by Buz Whelan
When Board President Diane Caldwell called me with the sad news of Mike Gruber’s passing I was stunned. It was Friday morning, January 5th. Mike had died just a few hours earlier. Knowing I had been friendly with Mike, Ms. Caldwell decided to inform me personally, and I appreciate the gesture, sorrowful that the message was.
On the professional side, Mike was hired on Nov. 14, 1995. It was a reorganization of sorts, bringing Emerald Lakes accounting from an outside bookkeeping contract to in-house control . Mike held a B.Sc. in Accounting from Brooklyn College. He brought with him 14 years of accounting experience, including positions with various companies in New York and Pennsylvania. He was the accountant for Buck Hill Falls Community in the 5 1/2 years prior to coming to Emerald Lakes.
Mike was charged with organizing the accounting operation by the association board, led by then-President Flo Mauri. He was tasked with developing financial statements and analytical reports that would assist the board in operating more efficiently in the financial realm. He succeeded brilliantly creating clear reports that reflect the month to month financial status of the association, as well as annual reports that ensure accurate budgetary operation. In his 22 plus years here he passed 22 annual audits by 3 separate auditing firms. In comments included in the audit reports, his accuracy in recording our finances and assisting the auditor in the preparation of the report drew praise from auditor after auditor, year after year. Emerald Lakes has lost a valuable asset with his passing.
On the personal side, I considered Mike a friend. It’s not that we socialized outside EL. But we shared some interests and found many of the same things funny. What began as a straightforward professional association eventually became one of collegiality and affection.
I knew Mike from my work as editor of the Emerald News beginning in the spring of ’05. I occasionally needed information from him for an article. But when I had to assume the duties of treasurer due to the sudden illness of the previous treasurer, our association became much closer and more frequent. The first thing I did was sit down with Mike for a tutorial. He patiently walked me through our financial procedures over one March ’08 afternoon. It took about three hours to get the details through my thick head. My questions must have seemed incredibly naive, but he never once showed impatience or disdain. And during that period and times soon after I learned that we were both Yankee and football Giants fans. We celebrated together and agonized together over the following years depending on whether our teams were playing well or not.
Mike was amused by my daily FB posts on my timeline. Turns out our senses of humor and irony meshed. I’ll miss his comments and suggestions about those posts. But Mike had one flaw: he was a conservative Republican while I am a liberal Democrat. Okay, maybe it wasn’t really a flaw, but I loved to needle him, and he gave back as good as he got. I’ll miss those conversations as well.
Now, at what seems to me to be the young age of 59, Mike is gone. His financial acumen, his diligence, his experience over 22 years here are lost. That’s a blow to the Emerald Lakes operation. But to me, it’s the loss of a friend. Good bye, Mike. I won’t forget you.
by Kathy Leslie-Whelan
The meeting was called to order at 9:33 am, followed by the pledge of allegiance. Six board members were present. Treasurer Stefania Johnson was absent due to a death in her husband’s family.
Diane Caldwell read the standard board meeting procedures, which state that the meeting would be held in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order, and she cautioned the membership that inappropriate language would not be tolerated. As Secretary, Gilda Spiotta would be taking minutes, the membership was not allowed to comment on the meeting until public comments, and that 2 minutes will be allotted to each member in good standing. Caldwell also stated that there would be an executive session at the end of the open meeting.
Caldwell immediately asked for a motion to approve the October minutes. Al Leslie called for the motion and Bob Leon seconded it. The minutes were accepted unanimously.
Caldwell began her President’s message by stating there is a lot going on. Everyone is shopping, there is a lot of traffic, and that it is a good time of year to be with loved ones. She stated that it is a time for us to be joyous. She prayed that we all had a healthy, prosperous new year and wishes the best for everyone. She wished people Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a Happy New Year.
