Category Archives: Infrastructure

Effluent Water Homework Group

When the effluent water issue is decided, according to the proposal one person will oversee administration (not operation) of the venture in the name of all the HOAs. That person needs to be someone who has proven effective as a team player, has extensive administrative experience combined with a reputation for integrity and transparency, and who has openly supported all options being seriously considered, not just that $1.9 million bond which could sink residents.

The question is, will residents of all three HOAs vote for that person, or will the decision be made by a small group of insiders who appoint a crony? We know the South has historically not supported transparency, evidenced in this issue by the blast sent by the RVS HOA manager disparaging the planned recent (and as it turned out highly informative and objective!) information meeting at the fire station as “premature” and “non-sanctioned” while the North and La Entrada sent blasts to all residents informing them of the meeting and encouraging participation!

So who will be the overseer (czar)? What would be the interests/benefit to that person? Who would want to do it, and why? What should be the qualifications? Remember, this would be a master HOA supposedly representing all three HOAs for the effluent water issue. Bear in mind that part of the reason, stated by Warren Thompson at the meeting as a reason that Ranchland Utility is selling, is the absolute impossibility of the three HOAs to work together toward resolution. From what I’ve heard, the South has been particularly cantankerous and uncooperative, moving the homework to the last minute before elections, etc. We need someone residents can trust to do the job right, honestly, and transparently!

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Notes from irrigation meeting — August 19, 2015

For those of you who did not attend the meeting, following are the highlights. About 50 people from all three HOAs attended.

Introduction of presenters: Teri Buhl, (moderator), Marcia Kaplan, Bruno Keller

Purpose of meeting — Teri Buhl

  • Inform residents regarding water recycling system
  • Discuss Molzen Corbin Engineering Recommendations Report
  • Present Funding Options
  • Stress importance of participating in October Homework group

First Presentation: Irrigation system–Bruno Keller, RVN participant in committee to review community options

Map of entire Rancho Viejo community (slide) — What is critical to understand is that the use of recycled water is an Interdependent System that requires all communities to cooperate.

  • 10 years of Irrigation Issues–original contract for recycled water was w/SunCorp and then transferred to Univest
  • Over the past 10 years, coordination of volumes, cycling schedules between the North & South experienced many difficulties
  • Spending on improvement has been minimal
  • Different landscaping services contribute to complexity of the system
  • Cost of recycled water significantly higher than fees charged by Ranchland to homeowners; compare w/Santa Fe City fees charged ($1 per 1,000 gallons vs. $3.26)

Technical Information (slides)

Qs & Responses following presentation:

Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) Statistics

Constraints:

  • 2 tandem pumps, high powered are installed but only go off/on, thus pumps can burn up quickly if run continuously,
  • designated days for irrigation – 3 days for South; 2 days for North, but no clocks to monitor schedule
  • limitation of 120,000 gal/day amount
  • La Entrada (LE)-150 house (current)
  • Windmill Ridge (North and South) – 755 home
  • Village 1 & 2 (North)- 330 home
  • Distance & Elevation

Village 1 & 2, North – pressure too much, so frequent breakage of pipes

Windmill Ridge (South) – not enough pressure

MolzenCorbin study:

Recommend 3 pumping stations w/3 holding tanks (one for each community); one 500,000 gal tank at the Waste Water Treatment Plant – constraint pump 120,000 gal/day

Advantage:

-possibly less smell and sediment

-ease of choosing any flow rate of convenience, but the same limitations of 120,000 gal/day

-elimination of cycling of tandem pumps

Could also use much smaller pumps that run all day instead of 2 powerful pumps

Q: What is the life cycle of the pumps, of tank…rehab costs, life cycle of pipes that feed the individual units and the feeders?

Depends on usage and pressure issues; North – the pressure is too high; they have installed pressure reduction pipes and now have much less problems.

Q/Comment: Previous Landscape committee chair suggested 2 solutions: 1-for the utility company…install a drive to control on/off feature of pumps; 2-dredge the pond at the end of each season to remove sediment, install high capacity filter as water enters the pond…

South: because of lower press–install booster pumps at WR4…& clean filters

If effluent cannot be deliver have individual homeowners water their landscape, and employ buffalo tank to water common area….cost $200 a year for each homeowner…

Response Cass Thompson: Pond is a lined pond so can’t be dredged; The direction given to MolzenCorbin was to solve the all the irrigation problems for the entire community

Q: Paul Keaton: We must all agree…who is not agreeing to work together?….

