Coffee with the GM Provides LPA Updates

By Susan Thompson

About 25 LPA members attended “Coffee with the GM” December 8 at the Lake Panorama National conference center. John Rutledge, LPA general manager, provided an update on LPA business, before taking questions.

Looking back at 2016, Rutledge said it has been a good year. “There are many ways to measure success,” he said. “One of those is financial performance and I’m happy to report our numbers are on track with our planned budget. Another measure of success is the amount of work accomplished. With no floods or other major distractions, and a warm fall, we’ve been able to get a lot of projects accomplished.”

Dredging was completed in Log Cabin Cove, Boulder Cove and the north end of Helen’s Cove. “These all are small areas and didn’t involve a lot of yards of dredge material removed,” Rutledge said. “But the people who live in these coves had been waiting for a while, and were happy to see us.”

The 2017 budget was approved by the LPA board of directors at its November meeting, and resulted in a dues increase of 3.5 percent. “The LPA board has the authority to increase dues up to 5 percent, but always makes a concerted effort to come in lower than that cap, and were able to do so this year,” he said.

Boat sticker prices will change for 2017, with boats 10 hp and up increasing from $125 to $150. Boats less than 10 hp will increase from $25 to $30. For non-motor vessels, such as kayaks, canoes and standup paddleboards, sticker prices will decrease from $25 to $10.

“This category has really exploded in recent years,” Rutledge said. “We’re seeing a lot more families with several of these, and it made sense to see if we could do something to encourage this type of healthy recreation. These vessels have low impact on the lake, and often are used in coves, especially on busy weekends. I’m glad we were able to reduce the cost of these stickers for families.”

Rutledge said the 2017 budget should keep LPA cash reserves at about 17 percent of annual expenditures. “We try to shoot for about 20 percent, and the board took a hard look at the budget with that in mind. But they decided there were some long-term projects that justified the extra expenditures,” he said.

Key investments in 2017 include new siding on the east side of the Lake Panorama National conference center, plus window replacements on both the west and the east side. The board gave approval to go ahead with this 2017 project in 2016, because the fall weather made it possible and doing it now means it won’t interfere with the LPN’s busy season.

Improvements will be made to the jetty at the marina. The LPA will work with Coulter’s Marine to replace all the docks along the east side of the jetty. Currently, members who have a spot along the jetty own their own dock and lift.

Rutledge said the annual jetty rental fee will increase to cover the cost of the new docks, but after several years, it should be a “wash” because these users won’t have to replace their own docks. “This will make the jetty a much safer area for members,” he said. Letters explaining the change will be mailed to those who have spots on the jetty.

Another 2017 project will be a new boat storage building. “This is a good investment for the LPA,” Rutledge said. “As we collect rent, the money goes to pay off the debt we incur for the building. Once the debt is paid off in eight years or less, this becomes a steady source of income, and helps hold down future dues increases.”

Other 2017 capital expenditures will include a new security boat, which will replace one that is 18 years old, a skid loader, a maintenance department pickup truck, and some new valves and fire hydrants for the water distribution system.

A $60,000 reverse osmosis pilot plant will operate for three months at the water plant. Rutledge said this project will help determine if installation of reverse osmosis (RO) equipment at the plant would improve the quality of the water provided by the Lake Panorama Water Company. It also will help determine the cost of adding this equipment to the current plant, and the ongoing cost of water treatment if RO equipment is installed.

A complete inspection of the dam, which is done every five years, is scheduled for 2017 and will cost $12,000. A separate $8,000 contract will cover an engineering study of the berm between the dam and the emergency spillway.

“We don’t have any concerns,” Rutledge said. “The dam is well built and in great shape, but this doesn’t happen by accident. It’s these regular inspections, which LPA boards have consistently said are a priority, that have helped keep the Lake Panorama dam in good working order.”

Rutledge said the LPA board in October approved a $50,000 matching contribution to Friends of Lake Panorama to build new sports courts at Boulder Beach. Construction could begin in 2017, but will depend on how quickly the necessary funds can be raised.

“We try to balance requests for new recreational amenities,” Rutledge said. “We can always find a reason to defer spending on recreation, because this is a ‘want’ rather than a ‘need.’ But I think the LPA board has done a good job trying to balance spending on recreation while keeping up with the association’s other expenses.”

