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Oct 08, 2013, 12:42 PM
Team Hello Kitty
SoaringDude's Avatar

On getting the club's hard work done

Yesterday Ron Kucera copied a reply to Jonathan's winch maintenance report email to our club email list. I believe the main point he's making deserves a club-wide discussion. With Ron's permission I'm copying it below.

Jonathan - Thanks for all the hard work in a job that isn't even your's anymore. It really highlights the need for SVSS to make a paradigm shift on how we need to have equipment (as well as lawn and sprinkler care) taken care of by the whole club and not just a few members. It may be actual physical help or maybe we just need to plan on hiring things out by bring our dues up to a 21st century level. How about doing like many clubs by everybody contributing X number of hours as a stipulation of membership (exceptions for the very elderly or medically disabled taken on a person by person basis). There is always something that everybody could be volunteering to do.

The "dirty dozen" are starting to wear out!
On Sunday, October 6, 2013, Jonathan Heritage wrote:
Today I spent some time in the battery container Sunday and mended the winch which had caught fire towards the end of the August club contest. The fault was in one of the solenoid starter switches. The high current path in the switch overheated, causing the wire insulation to catch fire. I replaced the solenoid with a new one and installed a new high current connector wire between the motor and the solenoid switch. It is a bit of a pain to do because the frame must be removed from the Aluminum base plate in order to gain access to the solenoid hold down screws. The winch passed the "smoke test" and it seems to run fine. The motor is in good shape; it is one that I had rebuilt in March.

I'll look into the battery situation later this week. It appears in my absence, that four 6V batteries have deteriorated a lot and look in pretty bad shape. We might want to consider replacing them with more 12V batteries which seem to be doing a good job on both winch and retrievers. If we do that, I'll finally rebuild the 6V winch as a 12V winch. With that accomplished we would have 5 complete winches with "real balls" upgrade available (anyone for quasi-MoM TD launches?) plus about 4 spare FLS motors that can be upgraded by swapping out the plain bearings for the ball bearing set taken from any of the five that finally decides to die permanently.

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Oct 09, 2013, 01:05 PM
Team Hello Kitty
SoaringDude's Avatar

Membership fees info

I agree with Ron's views, the way we allocate the big work tasks seems ripe for review. To his side point on membership fees I wanted to contribute some info. First, it's always a good idea to get a feeling where your fees are relative to other similar clubs. Here's what I found:

CASL (Phoenix) - Annual renewal fees: Single $45, Youth $25, Senior $25
CVRC (Visalia) - Annual renewal fees: Single $24, Youth $6
Fresno Soaring- Annual renewal fees: Single $24, Senior $12, Family $25. Annual park pass: $40.
Northwest Soaring - Annual renewal fees: Single $20, Youth $12, Family $25.
PASS (Portland) - Annual renewal fees: Single $30, Youth $1, Family $35.
SASS (Seattle) - Annual renewal fees: Single $200, Youth $30. New membership fees: Single $100, Youth $30.
South Bay Soaring - Annual renewal fees: Single $40, Senior $30, Family $50. New membership fees: Single $50, Youth Free.

Next I wanted to offer what a pure real inflation adjustment to our dues would be. Using this respected source for calculating real inflation $45 in 1995 is worth ~$145 in today's dollars. If you question this factor consider that California gas in 1995 retailed for $1.26 a gallon (source).

Anyway, if 50 active members paid at an inflation-adjusted membership rate that would net the club an additional $5k in funds. However, the membership fee data from other clubs (except SASS) clearly shows that the majority of clubs expect contest fees to handle the brunt of the club's annual expenses. FYI, in the case of SASS they maintain two fields with operating and insurance expenses.

So maybe we should consider keeping our member fees close to where they are and solve our maintenance task work in some way other than paying for outside help or just dumping it on one person and hoping it works out. There are other ways...

Chris B.
Oct 10, 2013, 05:56 PM
Registered User
nodlehs's Avatar

Getting done what needs to be done...

