The Kenwood Press
Guest Editor: 03/01/2020

Berger remodel now

By Karen Oswald



In the Feb. 15, 2020 edition of the Oakmont News, Building Construction Committee Chair Iris Harrell claimed, “the potential for a new building was not given as much attention as it should have been...” by previous Boards.

I take great umbrage with this statement. As a Member of the Oakmont Village Association (OVA) 2017-18 Board that reviewed those options and voted for the Berger remodel with significant upgrades, I know that the board gave all options serious consideration.

I began studying these issues in 2014 when an in-depth, independent research project was conducted to evaluate this specific item, as well as a number of other issues. Released in May 2015, “Voices of Oakmont” showed 56 percent of Oakmont residents participated in the project and demonstrated:

People move to Oakmont because of the beauty, nature, friendliness and safety

Other amenities were not a priority

65 percent wanted only a Berger remodel

Another study, frequently ignored because it did not support the desired outcome of those wanting a new Berger, verified that Oakmont had more than enough space to accommodate the needs of various meetings, clubs, and committees; and what was needed was better management of allotting space to the various users.

The charter for the Berger Action Committee (BAC) was to determine designs and cost estimates for a Berger remodel and a new facility, maximize flexibility of space, [and find] ways to minimize downtime during construction.

When the 2017-18 board was presented with the various options, the board made all of the options available for resident comments for a 30-day period. Of all of the comments gathered, only one, current board member Heidi Klyn, wanted a bigger Berger.

A number of the materials prepared by the BAC made no sense and the charter element for minimizing downtime was not really addressed. Primarily, the costs for certain options, specifically a new building and repurposing the Berger seemed out of line. Having written numerous successful grants for housing projects, I contacted two independent commercial contracting companies, both of whom verified that the costs for a new Berger were “significantly under-reported” or “laughable,” as one put it.

Please remember, the vote to proceed with a Berger remodel was held on Feb. 6, 2018, before the exploding costs for building materials, shortage of contractors, and significant increases in construction labor costs in the wake 2017 wildfires and before the additional construction costs resulting from the 2019 wildfires.

Jan Young, of the Long Range Planning Committee, stated that priorities include “an auditorium with seating for 500.” The current Berger, without upgrades, currently seats 586. And while Ms. Harrell comments that “we have been talking about this for eight years,” in fact, the decision to proceed with a Berger remodel, with upgrades, was made over two years ago and both the 2018-19 and the current sitting Board have failed to put into action what the majority of residents want and which has been approved and scheduled for 2020.

There have been considerable comments about “new people, new ideas.” However, as confirmed by two real estate agencies specializing in Oakmont, sales run between 160-175 annually, some of which are Oakmont residents that are downsizing. At that rate it will take over a decade for even 50 percent of Oakmont’s population to be “new people.”

The above noted article stated, “an oversight process approved last March ... to assure better control over major projects” concludes that given the outrageous cost overruns of the East Rec, that process is clearly not working.

Additionally, OVA recently incurred debt of $3.5 million to finance the failing Golf Club, our reserves are stretched to the limit and beyond, scheduled or planned regular maintenance is once again being continually deferred, some to the point of having to be replaced because it has been deferred beyond repair. We have also had to implement an assistance program for the hardship caused to some residents by the unprecedented increase in dues starting last month.

The biggest scare tactic in the campaign to buy the golf course was to “prevent development.” However, if one looks at the plans for a new Berger, it is obvious that the feared “developer” will be the OVA itself.

In the Voices of Oakmont, the number one complaint was “extravagant spending for projects that were only wanted by a few” and “Boards that continually defer to a few ‘squeaky wheels’ while ignoring the majority of residents.”

This appears to be repetitive patterns of those few who want what they want, when they want it, and want others to pay for those “shiny new toys” that are sure to be replaced by a new “want” as soon as they get what they were originally crying for.

It is time for the OVA Board and certain committees to start acting conscientiously, adhering to fiduciary responsibilities, stop catering to the few while ignoring the many, and avoid driving Oakmont into potential bankruptcy.