A Q&A with LPA General Manager John Rutledge

By Susan Thompson
Posted 4/6//2020

The news these days from most all sources focuses on the coronavirus outbreak and daily life modifications required to control its spread. This month’s Q&A with John Rutledge, LPA general manager and LPN, LLC director of operations, talks about the impact of COVID-19 on the Lake Panorama Association, while also looking ahead to 2020 projects.

Q. On March 17, both the Lake Panorama Association and Lake Panorama National Resort issued special bulletins outlining many changes in the way business is conducted at both locations. How has the LPA membership accepted these changes?
A. The LPA membership has been extremely supportive of our COVID-19 policies. A number of members have reached out to let me know their businesses, or places of work, have implemented similar protocols. I think people have come to expect this is the new normal for a while. Most of our members are very comfortable with technology, and we’ve been able to keep projects on track by using electronic communications during this period of extensive social distancing.

Q. How has this impacted LPA and LPN operations?
A. Electronic communications have also worked well for LPA and LPN internal functions. Staff has been using a video conferencing platform to meet regularly and ensure operations are well-coordinated. This option isn’t quite as good as meeting in person, but is much more interactive than a traditional conference call. By using video conferencing, we have been able to break our staff into segregated teams. We believe this provides us some protection against a scenario in which a large percentage of our staff would become ill at the same time.

The March 24 LPA board meeting also was held via video conference with the board members joining online or by telephone. Once everyone navigated the learning curve, the meeting went very smoothly. Members were invited to email any questions or comments in advance, but all business was routine and no concerns were submitted.

Q. What impact is COVID-19 having on LPA and LPN business?
A.  The business of LPA is very different from the business of LPN. LPA is quasi-governmental and is better suited to weather this storm. Member interactions can largely be completed via email and phone without impacting the bottom line. Social distancing results in some lost productivity for field operations, but our LPA team still is able to get the job done.
LPN is a very different animal, due to its business model being dependent on revenue from the restaurant, golf course, events and lodging. Reduced traffic and closure of certain business sectors are devastating to the operation’s bottom line. One example is the closure of the Links restaurant, which caused us to lay off our part-time servers until such time when we can reopen. Thankfully, State of Iowa unemployment has been quick to recognize this situation and offers assistance to those who have lost income.
During this time of uncertainty, we are doing our best to continue serving our members. The restaurant is available for food carryout with a specific menu and times. Please consider helping support that business by ordering carryout.

Other ways to help are to put additional money on your existing Diners Club account the next time you pay your bill by check. Or become a new member by completing the form available online and mailing it with a check. The membership form is here: https://www.lakepanoramanational.com/dining.

Lake Panorama National Resort gift cards are good in both the Links and the pro shop and can be purchased in any denomination by calling (641) 755-2080. Since the conference center front desk and offices currently are closed to walk-in traffic, the purchase can be made over the phone by credit card, and the gift card mailed to the buyer. Or buyers can mail a check and the card will be mailed in return. The LPN front desk is staffed Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hours on Saturday and Sunday have been reduced to 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Both golf courses are open, and we encourage members and guests to use golf as a way to get some exercise, relieve some stress and get that sports fix during this time. We believe that with some precautions golf remains a safe activity. We do recommend players maintain 6 feet of separation and members use their private carts. For others, LPN will provide the option of one cart per person, and rental carts will be sanitized after each use. Walking also is an option. And keep your hands to yourself. Don’t pick up your playing partners wedge, shake hands or give high-fives. Also sanitize and wash your hands regularly.

In response to Gov. Reynolds’ State Public Health Emergency Declaration March 26, a decision was made to close the LPN pro shop to retail sales. The pro shop doors are locked and golfers are asked to check in at the pro shop counter window. Golf balls and gloves will be sold through this window, on request.

Q. We know LPA projects can’t come to a halt, despite the COVID-19 situation. Let’s take a look at some of those.
A. LPA undertakes a number of projects each year, such as the annual seal-coat project and dredging for the Lake Panorama Rural Improvement Zone (RIZ). Seal-coat preparations won’t begin for a while, due to the March road embargo and spring weather conditions. Dredging, however, has begun and will continue until completion in November.