Well, I'm one of the "dirty dozen" referenced so I believe that alone should enable me to speak on the subject. However, as further qualification, let me put out there that over the years I have been involved as an official with the National Drag Boat Assn, an official with the American Power Boat Assn, the LSF, an official at the NATs, an official at the World Soaring Masters, volunteered at other Soaring Clubs, and volunteered with other organized groups for the past 40+ years. Some of what I have to say you may not like but I can tell you from those experiences that in any organized group, the majority of the work will end up being done by a core of individuals, simply because they are the ones that "care". Other members feel it's beneath them, or they've paid their dues - why should they have to, or they've already done their "part", etc, etc, etc. Everyone says give me a shout when you need a hand, but invariably are unavailable when you do need that hand.

Not to take anything away from Chis' inflated dollars post but let's keep it simple...SVSS needs EVERYBODY'S HELP - PERIOD! The current crew, Ron refers to as the "Dirty Dozen", is tired and we're wearing out. We need to be replaced, from the President on down to the guys that mow the field (uhhh, that would be Ron & me) and the Dude that usually serves up the food (Aric). I'll speak to my own case, if the others want to speak up, they can, if not, that's fine too. We try to cut the grass before each TD and ALES contest each month, minimum. I drive approximately140 miles, about 2.5 hrs, round trip each time we cut. I obviously can't mow during a contest so it has to be done at "other" times. I do not get compensated for my gas, wear & tear on my car, or driving time in any way. When we mow, I'm usually on the tractor from 9am until 3pm or so...6hrs with a couple of breaks for coffee (I skip lunch). I have to wear a full respirator mask with replaceable filters due to my respiratory issues, eye protection, etc. Many of you have been out there enjoying your flying day and have seen it, I get covered in filth and am pretty well beat when I'm done mowing...THEN I get to clean off the equipment & put it away, and there's been a few times when I've been too beat to get the doors on the containers latched (thanks Ron!). I go home, I shower, and I fall into bed for several hours. Anybody seen me fly this year? Anything? I do know how to fly, I do have planes, however the desire??? People have seen me bring my equipment to the field with the intention of flying after mowing, but it hasn't happened. I'm NOT looking for your sympathy, or anything else, I'm giving you some knowledge you may not have. I donate appx 15-18 hrs of my time + a tankful of gas per month myself and I want you to know that it is tough for the 2 of us to give you a good field to fly off of, and that's ONLY the mowing! Ron usually does the sprinklers (because I'm not able to) and "sometimes" he's lucky enough to get help. We're worn out guys...Seriously! All of us are worn out, not just Ron & I) and we can't keep doing it. We need YOU to step up and take over as I said in the beginning...From the Pres on down...It's YOUR club...Do something about it! I just saw Dudley's email about the TD contest...Aric can't be there to play chef...Not one person stepped up to offer to man the grill to cook freakin' hot dogs! Or pack some lunch meats & condiments to do a roll your own sandwich bar setup. You want to come out, fly, compete, socialize, and have a good time however you can't be inconvenienced by helping out...Seriously??? Shame on YOU! (Go ahead, flame me publicly for that if you want if it makes you feel better however EVERYONE will know who YOU are then)

OK, I'm off my soapbox, now let me offer up some possible options that might be viable, maybe not "popular", but certainly doable...
  • For equipment...We're already investigating alternatives in winch motors and batteries
  • For the field...Minimize the area maintained using alternative control methods
  • For the field...Compensate maintenance crew with membership and/or reimburse for mileage in part/or whole
  • For the field...Contract out maintenance of the field
    - Sprinklers
    - Mowing
    - Sprinklers and Mowing
  • For the field..."surcharge", let's say $2.50 per contestant per contest for field maintenance to be used to help "offset" field maintenance expenses, whether internal or external (new mower blades just cost us $50+ & we need another set)
  • Condition of membership...Require a minimum # of hours (4) volunteer contribution (cooking, CD, setup, cleanup, etc). We'll need to do something different for officers here?
    - OR
  • Allow $20 dues increase for member as a "buyout" option

Anybody else got any ideas they'd like to share or build on these??? Jump on in here & be constructive... ~Sheldon Smith~
Oct 10, 2013, 07:28 PM
Registered User

Getting work done.

