VMS CEO Jeff Parker Addresses Village Amenities
We’re all weathering the same storm that brings a constant barrage of high anxiety, muddled expectations and, above all, great frustration. It’s incredibly disappointing to everyone to not be able to participate in activities we all enjoyed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our new reality over the past six months has been quite stressful, and unfortunately, it is not over.
As you know, several Village residents have repeatedly shared their grievances regarding some community amenities not being fully open and others still completely closed, which is understandable. What you might not know is that an analysis of VMS emails and calls shows that staff receives four times as many comments of support and thanks than complaints from residents regarding the handling of the pandemic.
Regardless, closure decisions are not made lightly or in a vacuum. The boards and VMS closed amenities when the law mandated it, and they have opened any and every Village amenity possible as evolving state and county laws and reopening plans permit with serious considerations for the safety of our unique population.
Let’s take a moment to look to the positives among this less-than-ideal situation. Instead of focusing on what isn’t available right now—the two fitness centers, Clubhouse 4, the Performing Arts Center and indoor club meetings—let’s focus on all the great amenities that are available to residents:
- Both golf courses
- Driving range
- Putting greens
- Golf pro shop
- Pools 2, 4 and 5
- Paddle tennis
- Lawn bowling
- Garden Centers
- Library, online and outdoors
- Miles of fitness trails
- Aliso Creek Park
- Aqua aerobics
- Spin classes
- Chair fitness and yoga
- Cardio and strength class
- Restaurant 19
- Popular workout show featuring instructor Kevin Gorski, co-produced by TV6 and Recreation
- Additional movies on TV6 at no extra cost
- A wealth of virtual recreation resources, videos and classes, including arts and crafts, cooking, gardening, health and fitness, home improvement, language lessons, music and dance, online games and more
Here’s a list of what the Recreation and Special Events Department will offer residents soon:
- Outdoor workout gym
- Outdoor concerts
- Outdoor comedy shows
- Outdoor art classes
- Additional outdoor fitness classes
Further, as positive-case numbers decrease and as guidelines and laws allow, hours of play/use are extended, and more amenities are reopened. Recreation also plans to announce extended pool hours.
But the pools in particular remain a sore issue. However, consider this fact: Pool 6 closes every year after Labor Day, and a second pool is always closed simultaneously for regularly scheduled maintenance; therefore, the same number of pools is available to residents now as ever! However, depending on demand, reopening Pool 1 may be a possibility.
The boards and VMS have frequently offered detailed coronavirus-related messaging to residents via many platforms: the every-Friday “What’s Up in the Village,” special eblasts, the website, the Village Breeze magazine, all Village Television angles (Monday through Saturday “This Day” broadcasts, message boards), regular board meetings during which CEO updates share similar messaging, frequent telephone calls and emails to support staff, and press releases sent to the OC Register-owned-and-operated Laguna Woods Globe.
Because Orange County met state metrics for further reopening for at least two weeks, on September 8, Orange County graduated to the Tier 2 (red) phase of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s reopening plan. In this tier, the county may reopen movie theaters and restaurants for indoor dining at 25% capacity (or 100 people, whichever is fewer), churches for indoor worship at 25% capacity, shopping centers may expand to 50% capacity, and gyms can reopen at 10%.
Let’s consider those statistics. If gyms (think our fitness centers) can open at 10% and movie theaters (our PAC) can open at 25%, that means the fitness centers could host maybe four patrons at a time, and the PAC could hold at most 100 patrons inside at one time—if still-mandated 6-foot physical distancing could be achieved. Are the significant costs for utilities and staff justified to reopen these facilities? A careful review says no.
State and county mandates are clear, and the Village is not a separate entity that can ignore the law or liability risk if a COVID-19 surge were to take hold in the community. In addition to businesses being allowed to return to mere fractions of normal operations, the state still requires all California citizens to adhere to social distancing practices and wear a face covering to help slow the spread, and the Village prohibits gatherings of more than 15 individuals—all things that are especially important in a high-risk community like our Village.
Reopening amenities is considered carefully by your boards of directors and executive staff, and all resident feedback is heard. VMS tracks daily phone calls, emails and letters, and ensures those messages are routed to the appropriate board.
So far, the prevailing pandemic-survival theory is “slow and steady wins the race.” The Village’s positive case count remaining at less than 50 this far into the pandemic is evidence that theory is working in keeping our community safe.
The goal here is to help everyone understand why these temporary closures and policies been established. Your ongoing patience, graciousness and understanding are much appreciated. And, as always, your feedback is welcome.
May you and yours be well.
Jeff Parker, CEO
Village Management Services Inc.