HI Needs Study finds residents want fitness center, covered, heated pool

Friday, September 21, 2007

HOLIDAY ISLAND -- The preliminary results of the Holiday Island Recreation Needs Study are in, and they come as no surprise: property owners want a fitness center and a covered, heated swimming pool.

The results were presented at the Board of Commissioners Sept. 17 work session by Dr. Joseph Gaa from the University of Arkansas, who was commissioned to do the survey in June.

He said out of 3,000 surveys sent out to resident and non-resident property owners, 921 were returned, about 30 percent, which is a good rate of return, he said.

Gaa said 490, or 59 percent of the respondents are permanent residents. Eleven percent have children in the household and 11 percent did not complete the survey.

In terms of the top three facilities desired, 437 wanted a fitness center, 394 an indoor pool and 354 a walking/biking trail. In order of preference, others wanted an indoor walking track, a movie theater, a library, a community meeting building, a park playground, a performing arts center, a gymnasium, a computer lab, a racquetball court, a game room and an indoor tennis court.

As for programs, the top three requested were fitness classes, organized trips and computer classes.

Gaa noted the discrepancy between those who want computer classes, but a computer lab being low on the list of desired facilities.

In his observations, Gaa said he heard a lot about guilds and groups already at Holiday Island, and because of that, he said, "I'm going to recommend you keep programs to a minimum and let your guilds do the programming, to avoid duplication."

He said The Barn was a huge topic. It has been controversial because it is costly to heat and cool and, although used extensively, is not practical for many activities. It has been hotly defended, however, by those who value it as one of the last historical buildings still standing in Holiday Island.

"I heard everything from 'Save the Barn!' to 'Set it on fire right now!'" Gaa said.

He suggested creating a non-profit organization and the district giving The Barn to them for use as a library or museum. The organization would have to hold fund-raisers for its upkeep, but they would be more eligible for grants than the suburban improvement district would, he said.

Gaa also suggested doing a feasibility study on the golf courses. He asked whether seasonal employees are being utilized effectively and whether Holiday Island really needs two golf courses.

Commissioners discussed the age-old problem of funding improvements from assessments versus user fees and how either one is difficult for people living on a fixed income, especially those who did not save enough to cover current retirement needs.

Gaa said the typical pattern of building community centers or recreation facilities is to pass a tax to build it and charge user fees to run it.

"In any community center I've ever seen, they have been able to operate it with user fees," he said.

The final report will be out in another week or so. That version will look at the responses from more detailed angles, he said.

In other business, the board:

* Did not further discuss the high-use water volume rate break regulation. The second reading and vote on it will be held at Monday's business meeting.

* Heard District Manager Kevin Crosson recommend a bid award to Luber Brothers of Dallas, Texas, for a golf course turf sprayer as the lowest of three bids, at $20,466. The board will vote on this at its business meeting.

* Discussed an upcoming bid opening for the 2007 single chip-and-seal paving program. A bid opening was held yesterday at the district office. A vote may be taken at the business meeting.

The board will hold its business meeting Monday at 9 a.m. at the district office at 110 Woodsdale Drive. The public is welcome.

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