Holiday Island: Three seek one commission seat
HOLIDAY ISLAND -- Candidates Dan Kees, David Bischoff and Greg Davis (incumbent) each argued his case Monday, Nov. 9 in hopes of being elected Dec.1 to the Holiday Island Suburban Improvement District Board of Commissioners. About 100 voters attended the public forum, held in the Clubhouse. Moderator Mary Jo Rozumalski led the event using a League of Women Voters format, allowing a different candidate to answer first on each succeeding question. Candidates had two minutes to answer each question.
Opening statements were mostly limited to brief descriptions of each office seeker's background: see bulleted items at the end of this article.
When asked what each had done for the community since becoming a resident, David Bischoff mentioned doing volunteer work for the Holiday Island Theater Guild. He is also known for is leading a class-action illegal exaction suit that culminated in a 2013 ruling forcing HISID to credit property owners for more than $3 million in miscellaneous fees attached to water payments. Bischoff sees the ruling as bringing more accountability to HISID.
Greg Davis, a resident since 1981, touted his involvement in selling lots in Holiday Island since 1983 -- a time when there was very little here. He considers that experience and his past three years as commissioner, during which he was often the minority in 4-to-1 decisions, as his main contributions to the community.
Dan Kees serves as a coordinator for the Holiday Island Hikers and volunteers in Christmas lighting work. He was scheduled to meet the next day with representatives from the National Park Service to discuss ideas for developing more trails in Holiday Island.
Next was the question of what to do about HISID's subsidizing of the two golf courses, clubhouse and restaurant. That was followed later by the question "would you rather close a golf course or a swimming pool?"
Davis disagreed with the $300,000 annual cost to property owners that was put forth in the question. Davis said the actual cost would likely go up substantially in next year's budget. He is against closing golf courses, citing a possibility of lawsuits following the closure of amenities. He said he would very much like to see the golf courses here leased to a management company like Troon Golf that manages golf in Hot Springs Village. Davis admits finding such a leasing deal is difficult and would take time.
Kees disagreed with Davis by saying he had seen no numbers indicating an increase in the golf deficit. He did agree there should be no closures of golf courses and predicted that if any amenity is closed now because of revenue then it would only be a matter of time before the district would be looking at closing another. According to Kees, part of the solution needs to be having golfers pay more for the sport.
Bischoff said he would not like to close a golf course but was willing to put anything on the table for logical analysis.
"The question is not do we need golf but how much do we need," he said. He went on to cite a nationwide decline in the sport -- an idea that even golf legend Arnold Palmer has acknowledged.
Are other suburban improvement districts addressing these same problems more efficiently? That led into comparisons with SIDs that have incorporated.
Kees said Cherokee Village seems to be incorporating with some success. He said later that someday Holiday Island might have to incorporate, but that more data was needed on the benefits of incorporation. Also there is the question of a $5 million sewer plant bond that must be addressed. "You can't just dissolve a SID that owes money," Kees said.
Bischoff's take on incorporation was blunt.
"We are going to become a city," he said. "Let's get it over with."
Davis said Point Royale SID seems to be doing well but is paying much higher assessments to do so. He cautioned against pricing potential property buyers out of the market in Holiday Island. On incorporation Davis said later that SIDs get into trouble by retaining parts of SID infrastructures like property owners associations. He likened that to a community insisting upon having two governments.
All three candidates seemed to agree that Holiday Island has tremendous assets in scenic beauty and in the fact that it is the only SID in the state with water and sewer to every lot. They also agreed that there are revenue problems caused by approximately 1,700 property owners who simply stopped paying assessments after the recent economic downturn. Selling those lots to convert them back into assessment-generating properties will probably remain a goal in Holiday Island for some time to come.
Kees is a Vietnam veteran who purchased two lots here in 2007 and has lived here since 2013. He has a bachelor of science degree in industrial technology and spent 40 years in manufacturing. His largest plant had 450 employees and $75 million in annual sales.
Bischoff has lived in Holiday Island for 11 years and is a Navy veteran and a certified nuclear power engineer and operator. He has a master's degree in business administration with emphasis in marketing. He is a licensed real-estate broker and has worked in large scale agriculture, retail merchandising, marketing and sales
Davis attended Bentonville High School and studied at Arkansas Tech University from 1980-1983. He has been a licensed real-estate agent/broker in Holiday Island since 1983 and has served as owner/operator of Holiday Island Realty since 1998. He is a three-year incumbent.
More biographical information on these candidates can be found in the online Holiday Island Suburban Improvement District Newsletter at www.HolidayIsland.com.