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Water reclamation study to continue moving forward

By Sam Richards

Staff writer


Saying that maintaining momentum is important, and that water costs figure to keep rising sharply, the GRF Board on Thursday voted to continue moving ahead with a study of building a wastewater reclamation facility, even in the face of spiking construction costs.

“I feel that we would lose if we stopped it now,” said Board member Carol Meehan, who with seven colleagues voted for the study to continue, and also for GRF to contact surrounding cities and public agencies to help gauge support for potential partners in building a Satellite Water Recycling Facility that can process sewage into non-potable water suitable for irrigation, including for Rossmoor’s two golf courses.

Also to be created in the near future will be a golf course drought management plan.

The Board had considered pausing that feasibility study – in process for almost five years – in the hope that construction and supply costs, which have risen sharply during the pandemic, would go down. Board President Dwight Walker, the lone dissenting vote, said the whole process has been “torturing residents,” especially those near a potential plant site off Cactus Court. He also is concerned about the rising costs.

“I think the project needs to go on pause,” Walker said.

Board member Leanne Hamaji asked whether the study could go on short-term pause until a site – either off Cactus Court or adjacent to the golf maintenance facility at Creekside – was chosen. But Jeff Matheson, director of resident services, said part of that remaining study, and its funding, includes choosing the preferred site.

There remains about $120,000 for a consultant to continue its feasibility study work, Hamaji said.

The wastewater reclamation facility is important to ensure Rossmoor’s two golf courses remain healthy and green, not only to preserve a key Rossmoor amenity, officials have said, but also provide a “greenbelt” available as a relatively fire-resistant evacuation zone in the event of a catastrophic wildfire or other similar event.

The original cost estimate for a 250,000-gallon-a-day-size water recycling facility was around $11 million; building a facility capable of processing 360,000 gallons a day, combined with construction costs that have accelerated with the pandemic, is now estimated at about $19 million.

But Matheson showed a graph indicating that the costs of buying EBMUD water are expected to eclipse the costs of Rossmoor reclaiming its water by about 2027.

It is estimated the water reclamation plant would cost between $350,000 and $511,000 a year to operate. The facility could be owned and operated by GRF, or it could be owned and operated by a third party.

The draft Facilities Master Plan, approved Thursday by the GRF calls for spending $232,000 in 2022 to study the water reclamation plant. Matheson and others also said GRF could seek various grants and pursue low-cost loans to help with construction costs.

Saving the oak trees

The GRF Board voted unanimously to spend up to $35,000 to take immediate measures to improve the health of 18 oak trees near the Dollar Clubhouse and Event Center, including one tree that is in imminent danger.

And the Board may well decide in the coming months whether to tear up some asphalt in the parking lots of those two buildings to benefit those trees, whose root systems are adversely impacted by the asphalt that, in some cases, comes within several feet of the tree trunks.

Two other old oak trees had recently been removed completely.

Landscape Manager John Tawaststjerna told the Board that as many as 12 parking spaces – of the total of 182 for those two structures – could be lost in the name of protecting those trees, a mix of valley oak and coast live oak trees. Some of them, Tawaststjerna said could be as old as 200 years.

One of these 18 trees, a large coast live oak on the east side of the parking lot between the clubhouse and the Event Center, is described as being in “poor condition.”  Tawaststjerna asked for, and received, funding for a risk assessment for this tree, described in Tawaststjerna’s staff report as “No. 16.”

Most of the other 17 trees discussed show at least some signs of stress, and Tawaststjerna said that at least seven would benefit directly by removing asphalt or gravel from around or near their trunks.

Tawaststjerna said the trees would also likely benefit from a more porous form of asphalt than that now used for the parking lot. Replacing pavement is a big-ticket expense, and Board members said they hope to hear more cost specifics during a discussion at the Thursday, Aug. 25 Board meeting.

Final Facilities Master Plan

The GRF Board voted unanimously to approve a final list of projects on its Facilities Master Plan, the major facility construction projects envisioned to be tackled over the next 10 years.

The approved projects fall into four groups: immediate (zero to two years); near term (three to six years); pipeline projects currently in progress; and smaller projects covered by the yearly maintenance budget. At $33.3 million, the pipeline projects constitute the lion’s share of the $56 million in funding, with selected projects in the immediate and near terms totaling $21.6 million and the maintenance projects adding an additional $1.2 million.

The largest pipeline project is the Gateway building replacement at $11.9 million; the largest immediate-term project is a new pickleball facility ($1.2 million), and the biggest-ticket near-term project is the Mutual Operations Department (MOD) facility replacement at $18.9 million. The plan also allocates $11.1 million in project costs to a wish list category in the event additional funds become available.

For more than a year, GRF has been working to develop a Facilities Master Plan for large-scale projects.

Board goals

The Board on Thursday voted unanimously to pursue three overarching Board goals for the coming year – reducing overall water consumption, increasing Rossmoor’s digital/online access to local information by 50% and supporting GRF employee recognition programs.

At its Aug. 25 meeting, the Board is expected to discuss these goals in more detail.

CEO search committee

Five people – Board members Walker and Hamaji, former Board president Robert Kelso, MOD Director Paul Donner and Senior Human Resources Manager Eric Wong – were named to the newly created CEO Search Task Force by a unanimous Board vote.

This committee was formed after O’Keefe, Rossmoor’s CEO since 2015, recently announced he would retire in November. Walker said on Thursday proposals have already been sent to six prospective search firms to aid in that search, and that the task force will strive to name O’Keefe’s successor by November.

“Rest assured that we are looking for the best person,” Walker said.

In other news

  • The Board voted unanimously to approve revisions to the charter of the GRF Audit Committee.
  • Walker resigned from the Planning Committee to focus on finding O’Keefe’s replacement. Jill Alley replaces him on the committee.
  • Two other actions were deferred. Options for Rossmoor News delivery in the midst of a continuing staffing shortage were sent back to the GRF Planning Committee for more vetting, and proposed smoking restrictions applying to GRF property were sent back to the Policy Committee to identify specific locations where GRF employees will be allowed to smoke.