HOLIDAY ISLAND -- Holiday Island commissioners voted at their business meeting Monday to allow employees and fire department volunteers and their immediate families continued free use of the amenities after some discussion and an impassioned letter from the fire chief.
Under the District Employee Amenity Use Policy, full time and certain part-time employees and their household dependent family members can play golf and use the Recreation Center free of charge. This also includes volunteer firefighters and EMTs.
"We use this as a tool to recruit people who have some interest in the district," District Manager Kevin Crosson said. "We don't have an excessive use of spouse or dependent family play on the golf course."
The district has 26 full time, 11 part-time, nine temporary, seasonal employees and 30 fire department volunteers. Most of the part-time and temporary employees are resident property owners who accept a low rate of pay of $7.50 to $8.50 per hour, Crosson said, in exchange for amenity privileges.
District figures show that so far this year, employee/volunteer/family member rounds at the 18-hole course were 893 out of a total of 13,827, and at the nine-hole course, 140 out of 4,708.
Commissioner Kay Janky said she had no problem with employees having free amenities.
"I do question allowing family members also receiving the same amenities," she said. "They use leased carts and go swimming. I don't feel it's right."
She said she knew of volunteers who had joined the fire department just so they could get free golf.
"The emergency personnel spend a lot of time away from home," said Commissioner John Dolce, who is also the chairman of the Western Carroll County Ambulance District. He receives regular reports on volunteer emergency medical responders' attendance at medical calls, which make up the bulk of emergency tone-outs.
Volunteers are reimbursed $7 total for gas and maintenance to respond to calls, he said.
Robin Lahm, a volunteer with the fire department, said, "I would challenge anyone to ask any of the 29 volunteers if they joined for the benefit to golf. Those of us who serve your community serve because that is what we are challenged to do in our hearts, so I would challenge that personally."
Lahm then read a letter from Fire Chief Jack Deaton, who could not attend the meeting. In it he outlined several scenarios in which volunteers have to leave meals, outings and beds in the middle of the night to answer calls, and pointed out that such service impacts families.
"I have to tell you folks, families serve, too. ... Without a family's support, we wouldn't have enough members to do what we do now," he wrote. "If you can't see how important it is to honor and respect the families that make our jobs easier by including them in the amenities benefit, shame on you."
The board approved the policy, to be added to the comprehensive manual of standard operating procedures, 4-1, Janky voting nay.
In other business, the board:
* Approved unanimously the preliminary Capital Improvements Plan, which sets aside $315,500 to be allocated to fireproof records storage, a new district office roof, wastewater lift station rehabilitation, roads, HVAC replacement and maintenance, golf cart path improvements and marina flotation replacements.
* Denied a motion to approve Amendment #18 of Reg. 26-2002, setting amenity fees for 2012, with Commissioners Bruce Larson voting aye, Gary Hanson, Dolce and Janky voting nay, and Linda Griswold abstaining. A motion by Janky to strike the tournament fee section from the draft before the vote was taken also died for lack of a second.
* Heard the financial and district manager's report. The operating budget is at a $198,000 deficit as of the end of August. Crosson expects this figure to change dramatically after the Oct. 10 assessment due date, which stand at a little over $1 million uncollected so far. The district has $27.5 million in cash and investments.
* Heard Carroll County Sheriff Bob Grudek speak on the housing allowance deputies receive as part of the contract with Holiday Island to provide enhanced law enforcement. He also explained that property owners are not being "double taxed" for this service, as Holiday Island requested the contract.
* Returned from about a 20-minute executive session to take no action.