Clubhouse/Lake top GM’s ‘to-do’ list
By Bob Mariani, LWA General Manager
Since this is my introductory article for TWI, I should first introduce myself and give you a very brief background summary. Going way back, I was very fortunate to grow up in San Diego before it became wall to wall people. After graduating from San Diego State University, I operated a couple of small businesses then entered the HOA management field in the 80s. Positions in association/club management eventually took me to Phoenix and most recently to Sun City Oro Valley in the Tucson area. After feeling I had accomplished everything I could accomplish there, I resigned and a few months later, I was lucky enough to see the GM posting for Lake Wildwood. One thing led to another and here I am living and working in the beautiful community of Lake Wildwood with my wife Polly.
Now on to a couple of happenings in the Community that I’m sure are ablaze with discussion on social media. One of those issues is the temporary closure of the Oaks Clubhouse dinning. This is a situation that many people, including me and our F&B team are not pleased about. I don’t intend to offer excuses for something like this but will explain what has occurred as best possible.
Most of you know that the restaurant business has the highest turnover of any industry. The reason for this turnover includes but is not limited to the following: Patron abuse: This is primarily an issue in community/club operations. Although the vast majority of community/club members are respectful, a certain element thinks they are entitled to yell, curse and speak harshly to the staff, which cannot be tolerated. Transient Nature of the Workforce: For retail and restaurant industries in particular, there’s a certain mindset that goes with the occupation: the position is only temporary. Long Hours/Little Compensation: Many restaurant employees are expected to work long shifts but are not compensated enough to justify those hours. When employees don’t feel a sense of connection to their job, turnover rates surge. Lack of Advancement: This problem isn’t limited to just the restaurant industry. The transient nature of the lower-level employees means that many don’t stick around long enough to advance in the ranks. This lack of advancement only compounds the high turnover rate even more. Patron demands: This is a particular issue with private clubs and restaurants in communities such as Lake Wildwood. Although the vast majority of the members are very nice and when displease with food or service will convey that message in a positive manner, there are some members who have the attitude that they pay for the help and can treat them in any manner that they wish, which results in very poor employee morale. Poor Communication: This is another influencer that can be felt across all industries. For restaurants who work in fast-paced conditions, it can be much harder to enforce effective communication between management and employees. Employees want to be heard and feel that their opinions matter to their supervisors. When employees feel appreciated, their loyalty to your restaurant only increases.
Some or all of the above factors apply to the Lake Wildwood food & beverage operation, which results in turnover. Unfortunately, this turnover which is common hit us all at once due to both voluntary and involuntary terminations. Considerable effort is being made and changes will be implemented to stem the turnover rate. I don’t expect these measures to yield immediate and complete results, but do expect improvements to the stability of our food & beverage operation so that you and our employees don’t have to experience dinner closures in the future.
The good news is that lunch, brunch and special dinners will continue. Plus the bar will be open during normal hours with a delicious bar menu. So please keep that in mind. On several occasions my wife and I have enjoyed a glass of wine and an appetizer or hamburger on the Clubhouse patio overlooking the golf course. It’s hard to beat that tranquil and enjoyable experience.
The lake issue is our second major occurrence of great interest. Due to the lag time between submission to TWI and the publishing date, all information in this update is current as of close of business on Friday, August 11th. In a situation as fluid as the investigation of the E coli outbreak associated with Lake Wildwood, informational input is constantly being updated.
This investigation is being directed by the Nevada County Department of Public Health. They are working in concert with the Nevada County Departments of Environmental Health, Public Works and Community Development. In addition, the services of outside agencies have been made available to the County. These include the Center for Disease Control, California Department of Public Health, UC Davis and the Placer County Health Lab.
Our Association has made all of our resources available to the County as needed. This includes Administration staff, our Facilities and Parks Departments and the Lake Committee. We have agreed with the County that all official communication regarding this investigation will originate only through the County Public Health Department and our Admin. Information originating from any media other than these two sources may or may not be accurate. The science of microbiology and microbial testing is very complex and beyond the educational background of most of us, and test results can be misleading if not fully explained and reported in the proper context.
Protocol for safety testing of fresh water bodies varies widely from state to state. The two main safety issues tested in house are blue green algae (Cyanobacteria) and E coli. Different entities test different parameters. As an example, Nevada County tests for fecal coliform and Lake Wildwood tests for E coli. Fecal coliform testing is not as specific as testing for E coli, but high readings of fecal coliform usually indicate high levels of E coli, but not always. These tests are designed as indicators of pollution, but their presence does not necessarily mean there are pathogenic organisms present. Neither test is capable of identifying the E coli O157:H7 strain, which is the one that produces the toxin that is harmful to humans. Those tests must be sent to an outside lab. The County has sent samples of our water to the Placer County Lab, but those results have not yet been received. The County plans to send more samples out on an ongoing basis. The County also took samples of deer and goose scat on August 10th, but those results will take up to two weeks to process. Unfortunately, there are no test results available yet that would indicate if the E coli strain O157:H7 is present in Lake Wildwood waters.
Many members have asked for more specific information as to dates and times when the affected parties were at Lake Wildwood. Again, the County Public Health Department conducted all the interviews, and as yet has not released those details to us. We do know that 11 children and 3 adults were affected and 11 of those individuals tested positive for the Shiga Toxin producing E Coli. We know that all the individuals involved were at Commodore Park beach from July 15th through July 23rd and probably ingested lake water in some manner. That is the only common thread the County has found to date in the interviews. No apparent commonality exists as to any food consumed. Our sewer lines have been tested by Nevada County Public Works and no leakage was found although further testing is scheduled. Both our Facilities Department and the County Environment Health Department continue to take samples of the water at the beaches and in the lake. The only areas of slightly elevated fecal coliform or E coli have been within 3 feet of the beach line, and not all of these samples were confined to Commodore Beach.
Bottom line is 14 people became ill from E coli, and we don’t know why. The common denominator at this point is all were at Commodore Beach between July 15 and 23. To the best of our knowledge, Lake Wildwood has never had a confirmed case of sickness from E coli in its prior history, and did not have an E coli outbreak in 2009. In 2009, Lake Wildwood was part of an investigation into a Bay Area outbreak but not confirmed as a source. It’s just too early in this investigation to speculate on the cause of the outbreak, but the County and our Association are doing everything possible to discover the cause and keep everyone informed. This is an intensive, complex investigation, and it will take time before all results and analyses are available.
I know all of you send your prayers and best wishes to the adults and children involved and hopefully all will fully recover. This is a strong, caring community and we are doing everything possible to get answers to all involved.
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