HI board candidates answer newspaper questions
HOLIDAY ISLAND -- With two weeks to go until the Holiday Island Board of Commissioners election day on Dec. 2, we emailed an extensive list of questions to the four candidates vying for two open seats on the board. Those candidates are Philip Elmore, Nita Holley, Ralph Lemme and Bill Noonan.
None of the candidates is an incumbent and has not held a board seat before. The two seats available on the board are currently held by Ken Mills and Ken Brown. Terms are for three years.
We asked the candidates to provide background information from which we would compile a short profile and gave them 15 questions, with up to 200 words per answer. [Ed. note: This story, due to space, featured only three of those questions in Nov. 18 Carroll County News Midweek print edition, but the rest, including a short profile of each candidate, appear here. Also, a video link to the Homeowners Association candidates' forum held on Nov. 10 can be found here.]
Profiles and answers appear in alphabetical order.
Philip Elmore was born and raised in Northeast Louisiana by his Cherokee maternal grandfather. He obtained a B.S. from Northeast Louisiana University in construction management and was self-employed for 40 years as a construction consultant, building roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, community developments and golf courses from Texas to Florida and up to Delaware. He moved to Holiday Island last year.
Nita Holley was born and lived in Texas until moving to Holiday Island in 2003. She graduated from Draughton's Business College in 1962. She has a real estate broker's license in Texas and sold property for seven years. She worked as director for a national title insurance company for 12 years and as a director for a cosmetics company and achieved Top 25 in national sales. She has lived in Holiday Island for the last 11 years. She is president of the fire auxiliary, past president of the local AARP chapter and past representative to the Arkansas Silver-Haired Legislature for two years. She is a fire department volunteer and belongs to the Ladies Golf Association.
Ralph Lemme was born in Madison, S.D. and has one-and-a-half years of college at Dakota State College. He has had a general contractor's license since the 1970s in South Dakota, Colorado, San Diego, Calif., and Arkansas. He has lived in Holiday Island for 12 years, has built several homes here and is still an active contractor here.
William T. (Bill) Noonan was born and raised in Kansas City, Mo. He obtained an A.B. in business administration from Kansas City Metropolitan College, and a B.S. in business administration from Drake University in Iowa. His 20-year career in healthcare spans programming, systems analysis, project management and an assistant directorship of information technology for several hospitals and other companies. He has volunteered with Tax Aide, the Homeowners Association, the fire department auxiliary and the HISID Ad Hoc Software Selection Committee. He purchased a lot here in 2006, a condo in 2007, a home in 2009 and has lived here since 2011.
1. Why are you running for the board? What is one major thing you intend to try to change, if any?
Elmore: I would rather stay retired and love my wife and dogs, but my background affords me with much experience the board needs. We must restore the facilities to the private use of the members. We have lost 1,700 lots since we made the amenities public. That is over 50 percent of the undeveloped lots that were sold. Hot Springs Village, which is still private, has lost less than 5 percent of their membership lots in the same time period. We must have a board with the business experience and knowledge not to make these kinds of decisions without the foresight to see the repercussions. We also made the decision to allow members to bring their own bottle to activities at the Clubhouse. It takes years of hard work and money to obtain a liquor license. The decision to allow people to BYOB voided our liquor license. That license was a good income source and was a step in the process of becoming a viable country club. We lost our license because a small group did not wish to pay the price for a mixed drink. We cannot afford these mistakes in judgment.
Holley: I am running for the B.O.C. because I care about Holiday Island. I grew up in a family that believed in involvement in the community and striving to make it a better place to live.
Lemme: I have lived in Holiday Island and owned property for 12 years. Major change I would like to see and help change: lot sales/lot values increase by bringing more potential customers to our area through advertising and newspaper ads.
Noonan: I want to advocate for improvement and enhancement of the Holiday Island property and amenities.
2. How many Board of Commissioner meetings have you attended in the last year? If you have not attended regularly, how have you stayed informed about district operations and issues?