Caldwell also stated that it was unfortunate that she had to speak of negative things. She reiterated her issues with social media and basically stated that there is a site that gives out information that is incorrect. She cautioned members to be careful as to what you post and say because it could cause ramifications that will not be pleasant. She went on to say that she had received an email from our attorney who thought his services were being terminated when they weren’t, based on an article on this blog. She stated that we were terminating part of his collections, but he walked away from the Association. She further stated that all board members past and present were sworn to secrecy in perpetuity. Caldwell stated that the attorney heard it through rumors and minutes on a website. Caldwell reiterated that it was not true, and that in closing he terminated his services with us. Caldwell stated that you will hear that we interviewed another law firm. Caldwell stated that we should not be posting on how badly we are doing financially. She asked that people who post consider how they might be hurting ‘our assets.’ She also stated that she has witnessed untruths said about her, but she can handle herself. She ended her message by saying that she will be talking to the new attorney on how the Association will handle this, and that it wasn’t the official ELA minutes to the public that caused this. She further stated that we could take it for what it is worth. (Reporter’s note: In the September issue of this blog, it was reported that the board voted on changing the collection process. There was no mention of retaining our current attorney’s services until the public comments of the meeting. Laura Jones responded to a comment from Buz Whelan where she stated that our current attorney would keep only the 22 delinquent accounts where lawsuits were pending.)
Al Leslie read the Treasurer’s report for the absent Johnson. He stated that Administration was down, Public Safety was down, Maintenance was over, the Community Center was over, and the Bar and Grill were over. [sic]. The attorney collections year-to-date were $125K. Dues collection was down at $925K. Leslie further stated that the Bar and Grill have reduced their monthly costs from$4.8K to $3.2K. He stated that we have an allocation problem, and that that was the end of the Treasurer’s report. Caldwell interjected that Johnson’s spreadsheet will be in the newsletter and on the official ELA website. Leon made a motion to accept the Treasurer’s report as read, Spiotta seconded and the report was unanimously accepted as read.
In the Manager’s Report, Laura Jones stated that she wanted to thank the maintenance team who came out early that morning to prepare for snow removal. Currently, employees were spreading an 80% salt, 20% cinder mixture. When the roads are plowable, the mixture ratio is 60% salt, 40% cinder. She stated that the warmth of the tires riding on our roads will crush salt. She said that maintenance was on top of the snow situation. Jones also stated that our gaming license request was returned since a signature was not notarized. The form was resubmitted and it will take 3 to 6 weeks to learn if we are approved. Jones stated that legal RFPs were sent out and Young and Haros was selected to be the new attorney of record. An employment manual is being prepared. It is a “How to do this Job” document and will contain Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). A fundraiser policy is currently under review by the board. Caldwell stated that the fundraiser and solicitation policy should be posted on our website. Jones stated that we have a legal problem (civil suit). A hearing is set for 1/17/18. A vendor is claiming that we did not pay them in full. Jones stated we paid them, but will not pay for work not approved. She is confident that she will be successful in court.
Jones stated that 175 delinquent accounts were turned over to Sunrise on 12/4/17. She also stated she sent out a severance letter to our current attorney on 11/1/17. The letter gave our current attorney a deadline of 12/3/17 for our delinquent collections. Jones stated that Sunrise has 4 settlement offers, so it is “starting to work out”. Currently Nicole, Nicky and Mike are being trained to handle in-house collections. Jones described an amnesty program which will be offered to delinquent homeowners. It is a onetime offer that will reduce fees and interest on their account if they pay it in full. Jones went on to thank Daryl Gamble for turning around the Community Center. She stated that “no one can match his vision”. She also heard that karaoke night was a blast. She further stated that the atmosphere at the Community Center has changed and no one deserves more praise that Daryl. She stated “It wouldn’t be the same without him”.
Jones stated that the annual road maintenance is completed with $48K remaining in the budget. That money will be used to keep up our roads on pot holes and cracks.
Jones gave kudos to Caldwell on the pressure she put on Mario Scavello and the township. They supplied materials for the roads in Blueberry Estates where 11 members live. She stated that 6 1/2 tons of material was given to us and that our maintenance team did a great job of applying it to the roadways. Caldwell interjected and stated that our maintenance staff did an amazing job. She also stated that she told Scavello that he is up for election soon and that she has no problem going to the Pocono Record. She than commended his aggressiveness and stated that thank you letters will be going out to all parties that were involved.
At this point Jones continued with her manager’s report, stating that she wanted Rules and Regulation to team up with the Fishing Club to revise the rules for ice fishing. She went on to state that we have a beaver problem and that they are tearing down trees. 8 trees were down on Main Beach. She stated she was learning about beavers and how they break ice and tear down trees. She stated she knows of no way of stopping them without killing them. They may die. Nobody minds killing spiders, but it is harder to kill a beaver. She spoke to the Gaming Commission and they recommended setting leg hold traps that would clamp down on the beaver. She rejected that idea since we have children that play at our lakes. Currently Maintenance is wrapping our larger trees. Aluminum sheets will be used on the smaller trees. Jones stated that the code enforcement stats will be posted on the web and in the newsletter. Jones ended with wishing everyone happy holidays and that she hopes we celebrate them with love.
