Television to return to lounge in Laguna Woods Village after disputes among residents led to its removal

by in News

The Drop-in Lounge will be tuning back into television, with conditions — muted, with closed captions, fixed to the Village Television channel.

As determined at the March 14 community activities committee meeting, a 43-inch LED smart television will be installed within the next few weeks with restricted channel access and no noise disruption, according to a Village Management Services staff report.

Recreation and Special Events director Brian Gruner confirmed at the Tuesday, April 2 Golden Rain Foundation meeting that the TV order has been placed.

The committee also entertained installing Apple iPad Pro tablets as an alternative, which was ruled out as they would encroach the gaming area, director Annette Sabol Soule said.

Conflicts between loungers — some verging on physical altercations with multiple instances of security calls — led to the television’s extraction in December 2018.

Soule, who also serves as the community activities chair, said that the decision time was extended largely due to liability issues from a fight that broke out, which involved four people and a police report.

“I’ve actually gotten quite a few compliments on the lounge since the TV’s been removed,” Gruner said. “It’s provided a more relaxed, more engaging environment for them.”

Residents experiencing unrest over the TV removal circulated a petition asking for the committee to reconsider. It sparked action, but the contingencies may tangle the issue further.

“I know you don’t want to hear this Brian,” director Pat English said. “But I think it’s a cruel and unusual punishment to make us watch channel 6.”

Resident Maxine McIntosh noted the local channel repeats programs and may not be the first choice for many. But it’s the principle of the matter that she appreciates the least.

“The TV limit sounds like the residents are being addressed at a kindergarten level,” McIntosh said. “You really need to deal with culprits who make it unpleasant there. You need to post rules. Take away their right (to enjoy the lounge) … not everybody’s.”

Resident Elizabeth Romano chalked the TV’s removal up to elder abuse and neglect, noting the impact this may have caused on socialization. Director Diane Phelps disputed that, saying that the absence of one television in a common area does not rise to such a level.

Regardless of the criticism, Gruner noted that this will at least be the first click in the Drop-in Lounge’s return to the tube.

Staff training

GRF passed a resolution that would temporarily close the Department of Recreation and Special Events facilities for staff training, from 1-4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 14.

Requested by the community activities committee, the comprehensive training day would be conducted by clubhouse supervisors for all recreation employees and has never been done before, according to a VMS staff report.

“As an educator, I have to say this is a wonderful opportunity,” GRF president Beth Perak said. “I really feel strongly that we need to provide training for all of our staff members in the department where they’re working so that they can gain new skills and enhance the skills they already have.”

The training will include a corporate and departmental overview, breakout sessions focusing on customer service, operating procedures, emergency procedures, situational role-playing and team-building activities.

If every team member attends, the estimated loss of revenue would be $4,500, a staff report stated. Golf operations alone would cost GRF $2,700 and room rentals $140.

The board unanimously approved the resolution upon first reading. It now waits to satisfy a 28-day notification requirement and will be revisited in a May meeting.