Elmore: I have attended several meetings, but have met weekly with at least one board member as well as several of the local businessmen in the area. As stated, I would love to be a member of several groups, but I can no longer physically participate in most activities. I am a 32nd degree Mason and a Shriner, but we do not have those activities here yet.
Holley: I have attended few B.O.C. meetings but have strived to keep informed by reading the papers, attending Homeowners meetings, and talking with those who have attended the B.O.C. meetings. Involvement in various organizations in HI has also helped to keep me informed.
Lemme: I have been staying informed through the HISID newsletter and web use.
Noonan: In the last six months I would estimate I have attended 60 percent of the meetings. In the previous six months I attended three to four meetings.
3: What major qualifications would you bring to the board as a commissioner? Please include your experience, if any, with large budgets.
Elmore: I have 40 years of experience building major construction projects. The last water line I built was in Richmond VA and was a $13.5 million dollar project. When tested, the system did not have any leaks whatsoever. We owned two asphalt plants and paved hundreds of miles of roads. We developed several subdivisions and communities including a golf community with the course construction. We built the Claire Chenault memorial golf course in Louisiana which was a federal project adjacent to the airport. We have built sewer systems and virtually every type of construction the HISID is responsible for overseeing. The budget on one single job was often much more than our complete annual budget at Holiday Island and my annual budget included the salaries of over 100 employees and an overall budget in excess of $20 million. I developed RSD in 2005 and had to stop work in 2006. I can use my vast experience for the benefit of our community as my conscience will not allow me to sit and watch our beautiful community deteriorate around me.
Holley: I believe that my ability to listen to others, with respect, dignity, and an open mind, is one of my major qualifications. A career in real estate sales and marketing is also important.
Lemme: My experience in the building and land development for the past 40 plus years.
Noonan: I have managed large projects up around a million dollars at Illinois Power. I also was part owner in a consulting company with revenue of a million dollars. With any budget there is a lot of planning. I have worked on several projects involving change and improvement and have experience with the installation and implementation of accounting systems.
4. As a board member, would you risk losing personal friendships and being welcome in social groups to vote on issues in favor of the law, ethics, facts and the good of all Holiday Island property owners?
Elmore: My decades of management experience have taught me how to take issues and remove the emotional facets of that issue. People realize that I am fair and that decisions I make are for the benefit of the job and are not in any way a personal attack on any one person or group. I have always held the respect of those under my direction or under my influence. They are made to understand that the decisions are for the benefit of all. We have lost over $750,000 per year of income due to some hastily made decisions in recent history. We have some major budget problems and immense cuts will be made. Everyone who is elected to the board will be despised by many. What we do not need is a board member who appeases everyone and agrees to borrow money to keep all functions at status quo. We will not have the money to repay those loans.
Holley: It is my opinion that when striving to uphold the law, ethics and overall good of Holiday Island, true friendship will endure even when there is disagreement.
Lemme: I will vote for what I think the majority of people want and need to keep Holiday Island one of the greatest places to live in the United States. I have my home building business here and also have several lots that I have purchased through the years....so have big investment in this community.
Noonan: I would study each issue and vote for what is best for Holiday Island residents overall. I am an honest, ethical person in all my dealings and that will not change. A true friend would not expect anything different.
5. How many times per year do you a. play on the golf courses? b. Use other amenities, i.e., the pool/Rec Center games/sports?
Elmore: As stated, I am unable to use most of the amenities, but would use the golf course weekly if I were able to do so. I do enjoy boating and use the marina regularly during the summer months.
Holley: I play golf, primarily with the Ladies League, approximately 30 times per year. I do not use the other amenities but feel each one is an important asset in HI.
Lemme: I only play golf about once a week but hope someday to play more. Also like to use pool in summer.
Noonan: When we moved here neither one of us had played golf. We decided to try it out and also took lessons. Now we play with the Nine & Dine golf group when our schedule allows. We also play golf 12-15 other times per year with friends and neighbors. My wife also plays in a league. We use the swimming pool about two to three times a week and more often when our kids and grandkids are visiting. We also use the miniature golf, shuffleboard, and playground at the Rec Center when we have grandkids visiting. We keep a boat at the Marina and use it on a regular basis during the summer.
