “seem like rather large increases,” and that residents don’t necessarily have a way to make up for having to pay more to rent rooms.

It had been a few years since some of these fees had gone up. GRF Board Vice President Leanne Hamaji said it’s worth revisiting these fees every year for the foreseeable future, noting that they are too important as a revenue source not to be scrutinized annually.

More dedicated charging time

The Board on Thursday voted unanimously to increase the hours for dedicated electric vehicle charging at parking spaces adjacent to Rossmoor’s 30 EV chargers.

The hours set aside for EVs at the 10 charging stations near Tice Creek Fitness Center and 10 more at Gateway will now be 5 p.m. to 6 a.m., and the 10 spaces for EV chargers near the Event Center will be for EVs only from 10 p.m. to 5 p.m., each overnight. Accompanying signs outlining the new hours were also approved.

These changes were approved by the GRF Policy Committee on Aug. 14.

Public comments – from three minutes to two

Starting with the aforementioned Sept 12 and 13 meeting, public comment at GRF Board meetings, until Thursday set at a maximum of three minutes per speaker, will go down to two minutes per speaker.

Walker said that at meetings where there are numerous public speakers – one recently had 22 speakers, he noted, “many saying the same thing” – can be a “drag on the (Board) and a drag on the participants.”

Boad Member James Lee said the average speaker can say about 290 words in two minutes. Letters to the Rossmoor News that he’s written, he said, kept to the paper’s 250-word limit, “and I was able to convey my point.” Board Member Carol Lehr added, “If people think about what they want to say and write it down, they can say it in two minutes.”

Walker noted that the Walnut Creek City Council and the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors generally limit speakers from the public to two minutes.

The Board’s 2024 goals

The Board on Thursday formally established community involvement (including encouraging and celebrating volunteerism), water conservation and “Board PR” – promoting Board actions and issues to better explain GRF governance decisions – as top goals for 2024.

Water conservation is a current Board goal that will continue into 2024.

Transportation Department overview

Kelly Berto, Rossmoor’s manager of resident services, told the Board that she hopes to bring riders back to a service that has seen its numbers shrink largely because of COVID-related restrictions and staff (especially driver) shortages.

In 2019, pre-pandemic transportation provided 112,944 rides, Berto said, most of them on the fixed bus routes that have since been eliminated. Over the most recent 12-month period, 33,000 total rides were provided, mostly via Dial-a-Bus.

Berto said she wants to conduct surveys of current and prospective Rossmoor bus riders to gauge what they want GRF to offer, and perhaps convene focus groups to offer their opinions about what GRF bus service is and could be.

One possible offering, Berto said, could be using Gem E6 electric shuttle vehicles for short hauls. Her family rode such vehicles near Disneyland recently, and she marveled at their versatility. They also are compatible with Rossmoor’s EV chargers, she said.