Excellent response! I have been a member of the club since it's second year. I've held the position of field maintenance person for a year and a half; newsletter editor for another year and a half, president one year, and got to assist in the installation of the water line from the pump to the field. I 'm the one who dug the holes and concreted in the turn around recepticles. i do know what work is like. I also know that at my age, I can't do it any more. My frustration is that, of all the members we have, some (and you know who you are) have NEVER volunteered to be club officers, or to assist in any needed capacity. It's always the 20% who end up doing 80% of the needed work. Typical organization. Weeds
Oct 10, 2013, 08:40 PM
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nodlehs's Avatar

One more thing to add...

I forgot to mention one VERY IMPORTANT contribution and contributor to the field maintenance and that's Dudley Dufort and his Kubota tractor. When we need to do "heavy" work, Dudley transports his Kubota tractor and its implements down to the field and does whatever needs doing that he can do with it...At NO CHARGE that I'm aware of. So my personal thanks to DD for that help when it's needed!

Oct 11, 2013, 12:10 AM
Registered User
U2Milo's Avatar

One Man's Solution

We pay $110 per year dues for the AMOS (Aviation Modelers of Sacramento) club located here in Placer County.

The $45 per year SVSS dues are a relative bargain.

I, for one, would be more than willing to pay $100 per year and hire out the field maintenance duties.

For that matter, I'm also willing to come out and mow or weed whack a few times a year. I just need to know a schedule in advance so I can plan around work and family and other stuff.

Oct 11, 2013, 11:07 AM
Registered User
I suggest that we consider the mowing work load as two distinct jobs; (1), the irrigated grass area and (2), the rest of the field.

The grass area is smaller and because it is damp it is easier on the driver and the machinery. It also needs tending pretty much year round and especially before contests.

The field is much larger, dusty, and dirty for much of the year, grows in winter rain, and is harder on our equipment because of ground squirrel holes, tar weed, tall grasses, etc. Not to mention the fact that the tar weed must be cut back in the heat of summer to keep it suppressed. (Fortunately, folks have been very good with doing this for the last several years and we have not had that horrible forest of smelly resinous, tough weeds to foul our winch lines as we did some 5 years ago.)

I propose we look into contracting out the awful field mowing while retaining the less odious grass mowing for the club.

If we could get someone to bring in their own heavy duty mowers, designed for the rough field work, the club grass mowers (which are really not designed for that heavy duty weed chopping) would last longer and require less maintenance. And, most importantly, Field Maintenance Committee membership would be far less onerous.

Clearly, we would need to consider how to pay for the outsourcing and we would need someone to provide oversight of any contract to be sure the work got done in a timely and professional manner.

I recall that someone in the recent past has looked into outsourcing mowing and have rejected it. Can someone comment on what information was gathered?

Oct 11, 2013, 06:15 PM
Registered User
TrekBiker's Avatar
this club has burnt out just about every member who has stepped up to the plate. I know this from first hand experience. Some managed to last quite awhile before burning out. Quite a few did step up, did a great job and now have settled into the "I did my part" crowd. I guess I could be called one of those but I plan to come back to the equipment in a serious way once I retire in a couple years. But I know first hand what its like to burn out and start to feel used or like I am picking up after others. In the meantime I still plan to upgrade the solar charging station over the winter as well as Scott W. and I will be fixing up the carts for a permanent and more professional HFR installation (get rid of the temporary wood platforms and replace with steel)

One thing that needs to happen is jack the annual dues to at least $100. Its ridiculous that the dues have not adjusted for inflation in the last 20 years. At $10 per contest, those of us that fly ALES and TD as well as the two day ALES and Soaring challenge are contributing north of $200 in addition to the annual membership dues. I for one would be more than willing to pay a $100 annual membership plus all the contest fees, etc. But I would comp all these fees to the equipment and field VP's as a small token of appreciation.