6. Do you agree with hiring an outside firm to do a golf operations study? And since the study is going forward, do you agree with the board's decision to tell the studying firm that they cannot recommend closing the 9-hole golf course as an option? (Please note this question is not asking whether you think the 9-hole course should be closed.)
Elmore: Our funding structure is very unusual but not unique. Hot Springs Village also has golf courses that are supported by people who own property in the subdivision and do not live there. They own the property so that they can have the exclusive use of the amenities without the hassle and problems associated with a public course. I cannot imagine the board deciding to forgo the successful funding structure that has worked for the past 30 years without doing a study first, but I suppose that a study may tell them how they make a profit when they do not have the income of the membership lots. I do not agree with hiring a company and before they get started, tell them how to do their job. They should be allowed to do their job and if their recommendation incudes closing the 9 hole course, then it will be up to us to decide whether or not to take their recommendations. We will not be the first community to close a course short term until we learn to manage our income better and can afford to once again open the course.
Holley: As I stated at the Candidate Forum, the golf study can be a good thing. In my opinion, nothing should have been excluded in the study. No matter what the study concludes, the B.O.C. would still be allowed to make decisions based on what is best for the HI property owners.
Lemme: I agree with the boards decision that study firm cannot recommend closing 9 hole course.
Noonan: Yes, I agree with bringing in the outside firm. They have broad expertise that the BOC or community does not have, and we need some guidance to move forward. If the firm has recommendations that will reduce expenses (or increase revenues), it may pay for the study. I would have preferred that they did not stipulate what the firm recommendations would be. I believe this was added because there is very strong support from residents that the 9-hole course stays open. In general, the BOC is not obligated to implement every suggestion the outside firm makes. The BOC will review the study and findings and decide what cost cutting measures and revenue enhancements will work well for all our residents.
7. Fewer than 20 percent of the district's residents play golf, yet the district runs a $300,000 deficit, made up by assessments (some say closer to $500,000 once you add in "hidden" costs). Do you think this is a proper expenditure of assessments? If not, how, specifically, would you propose to change it?
Elmore: For 30 years, that system worked and worked well. Do not forget that the majority of the assessments paid are paid by people who do not live here. These are people who bought lots here so they could use the club. A club that was open only to those who own property. Our lots were owned by businesses in Eureka Springs, Berryville and several surrounding communities. When you mention a $500,000 deficit, remember that the people who owned lots and were not residents paid in excess of $1.4 million per year in assessments. They paid their assessment to keep up the golf course. The golf course was the main reason they paid. No one pays $450 per year so they can camp or swim. Golf is the key to the community. The decision to make the course public has caused us to lose over half of those property owners in the past three years. I simply cannot understand throwing out the whole system on which our financial structure was based. Every realtor stood up and told the board that it would ruin the property sales in the community, but the board decided they knew more than the realtors.
Holley: In my opinion, both golf courses should remain open. The golf courses add to the beauty of HI and every property owner should pay something to keep them operational. With that said, golf is very reasonable here in comparison to other courses, so perhaps fees paid by actual golfers vs. those paid from assessments should be proportioned a different way. I would add that the beauty of the golf course is what sold us on HI because neither of us played golf when we moved here.
Lemme: I would help with budget and expenses to reduce deficit on golf course.
Noonan: Kate Lucariello of Carroll County News, I am disappointed in you, reporting on hearsay. Where did $500,000 come from? This is not fact and I can't defend hearsay. HI was developed around two golf courses plus the other amenities. They are an integral part of the community and need to continue to be maintained and operated. The best marketing tool for Holiday Island is for the community to be attractive, well maintained and "fresh" looking. Keeping all amenities looking good will help bring in more residents. More residents will make the amenities pay for themselves.
8: Do you think the golf course should be open to the public? Why?