Director’s comments started with Dave Borsos. His wished all a happy holiday and stated that they have long meetings to make these open meetings run smoothly. Jake Bower wished everyone the same. He stated he is getting more involved with the community, and he has a positive attitude, and that they have a lot of things to correct. Bower stated we are going against ourselves when we post negative things. He believes the Community Center is unbelievable and that they are going to keep the ball rolling. He also stated that there are precious pictures of the children from the tree decorating function to be posted.
Bob Leon reminded everyone of the New Year’s Eve Party and wished everyone a happy holiday. Al Leslie reiterated the earlier kudos to Caldwell with the action on Blueberry Estates. He wished everyone a safe and happy holiday and stated that bingo will go on tonight even though it is snowing. The jackpot was up to $580. Gilda Spiotta wished everyone a happy holiday and stated that it is the time of year when her students are off the wall. She reminded all to remember the beautiful things and to try to work things out. She also stated that if you have a suggestion, she is interested in your input, and she thanked everyone for their contributions.
Earl Franks started the committee reports for Finance and Planning. He stated that the October issue was resolved and proposed going from accrual to a cash system. He stated there will be a new accounting recording system. He asked, since our attorney terminated all services, who is doing our legal work now? At this point Caldwell interjected that our current attorney was very unprofessional. Franks stated that as to the bar and grill, we are getting into next year’s funds. The board should determine an acceptable cost. Frank took exception to the numbers in the treasurer’s report and stated that we are $51k below in collections and $15k under in dues. He then wished everyone a happy holiday.
Loretta Schneider reported for the Real Estate Committee. In November they developed their objectives and goals. She stated that there was an educational component to their objectives and goals and that the landlords should be involved in the TOPs system. They are currently reviewing and implementing a long term rental policy. Schneider further stated that she is a landlord and lives far away so she will not be able to make all the open meetings. Susan Bower will represent her when she cannot attend.
Louise Leon thanked the board again for the Adult Water Aerobics (AWA) hours. At this point, Caldwell offered kudos to the AWA for their patience. There were ups and downs and ups and downs. Caldwell stated she recognized the value, and that a former board member who was against this group stated that he was joining. Caldwell commends the value AWA brings to the Association. Leon stated that they will offer a prize to every new member. She would not say what that prize would be, but she will pass on Caldwell’s comments to the group.
Under old business, with Button Oil, Caldwell stated that she forwarded a text message to Mr. Jones at Preferred Management that stated that the Button verification needed to be signed. Mr. Jones said that he sent it but did not get a confirmation that it was received. He stated he would re-send and Caldwell told him that she also wanted it sent to her.
The current Point of Sale (POS) system has no tech support. The board researched several systems and selected a Clover system. The Board talked to Wells Fargo and PNC to see that it was compatible and how it could be used. Caldwell stated that it was an easy touch screen system and will be located at the front desk, the bar, and the kitchen. The system has a good reporting function, and this was a good turning point for us to get back on track. A resolution was proposed to accept the Clover POS System. Discussion from Borsos was that this system is used by other places like us and small businesses. Bower stated that he cannot vote and recused himself since he works for Wells Fargo. He stated that the Clover system has a button that can be hit if there is a problem and that we will receive a call back in three minutes. He stated that this system is used across the world and the updates are downloaded overnight. The system is usable from a laptop and changes can be made easily. Leon stated that he researched the old and new system on-line. For the old system there is a charge to reach out to them for support. Clover has YouTube videos for instructional purposes. He also stated that there were hand-held devices that could help with bingo. He cited an incident that happened the night before when a member was sitting at the bar while his family swam in the pool. After the swimming they sat down for dinner and were issued two bills. The current system could not combine the two bills. Leon favored PNC over Wells Fargo since PNC will give a discount on credit cards.
Leslie stated that the system was a lot easier and that he favored PNC. Spiotta stated that she had done research, and that they had accurate reporting. The system will give us what we need and she chooses PNC.
The motion passed with all directors in favor of the system and using PNC. (Director Bower recused himself from voting.)
