Infrastructure’s role in long-range financial planning
Public Relations Chair
In September 2011, our General Manager introduced the topic of “Infrastructure” to the then seated Governing Board at the Board’s annual orientation. His intent was to provide insight into understanding what is meant by infrastructure and to encourage its consideration in long-range financial planning for Recreation Centers of Sun City West owned properties.
I have been thinking more and more about this topic and I feel the need to open a discussion to explore what is meant by infrastructure and why this is important for all Owner Members to think about, not just the Governing Board.
The dictionary definition for infrastructure is: “An underlying base or foundation especially for an organization or system. The basic facilities, services, and installations needed for the functioning of a community or society …”
Applying this definition to Sun City West in terms of future planning for sustainability of what Del Webb envisioned and the preservation of certain essential “facilities and services” as defined, is important. Not only do we have to make the necessary repairs, but we have to plan ahead to set aside funds (sometimes by raising dues) so the money is ready when the repairs are needed. When the community was brand new, it was easy to keep dues low because the infrastructure was new so little had to be set aside for its long-term maintenance. Now, however, it’s time to start budgeting for that inevitability.
So, what might be some specific elements of infrastructure? Here are just a couple of examples: the R.H. Johnson Pool, irrigation systems, and parking lots.
In the case of the R.H. Johnson Pool, there is no Visqueen between the soil and the concrete, which has allowed chemicals to leach up from the soil and damage the concrete deck. Despite our efforts to repair the deck over the last couple of years, we will eventually need to replace the whole thing. This will not be cheap.
In the case of parking lots, the lifespan is about 20 years because of the nature of asphalt and the damage Arizona’s sun and heat inflict. The Rec Centers maintains more than 40 acres of parking lots adjacent to our owned properties. These must be maintained, and the maintenance is not cheap.
The water wells and irrigation systems are additional concerns. Many of these predate the community and are more than 50 years old. They include miles of underground piping capable of sending water to other golf courses in case a water well pump fails at one course. We have been and will continue to replace parts of the system as lines break or valves wear out.
The wells, however, will eventually get beyond the point where they can be repaired. We are projecting the replacement of two wells in the next 25 years. Again, these are not cheap – they cost about $1 million to $1.5 million apiece.
The cost of maintaining these elements as well as our other facilities is planned for in our public budgeting process. That’s where we count on you to share your thoughts, concerns and priorities with us. With some areas of Sun City West reaching the 30-35 year old category, there is expected to be more discussion about how to fund certain infrastructure items.
The Staff, Governing Board and Budget and Finance Committee have been wrestling with infrastructure failure risks and costs for some time. I thought you might want to join in the discussion.