LPA also has a number of contractors on site for associated projects. Three companies are working on the three components of LPA’s water plant and well upgrade project. All are progressing nicely due to the mild winter and early spring. Also expected in the near future is the return of Dredge America, who will be dredging the upper river channel for RIZ. This work will be complementary to LPA’s annual dredging efforts.

Q. The replacement of a water main across Burchfield Cove was discussed at the March LPA board meeting. Tell us about the need for this project, and the expected timetable.
A. In December, LPA experienced a break in one of our three essential lake crossings. The timing of this leak was fortunate, as LPA water use is much lower in the winter months. LPA currently has this section of the system “off-line” and is moving forward with replacement of the line by the end of May. This timeline will ensure we can meet our summer demand on the east side of Lake Panorama.

The board authorized moving forward with a $340,000 contract to bore in a new line and complete the necessary water main extensions. This should serve as a 50-year solution for this area of the lake. LPA will offset a majority of this unplanned expense by deferring $225,000 worth of capital improvements to a future year. The balance will be paid out of LPA’s cash reserves. Projects being deferred include new bathrooms at Sunset and Shady Beaches, one unrelated improvement to the LPA water distribution system and a handful of other minor projects on LPA property.

Q. What other projects are getting underway at Lake Panorama for the 2020 season?
A. Lake Panorama usually opens the golf course bathrooms, campground bathrooms and beaches when temps are reliably above freezing. COVID-19 precautions may dictate a different strategy to how we operate our bathroom facilities this year. LPA beach bathrooms, for example, are cleaned daily. If COVID-19 requires cleaning them every 2 or 3 hours, then we need to review whether we can reasonably meet this expectation. We continue to monitor guidelines for how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Docks at LPA’s beaches will be deployed before boating season, and the lake is a great place for members to escape the stress and restrictions we’ve all faced in March and early April. Stay tuned for further updates, as we all navigate the surreal experience that is COVID-19. And wash your hands!

Wetland protects Hughes Cove
The nitrogen removed by the wetland is equivalent to taking about 400 acres of row crops out of production.

Screen shot 2020 04 06 at 2.39.40 pm
By Susan Thompson
Posted 4/6/2020

In the late 1990s, Iowa State University researchers began studying the use of small wetlands in drainage areas to slow water runoff from farm fields. They found these strategically placed wetlands could reduce nitrates moving into streams and rivers by 40 to 70 percent. By 2000, state officials were promoting a new incentive program to encourage landowners to install wetlands.

The Iowa Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is a joint effort of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the U. S. Department of Agriculture. State and federal technical assistance and cost-share funds are available for landowners who voluntarily establish wetlands for water quality improvement in 37 north-central Iowa counties, including Guthrie.

During a strategic planning session in 2012, the Lake Panorama Rural Improvement Zone (RIZ) decided to see if there were locations where CREP wetlands could be installed to help protect the lake. In October 2016, the 26-acre Helen’s Cove/Donahey CREP wetland was completed. The total project cost was $700,000, with more than $200,000 in federal reimbursements, so the net cost to RIZ was $500,000.

The water pool hosts microbes that turn nitrogen into gas. The nitrogen removed by the wetland is equivalent to taking about 400 acres of row crops out of production. A special forebay collects sediment, which is cleaned periodically. This isn’t something done in all CREP wetlands, but because of the desire to keep as much sediment as possible from reaching Lake Panorama, special approval was granted to include this feature.

Construction on a similar wetland to protect Hughes Cove began in 2016, with final touches in the spring of 2017. Like the Helen’s Cove project, the net cost to RIZ was about $500,000. The 23-acre Hughes Cove/Elmquist CREP wetland includes a control structure above a plunge pool, which routes the water back into a creek leading into Hughes Cove. A third wetland also has been built to help protect Burchfield Cove.

These photos show the various components of the Hughes Cove wetland.

New boat ramps prohibited at Lake Panorama
Decision based on concerns about the introduction of invasive species into Lake Panorama.

By Susan Thompson
Posted 4/6/2020

The Lake Panorama Association board of directors has adopted new rules that prohibit the construction of any new boat ramps, while also placing restrictions on existing ramps.