After voting Leon stated that the resolution did not say we were leasing the system. The board reread the motion with the correct language and the board held another vote with the same count as mentioned above.
Under new business, Caldwell stated that what transpired this week meant new counsel was needed. 18 RFPs were sent out to legal firms and on December 1st the board interviewed Young and Haros in Stroudsburg. Motion was passed unanimously.
A collection amnesty program resolution identified 175 delinquent accounts. Any delinquent account between $9,999 and $1,000 will be eligible for a one time reduction of fees and interest if they pay their account in full. Anyone less than 1 year in arrears is not eligible. Leon stated that it was wrong and in conflict with something. He questioned about the delinquent accounts under $1K and was told they are still paying. Spiotta made motion to accept resolution. Leslie seconded and resolution passed unanimously.
Under public comments John Palmisano stated no one should be allowed to use roads if they don’t pay their dues. Jones stated that yes there is no free ingress or egress.
Joe Olall gave kudos to the board for their due diligence for selecting a professional HOA attorney.
Louise Leon wished everyone a happy holiday and profusely thanked the board again for the AWA hours.
Ange Noonan stated that she loves being here and that the changes are amazing. Food is delicious and that we are probably better off without our old attorney. She wants a yoga class with a professional instructor where members can pay dues. Jones instructed her to see her after the meeting. Also she requested a dog run but was told that the funds were not available at this time. Maybe in the future. Jones stated that if Noonan heads it up and gets donations she would fully support it. Noonan asked why it took so long to post the minutes so that people will get the “real message”. Caldwell stated that they are looking into live streaming so that there are no discrepancies. The live streaming will only be available to members and that when minutes get approved the stream will come down.
Loretta Schneider asked if the board would consider conference calling so that members can participate. Caldwell stated they are investigating that with Verizon. Caldwell stated that it is an interactive live media.
Buz Whelan stated that he once again will to be “the skunk at the picnic”, but he said that he didn’t think that the attorney resigned over social media. He stated that these open meetings are public forums and are subject to public scrutiny. He further pointed out that the resolution to turn over all delinquencies from $3, 000 to $9,999 to Sunrise Collection and have delinquencies below $3,000 handled in-house was made at the open meeting on September 29th. The ethical, businesslike and courteous thing would have been to notify Mr. Hludzik of this sweeping change in the relationship immediately, no later than the next business day. It was this attempt to keep the change secret that caused the attorney’s resignation. Caldwell interjected that she has it here in black and white and that she was not quoted properly or that things were left out. She further stated that Hoffman, who was our attorney for a while said that no board or director should comment on unofficial media. She wants to vomit. She withholds her comments on the advice of counsel and does not post on underground media. She has a fiduciary responsibility. Whelan responded that she mischaracterized Hoffman’s advice, and that he was at the meeting. Hoffman answered Bob Lauri’s question by saying directors could post if they wanted to.
Kathy Whelan asked what the date was on the letter sent by our attorney when he resigned from the Association. Caldwell stated that she will not answer that question. She stated we had other collection matters with George and they were forced to hire for other things. [sic}
Leslie makes motion to end meeting.
*Please note, for the second consecutive month, there was no welcoming of new members.
Reporters Note: I write these reports based on notes taken during the meeting. I get no special consideration or cooperation from the board. I try my best to report accurately, but occasionally mistakes will be made. I invite correction and have no desire to intentionally mischaracterize any comments or actions.
by Kathy Leslie-Whelan
The meeting was called to order at 9:33 am, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Diane Caldwell, President, immediately called for a motion to approve the September meeting minutes and stated that the board package was just sent out the night before. Caldwell asked if everyone had read the package and they all said yes. Director Leon had one correction which was to correct the spelling of Bill Henry’s name. The board approved unanimously September’s minutes with the one correction. Caldwell proceeded to read a statement where she reiterated her comments that the meeting would be held in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order and cautioned the membership that inappropriate language would not be tolerated. As Secretary, Gilda Spiotta was taking minutes and the membership was not allowed to comment on the meeting until public comments and that 2 minutes will be allotted to each member in good standing. Caldwell stated that liaisons to committees will bring any recommendations to the board but that the board members don’t have to agree with the recommendation.
Caldwell stated she wanted to give insight into what the board was working on and rate it in the form of a report card.
- Daily Cash and Receipt Policy – will be uploaded on official website.
