50th Annual LPA Meeting Includes Reports, Outlook
By Susan Thompson
The 50th annual meeting of the Lake Panorama Association was May 11, with about 100 people in attendance. The meeting provided an update on activities during the past year, plus a look ahead to the next 12 months.
Re-elected to the LPA board for another three-year term were Gary Evans and Jim Spradling. Newly elected was Neil Wright, replacing Larry Babcock, who was completing a three-year term.
Gary Evans, LPA board treasurer, provided the 2018 financial and audit report for the LPA and its subsidiary, LPN, LLC. For 2018, Evans said the LPN operation showed an operating loss of $140,299. “Overall revenue was up $96,276 from 2017. But along with the higher revenues, cost of goods sold and operating expenses also were higher,” Evans said.
“Maintaining a profitable subsidiary that specializes in the golf and restaurant industry continues to be a challenge,” Evans said. “The LPN board of managers continues to work with LPN staff to ensure our subsidiary is pursuing improved strategies to maximize performance in future years.”
Turning to the LPA, Evans drew attention to the association’s income statement, which showed actual 2017 and 2018 revenues and expenses, plus the 2019 budget numbers for comparison. Evans said the 2018 operating income figure of $715,755 includes about $225,760 that was the auditors’ adjustment for land sales expense. It also includes $468,596 in donations from Friends of Lake Panorama in the form of completed sports courts at Boulder Beach and an irrigation system and paved cart paths at Panorama West. LPA’s operating profit before these adjustments was $21,399.
Evans said the LPA board of directors decided a five-percent dues increase should be applied for 2019. “The board’s budgeting process focuses extensively on cash flow,” he said. “Cash balances are targeted for 20 percent, with the possibility these will be in the 17 to 18 percent range if non-budgeted expenditures are approved as a mid-year budget amendment.”
Evans said it’s important to remember the LPA board does not set its annual operating budget with the expectation of selling land. All operating expenses are covered by LPA’s recurring operating revenues.
Jim Spradling, completing his second year as LPA board president, chaired the meeting. He characterized his president’s comments as a report card to members on the past 12 months. “We have a lot of talented people working for us at both the LPA and LPN,” Spradling said. “This past year has been about improving our organizational structure and staff performance. From top to bottom, I can report the staff is very good, and continues to improve.”
Spradling said LPA board members worked well together, while also collaborating well with the LPN board of managers.
Two major, challenging capital projects – a new maintenance complex and upgrades to the LPA water system - moved forward during the past year, Spradling said. “Complex decisions needed to be made on both of these two projects. I can report your LPA board members used good judgment, and both projects are moving ahead because of their work,” he said. “Once completed, both of these projects will provide long-term service to LPA members.”
Spradling said the reorganization of the LPN, LLC management team also was a challenge, but he believed things are now “moving in the right direction. The LPN board of managers has been a big help during this transition,” he said. “There is an increased emphasis on customer service and marketing. Plus this change has opened opportunities for key staff members to advance and thrive in new roles.”
Looking ahead to the next 12 months, Spradling said he sees water quality, water safety and improved customer service as key issues. He thanked the LPA board for their work, as well as those who volunteer to serve on several standing committees, which advise the board on special topics. “Volunteers are an integral part of the process,” he said.
John Rutledge, LPA general manager and LPN, LLC director of operations, began his report with a look at the LPN. “We are in a transition period, with a number of talented people taking on new and increased roles in the organization,” he said. “So far I’m seeing good team chemistry with an energy and momentum for continued improvements in the golf courses, restaurant and lodging departments.”
Rutledge recognized the LPN Board of Managers. “Having a separate group to focus on the LPN is important, and has been a great help to the LPA board of directors as they make decisions,” he said.
LPN enjoyed a number of improvements in 2018. The McLuen estate, working with Friends of Lake Panorama, implemented both a new irrigation system and sections of paved cart path on the Panorama West Golf Course. An equipment replacement schedule has been implemented at the golf courses, with LPN’s 18-hole fleet being the primary area of need at this time. “We look forward to a planned rotation of essential golf course equipment as a recurring budget item, which will help continue the great course quality we offer,” Rutledge said.
Rutledge said the LPN pro shop, kitchen, restaurant and lodging departments all are working on new efforts to market their facilities and enhance the customer experience. He encouraged those who don’t already receive the LPN Weekly enewsletter each Sunday to go to the LPN website and sign up.