Limit the key holders and make sure each key holder is responsible for keeping the equipment shed neat and orderly.

a lot of the ongoing high labor requirement problem we can blame on ourselves. We doubled the size of the field to enable north and south winch lanes. The irrigated grass area was a big design controversy when it went in, we planted a variety of grass that is fast growing, water hungry and susceptible to weeds. Many of us argued for a LOT LESS grass area and a more robust irrigation system with far fewer sprinkler heads (like something you see in a city park). The irrigation system we have is basically a beefed up PVC home type irrigation that is not all that sturdy and pretty much guarantees an endless maintenance and repair headache, especially in the clay soils we have there. I know Ron has done a lot to mitigate this with the sprinkler heads.

But it is what it is. I guess we could just fly ALES and eliminate about 80% of the work.....

Steve H.
Last edited by TrekBiker; Oct 11, 2013 at 06:27 PM.
Oct 11, 2013, 06:53 PM
Team Hello Kitty
SoaringDude's Avatar

Season work hours estimates

I'm firmly conviced there is a way to more fairly distribute the club's annual workload without causing member burnout. Before we kick around ideas I concluded it was first important to know how many season hours it takes to get things done. So I boiled the work down into categories and then spoke with Ron K. and Jonathan H.* to get their field and equipment estimates. The rest of the data is derived from my own experience & observations. Here then is a breakdown of season work time required:
* Note that the estimates for equipment maintenance work will be updated in this post soon.
Season needs: 80 hrs (cut green grass 20 times @ 2hrs ea=40hrs, cut N winch lanes 7 times @ ~3hr ea=20hr, cut S winch lanes 7 times @ ~3hr ea=20hr)

Contest Director: 1 contest= ~3 hrs of effort
Season needs: 9 contests TD, 9 contests ALES

Contest Lunches: 1 lunch= ~5 hrs of effort
Season needs: 9 contests TD, 9 contests ALES

Sprinkler work: (does not include adding new sprinklers if needed)
Season needs: 32 hrs (avg 11 sprinkler repairs per season @ ~3 hrs per head to replace = 32 hrs )

Equipment maintenance work: (does not include special "big" projects)
Season needs: 108 hrs (avg 12 hrs/mo x 9 mo=54hrs)

Pre-season Field Prep Day
No specific tasks are broken out since this event requires everyone to pitch in and for the most part everyone does.

Soaring Challenge Contest Work
CD duties: many hours
Scorekeeper duties: many hours
Remaining duties considered part of the full club volunteer effort.

ALES 2-day Contest Work
CD duties: many hours
Scorekeeper duties: many hours
Remaining duties considered part of the full club volunteer effort.

If you think an estimate needs to be revised let me know. However, the above estimates do not have to be exact for us to start thinking about creative ways to better distribute the work. Feel free to contribute yours. This is a solvable problem...

Chris B.

Past edits:
Oct 13, 2013 at 11:49 AM. Reason: Added work estimates for key 2-day events
Oct 11, 2013 at 05:02 PM. Reason: Updated lunch time per Bob Mosher
Last edited by SoaringDude; Oct 17, 2013 at 01:45 PM. Reason: Doubled hours for mowing, sprinklers, & equipment
Oct 11, 2013, 07:08 PM
Registered User
nodlehs's Avatar
Jonathan is correct, mowing the launch lanes is much harder on the equipment and the people than mowing the green growth areas. Why do we even need to cut the launch lanes? Why can't we suppress the vegetation instead???...Which is probably a lot less expensive than funding having it mowed down several times a year. Ortho GroundClear (active ingredient is glyphosphate) is approved for use in California on public lands, and will kill unwanted vegetation and prevent new growth for up to 1 year. I know there are some that might be against using chemicals however, what critters have you seen on our field that are dependent on star thistle and tarweed as their main munchable??? In the studies I looked at, it appears to not create a food-chain issue. IMO it's worth looking into further as a viable option...

Oct 11, 2013, 07:31 PM
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nodlehs's Avatar

I was not part of the conversation that took place when you were gathering your information, however I feel that some of the assumptions are incorrect.

Field Maintenance
I realize that you spoke with Ron, regarding the field maintenance but I disagree with the hours you have listed for field preparation...Both for mowing and for sprinkler repair, and if I were to discuss it with Ron, I think he'd come back with a different number as well.