Elmore: Why would a person pay $450 per year to own a lot so he could play golf when a person off of the street can play for less money than a property owner? Since the course was made public, we have lost 1,700 lots that have been paid for many years. That has reduced our income by $750,000 per year and will probably exceed $1 million dollars a year in the future. We had over 3,200 lots that were owned by people who did not live here. It took less than three years to lose more than half of them and the number is growing. The lots were vacant land and were purchased so that the owner had the exclusive use of the amenities at Holiday Island. To my knowledge, no study was ever made of the impact of making the courses public. Losing $750,000 to bring in a tiny fraction of that amount in public play does not seem like a viable business decision. It seems to me to be a decision made on a whim without serious consideration made to the long term repercussions. Our lot sales will not resume as long as the courses are public.
Holley: In my opinion, the golf courses should remain open to the public. The open golf course policy brings guests, who might not visit HI otherwise, and outside money to help with expenses. I eat at the Clubhouse often and know that many of these guests spend additional money in the Pro Shop and grill. Without the open course policy, this additional money would not be received.
Lemme: As far as public golf, I will have to see numbers from the study for that and also for improvement projects decisions.
Noonan: The BOC has retained a consulting firm to study the golf course operations including revenue and expenses. I would like to review the results of this study. At that time the BOC will consider the options that have been presented. To say anything different would imply that I don't care what the recommendations are.
9. Do you agree with District Manager Dennis Kelly's recommendations to encumber the district in debt on various capital improvement projects rather than use reserves? Why?
Elmore: Making the amenities public, along with other problems has caused us to lose more than $750,000 per year in income. The budget was figured for this year and not a single cut was made in the 18 hole golf course. Making the course public was supposed to bring in extra income. It has not. If changes to the golf course have caused us to lose money, borrowing money so that we can maintain the same level of spending at the golf course does not make sense. We must make cuts in spending, not borrow money. Making cuts makes board members very unpopular but it was the board's decisions that caused the deficits. Borrowing money only shifts the problem to a later date. It then becomes a problem with interest. Holiday Island is not the federal government. We cannot play Santa Claus and just print more money because we cannot balance our budget.
Holley: Unfortunately, I do not know enough of the details of this expenditure to have an opinion.
Lemme: [No answer.]
Noonan: There are a few projects that need to be financed because of the urgency and/or the size of the project. I could see adopting a policy or guideline that we can't exceed maybe some percentage of our reserves. Even that kind of a guideline would have some exceptions. (For example -- something on the level of a covered pool building).
10. Do you feel the district should spend $60,000+ for a full-time deputy? Why?
Elmore: I met with the new Sheriff-elect Randy Mayfield on three separate occasions. His platform was that he was sheriff for "all of Carroll County". I asked him specifically about the agreement we had with the incumbent sheriff and why we had to pay for protection that we are already paying taxes for. It was as though we were being held hostage. While he stopped short of saying that he would put a deputy here full time, he did say we would not be held hostage and be charged for the services of a deputy. Equally important and never mentioned is the sheriff's office here at Holiday Island. That office, including the water and electricity, was paid for by the developer, Tom Dees. I met with Tom along with Randy Mayfield. Tom agreed that if the new sheriff would put a deputy on this side of the county, he would furnish the office complete with the utilities as he has always done in the past. Not only does he furnish this office, he even pays the assessment on the property. He is then told he cannot run for commissioner because he was late on an assessment. Something is very wrong here.
Holley: It is my opinion, that we need to have a deputy who responds to HI. Since a new sheriff was elected, perhaps the amount that we pay can be less.
Lemme: I would like to spend some on security cameras at gates instead of paying for a deputy ... maybe talk to the new Carroll County sheriff.
Noonan: In general, I think our county taxes should pay for the Sheriff Department protecting our property and responding to crime. Perhaps the election of a new sheriff will give us some additional options to consider.
11. Do you agree with requiring board nominées to be current on assessments and utility bills to become candidates and property owners to be current on assessments to vote?
