INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Roughly 80 residents turned out for a forum last Wednesday for the six candidates vying for three seats this November on the Incline Village General Improvement District Board of Trustees.
The candidates — Tim Callicrate, Jim Smith, Bea Epstein (incumbent), Bill Devine, Jim Hammerel and George Del Carlo — answered various questions about issues within the district and some of the larger hurdles facing the board in 2013 and beyond. Below are portions of the candidates' responses, presented in random order, to these three questions:
1. What is the preferred process to select a new general manager?
2. What is the view of recent financial losses at district venues, and should they should self-sustaining?
3. What is the reaction to current talks to create a draft Incline trails plan?
1. “The incoming board and only the incoming board should be the ones making the final hiring and salary decisions for the new leadership. We need to make sure we learn from past mistakes. We need to invite public input and solicit opinions from either the public or a small committee ... I for one would not vote for an employment contract longer than my term. I certainly welcome the current GM's input on that selection — but the new board should be responsible.”
2. “We budget to lose money, and that's what we do every year. We need to move in the direction of making these things pay for themselves, rather than have residents subsidize those losses. You can cut your costs, or increase your revenues. IVGID runs a very lean mean machine — that being said, there are certain areas where we hemorrhage money. We need to plug the holes and then devote the majority of attention to revenues, but if that doesn't work ... then we need to look at outsourcing. We have less than 800 members at the Rec. Center, and over half of those memberships are free memberships. We can monetize a larger pool of people to sustain the Rec. Center.”
3. “The trails that IVGID owns, IVGID can create a trail policy that's never been done before, never — IVGID can create a policy and decide what gets to be used, when it gets to be used, how it gets to be used. However, after those trails end, the forest service starts, and the only glimmer of hope we have is if we put together a trail plan of our own and submit that to the forest service. Chuck (Greene) wants to start a dialogue, what people what and don't want, and compile it into a plan. There are no plans on parking, no plans on advertising, not busing people to the trailheads — everyone has the chance to listen to Chuck speak and have their questions answered.”
1. “The new board has to have the primary decision making in picking the new GM ... but I don't believe in reinventing the wheel — I think we would want to go back and revisit the process that was used (before Bill Horn was hired in 2002) and manipulate that to fit the current time. It's incredibly important to involve the current GM, as far as feedback goes, but it's the incoming board's decision. I would want a cross section of the community when looking for the candidate, so we don't get tunnel vision on what we're looking for.”
2. “I think we have to look at all venues as an entire package, and look at making them profitable as best as we can — but we have to remember that, are we weighing that against the community's needs? If that's what we want, then that's the direction we go. If we want that, lower fees, than we have to counterbalance that with outside sources — that would be part of the marketing, which I also agree with. Looking at partnering with local businesses on concessions, equipment rentals. We've got to find the balance.”
3. “I run all those trails, so I hope there's not a misinterpretation of my view on this. There will be no parking, no commercialism, no overrunning of residential areas. The only way is to get involved with this — that doesn't mean planning trails through our neighborhoods. But we can give input. And that doesn't mean the forest service will or won't work with us. The forest service will most likely come with a plan to improve those tails or reroute them. We want to be involved with this and work with them; if we just put our head in the sand, they are going to go up there and they're going to do something with the trails, and there will be unintended consequences.”
1. “I do feel that it is important for those sitting currently on board who have experience of the running of the district and understand the role of the GM, they also be involved in the decision making process so they can provide feedback and input. The community too … there needs to be community input. There are professionals in this community who are in Human Resources who can provide guidance to the board or that search committee. The current GM would be able to provide a great deal of input as far as what is required, how much work is involved, the nature of the conflicts that position deals with, and other things.”
2. “I think that if we are to look at all our venues being self-sustainable, what kind of marketing will we put our energies into to draw people to this community so that those who come … are the financial foundation so that burden is not placed on the residents of the communities? If we don't engage in drawing people to this community, then we will always be faced with the burden of paying for these venues ourselves. That's why it's important the new GM, that businessperson, have that kind of background and that kind of vision … marketing plans to draw people to this community. Now, that will be met with resistance by many in this community who do not want to see an influx of visitors … however, we would be paying the bill for those venues to be sustainable. It simple: If we try to maintain them at a low cost, then the money has to come from somewhere.”
