GRF Board meeting covers the gamut

Recycling, security, emergency planning top bill

Staff writer

CEO Tim O’Keefe delivered breaking news at the beginning of the Golden Rain Foundation (GRF) Board meeting last Thursday in Peacock Hall.

“I have good news, hot off the press,” said O’Keefe. “The health department did a final inspection of the café area in the Redwood Room yesterday and it passed. The new date for the new vendor (Kairi’s Kitchen) to open is now Aug. 5.”

That welcome news was followed by a buffet of topics, ranging from presentations on organics recycling, Rossmoor’s in-the-works Emergency Operations Plan, beefed-up security measures, to a discussion on new “visionary” ways to set Board goals and a lengthy debate on whether a non-resident could be president of the Medical Marijuana Club – the answer was “yes” – with a two-year time limit. The Board also agreed to a three-month trial change to the Residents Forum at Board meetings. The change will let people speak not just at the beginning of the meeting, but on agenda topics during the meeting, but before a final vote is taken.

“Let’s keep the sign-in cards so we don’t get a lot of frivolous comments in the middle of meetings,” advised Director Ken Anderson. Security cameras and alarms

Elizabeth Knefer kicked off the meeting’s Residents Forum by expressing support for more security at Rossmoor, specifically, more cameras at the Fitness Center.

“I had a creepy note put on my windshield and I’ve also witnessed a hit-and-run where the driver hit a car and just drove off,” said Knefer. “I hope cameras will deter that kind of behavior.”

Dennis Bell, GRF’s public safety manager, gave the Board an update on security cameras and alarms at GRFowned buildings. He explained that license plate reader cameras at the front gate have been used post-event to provide Walnut Creek police with “investigative leads.” And burglar alarms are effective at scaring burglars away.

Board President Bob Kelso pointed out that Rossmoor needs burglar alarms on GRF buildings to protect its assets.

“Even if we don’t install license plate readers, we do need to expand our coverage,” he said.

Citing crime statistics at Rossmoor, Director Mary Neff said, “Theft is down this year. How big is the problem is the question.”

Director Dale Harrington noted that burglar alarms and security cameras can be effective. “One study stated that 60% of burglars said they would choose another target if a home was alarmed,” said Harrington.

If the Board decides to add more alarms and cameras, Bell urged members to stick with GRF’s current vendor to allow for easy connectivity to the current system. He added that cameras won’t stop most of the hit-and-runs.

“Most of those are accidents, so cameras won’t stop that,” said Bell, adding that although it’s illegal, police are not likely to arrest anyone.

EOP in the works

Bell and Megan Stephenson, the risk, safety and emergency manager with the city of Walnut Creek, brought the Board up to date on emergency preparedness.

Bell explained that he has been working with the city, consultants Ellen Lopez and Associates, and a host of other agencies – including CERT – on Rossmoor’s new Emergency Operations Plan (EOP).

“We plan to have the first draft to stakeholders by the end of July, a draft to the Board by October and should have it finalized by the end of 2019,” said Bell, adding that community meetings for residents also will be scheduled before the EOP is done.

The plan includes a risk assessment of Rossmoor. Topping the list of risks were earthquakes and wildfires, followed by severe weather, landslides, dam failures, floods and sea level rises.

Bell emphasized that GRF doesn’t have the power to declare an emergency – the city has to do that.

“For instance, we can’t order an evacuation,” he said. “We have to coordinate and work with the city.”

Stephenson said the city takes a three-pronged approach to emergency preparedness: 1. pre-planning, for example working with other agencies; 2. evacuation –“shelter in place is the first option, evacuation is the last resort,” she said; and 3. re-populating, whether that’s partnering with the Red Cross to find shelter for evacuees, or getting people home safely.

“There are a lot of moving parts in all these stages,” said Stephenson. “But the most important thing is personal preparedness and making sure people are connected, for example by Nixle.”

She said good communication is crucial in an emergency and urges residents to sign up with the city of Walnut Creek’s Nixle system – which is separate from Nixle at Rossmoor.

Director Les Birdsall wanted to know how residents who live up the hill can get to a safe place, such as the golf course or Event Center, in an emergency.

“We will use our buses or turn to the city or county,” said Bell. “We are looking at how to get people to safety.”

Director Carl Brown said it’s important to do seismic upgrades to buildings.

“Seismic upgrades are really important,” said Stephenson. “I also highly recommend securing items in the home. A lot of damage and deaths are caused by unsecured items.”

In the event that regular communication systems, such as cell phones or Nixle fail, Stephenson said the city would employ HAM radios for communication – something that members of Rossmoor CERT and entry coordinators are trained to use.

Kelso hopes that once the EOP is published, a kind of cheat sheet can be available to residents who aren’t likely to plough through the whole manual – “something you can put on the wall or into your emergency go-bag.”

“We have plans to publish a small booklet,” said Bell.

Recycling at Rossmoor

Resident Diane Schwendinger brought up the timely topic of organic recycling during the Residents Forum.

“There’s no input or encouragement from the Board about composting food scraps in the new compost bins,” said Schwendinger, adding that she’d like to see food scrap containers in all the clubhouses, too. “Currently, all the food scraps at clubhouses go in the trash. Even the coffee cups aren’t recyclable because they have a wax lining. That’s hundreds of cups that go in the trash every week.”

Some of these issues were addressed in a presentation to the Board by Bart Carr, senior program manager with RecycleSmart, and Jency James, recycling coordinator with Republic Services.

“We started organics collection at Rossmoor on April 22 to coincide with Earth Day,” said Carr. “Now 80% of Rossmoor has organic recycling carts. There’s no additional cost for organics or recycling – in fact it can lower overall costs by reducing landfill.”

He recommended wrapping organics in compostable plastic bags, paper bags, or newspaper to help keep odors and flies at bay. Director Brown complained that his compostable bags break down.

“Double bag or line them with newspaper,” suggested Carr.

During a recent tour of GRF buildings, James noted plenty of ways to improve recycling at clubhouses, clubhouse kitchens and outdoor picnic areas.

“Adding food scrap bins in kitchens would be a great improvement, especially for catering events,” said James, adding that Creekside Grill already participates in the commercial food scrap program.

“I noted that often trash and recycling bins were at opposite ends of the room and that there’s no universal labeling system,” said James.

She recommends putting all the bins together, making sure they are color coordinated, for example blue for recyclables, and that bins are clearly labeled.

“It really helps people to understand what goes where,” said James.

She added that people might worry about bugs and rodents at scrap bins in picnic areas, but “there are ways to combat that.”

In other business

The Board discussed moving away from project-based goals to what Kelso called “more visionary” goals tied to specific objectives. It’s still a work in progress, but goals centered around the environment, online communication, encouraging public transportation, and projecting what Rossmoor might need 20 years from now.

In the Residents Forum, Wayne Leiser called Rossmoor a “Garden of Eden” and said it’s such a bargain that the Board should raise the coupon. He also suggested raising golf guest fees, which he considers “much too cheap.”

The Board mulled whether to change verbiage in the GRF policy for letters to the Rossmoor News, namely, to clarify to writers that the full address and phone number will not be printed in the paper. O’Keefe pointed out that that policy is clearly spelled out in the newspaper and that printing exact addresses and phone numbers would be a violation of privacy laws.

The Board approved moving $75,000, which represents 1.5% of current wages, into the Merit Market Adjustment Pool, which rewards nonunion employees.

The next GRF Board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, July 25, at 9 a.m. in Peacock Hall. There will be no midmonth meeting in July.

July 2, 2019