LPA General Manager Provides Updates, Answers Questions

By Susan Thompson

A “Coffee with the GM” session was held July 7 at the Lake Panorama National conference center. John Rutledge, Lake Panorama Association general manager, provided an update on LPA activities, then responded to audience questions.

Rutledge reviewed the number of boat stickers sold for 2017. There was a significant increase in the number of non-motorized vessels — kayaks, paddleboards, canoes — with 780 stickers sold. These types of vessels previously were lumped into the under-10-horsepower category. For 2017, the LPA board approved a new category for non-motorized vessels, with stickers costing just $10.

The largest category of stickers is for over-10-horsepower vessels, with 1,216 this year. There also were 336 stickers for personal watercraft, and 35 for the under-10-horsepower motorized vessels.

Guest boat passes are not sold for weekends and holidays, but Rutledge noted those staying in the Clover Ridge timeshare units and Lake Panorama National lodging are allowed boat passes at any time.

The annual seal coating of about nine miles of Lake Panorama roads is expected to take place in late July or early August, at a cost of about $20,000 per mile. Rutledge said this is the preferred time of year for this work, since warm temperatures allow for good adhesion of the pea gravel to the oil base.

Another LPA-owned boat storage building is being built on the east side near two existing buildings. Rutledge said renting space in the LPA buildings is a financial investment in the association. As rent is collected, the money goes to pay off the building’s debt. Once the debt is paid off, this becomes a steady source of income. LPA boat storage arrangements should be made through Coulter Marine.

Rutledge talked about some work done earlier in the east fork of Helen’s Cove to improve a drainage area. He said this project has been a “work in progress” but he is pleased with the current direction.

Turning to sediment removal, Rutledge said the utility barge equipped with a knuckle boom continues to be a good tool for clearing sediment from small coves. So far this season, work has been done in the east fork of Helen’s Cove, with additional work planned in Lewis Cove and the back of Horseshoe Cove. 

The dredge now is working above the upper basin, and Rutledge said is “on pace” to remove the targeted amount of sediment before the end of the season. He said the water level in the County Basin, which is where current sediment is pumped, is being kept higher than normal while some structure testing is done. He said the Lake Panorama Rural Improvement Zone (RIZ) will make some permanent modifications to the outlet this fall, and the testing was undertaken to model the anticipated final results. Rutledge confirmed the tests all went well.

Rutledge said the dredge will move to Burchfield Cove after Labor Day. Letters have been sent to property owners who will be impacted, stating boat lifts and docks must be removed immediately after Labor Day. LPA staff is coordinating plans with the two barge companies and Coulter Marine. The west fork of Burchfield will not be dredged, but Rutledge said the area will be serviced with a long-reach excavator.  

Rutledge said the Helen’s Cove CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program) wetland requires some modification to the channel, but otherwise is done. Vegetation is growing, but the native grasses take a couple of years to establish. He said site tours will be offered as soon as possible, perhaps this fall, but more likely in the spring.

Work on the Hughes Cove CREP project is expected to wrap up in late July. “Both of these wetlands are fantastic projects,” Rutledge said. “These are good for keeping nitrogen and sediment from reaching the lake, and great for wildlife.” He said the RIZ board hasn’t yet decided if they will open the areas to hunting, but some long-term options are being considered.

The RIZ board will do some long-range planning this fall and winter. With the recent extension of RIZ until June 30, 2039, Rutledge said there will be sufficient funding to look out 20 years and make future plans.

Rutledge reminded the audience RIZ cooperates with the LPA to make the two brush dumps possible. The one on the east side of the lake was moved further north this year to increase separation from buildings. The facilities are closed each Monday and Tuesday for burning and maintenance.

A net to protect the condos and motel along Karen Drive from flying golf balls will be installed on the LPN driving range soon. Some work will be done in late July to install the poles, with the net arriving a few weeks later.

Rutledge said the LPA is cooperating with Friends of Lake Panorama to build new sports courts at Boulder Beach. The $150,000 cost is being split 50/50 between the two entities. The project will include one tennis court, two pickleball courts and one basketball court. Construction is expected to begin in September. The old courts will be closed at the end of the 2017 season, and the LPN board of managers will make a recommendation on what to do in that location.