3. “Our role s to work with the forest service. If we put our heads in the sand, we lose. We need to sift out what exactly is being proposed and understand exactly what the forest service is envisioning. Our plan and their plan. All the rumors about parking and buses and helicopters, we know that all of that is not true — but how do we get that to the community at large? We need accurate information; we have responsibilities to protect those lands. We do need to be participants in that process, the new board. If you're not there, then you're part of the problem.”
1. “I think Jim Hammerel is spot on in terms of the process. I had the opportunity to interview … the three internal candidates recently. I always believe in promoting from within and having people set up and take over, but ... in my interviews with them, they weren't too certain. I think our strengths are in finance, utilities. A major weakness is community service. Let's look for someone in our community with a hospitality background, who has success in turning business around. That's the process.”
2. “I see huge opportunities in this area. Last year our Rec. Center lost $1M; it's projecting next year to lose $1.4 million ... almost every venue is projected to lose money. There are a lot of successful people in this room ... I was responsible for Brimms Catering and Incline Spirits (managing food/beverage at Snowflake Lodge and the Incline beaches), they've made over $100,000 and added employees, first one or two, then almost a dozen, and it's led to better service ... at the venues. Let's look at having local businesses help us. I really believe that our golf course, in two years, can break even, just using best practices.”
3. “It really goes to communication, that's what we really need to improve in this community. I know Chuck Greene, he's heading up this trails project. He's a a little frustrated, the message didn't get communicated right. Some people got upset because they think they're going advertise trails in their neighborhood and interrupt the peacefulness of our neighborhood. Chuck's interest is really he just loves the trails and wants them to be better. There are no plans to market the trails or market the neighborhoods.”
1. “Certainly it's important, getting input at large from the community on how to establish what the parameters would look like. I was on the board the last time we hired a new GM — the recruitment process, it's very doable within our community. As for the role of the GM — you want to find out what Mr. Horn has been involved in, and what some of the most pressing questions are facing us in the immediate future the community may not be aware of.”
2. “We own all our recreation facilities as a community. Many years back things were a lot cheaper to run, 15 or so years ago we were able to balance budgets. But as costs have escalated, so did wages and compensation of employees. I'm for making (venues) sustainable, but let's look into public/private partnering. There are a lot of businesses in the community — perhaps we team up. We still maintain ownership, make the contracts reasonable. We have the service component of our district; let's look at public/private partnerships in those areas, specifically with the golf courses and ski. But when you do that, we have employees that live here in community — and you just don't arbitrarily cut them out of the picture — these are people's lives and livelihoods.”
3. “Not just the board, but IVGID in general needs to find out all the information and sift it out, get the real truth of actually what is being proposed. I think the board can play a facilitating role, getting different partners and stakeholders together. I'm a little cautious saying the board is looking to take a cheerleading role ... I think that the process can be tweaked, the board should be aware and kept in the loop. There are creative ways to get information out there. I don't foresee we're going to spearhead this process, but we have some very pressing immediate concerns.”
1. “Yes, the final decision has to be with the new board. The new GM, he or she has got to have three things — one is a business background. Two is communication, he or she has got to be able to communicate, not only to the board and the staff, but down to the community. We have a communication problem in Incline Village. The third thing is he or she be proactive ... that person has to have vision and work toward that vision. The last thing is a leader. He or she has to know when it's time to call BS on something, time to stop something when it doesn't make sense, and change direction. I think the contract should be no more than 2 years, and I think the new GM, whoever that is, should be a full-time resident of Incline Village.”
2. “We do have to change our course so we at least cover the direct cost of our venues. A third party, I would not be opposed to a third parry coming in and managing some of these venues — tennis, recreation, another is our ski lodge. We've got to make every one of our managers accountable for us. We've got to cut costs. Be as lean as we can, then increase the revenues. Marketing will be a key — we need a full-time marketing person if we want to market.”
3. “The Forest Service is going to come up with a trails plan at some point; we need to provide input as citizens of Incline Village on what we want ... At this point in time, I believe IVGID can give more guidance to the committee so we can get people more informed — if we don't have our decision and input in there, they're (the forest service) going to decide it for us. We have to, right now, give some guidance to the committee.”