Elmore: I have talked with two attorneys and one judge. All agree that what the board did is illegal. We have that mentality we had in the past of "I will do what I want until a judge tells me I can't." Well, in the last big lawsuit, the judge told the board they couldn't and it cost us a few hundred thousand of the property owners' money to find out. It is just another one of the petty regulations made up by the board. It serves no purpose. I have had managers in the past who have made micromanaging decisions when they have lost grasp of the big picture. I am not saying this is the current board's mode of operation, just a personal observation.
Holley: Yes, I feel that a candidate's payment of assessments and utilities should be current. I also feel that a voter should be current with their payments to HISID.
Lemme: I don't totally agree with board's requirements for running for office as I overlooked paying my personal house assesments last year myself and had to pay 25% penalty ... my fault but just oversight.
Noonan: Yes. The BOC passed these guidelines prior to candidates being nominated and I think they are reasonable. We want board members who are fiscally responsible with their personal affairs. I also agree that property owners should be current to vote.
12. Many times in the past, property owners have asked for the large swimming pool to be covered for year-round use. Do you feel this would be a valuable asset to attracting buyers to the community? If so, will you work to accomplish it?
Elmore: Three years ago when this was a private community and we had 3,200 lot owners who paid assessments just to enjoy the recreational amenities, then it would have been a definite yes. Now that the amenities are all open to the public, the funding would be a problem. Except for the funding, it is a good thing to have a covered pool. We must bear in mind that in addition to the capital outlay of the building and equipment, the pool must then be heated year round. Heating a pool is a very expensive endeavor, especially when it must be heated year round. We would need to do a study on it and I will be happy to undertake that study. I have built and maintained a few large commercial pools in the past. There are also several active solar systems that can reduce the utility cost in the long run. I actually met with a solar representative last week and we discussed that option as a possible future endeavor.
Holley: For those who use the pool, it would be nice for it to be covered so that it could be used all year. However, I am not sure that it would be a strong selling point to bring new property owners. At this present time, and without further details, I am not sure I could be a strong supporter of enclosing the pool.
Lemme: [Answer given for questions 12-14] Budget for roads and other projects such as pool cover would have to be decided on after budgets are looked at.
Noonan: Yes. We need to review all possible amenity upgrages. Additional hiking trails have also been mentioned. We would need to include expenses for these amenities in our master plan.
13. How do you feel road paving/repairs should be prioritized?
Elmore: As I stated, I have owned and operated two asphalt plants and have paved over a hundred miles of roads. I have built interstate highways and church parking lots. I know roads. It depends on funding as we cannot always do what we want. Waiting until there is an emergency problem is the least efficient way to manage a road system but it is often the only way due to funding constraints. Making a repair when you have the very first signs of base failure is best for an area like ours. It is always best to overlay or reseal a road at the first signs of deterioration and water infiltration, but that is only for communities that have an excess of funds. If we can afford to make repairs at the first sign of base failure, that will be best for us, but reacting to a problem before it becomes too serious is probably the best we can do at this time.
Holley: At the present time, I do not have enough information to answer this question.
Lemme: [See question #12)]
Noonan: First priority should be unpassable roads, the ones that get washed out. The repairs should include enough additional work to prevent a washout again. The next priority should be to repair damaged roads that are causing damage to vehicles. Then follow up with maintenance on existing roads. I also would like to see a schedule of upgrading the more traveled roads. This would be a lower priority but it is important as we hopefully grow.
14. Individual questions:
Mr. Elmore, at the Homeowners forum, you said that lot sales is the key to fixing many of the problems here. How do you propose for that to occur, given that under state law and the Bischoff settlement, HISID cannot legally market its lots and can spend no more than 2 percent of its Assessment of Benefits on advertising?