Response: Major interference came from South board members.

Q: Judy Reinhart: How much money has North spent to correct pressure problems? Response: $12-15,000 to install pressure reduction piping.

Qs … Are there any other consumers?

R:Amy Biel school has requested to be put on line.

Q…La Entrada will have more houses that are not currently being counted – 1250 total houses

R: They will be providing effluent that will add water to the system.

Q: John Crawly LE…What areas do the associations water? R: Common areas only, not individual houses. Estate and Conservation lots receive no recycled water. They are responsible for all their landscaping

Q/Comment: Jerry Wells, N…Water should go by acreage.

R: The acreage is basically the same, equal areas for all association common areas

Q: Susan Knight N…Any survey done to determine which of our landscape are xeric?

Deciduous trees take water and are in front of houses. Charlie Brown LE … In LE, tree in front of house is watered by the homeowner.

Q: Jim Johnson S…Is there a job order for maintenance of the filters?

Yes, in the N, in the S … not certain of what is in the contract w/landscaping company

Q: Jessica S…Why does Ranchland want to get out of the business of delivering gray water? Response: Warren Thompson: Ranchland is in the business of processing effluent, not providing gray water. We have done it in the past, and continue to date, but there have been too many problems working with 3 different associations.

Q: Laura Trujuillo—Why would the associations want to be in the recycle business?

Second Presentation: Financial Aspects–Marcia Kaplan

What’s not in the MozenlCorbin Report:

  • Operating cost estimates
  • Maintenance costs estimates
  • Reserve funding estimates
  • Future growth estimates
  • Management structure for all 3 HOAs

Proposal suggested that there be a master HOA to handle irrigation, a superstructure. Questions that occur are: Who would run this superstructure? and what would the developer participation be? What would a joint management agreement look like and much would it cost per year? Who would actually manage the Wastewater treatment plant.

Options:

  • Use no irrigation for common areas.
  • $1.9 million purchase price of proposed system.

How to pay for it? Special assessment? Loan from Ranchland & pay over time? Bank loan? Bond? (County extends its bonding capacity on community financing projects, so bonds are tax free, but they are not backed by county. Bonds are paid through property taxes levied, based on property assessed value. Bonds have additional fixed cost, usually 20% over and above the money needed plus interest, and because attached to property taxes, it means homeowners with higher property value pay more. This is particulary inequitable because Estate lots which have no street scape, would pay the most. Have heard rumors that this is the preferred way to finance, but very costly

  • It might be prudent to hired a financial expert to advise on best way to finance.
  • Explore other options.

Qs & Responses following presentation:

Q: Chris …This is the physical cost going in. What about the cost for deferred maintenances? and it is not an attractive purchase, so there may be additional cost.

Response: Cass Thompson: We don’t know what’s the best way to go. That’s why we would recommend participating in the Homework group.

Comment: Jerry … N The associations are putting away reserve funds for replacements In the N we are putting away $33,000 a year but it is being used for current repairs.

Carl Moore Homework Group facilitator

How the Homework group works:

All residents are invited to participate; dates scheduled for the end of October management will participate along w/residents; through learning, planning, choosing, can make decisions through consensus.

Meetings schedule for last 2 weeks of Oct…1st mtg Sat, the 17th, all are invited. Then those who want to participate in 4-5 small group meetings following

Comment...Homework group can’t decide on this type of issue for the entire community. It is an educational process, not a decision making group.

Q: Marty from LE: What’s the timeline, before the Utility company needs an answer?

Comment: Dick W… S…I thought the Board has the power to take out a loan on our behalf.

Q: Kathy…would this system have any warranty?

Comment:Risks of Not Resolving Irrigation Issues

Systems are aging and failing

Main irrigation pump failure could drive Ranchland to ask for money to replace

Ranchland could stop providing irrigation water

Ranchland already uses irrigation pond water for construction use.

Comment: Bill..Previous developer was using the pond for construction, and we asked that they not continue, and they obliged.