Last fall, a boat ramp task force studied the possibility of the LPA installing a boat ramp somewhere on the west side of the lake. After discussion, the task force’s recommendation was to not allow any additional boat ramps or access points to be constructed on Lake Panorama.

Much of the task force’s decision was based on concerns about the introduction of invasive species into Lake Panorama. At its December board meeting, the LPA board voted unanimously to adopt the task force’s recommendation.

Following that vote, the board discussed concerns about invasive species, current enforcement efforts to control their introduction into Lake Panorama, and options for strengthening these efforts. Some options discussed installing cameras to monitor access at the marina ramp, and limiting hours of access to the ramp.

The board directed John Rutledge, LPA general manager, to develop recommendations for increased enforcement of invasive species rules to be considered in the spring. Rutledge says this review led the LPA management team to contemplate rules about not only LPA-owned access points, but also private access points.
At its March 24, 2020, meeting, the board approved three new rules related to private ramps. The first requires members interested in building a boat ramp on their property to receive written permission from the LPA.

The rule states, in part: “LPA shall retain the sole discretion to deny any application for a boat ramp. Generally, boat ramps shall be strictly prohibited unless a member can show that access to the lake from such boat ramp will be controlled to avoid invasive species and unauthorized access to the lake.” If a boat ramp is installed without receiving a permit, the LPA will require the member to remove it.

The second rule deals with any boat ramps that existed prior to Jan. 1, 2020. These ramps will be allowed to remain, as long as the member maintains the ramp in good condition. The replacement or major repair of any existing ramp would require the member to obtain a permit from the LPA.

The third rule deals with the use of existing ramps. The rule states: “Any member with an authorized boat ramp shall strictly prohibit access to the lake and shall only allow boats that are registered with LPA and have a current LPA sticker to utilize such boat ramp. In the event a member allows access for an unregistered boat or a boat without a current LPA sticker, then such member shall be in violation of this rule and subject to a fine of $2,500 per occurrence.”

Rutledge says to date boat ramps on member properties haven’t been a problem. In fact, Rutledge noted the owner of one ramp has been extremely supportive of LPA’s debris removal efforts and continues to be an important partner to LPA operations. But the new rules are something LPA implemented to be proactive about boating safety and invasive species.

“This is a means of ensuring only LPA-registered and LPA-inspected boats are accessing Lake Panorama via ramps within the LPA development,” Rutledge says. “Our top goals are safety and invasive species prevention.”

Case Made for New Guthrie County Law Enforcement Center

By Susan Thompson
Posted 3/12/2020

At an informational meeting January 28 at the Panora Community Center, several people helped make the case for a “yes” vote on an upcoming Guthrie County 20-year bond referendum. If approved by voters, $8.7 million would be available to build a new law enforcement center addition and parking lot improvement project at the Guthrie County Courthouse.

Marty Arganbright, Guthrie County Sheriff, told those in attendance that 10 years ago there were times when the county jail was completely empty. “But times have changed,” he said. “Now we are constantly full, and often have inmates being housed in other counties. That requires our deputies to be driving back and forth transporting inmates, rather than on duty in the county.”

For July through November of 2019, there were 61 overflow inmates held out of Guthrie County for a total of 761 days.
The current jail, built in 1963, has just 10 beds. “We have about 100 outstanding warrants right now on people we could pick up, but we don’t have room for them,” Arganbright said.

Iowa law requires jails to have cells to accommodate and separate five classifications of prisoners, such as juveniles, females, males, people charged with the same crime, and people with mental health or medical issues. Arganbright said the Guthrie County jail has just one classification.

“Any females arrested must be transported to another county,” he said. “We haven’t met the state code for many years. An inspector comes yearly and we get written up for a number of violations. I keep telling him we’re going to build a new jail. He could have closed us down by now because of our current conditions.”

Arganbright and others showed photos and described a litany of problems with the aging facility. The design of the building provides poor inmate transport throughout the space, presenting safety risks to the staff, inmates and visitors.

There is overcrowding, both of staff and inmates, and a serious lack of evidence storage. Other problems include dripping pipes, outdated cell doors that are difficult to open and close, flooding caused by water that runs into the building from the parking lot, mildew and hot water issues.

