The Snow, CA’s Governance and a New Tennis Facility (The Villager 2016-2)

The Snow, CA’s Governance and a New Tennis Facility

Dr. Chao Wu

(This article was published on the issue of Feb, 2016)

CA’s Snow Removal Efforts

The historic February snow is finally over and it is amazing there were minimal power outages. People have been asking how the snow removal was handled by the Columbia Association (CA). Generally, I was satisfied with the snow removal process and appreciate our staff’s great effort.

CA’s snow removal priorities and practice are to open up the parking lots at the facilities (50+ lots) first, then clear the pathways (93 miles) and finally plow the sidewalks (25 miles). The general approach was to open the primary pathways, then open the pathway and sidewalk entrances where the large mounds of snow end up, then clear the sidewalks and secondary pathways. The location of schools is certainly a part of the decision process of where CA sends resources. For example, they finish up he pathways in the residential neighborhoods before they plow the CA pathway in the Gateway business park.

Safety is a priority; but, there is no 100% safety guarantee. Even if CA cleans the majority of its pathways, it takes coordinated efforts from all stakeholders, the county, the Howard County Public School System CA,  businesses, and residents to improve snow removal and enable pedestrian access.

CA’s Governance

Recently there has been heated debate about our county’s Board of Education election and board meetings. One interesting point on the need for board members and staff to work together really resonated with me.. During the snow storm, some CA board members criticized a resident as “self-centered/self-interested” when the resident simply asked, with a neutral tone, questions related to CA’s snow-cleaning process.

CA is both a non-profit organization and a homeowner’s association. As CA board members, we are supposed to make policy decisions and evaluate the staff who are charged with carrying out those policies. The staff is generally made up of full time employees and the board members are volunteers. There tends to be complacencent and a feeling that the board should just follow staff suggestions. The board members and staff need to work as a team and welcome constructive criticism and suggestions to better serve our residents. Board members and staff should not take it personally when questions arise.

Long Reach Tennis Facility

CA is budgeting 8.15 million dollars in FY17-18 for the Long Reach indoor tennis facility. Given that construction cost estimates for both the Hobbit’s Glen Clubhouse and Haven on the Lake were severely lower than originally projected and both projects required supplemental funding requests by CA staff to the CA Board, CA has revised its construction project methodology.  This project will be developed using a revised large project construction methodology employing what is commonly referred to as the Construction Manager Guaranteed Maximum Price delivery method.

This project management program was selected following CA staff interviews with their counterparts and Howard Community College and Howard County Department of Public Works regarding their experience with various project delivery methods and best practices for large projects and researching various alternatives. . Both the Howard Community College and the Howard County Department of Public Works experienced positive results and recommended the Construction Manager Guaranteed Maximum Price large project delivery method.

Architectural and construction management services for the Long Reach indoor tennis project were procured through CA’s “Request for Proposals” process.  The request for proposals process is a solicitation by CA for the procurement of design and construction management services with contracts awarded based on the best combination of price, prior experience and proposed work team.  CA solicited 47 design firms and received 5 proposals for design services. CA solicited 7 construction management firms and received 5 proposals.  Interviews were held with short-listed design and construction management firms. The proposals for both design and construction management services were reviewed by an internal CA selection committee and scored based on pricing, prior experience and work team.  Final selection was based on the highest ranking firms in consideration of pricing, prior experience and their proposed work team.  GTM Architects was awarded the architectural and design services contract and Lewis Contracting was awarded the construction management services contract.

I will keep a close eye on this big project and hopefully what we are promised will be delivered as expected. Once constructed and operational, we expect his new 6-court indoor tennis center will be loved by Columbia’s tennis community.

If you have any input on these topics, please share with me.

Thank you.

Chao Wu, Ph.D.

River Hill Representative to Columbia Council

Columbia Association Board of Directors

Email:  Tel: 240-481-9637  Website:

Disclaimer: This letter only represents Dr. Chao Wu’s personal opinion. It does not represent River Hill Board of Directors nor Columbia Association’s Board.