Rutledge said staff is working with Shive-Hattery Engineering to develop a master plan for the conference center facility. “Historically, we have made improvements when they could not be postponed any further. Now we hope to work ahead, and phase-in needed improvements,” he said.
“We are making a lot of structural and foundational improvements at Lake Panorama National that will both improve the customer experience and make the business more financially sound in the long term,” Rutledge said.
Shifting gears to the LPA, Rutledge outlined progress being made on two major capital projects that have been under discussion by the LPA board for several years. “At this meeting last year, I provided an update about our ongoing efforts to move toward a suite of major upgrades to our water plant,” Rutledge said. “Estimates at that time were in the $3.6 million range. This spring, LPA received responses from a number of quality bidders on three key components to this plan. Total bids were as expected on the drilling of another Jordan well and a discharge line for the reverse osmosis system. However, the bid for the plant upgrades was higher than expected. Total cost for the entire project now is $4.7 million.”
Rutledge said the LPA board took “a very hard look at these numbers and our options moving forward, and voted to proceed with these improvements.” The project will begin once a final construction permit is issued by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Assuming no permit issues, this project is expected to begin this fall and continue through most of next year, with completion late in 2020,” Rutledge said.
Funding for the project will be through the State Revolving Loan Fund for drinking water improvements, at a fixed rate of two-percent interest for 20 years. “LPA can currently repay this loan by adding between $20-$25 per month, or about $70 per quarter, to every water bill,” Rutledge said. “Once all permits are finalized and we have officially started, the board will consider whether they want to pursue a ballot measure that proposes a mix of rate increases and a flat assessment to pay off this debt.”
Another substantial project underway is replacement of the LPA maintenance facility, a topic that first came before the LPA board in the fall of 2014. The current shop is 4,000 square feet, was built in 1973 and replacement is long over due. Signs of corrosion were discovered in late-2016 and the building was temporarily modified in the fall of 2018 to support LPA operations this winter.
The new facility will include a shop that measures just under 10,000 square feet. Also included on the site will be a new cold storage building, two new hoop structures for salt and sand storage, a brine mixing shed, and storage bins for aggregate and other materials. Rutledge said site location was studied thoroughly by staff, engineers and the board, with four final site plans considered. “Placing the facility on a hard surface road was a priority, as was ensuring a clean and attractive site,” Rutledge said.
The location on 200thand Chimra was chosen, with a berm on the west and south of the property. On top and outside of this berm will be a series of evergreen plantings to provide a visual screen. Plantings also will be used on the north to ensure the entrance to Lake Panorama remains appealing. Cupolas, wainscot and a stone entrance to the shop’s office area will “dress up” this facility.
This maintenance complex will cost $1.7 million. LPA has worked with a consortium of local banks to finance this project. Payoff has been structured as a 20-year loan and will require LPA to set-aside 20-25 percent of its annual capital budget amount for payback.
Other items Rutledge covered were:
· RIZ is in the process of soliciting bids on a third-party dredging contract. This project would be a one-time hire of an outside company to dredge from the Fansler Bridge to the far reaches of the County Basin. Although LPA has dredged to the Fansler Bridge, this was done while using the much closer CIPCO basin. By hiring an outside vendor, LPA can continue to maintain the upper basin and benefit from this “boost” from the outside vendor.
· The Smith Wetland, north of Burchfield Cove, is being constructed this summer. In addition, RIZ is looking at some streambank stabilization options north of Burchfield.
· LPA staff remains engaged in the Iowa Legislature, watching for any changes to property tax law, TIF or RIZ. The 2019 session was uneventful.
· Guthrie County has agreed to restore Sage Trail to a condition similar to 2012. This is a stabilized gravel strategy, which is lower dust and has fewer washboards. The work is expected to be done this summer.
· The 50th anniversary book will be available mid-summer and is available for pre-order. Rutledge said he believes LPA members will find the book to be a “must own.” Once the books have arrived and are available for pickup, information will be provided via LPA and LPN newsletters.
Rutledge closed by thanking LPA members who volunteer to help make Lake Panorama a great community, then took audience questions and comments. Several compliments to the LPA and LPN staff were received, with mentions of great golf course conditions, customer service in the Links, debris cleanup from the lake, prompt water leak repairs during difficult weather, and winter snow plowing.