An architect with Shive-Hattery reviewed details of the new law enforcement center that would be built adjacent to the courthouse. The 14,800-square-feet building will be a two-story structure, partially built into the hill on the north side of the courthouse. There would be a public entrance to the ground floor administrative offices on the west side, with a small parking lot nearby.

A covered entrance to the second level will be on the east side of the building. This is where inmates will enter, and be moved directly to a booking area, holding cells or by elevator to the courtroom. In contrast, inmates in the existing jail are moved through general areas because there are no secure corridors to booking, jail or the courtroom.

An elevator will take inmates down to the jail cells. There will be 28 beds in the new jail, which will meet the state’s space requirement for five classifications. A dormitory space will provide complete separation of males and females. An inside exercise yard, which is another state requirement, will be included in the building.

The parking lot issues that cause basement flooding in the courthouse will be fixed as part of the project. A small building also will be constructed on the east side, to replace maintenance and storage space being removed to make room for the new structure.

Over 30 years, it will cost $52,092,000 to build and operate the new facility. Over the same time period, it would cost $54,261,000 to keep and operate the existing facility. This means building the new facility is projected to save Guthrie County $2,169,000 over the next 30 years.

The tax impact of the project will be spread over 20 years. As an example, for a house assessed at $100,000, the increase is estimated at $34 a year. Those interested in checking the tax impact on property they own can go to www.guthriecountyvote.com and use the calculator available under the “tax impact” tab. This site also provides additional information on the need for the new facility, benefits and voting.

The voting date for the bond referendum is Tuesday, March 3. The question on the ballot will be: “Shall the County of Guthrie, State of Iowa, enter into a loan agreement and issue its general obligation bonds in an amount not exceeding the amount of $8,700,000.00, for the purpose of constructing, furnishing and equipping a County Law Enforcement Center as an addition to the County Courthouse as well as improving the Courthouse parking lot?”

All eight voting precincts in Guthrie County will be open March 3 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Anyone unsure of their voting precinct can find it on the Iowa Secretary of State website here: sos.iowa.gov/elections/voterreg/pollingplace/search.aspx

The last day to request an absentee ballot by mail is February 21, with absentee ballots postmarked no later than March 2. Absentee voting can be done at the Guthrie County Auditor’s office during business hours up until 5 p.m. on March 2.

Tours of the current jail are available Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

Beach Ball April 18 to Raise Money for New Playground Equipment

By Susan Thompson
Posted 3/12/2020

Nearly $12,000 has been donated so far to Friends of Lake Panorama to fund new playground equipment. Friends is a 501(c)3 non-profit public charity. Its current priority project is raising $70,000 for playground equipment, to be split evenly between Boulder and Shady beaches.

A Beach Ball fundraising event, similar to ones held in 2016 and 2017, will be Saturday, April 18, with all proceeds going to the playground project. The event will be in the Lake Panorama National banquet room, with registration and social hour beginning at 5 p.m.

So far, about 20 table sponsors have agreed to participate, with just 10 tables remaining. Table sponsorship costs $125. Sponsors are asked to decorate their table with a theme of their choice, and will receive decorating guidelines and times when they signup. For those who do not want to decorate their tables, a few volunteers are available for an additional $25 donation.

Each table will accommodate eight guests, with meal tickets costing $40. Half of each meal ticket and the full cost of table sponsorships will go directly to the playground fund.

Table sponsors are encouraged to find eight guests to fill their table, but any empty seats will be filled by those who buy separate meal tickets. Organizers hope most meal tickets are taken by generous people interested in buy items from the auctions and participating in other fundraising events throughout the evening. Attendance is limited to 240 people.

Additional fundraising activities include a raffle; silent and live auctions; buy-a-dessert auction; buy-a-bottomless-beer cup; a 50/50 raffle; and a mini-beach ball drawing for gift cards.

Donated items are being sought for a general raffle, mini-beach ball drawing, and silent and live auctions. Also, the buffet meal won’t include desserts so Friends is looking for volunteers who will provide a dessert that will serve at least eight people. The hope is 30 donated desserts will be received and each of the 30 tables will purchase a dessert. The desserts will be auctioned.

Those interested in sponsoring a table, buying one or more meal tickets, or donating items for the raffle, buy-a-dessert, and live and silent auctions should contact Susan Thompson, thomcomm@netins.net or 515-240-6536.

