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Letters to Editor

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Holly Lake Ranch has been very lucky when it comes to destructive weather events. Since 2001 we've had a tornado that headed up Hgy. 49 toward the northwest corner of the Ranch but veered away with only three miles to spare. We had hurricane Rita, with high winds and possibly 12 inches of rain forecast, which turned east and missed us. Drought conditions have contributed to fires in Wood County, some of which crowned and necessitated the help of forest service bulldozers and helicopters. They were caused by tossed cigarettes, lightning strikes, and private wood/leaf burns which got out of control. As the drought has killed trees, we have developed tinder box conditions on and around the Ranch with still standing and fallen timber.

Instead of just a collective sigh of relief that we haven't experienced a disaster YET, I wish we were taking a pro-active stance of planning for possible emergencies. A warning siren in Greensburg, Kansas recently gave residents a safety margin of 20 minutes to get to their basements before the F-5 tornado hit. Why don't we have a siren that could awaken us in the middle of the night if a tornado is about to hit? Our neighbors at Brooks Lake have one, which cost only $5,000 to install. In fact, they have been helped by the HLVFD to implement the Firewise Initiatives program in conjunction with the Texas Forest Service, but HLR hasn't benefited from their experience at all. At the end of 2006 the roads committee submitted a report on alternative exits out of HLR to the new B-board with recommendations for an emergency siren and evacuation routes. Apparently, no action has been taken in over five months on these.

Consider these problems in the event of the need to evacuate any portion of HLR. We now have over 3,000 residents; that number can swell by several hundred more when SilverLeaf visitors are included. The only exits at present are the two out onto FM2869. They are not adequate for a community of this size. To use them hundreds of residents have to cross dams. The dam over Holly Lake includes a one-lane bridge. What if hurricane Rita had dumped 12 inches of rain into Holly Lake, causing the dam to fail? How would homeowners on the west side have managed during a dam repair? What if one of the seven chlorine gas facilities run by the water company at HLR was damaged by a storm or fire and started leaking? Could the residents on the west side safely and quickly evacuate over a one-lane bridge? Does a plan exist that could be quickly implemented if such a gas leak occurred?

Brooks Lake has cleared routes for evacuation and marked them with signs. They have cleared brush and cut down dead trees. They have planned for selective thinning of the surrounding forest to reduce the fuel load and separate the canopy. They were guided in these efforts by the Forest Service, which did a free assessment of their fire risk. This service is available to us, too, but no one with the authority to write the letter which would give the Forest Service access to HLR and the surrounding forest which borders us is apparently interested in taking this step. WHY?

We all value the HLVFD and our security department at HLR. In cases of individual house fires and health emergencies, they have expertly saved properties and lives. However, they have no coordinated plan in the event of a widespread community emergency. Also, the fire department is operating below its full contingent of 35 members. Because of its volunteer status, sometimes only a portion of the membership is available to fight a fire or handle an evacuation.

Lastly, without emergency plans which have been shared with every household and SilverLeaf visitor to prepare us in what to do in case of a major emergency, the chance of widespread panic increases. When I visited Oklahoma City recently, my hotel had a print-out in every room with directions for where the safest areas were in case of a tornado and what we should do if we were signaled to move to them. I appreciated their forethought in planning for my safety ( and no doubt reducing their legal liability somewhat in the event lives were lost!)

All the media coverage about fires, hurricanes, explosions, derailments of hazardous chemicals, and tornadoes surely must be enough to overcome our human tendency to think that it'll never happen to us at Holly Lake Ranch. Ignoring the possible threats to lives and property and our unique safety problems instead of taking the time and spending the money now to make the Ranch safer could be tragically costly. Amenities have been the main concern here for years, but it's time our decision makers put protecting our lives and homes at the top of their priority lists.

 Bonnie Hardaway

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Tuesday, May 8th, 2007, the membership was informed that the Restaurant Work Group has recommended to the B Board (known to some as the "Peoples' Board") that the employment of David Wilson as restaurant manager of the Fore Seasons restaurant be terminated. Though this information was e-mailed on May 8th, it reflected a decision actually rendered a week earlier, on May 1st. This department has no specific bone to pick with the decision, but at the same time, recognizes its unpopularity with several persons on the ranch with whom this has been a topic of discussion. It also calls to mind a question: If one takes the position that the restaurant, from its planning stages, was to have been considered "an amenity", why then over the past year or so has the perspective changed in that an operating loss, purported to be "$30,000 a month", is all of a sudden totally unacceptable, and is the stated reason for Mr. Wilson's dismissal?

Another question one might pose is: If the Fore Seasons from its inception was supposed to at least break even, or make a small profit, why was the position of manager given to someone whose background was not restaurant management, but law enforcement? Nice guy that most think he is, was David given enough "rope" to be successful, or was he from the beginning a square peg in a round hole? Surely some fault or explanation of his ultimate firing must rest on those who hired the gentleman for the position of manager, knowing full well that he lacked restaurant management experience.

My wife and I enjoy, like most Holly Lakers, dining at the Fore Seasons, and are proud to take family and visiting guests there, and have always been pleased with the friendly staff and good service provided. We intend to continue to support the restaurant, and hope the majority of residents feel the same. We will be watching with great interest to see if the Board decision is validated by bringing costs in line over the next few months, all the while sustaining the pricing parameters and menu selections that have made dining at the Fore Seasons enjoyable.

Steve H Kehoe

 

 

Last Updated on Friday, 24 April 2009 16:49  

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