Comment: Larry Peppers N…what would be the problem of converting to potable water,

Bruno slide…

Cost for N $25,000 for irrigation water and repair; .divide by 50 trees equals … (see slide) county code, requires that you put the water into the system…will be much more costly

Comment: Judy…V1&2. We paid for the boulevard, and getting into the bond business, is quite expensive

Q: Chrystal … I’m confused. How does homework group help us get to decision?

Q: Paul…Does this technical solution solve the political problem? 

Response: Warren Thompson: no, must be equitable for all.

Comment: Chris S…There is an undercurrent. But get some other alternatives out. There is a lack of knowledge. The homework group may be able to provide that knowledge to assist the boards make a decision. Once we finance any system, we are married to it.

Comment: RVS Landscape Committee needs to work w/landscape contractor on improved scheduling of irrigation timers, and continue educating residents regarding xeriscaping which is still an issue.

Comment: Charlie B… LE. I am astonished at how quickly these pipes have failed. We don’t have the expertise.

Q: Kathy…Who will operate the WWTP? Q..Who will operate the irrigation system?

Comment: Warren Thompson: It is critical to come up w/an email list for all the HOAs so that information can be sent out in a more cost effective manner than mailings.

Next Steps

  • Develop other operating and equipment options
  • Continue refining cost figures to build an accurate water treatment budget; include operating costs and facility management costs; include long term maintenance budget figure; include detailed reserve funding needs;
  • Develop funding options other than a public bond

Why Doesn’t the RVS Board Want Residents to be Informed?

Residents of Rancho Viejo South received an e-mail blast from Vince Montoya on August 17 stating that the Board of Directors has not “sanctioned” the August 19 meeting about changes in the provision of recycled water for irrigation. Last time I checked, Rancho Viejo was in the United States, a country founded on the principle of freedom of speech. Nobody who lives here needs permission from the Board to hold a meeting, share information, or express an opinion.

The Boards of Rancho Viejo North and La Entrada have both sent out notices about this meeting to all residents via e-mail. Although requested to do the same, the South Board refused.

I invited the RVS Board member who attended all the meetings with Ranchland Utility regarding the sale of the irrigation system to speak at the August 19 meeting twice and never received the courtesy of a response. Our Board seems to be committed to doing everything in private and providing as little information as possible to homeowners.

Why is our Board so hostile to the exchange of information?

Although a few Board members have given lip service to an atmosphere of greater transparency, their actions show they have no real interest in dialog. Rather their attitude is one of, “We’ll tell you what you need to know, if we think you need to know, and if you don’t like it, move.” Yes, Board members have told residents to move if they object to Board views. If these individuals have such scorn for residents why are they on the Board? They are supposed to represent our interests, not scold us for exercising our rights.

The reason we are holding this meeting is that the Board has consistently failed to share information that affects the interests of RVS homeowners. They have created an environment of distrust.

In this instance, homeowners could be paying a substantial amount of money for taking over the ownership of the irrigation infrastructure. Doesn’t that deserve a discussion?

Yes a homework group is planned. I have participated in such a group. They usually involve a major time commitment over several days or weeks, precluding working people from attending. It is also possible that only certain alternatives will be presented, while the August 19 meeting will cover a wider range of options.

I encourage all RVS residents to attend this meeting. Dialog and dissemination of information is never detrimental.

INFORMATION MEETING NOTICE: IRRIGATION – BIG CHANGES ON THE WAY?

ALL RESIDENTS OF RVS, RVN, AND LA ENTRADA INVITED

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19TH 6:45 P.M.

FIRE STATION ON RANCHO VIEJO BOULEVARD

 Ranchland Utilities, which provides recycled sewage water for our common area irrigation, intends to get out of the recycled water business. The three HOAs are in discussions to buy the infrastructure and water for the irrigation.

Molzen Corbin, an engineering firm, has performed an evaluation of the current effluent reuse system. Molzen Corbin has made recommendations for improvements and provided cost estimates.

 Estimated costs just for infrastructure are $1.9 million for the Molzen Corbin suggested improvements. This does not include operating costs.

Rancho Viejo residents would have to pay for infrastructure improvements and ongoing operations if we buy the system. How we would pay has not yet been determined.

Residents who have been involved in the process will provide an assessment of where we stand and some technical information. Alternatives for funding will also be discussed.  

If you care about our neighborhood trees, plants, and green areas, please attend.