All funds for table sponsorships and meal tickets will be collected in advance of the event.

Donations to Friends of Lake Panorama are tax-deductible. Donors receive a confirmation letter for tax purposes, both for direct donations at any time, plus contributions made as part of the April 18 Beach Ball.

A sign recognizing all donors of $500 or more will be installed near both playgrounds, with these donors also recognized on the Friends website.

Here’s a description of the playground improvements planned, once Friends reaches its $70,000 fundraising goal. At Shady Beach, existing swings and teeter-totter will be removed to make way for a multi-faceted play set, three swings, and a freestanding “spring rider” designed to accommodate a physically challenged child. The spring rider also has room for two children.

At Boulder Beach, the gray mountain and play set currently there will remain. The spring horses, tire swing and old bathroom will be removed. A freestanding spring rider similar to the one planned for Shady Beach will be added. A new playground nearby will include a play set with features geared to both older and younger kids, plus three swings.

Business as Usual for LPA After Supreme Court Ruling

By Susan Thompson
Posted 3/12/2020

A recent ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court that involved Lake Panorama resulted in a flurry of news and social media reports. But the ruling isn’t expected to have any significant impact on the Lake Panorama Association and its members.

On January 31, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that confirmed Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has the authority to enforce Iowa boating laws on Lake Panorama.

John Rutledge, Lake Panorama Association general manager, says this doesn’t place a new expectation on members of LPA, since LPA rule 5.1(a)(1) states: “All vessels operated on Lake Panorama must comply with the State of Iowa Boating Regulations approved by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources except where superceded by the regulations of the Lake Panorama Association.”

“This ruling only reinforces a rule LPA already has in place for the safe enjoyment of Lake Panorama,” Rutledge says. “The expectation for safe, responsible and legal boating has been a longstanding expectation of LPA.”

The issue of whether DNR has the authority to enforce Iowa boating laws on Lake Panorama came before the Supreme Court because of an incident on July 7, 2018. It was the night of the annual Fire in the Sky fireworks. Several state conservation officers were on boats patrolling Lake Panorama that night. Two officers stopped a pontoon boat that was displaying blue lights, because state law restricts the use of blue lights to “emergency vessels.”

The two officers proceeded to do a safety inspection of the vessel, looking for required equipment. One of the officers noticed the boat’s owner might be intoxicated. He failed a field sobriety test and breath test, and was arrested. A chemical test at the Guthrie County Sheriff’s office revealed his blood alcohol level was over twice the legal limit, and he was charged with one count of boating while intoxicated.

The defendant’s attorney moved to suppress the results of the encounter with the DNR officers, saying Lake Panorama is a privately owned lake, and the state law regarding the use of blue lights would not apply on a private lake.

Following a hearing, the district court denied the motion, concluding the DNR has jurisdiction over Lake Panorama because it constitutes navigable waters, and is not a privately owned lake under Iowa Code. The defendant was found guilty of boating while intoxicated, and appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.

In the Iowa Supreme Court ruling, much of the discussion relates to the fact the Middle Raccoon River flows into Lake Panorama, which means vessels on the stretch of the river north of the lake’s upper basin can enter the lake there.

“LPA has always understood Lake Panorama and the Middle Raccoon River are interconnected,” says Rutledge. “The legal nuances of this ruling are largely a moot point to LPA. LPA continues to control all access points to Lake Panorama, with the minor exception of the upstream Middle Raccoon River channel. Boat access from upstream is not practical for vessels of measurable size and those small vessels that enter from upstream are few and far between. The occasional kayak or canoe visitor to Lake Panorama is a reality LPA has understood and accepted for many years.”

Rutledge says Lake Panorama will continue to be a lake used by LPA members, because it is impractical for non-members to access the lake with boats of measurable size. “This court ruling will not represent a new policy or trend in lake usage,” he says.

The Supreme Court ruling includes a review of the many reasons LPA states Lake Panorama is private. “All of the property surrounding the lake is privately owned and every owner of lakefront property is a member of the LPA. The LPA owns the dam. The LPA also owns the bed under the lake, as well as the lake’s only marina and boat ramp. Use of the boat ramp is limited to LPA members. The LPA also conducts its own patrols of the lake and has its own boating regulations, which it enforces.”

