From The Blog

Meet Jim McRae And The Major Repairs Committee

The KICA Major Repairs Committee (MRC) is responsible for overseeing the development and maintenance of KICA’s infrastructure, including the recreation, administration, security and maintenance facilities. It makes recommendations, helps ensure excellent property management and high quality products and services to members, while staying within the budget.

This is no small task, and committee members tend to have some expertise in engineering or construction. The roughly 10 members, a mix of full- and part-time residents, meet monthly to study problems and recommend solutions to KICA Chief Operating Officer Joe Bunting and the association board.

Jim McRae considers himself an unlikely chair of this committee. “The ideal chair would have an engineering background, preferably in civil engineering, and experience in construction. That’s 90% of what we do. Fortunately, several committee members, including two former chairs, have such a background,” he said. However, Jim is not ill-prepared for the job. “I had enough engineering and physics courses in college to understand everything they are talking about.”

After two years at Boston College, Jim began naval flight training. He earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering and science from the naval post-graduate school. “Once I got into the Navy, I liked it and the people, so I decided to stay,” Jim said. Later, he earned a masters in management from the University of Southern California. Jim’s career in the Navy spanned 25 years, the last six at the Pentagon. He remained in the northern Virginia area for 17 more years, working as a civilian contractor at the Naval Air Systems Command. He first visited Kiawah in 1992, when he came for a family reunion hosted by his wife’s brother, who had recently built a Kiawah home. Jim and his wife had been exploring the east coast, “from Cape Cod to Florida,” he said, “looking for place to retire. When we saw Kiawah, that settled it. It was Thanksgiving weekend and the weather was horrible, but the island sold itself. Not a blade of grass was out of place.” They became full-time residents a few years later.

Jim has enjoyed overseeing the wide array of responsibilities of the MRC. “The facilities on the island are extensive – the lakes, the bike paths, the bridges,” he said. “Problems sometimes happen.” All major repairs go through the MRC. They are charted on the Large Project Tracking Sheet, which is posted on the association web site (www. kica.us/genmaint.htm) and updated monthly by Connie Samford, major repairs and replacement director.

Jim described a recently complete, ongoing and future project. “The island’s lakes and ponds are all connected and they provide the major drainage system for the island. Recently we noticed a land buildup just offshore of one pond which suggested a problem with the drainage between two of the ponds. If it had been caused by a breakdown in a pipe or a sinkhole, it would have been a big expense. But it was just pipes clogging up and that was easier to repair.” The bridge repair project is ongoing. “We have seven bridges on the island, all designed by the developer, made out of large 12×12 timbers. These boards are expensive—they can be $1,200 – 1,500 a piece. They rumble, and people who live nearby don’t like the noise. Now we are trying something different. You can see the experimental bridge at the entrance to the Preserve. It has smaller boards with different underpinnings, and the surface is more durable and easier to replace. Eventually, the other six bridges will be rebuilt the same way.”

A major project for the coming year is replacing the air conditioning units in the Sandcastle. “The building has five units. It’s time to replace them and they will be upgraded with more efficient units. When the Sandcastle was built, access to equipment in the attic was limited,” he explained. “We will have to rebuild the attic in order to get the old equipment out and the new in.”

Jim hasn’t found the chair’s job to be heavily time-consuming. The committee meets monthly for about 1.5 hours, and he follows up regularly with Connie Samford. As chair of the MRC, Jim also serves on the Strategic Planning Committee, which consists of the KICA board and the chairs of the Major Repairs, Finance, Member Appeals and Human Resources committees. He has also served on the Safety and Security Committee for about five years.

He says likes serving on multiple committees. “It’s a good way to keep up with the inner workings of our island,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot about the island. I’ve also met a lot of nice people. When I run into them around the island, I know who they are and what they are doing.”