The final Molzen Corbin report is available for RVS residents on the community website under Community Documents: A(E)ffluent System Recommendation Report

http://www.hoamcoweb.com/ranchoviejosouth/document_view.asp?id=224

You must be logged in to access it.

Where Is Our Water?

Some residents are wondering why the irrigation water isn’t turned on yet – usually start-up happens near the end of April, accompanied by complaints that the water smells bad (until bacteria in the water lines clears out).  Heads-Up was seen doing some testing, but after that, no system activity.  Wonder why ….

We were all told that everything was wonderful in OZ at the Annual Meeting last November, but if so, where’s our water?  Perhaps we’re lucky we’ve had rain and some snow during April and May – time for the new BOD to get their story straight ….

Irrigation Engineering Study

Ranchland Utilities requested an engineering study (each association paid  ~$5K for the MolzenCorbin study) to examine repair and maintenance costs, and make recommendations regarding future upgrades to the system to ensure that the entire community has irrigation water as growth continues.  Please click on this link: Irrigation Future to go to the page on Irrigation and download a copy of the MolzenCorbin study.

Educate yourselves, residents!  The character of our community is at stake.  None of these costs were anticipated in the audit that was published at last year’s RVSCA annual meeting – nor are they in any reserve studies.

Ranchland utilities is proposing much needed “Homework Group” meetings and needs residents to participate.  They have asked each association for $2000 to pay for these facilitated meetings.  The RVSCA BOD decided at the April BOD meeting to ask R.U. to reduce the cost – indicating to some residents that they are not prioritizing this issue to the level it deserves.  Contact your BOD and ask them to publish the final study and support the Homework Group meetings – then get out there and attend the meetings!

Take a CLOSER LOOK at the Audit

Residents received another message from the Campaign/Community Manager that everything about the 2013 financial audit is “very good news”.  Too bad it’s not true.  Let’s take a closer look.  An “unqualified” audit means that no problems were found in terms of financial practices following GAAP.  That’s good.

The auditor also stated on page 1 that: “An audit involves performing procedures to obtain audit evidence about the amounts and disclosures in the financial statements.  The procedures selected depend on the auditor’s judgement, including the assessment of the risks of material misstatement of the financial statements, whether due to fraud or error.  In making those risk assessments, the auditor considers internal control relevant to the Association’s preparation and fair presentation of  the financial statements in order to design audit procedures that are appropriate in the circumstances, but not for the purpose of expressing an opinion on the effectiveness of the Association’s internal controlAccordingly, we express no such opinion . . . . We do not express an opinion or provide any assurance on the information [in the reserve study] because the limited procedures do not provide us with sufficient evidence to express an opinion or provide any assurance.”    That’s NOT good.

So what does all this accounting legalese mean?  It means the Auditor couldn’t publish an opinion about whether the Association is being effectively managed by the Board of Directors or not – or whether or not the reserves are properly funded Look at the date on the reserve study: June 2010!  And guess what else?  It was never approved by the previous board, because they had questions about the accuracy of infrastructure estimates and thought they were too low.  We don’t have a current reserve study and the engineering study by Ranchland Utilities won’t be finished until December.  If we have to complete major road repairs in 2015 all at once, it could wipe out our $1M+ reserve in one fell swoop.  (Even if the study were accurate, how can the campaign/community manager say reserves are adequately funded when the numbers add up to $8M plus?)

The audit also lumps a lot of categories together, so even though total expenses might look OK, you can’t see individual line item overruns, and there are several, especially in legal expenditures (over $30,000 in less than 3 years).  Previously, the Auditor presented their report to the whole board so they could review it, ask questions, and take corrective action – that didn’t happen this year and a flawed audit was sent to residents.

The HOAMCO CEO made a fine speech about how dissension in our neighborhood will reduce property values.  News flash, Justin – not taking care of roads, trails, and irrigation systems is what actually reduces property values!  Maybe the new directors will succeed where the previous “malcontents” did not, and convince the ostriches and president to pull their heads out of the … sand.  We need the new reserve study completed, so we know how to properly fund future infrastructure and irrigation maintenance.  We need the board to focus on community solutions instead of spending money on legal opinions and trying to force directors to resign when they ask inconvenient questions!  GO TO BOARD MEETINGS AND ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT SPENDING!  IT’S YOUR MONEY!