I have repeated this many times, but for 30 years, we sold lots because this was a private community. 3,200 undeveloped lots were owned by local businesses and individuals so that they could enjoy the amenities of a private club. We were the only one in this immediate vicinity. It took only three years for us to lose half of those lots because the board decided, against the recommendations of every realtor, to make the courses public. For many years, the developer that bought this property owned and sold lots. Very few were ever turned in or seized for nonpayment of assessments or taxes. We lost over 1,700 in three years and to make up for the loss, against existing contracts, the board decided that the developer who made the regulations to start with would be charged assessments on lots that he owned and had not yet sold. Some of the decisions being made are beyond my comprehension. To tell the developer that you are charging him assessments on all of the lots he is trying to sell is suicide. You could not have taken more steps to destroy the community if you had set out purposefully to do so.
Ms. Holley, at the Homeowners forum, you referred often to communication being key, people agreeing to disagree and coming to a compromise. Knowing how divided the community has been in the last several years, what specifically would you do to bring opponents to communicate and compromise?
I believe good communications is the key to solving many issues. Everyone has a right to an opinion and the ability to express that opinion. Meeting one to one in an informal setting, with an open mind and respect, to discuss the issue could be a way to improve communications. In addition, if there were a way to legally make more information available from HISID, this could perhaps bring better understanding and less rumors, which cause hard feelings, concerning B.O.C. decisions.
Mr. Lemme, at the Homeowners forum, you listed roads as number one in the top three most important issues. How much of the budget do you feel should be devoted to them, and if you had to cut funds from other projects, where would you cut them, specifically?
[See Question #12.]
Mr. Noonan, at the Homeowners forum, you said the community has "multiple developers that need help." What did you mean by that, and what kind of help do you see the district offering? Are you open to working with developer Tom Dees as well, and if so, how?
Holiday Island has had several previous developers that date back to the 1960's with the first couple from Texas that bought this land while the lake was still less than a few years old. So several developers have come and gone, but Holiday Island is still here. I would welcome a new developer or developers. Per the Carroll County News as reported by Kate Lucariello on Monday, February 6, 2012, and minutes of the BOC meeting, the last developer has resigned. The contract between that developer and HISID is not in effect. So I view that developer as a previous developer now trying to sell out and leave. Some lots are being sold and some houses are still being built, so limited development is still going on by several smaller developers. I am open to working with any developer or developers the BOC contracts with for services. As far as how, that is something to be negotiated.
15. Anything else to add?
Elmore: What would you say in an advertisement? COME MOVE TO HOLIDAY ISLAND. WE WERE ONCE AN EXCLUSIVE GOLF COMMUNITY BUT NOW WE ARE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. YOU CAN ACTUALLY PLAY GOLF HERE CHEAPER IF YOU DO NOT OWN PROPERTY HERE. I cannot imagine selling too many lots, but we are not selling any as it stands. People all over the state laugh aloud when you mention Holiday Island. Some of the decisions and statements made by our boards are amusing to people who do not live here. The people who live here do not find them one bit funny. We have a lot of problems that I cannot fix. All I can do is stop the bleeding until time heals them. Some people offer a quick fix and lots of promises. To offset the $750,000 annual loss created by our regulations, we will borrow money so everyone can enjoy the same level of enjoyment they have now. I will not participate in such suicidal foolishness. If I am not elected because I will not play Santa Claus, then so be it. I will make the best business decisions I can that are available to me for the benefit of all residents. Nothing less.
Holley: Perhaps I live in a "dream world" but I believe each person here likes Holiday Island and the people who live here. It is time for positive attitudes and for us to move forward.
Lemme: [No answer.]
Noonan: My wife and I worked hard and saved our money to be able to have a comfortable retirement. Our home at Holiday Island makes up a significant part of our savings. If I am elected, I will work hard within the legal guidelines, to protect our property values, maintain and improve the Holiday Island infrastructure, and keep Holiday Island looking attractive. This is an important part of attracting new residents. I will study and research the issues and make honest, informed decisions. Thanks, Bill Noonan.
Early voting starts Nov. 17 and runs through Dec. 1 at the district office at 110 Woodsdale Drive. Election Day is Dec. 2, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the district office. Absentee ballots must be returned by 6 p.m., Dec. 2, to be valid. For more information, contact the district office at 479-253-9700.