It was earlier publicized 20 percent of the Jim and Joyce McLuen estate was designated for the Panorama West golf course. Rutledge said the bequest has not yet been received, but when it does, it will be channeled through Friends of Lake Panorama. A number of steps will be taken to gather ideas on how the money should be spent. One step is a meeting at the Panorama West clubhouse on Monday, September 11, 6 p.m, where those who want to provide input are invited to speak.

The LPA water safety committee will meet July 27 at 6 p.m. at the LPA office to discuss several issues. One is the ongoing topic of boat length, and Rutledge said input on this and other water safety topics is welcome.

He said the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) did some patrolling on Lake Panorama on the Fourth of July. He said DNR officers highlighted several concerns:

  • The boat capacity number is to be displayed on the back corner of the boat, and must be obeyed. While there is both a weight limit and a person limit, it’s important to not exceed the number of persons allowed, including children.
  • All boats are required to have a “throwable” flotation device available.
  • Fire extinguishers are required and must be up-to-date.
  • When boats are tied together, if there is a boat with no one on it, that boat could be considered unattended. Avoid problems by keeping at least one person on each boat.
  • The DNR requires address signs on all docks. They will be back on the lake sometime to check all docks for signs. Order signs through the LPA office.

The physical inspection of the dam, which is done every five years, is complete. Rutledge noted the engineer’s report has not yet been finalized, but no serious concerns were uncovered. Some work on the berm between the dam and the emergency spillway may be needed, plus some riprap added to the area where the low-flow valve discharges. But Rutledge termed the dam as being “in great condition.” 

A reverse osmosis pilot plant operated for three months at the water plant. Rutledge said while the results still are being analyzed, the pilot plant worked well. This study will help determine how installation of reverse osmosis equipment at the plant would improve the water provided by the Lake Panorama Water Company.

“From the technical side, the initial results show this system will work well for us,” Rutledge said. “Now there will cost-benefit discussions to determine the cost of adding this equipment to the current plant, and the ongoing cost of water treatment if the equipment is installed. Will this cost our customers $15 a month, or $60 a month? That’s what we don’t yet know and what we have to figure out.”  

Rutledge urged anyone not already signed up for electronic LPA communications to do so. He said the Panorama Prompt newsletter, distributed by email each Wednesday, is the association’s best communications tool. Contact the LPA office for assistance.

The phone number for LPA Security has changed, although the old one will continue to work until the end of this year. This change was made so calls to a single number can be rolled to others on the security staff. The new number is 641-757-9035.

A question was asked about the LPA providing financial assistance to the LPN when it falls short of its annual or monthly budget. Rutledge said weather and market conditions have an impact on the LPN’s golf and restaurant business. He said the LPN management and the LPN board of managers like to “be optimistic and set goals. The LPA board now has asked the LPN to develop the most realistic budget possible.”

Rutledge said while working two years ago with other RIZ districts on state legislation, he saw the importance of subsidies for amenities such as the marina, conference center and golf courses. “Some other lakes relying on private vendors were left without services mid-season. Here we recognize these amenities contribute to our property values,” he said.

Another question was asked about why the Panorama West golf course no longer has an advisory committee. Rutledge said this change was made when the LPN board was appointed, since that board oversees both the LPN and Panorama West operations. He said those who want to provide input on the Panorama West operation can contact the LPN board.

Damage to seal coated roads by outside contractors was another topic. Rutledge was asked if contractors must pay for needed repairs once they leave. He said building permits cost $1,000, with some of this revenue used to repair this type of damage. “That’s never enough,” Rutledge said. “But we don’t want to discourage our members from investing in their property by raising the permit fees too high.”

A question was asked about fish stocking. Rutledge outlined the work of the Fin & Feather nonprofit. In recent years, the group has spent about $12,000 to stock walleye, smallmouth bass, and largemouth bass in Lake Panorama. He expects this year’s stocking to take place in October.

Speeding on a particular section of Panorama Drive was discussed. Some signage on curves shows a 25 mph limit, but there is confusion about whether the limit increases once drivers leave the curves. Rutledge said staff will review the signage, and LPA Security will spend some time in the area with a radar gun.

An LPA member who lives on the upper end of Chuck’s Hill said they lost easy access to Shady Beach when the road was closed. He asked if a walking trail could be installed and maintained. Rutledge said he couldn’t promise, but would look into the possibility.

Rutledge thanked those in attendance and noted his next GM coffee will be Thursday, September 7, 10:30 a.m. at the LPN conference center.