An agreement with Panora to accept and treat sewage from a storage facility that serves condos along Highway 4 on the main basin, which was set to expire in 2017, has been renewed.

Rutledge said in 2017 the South Panorama Sanitary Sewer District, which is a public entity, probably will move its lift station from the present location on Christmas Tree point to another location across the road. Members of the district board are Kim Lubeck, Scott Kemble and Chris Webner. “We are aware of this project, and know there will need to be an assessment to pay for the new facility. Anyone with questions should contact one of the board members,” he said. 

Dues for 2017 were mailed December 9. “These aren’t due until May 1, but many of our members prefer to pay now. That’s great, we’re happy to take the money, it helps with our cash flow,” Rutledge said.

Rutledge said there now are 1,050 people signed up to receive the LPA Prompt newsletter via email each Wednesday. “This is a great communications tool for us,” he said. “If you’re not signed up to receive this, I encourage you to contact the LPA office to get signed up.”

Rutledge said to date 105 anterless deer had been harvested from LPA property, which is similar to the number taken each of the last four years. “I know we have members on both sides of this issue. Some say they love the deer and think we’re being too aggressive with our program to encourage hunters to take does. Others complain about too many deer eating their plantings,” he said.

“We’re trying to find a balance. We don’t want to eradicate deer from Lake Panorama, and I think we have a good program in place to keep the population level. If we start to see a significant decline in our deer population, we can make changes to the incentives we offer hunters so not as many are harvested,” Rutledge said.

In 2017, Rutledge said he expects dredging to begin in the upper basin in the spring and continue through most of the summer. In late summer or fall, the dredge will move to Burchfield Cove. “We’ll do some probes in the spring to check depths, and that will help us decide when we need to get there,” he said. “But we also know a heavy rain can change things quickly.”

Rutledge said the Cory sediment basin is complete, and will provide 1.2 million cubic yards of storage. The Helen’s Cove CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program) wetland also is complete. The water level has been drawn down for the winter to avoid damage to the riprap, but will be brought back up in the spring. Rutledge said staff will continue to vary the water level throughout the year as needed.

This Lake Panorama Rural Improvement Zone (RIZ) project is located just east of Sage Trail near the east campground. The 26-acre wetland site includes a six-acre pool, which will host microbes that turn nitrogen into gas. “This is a neat project,” Rutledge said. “We’ll be hosting some tours for members to show how it works.”

Rutledge said work on renewing the RIZ program with Guthrie County is underway. An engineer’s report is being developed, which he said will “no doubt show the Lake Panorama RIZ is worthy of renewal under Iowa law.”

He said the report, which should be completed by February 1, will be presented to the Guthrie County Board of Supervisors, and made available to LPA members. The report also will help the RIZ board of trustees prioritize future projects.

Rutledge was asked about possible water quality state legislation that might impact Lake Panorama. He responded RIZ and LPA will follow water quality proposals during the 2017 Iowa legislative session.

“I think at some point new money will flow to water quality projects,” he said. “RIZ trustees, with the support of the LPA board, believe it’s important to be ‘shovel ready’ in case we have an opportunity to get any new state and federal assistance. One of our goals the past two years has been to establish a reputation that we’re interested in improving water quality, and we have projects we could ramp up fairly quickly if funding is available,” he said.

In answer to another question, Rutledge said upgrades at the marina were discussed during the 2017 budget progress because of concerns the waiting list for one of the current 120 covered slips is too long.

“All the low hanging fruit at the marina in terms of ways to expand has already been picked,” he said. “Adding more slips would require moving the fuel dock, and would require finding ways to increase the amount of parking available. It would be expensive.”

He said one concern is how increasing the number of marina slips might impact the number of boats operating on Lake Panorama. “When I first started working for the LPA nearly 10 years ago, all I heard about was boat density, boat density, boat density. I’ve encouraged this board that before they make a decision on expanding the marina, we should conduct a survey to get feedback from the membership,” he said.

Rutledge said the board terms of both Tom Jeschke, current LPA president, and Bob Batschelet, will be up in 2017. Both are eligible to run for a second term, but Batschelet has said he won’t run for a second term because he now is serving on the Guthrie County REC board, which meets the same days as the LPA board.

Rutledge encouraged those in attendance to consider running for a board seat, or talking with other members about the possibility. Nomination papers will be available in the spring, with election done by paper ballot in advance of the May 13 LPA annual meeting.