The speaker identified as Ed Nuti in the story below was , in fact, not Ed Nuti, who is not a member of the Lakes & Dams Committee. The Times regrets the error.

After much discussion about the need for the expense, the Seven Lakes Landowners Association [SLLA] Board, during the March 18 Open Meeting, voted in favor of an engineering study of Ramapo Dam that is expected to cost at least $7,000, as well as a survey that will add an estimated $1,000 to $1,500 to the project cost.

“I would like to add that the motion should include funds for a survey," Community Manager Ray Sohl said. "This has been discussed in the past. We don’t have a fixed number for the survey. We are estimating $1,000 to 1,500 for a survey. We cannot nail down the cost until the engineer provides us with requirements after the assessment.”

“Then we are looking at a total of $8,000 or $9,000,” Member Les Sommers noted.

 

Second thoughts

The Lakes and Dams Committee had originally voted unanimously in favor of the assessment. 

“Originally, it was unanimous," Lakes and Dams Committee Chair Dave Hill, informed the board. Since then it has changed.”

“I was one of those," Lakes and Dam Committee Member Ed Nuti Bob Miller said, referring to members who had changed their mind about the study.

"I was opposed from beginning, but felt our vote should reflect a sense of unity. But I do have a strong concern, and I have a series of questions. It started at $7,000, and now we see it is $8,500. I can see this blossoming into a lot of money. That dam has stood there for many years.” 

Nuti Miller then asked how many board members had been out to look at the dam.

Director Chuck Leach said that he had visited the dam and reviewed an earlier engineering report on the structure, but added “What do I know? I am not an engineer.”

All of the board members agreed that they were not engineers nor experts regarding dams, but all indicated that they had looked the dam over and reviewed the available information. 

“I think at the very least a visit should be made to look at the dam and [emergency] spillway with the 18” pipes," Nuti Miller said. 

"I don’t know if they have ever been used. If we have two other dams classified the same as Ramapo — and they are not high risk — then the engineers could come and say here is another dam that needs an assessment." 

"Last year was a very wet season," Nuti Miller said. "Then there was an instance of the valve being manually shut off. Since that, it has been locked to prevent it from happening again. There has been no problem and I don’t see any reason to rush.”

 

The engineers agreed

Referring to a previous engineer's report from 2007, Sohl said, “This is not tied to just one assessment. The primary reason they are recommending a risk evaluation report is that Ramapo has a known risk. Two independent firms have recommend this survey. Jewel has been our designated dam engineer.”

The dam's primary spillway was replaced in 2013 with a new siphon design developed by former Director Bill Hirsch based on standard industry designs. 

In reviewing the plans for that project, Racine said, “I did notice in the sketch that there were no valves. I don’t know where the valves came from.”

“The board member that helped designed the work had pulled the information from a website and added the butterfly valve," Sohl responded. "The member also advised another staff member to put another valve on . . . That has since been locked off. The butterfly valve was put on when the pipe was installed. There are 14 million gallons of water behind that dam, and the primary spillway may be undersized.”

“I have been on the Lakes and Dam Committee for several years," Sommers said. "That dam is really solid. There are no soft spots or leakage. I can’t see spending this money on that when there is nothing wrong with it.”

 

Fiduciary responsibility

“We have two independent engineers that have come up with the same recommendation," Member Jim Allen said. They are the only two that are qualified to comment on the subject here. The Board has a fiduciary duty to listen to those who are qualified." 

"I think we have lost focus here," he continued. "Something could go wrong, and we hope that it won’t. But if there are two different people saying that there is a problem, then we need to fix it.”

“I would like to add a little perspective," Director Steve Ritter said. "Two years ago, when we were doing this, I was the President of the Board, and we knew we had to make some modifications to that dam. We talked about getting an engineer’s study and talked about how many thousands of dollars it would cost."

Then, we had a member of the Board that was very knowledgeable do some calculations based on his profession, and he recommended the system that was ultimately put in. He swore it was no big deal. It was a no hazard dam and it would save us all this money. No big deal." 

"The board listened to him and it gained traction," Ritter continued. "At that point, I thought we needed certified people. But I listened and acquiesced and voted in favor, without having an engineer oversee what was done. Now, we know that the pipe was put in wrong. If we had conducted an engineer’s survey then, we wouldn’t be here right now, and the pipe would have been put in correctly.” 

“In good conscience, we should heed their advice,” Ritter concluded.

The board voted four to two in favor of the study, with Director Mary Farley and President Racine opposed. 

 

The broader community

Presiding over the last Open Meeting in his current term as President, Racine encouraged renewing relations with Seven Lakes West. 

“Last time at the open meeting I made a comment hoping that the new board, no matter who is elected, get together with the West side for a casual lunch,” Racine said. "I would like to encourage a luncheon for both boards to get together.”

He reported that several West Side board members were in favor of meeting. 

“They are looking forward to this and are anxious to have the North, South and West Sides working together," Racine said.

"I also wish to thank everybody who ran for the board, and everybody that voted,” he added.

 

Spring fix-up

Providing the Architectural Review Board report, Jane Leach said a long list of spring projects had been approved, including new roofs, siding, screen porch enclosures, and cementing driveways. 

During its three-hour March 5 meeting, Leach reported, the most time consuming matter was a review of ARB rules and regulations.

 

Body cameras for security

“Universal Security is recommending body cameras to be worn by security officers," Director Ritter reported. "I think it is worthwhile. They will put the body cameras on the lakes and dam patrol and roving patrol during their shifts. They are relatively inexpensive."

"Universal Security has opted to go ahead purchasing a couple of the body cameras and field testing them for a couple of months," he added. They are funding it and doing it all themselves.”

 

From crafts to Easter eggs

Director Farley reported on the recent craft and tag sale hosted by the Recreation Committee. 

“I am sure you know we had our first community sale," she said. "To my great surprise, it was a great success. I didn’t know what to expect. We cleared $700, and I would like to thank everybody for providing baked goods and everybody that donated."

"The committee worked very hard on this," she added. "I couldn’t have done it without them. I am totally in awe of them. Many vendors asked if we could do this again in November closer to Christmas. 

"Also, Easter is right around the corner," Farley said. "We are looking for any volunteers to fill and hide 2,000 Easter eggs on Good Friday at 9:00 am. The hunt is scheduled for Saturday, April 4, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. Hopefully, we will have a special time for all the kids!” 

 

Other business

In other business during the  March 18 SLLA Open Meeting, the Board of Directors: 

• Approved hosting the NC Open Water Swim competitions in June and September.

• Voted to approve a water quality policy to allow for testing of bacteria in lakes. 

• Unanimously approved the purchase a portable pool vacuum system at a cost not to exceed $1500.


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