Contest Director
3 hours of effort??? I've been CD for both ALES and TD...The CD is responsible for getting it setup, running it, and getting it put away (hopefully he gets help, usually, but it's his responsibility, help or not). If the CD gets there at 8:30am, and doesn't leave until 3:30 pm, how is that 3 hours??? Time is time...and that's 7 hours of a CD's time - PERIOD - minimum! Often the CD does more than just play CD...At the last ALES, I did Scoring as well, so there was additional "effort", that's why I simply consider it "time" not "effort".

Contest Lunches
I'm pretty sure Aric and Carl would both disagree on this one as well. 3 hours of "effort" to shop for, prepare, cook, serve, and clean-up lunch for 20+ people??? Really???

Needless to say...I feel the numbers you're using are low, however, as you stated, it's a starting point...

Oct 11, 2013, 07:45 PM
Team Hello Kitty
SoaringDude's Avatar
Sheldon, could you please just suggest numbers you think are closer? With enough feedback I'm confident we'll converge on the right values. I could challenge you on some of your comments but we're in "brain-storming mode" right now. Everyone's inputs at this stage are useful.

UPDATE: just got off the phone with Bob Mosher who said it took him 4-6 hours each time when he was doing the BBQ thing for us.

Chris B.
Last edited by SoaringDude; Oct 11, 2013 at 08:01 PM. Reason: Just called Bob Mosher
Oct 11, 2013, 11:52 PM
Registered User
nodlehs's Avatar
Chris, I spent some time on the phone with Ron and I'll get some numbers & sanity checks to him for review, then he'll adjust/post as necessary. He is in agreement that they're off, so we'll figure out what needs to change and update as needed.

Oct 13, 2013, 10:45 AM
Registered User
Why do we bother to mow the winch lanes? Well, because of the intrusive and obnoxious behavior of the invasive annual weeds that have invaded much of the Central Valley. One particularly evil beast is the so called tar weed I mentioned in a post above. They cover our tow lines with a sticky and smelly mess when they are allowed to grow tall in late summer. Fortunately, our vigorous summer mowing has been effective in minimizing this problem. There are other evil weeds around that we don't want as well, and I don't mean the kind that flies home built gliders.

The problem is, the mowing task is wearing out the club volunteers and draining our budget in mower maintenance costs.

There might be an alternative strategy that, once establish, would promises less work on our part. And, the name of the park we fly in, Yolo County Grasslands park, suggests the direction.

The problem is, we are inundated with annual weeds which have fast growing shallow roots that grow quickly in the rainy season and easily out compete and suppress the slow growing deep rooted, and thus drought tolerant perennial grasses.

I have found the following study of roadside grass management in Yolo County that might very well be applicable to our winch lanes.


The article is very worth reading; it is detailed and informative.

I would like to consider planting a modest portion of our winch lanes along the lines described in the attached article as an experiment. Does it really work in the context of our soil type and topography? I would suggest we locate an expert on this matter to advise us as to what grasses would provide the kind of ground cover that would suit us and that would be likely to survive the drought portions of the year once established. (I volunteer to follow up on this idea)

There was a time when the county really was interested in native grasses for the park. Unfortunately, with the budget cutbacks and staff reductions, that interest seems to have waned. In the past, I would have guessed the county would have been and enthusiastic partner in such an endeavor. Now? Who knows.

Nonetheless, I am willing to look into this.
Last edited by jpherit; Oct 13, 2013 at 06:29 PM. Reason: typo
Oct 13, 2013, 01:42 PM
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jtlsf5's Avatar
How about adding the annual 2-day contests to the routine work load? As CD for the last few Summer Soaring Challenges, I put in 2.5 days on site plus planning time, the Scorekeeper (Dudley) puts in more considering the actual contest, planning and PR, then there are the volunteer group that mans the winches, landings, call up, food, etc. It all takes effort.

Then there's the 2-day ALES event with its group of volunteers (somehow Sheldon keeps doing this!!).


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