HI candidates respond to property owner questions at Homeowners forum
HOLIDAY ISLAND -- The Clubhouse was nearly full of attendees at the Holiday Island Homeowners Association candidates' forum Monday night, as four candidates for two open seats on the Board of Commissioners answered written questions submitted to the moderator, both in advance and during the one-hour forum.
Moderator Mary Jo Rozumalski reminded the audience that the format of the League of Women Voters would be observed. Candidates gave opening statements in order of ballot placement and answered questions in sequence from there. Closing statements were given in ballot order.
Rozumalski said she had a "stack" of questions. Of the 25 submitted, there was time to ask 11 of them.
In his opening statement, candidate Phillip Elmore said that opening the golf course to the public, against the protests of every real estate agent in Holiday Island, had been a mistake. Of the problems Holiday Island is facing, he said there is "no quick fix, but we must elect a board member with business experience," which he has as a former developer, he said.
Bill Noonan said he has lived in Holiday Island since 2011 and is interested in what is happening with assessments in Holiday Island, that the community has great people and ideas and that "we need to take care of our own."
Ralph Lemme, an active building contractor in the community, said this is a great place to live, and the community has been improved by volunteers.
"The main thing is common sense. We need to try to sell lots," he said.
Nita Holley said she is very involved in various groups in Holiday Island, and "it makes me sad to see the split that's here." She emphasized communication.
"We don't have to agree, but we have to come to agreement."
Asked what they see as the three top issues in Holiday Island, in order of priority, Holley said water, sewer and communications. Elmore said lot sales, apathy in the community and roads and sewer. Noonan said lot sales, community involvement and roads and sewer. Lemme said roads, lot sales and the budget.
Asked about incorporating as a municipality, Noonan said, "When conditions are right, I'm all for it. There needs to be a good tax base. We're not there yet."
Lemme said he hadn't seen the studies and had no opinion. Holley also said the tax base needs to be there but is not yet. Elmore said, "If we can't even run this thing as a HISID board, we're not anywhere to being close to operate as a city."
One question asked whether, if the candidates had been on the board, they would have voted to prohibit the company doing the golf operations study from suggesting closing the nine-hole course as an option to reduce the deficit. None of the candidates answered that question but answered whether they would vote to close the nine-hole course. All of them said no.
On leak detection, Holley and Lemme said they needed to do more research. Elmore said he dealt with water systems for a living, putting in a $13.5 million waterline.
"Losing 15 million gallons a month ... is not terrible," he said. "It sounds like a lot, but it's not." He said there is "nothing to it" to fix leaks.
Noonan said progress on finding and fixing leaks had been limited to the island, and the district needs to learn how to do it in-house.
"Every water system around here leaks," he said. "The cost to run a pump is a fraction of the cost to repair a leak. We will never stop all leaks."
Several other questions were asked: what volunteer positions candidates held in the community; what should be the minimum requirements for candidacy to the board; whether the board, district manager and developer should work together; how best to attract baby-boomers to buy property; whether to put golf course operations under contract; how to address homeowners' concerns and show respect for their questions; and whether candidates would support a comprehensive plan to sell lots.
In their closing statements, candidates mostly reiterated their opening comments.
"We've got to get involved in this community," Elmore said. "There has been a lot of finger-pointing.... We've got to do something different. We have 1,700 lots in Little Rock. It took Mr. Dees 30 years to get it straight. I don't think it will take that long to fix it."
"I see some obstacles," Noonan said. "It's really pathetic the number of people who have not voted. That's an obstacle in itself. How can we help if you're not going to get involved? Volunteers are the most valuable resource we have here." He said residents should tell others about Holiday Island.
"I think this is the greatest place to live," Lemme said, adding that friends who could have lived elsewhere chose to live here. "I don't think anything's so bad it can't get fixed. I'm optimistic."
Holley called for people to vote.
"Apathy is rampant, and hopefully it's ending," she said. "A positive attitude will help because we've become this side or that side...." She added the community should advertise itself because it is a great place to live.
Early voting starts Nov. 17 at the district office. Election day is Dec. 2.
(Editor's note: A property owner videotaped this forum and has provided a link to watch it online. It can be found here. Watch for our news story of our own questions asked of the candidates. The print edition story, edited for length, will come out in the Nov. 18 Midweek edition, but the full story will be online here.)