Despite those things, the majority of the six Supreme Court justices ruled Lake Panorama is not private because it is possible for vessels to gain access to the lake from the Middle Raccoon River. Another legal argument presented by the defendant’s attorney was that the LPA’s debris trap doesn’t allow access by vessels to Lake Panorama. Rutledge said the LPA does not attempt to block boat access to Lake Panorama from upstream.

“The LPA maintains a debris retention device, which is in place to capture sticks, logs, corn stalks and other items that could represent a boating safety hazard. This debris device was misrepresented during these legal proceedings as being a boat barrier, which it is not,” he said. “This device aids Lake Panorama’s debris removal efforts, and enhances boater safety and water quality.”

Rutledge said LPA maintains a 130-feet opening on one end of the debris barrier, which allows for navigation of the Middle Raccoon River. Past and recent conversations between LPA and DNR have confirmed this strategy is mutually acceptable.

The majority opinion of the Supreme Court ruling was written by Justice Edward Mansfield, with three other members of the court supporting. A footnote in the ruling authored by Mansfield makes it clear he wasn’t saying Lake Panorama now can be accessed in other ways than the Middle Raccoon River. “Of course, we do not suggest that the LPA or any individual property owner has any obligation to permit public access to Lake Panorama over their land,” he said.

Acting Chief Justice David Wiggins and Justice Brent Appel dissented, concluding Lake Panorama is privately owned as defined by Iowa Code. Wiggins wrote boating while intoxicated wouldn’t be tolerated, even if the majority of the court had agreed Lake Panorama is private.

“I note that my holding does not mean that boaters can boat while intoxicated on private lakes that are not under the commission’s jurisdiction. Section 462A.14 provides that a person commits the offense of boating while intoxicated if that person operates a boat while intoxicated on the navigable waters of this state.” The state code’s definition of navigable waters is “all lakes, rivers, and streams, which can support a vessel capable of carrying one or more persons during a total of six months in one out of every ten years.”

The full ruling is online here: www.iowacourts.gov/courtcases/7953/embed/SupremeCourtOpinion

March 10 Deadline to File for LPA Board of Directors Election

By Susan Thompson
Posted 3/12/2020

The deadline to file nomination papers for the 2020 election for a seat on the Lake Panorama Association board of directors is March 10. The board consists of seven members. Board terms are three years, and members are allowed to serve two consecutive three-year terms. Terms are staggered so the number of seats on the annual ballot varies each year.

For 2020, there will be two seats on the ballot. Mary Jane Carothers is completing her first three-year term on the board. Carothers has taken out nomination papers and announced her intention to seek re-election for a second, three-year term. Carothers currently serves as LPA board president.

Tom Jeschke is completing his fourth, three-year term on the LPA board. Jeschke was elected in May 2006 and again in May 2009. After taking a brief hiatus from the board (as required by the LPA by-laws), Jeschke was elected to the board in May 2014 and May 2017. Jeschke is ineligible to run in 2020 since this year marks the conclusion of two consecutive, three-year terms.

LPA member David Finneseth has taken out papers and announced his intention to seek the open seat currently held by Jeschke.

Nomination papers are available at the LPA office, or will be emailed on request. Candidates must collect a minimum of 18 signatures, representing 18 separate active memberships.
Along with the nomination form, candidates are asked to submit a signed statement of willingness to serve, and a 100-word statement of qualifications. Also needed is a signed conflict-of-interest form listing any businesses or financial interests the candidate has with the LPA. These items will be included in the ballot mailing.

A mailing that includes the ballot, numbered envelope and the official announcement of the May 9 annual meeting will be sent in April. This year will mark the LPA’s 51st annual meeting.

LPA members must return their completed ballot in the numbered envelope. Members are urged to return their ballots in advance of the annual meeting to speed up the tabulation process, although ballots also can be brought to the annual meeting.

Board meetings are generally held the fourth Tuesday of each month, beginning with open forum at 5 p.m., although the day and time sometimes is adjusted. The board does not meet in January or February, unless a special meeting is necessary.
Anyone with questions about the board election process, or details of serving on the LPA board, can contact the LPA office at 641-755-2301 or lpa@lakepanorama.org