- Reduction of Accounts Receivable Policy – there will no longer be automatic withdrawals from ELA accounts. Only computerized checks will be generated and signed by board. A new form was developed for requesting checks to be cut.
- Debit and Credit Sign-In Sheet Policy – new GL accounts will be created.
- ELA Collection Policy – a contract was signed with Sunrise for delinquent accounts that range from $3K to $10K.
- Administration Policy – internal but needed policy.
- Record Retention Schedule – will be posted on official web site
Caldwell stated that the board members are an amazing group of people and she stated that Jake Bower is looking into a new POS system for the Community Center (CC). The current system is garbage and we are not going forward with the current system. Caldwell stated that the allocations were not correct for years. Bower is looking into a Clover System. It is the most feasible and not that expensive. Caldwell stated that Stefania Johnson has uncovered items in the budget that are incorrect and that Bob Leon has great ideas with the lakes for a fountain process that aerates the lakes and a solar cover for the outside pool. Dave Borsos is a numbers man and technical man and always asks the right questions. Al Leslie has over 10 years of experience and Caldwell stated that she appreciates his experience and patience. Gilda Spiotta is precise and gives of herself. She is like Sherlock Homes where she drives around the community and identifies signs that should not be up. Spiotta also picks up trash.
Caldwell further stated that the board is trying to bring changes to the Association and turn things around. She further stated that Laura Jones from Preferred Management has educated the board and she commends her. Caldwell further stated that there will be more policy changes to come.
Caldwell ended her message by stating that she loves social media but there is too much negativity. The membership should be looking at the official not the unofficial web site to get their information. In addition, the board is looking into live streaming their meetings so that information will not get reported incorrectly. (Reporters Note: My report comes from my hand written notes. If I report incorrectly, I welcome anyone to make corrections where they deem they are needed.)
Stefania Johnson started the Treasurer’s report stating that she hoped to see all at the Halloween party later that evening.
(Money is reported on as Fiscal Year to Date)
Reserves $407,000 – Last Year $385,000
New Capital $176,600 – Last Year $52,400
Dues $794,087 – Last Year $798,004
Attorney collections $111,000 – Last Year $158,600
Administration $45.1 [sic] over budget
Public Safety $4.4 [sic] under budget
Maintenance $8.5 [sic] over budget
Community Center $9.3 [sic] over budget
(Bar and Grill $12,400 over budget, but there is an allocation problem)
Budget cost for Bar and Grill is $24K /yr so monthly budget is $2K. Over by $774.
Caldwell then stated that she forgot to mention Daryl Gamble during her president’s message. Gamble has been overseeing staff at the CC, decorated the CC for Halloween and has identified problems in the CC. He is a hard worker.
Since Laura Jones was out on a medical leave, Caldwell read the Manager’s report. As to newly paved roads, problems have been identified with shoulder work so they are holding Contractor’s payment until corrected. The treatment of the Cabomba on Mountain Top Lake has been considered successful. The contractor is going to apply for another grant so the Cabomba can be kept under control. On 11/15 all boats must be removed from boat racks. On 11/16 fines will be issued and the boats will be disposed of at the owners’ expense. A new health insurance package for staff was presented to the board. The most cost effective policy that benefits the staff most is Geisinger Gold. The Association will save $58,146 and the policy will go into effect on 12/1. Jones is looking into items where the Association should have been tax exempt (electric, etc.) and is working on getting a reimbursement on these payments. Jones feels that we should be reimbursed $10K. The Pine Tree walkway was temporarily repaired. We may need an Engineer’s report on this area. A small game of chance license has been applied for. This will expand the bingo operation and bring in more foot traffic. Currently Jones is looking at the TOP’s program under Preferred Management. We were billed at an amount well over what we were supposed to be paying. Bower is currently researching whether we can tap into TOPs software by having credit reporting done on delinquent home owners and identifying their delinquency on their credit reports. Bower interjected that this should be another deterrent for not being delinquent. He stated that he will keep us informed on his research.
Caldwell continued with the Manager’s report stating cover letters will go out with the May 1st dues letter. Quarterly payments are not working out since it hurts our cash flow. Jones is currently working on a six-month plan where a percentage will be added onto the member’s dues that opt to pay in installments. The member will have to sign a form agreeing to pay this additional percentage, and she anticipates that the plan will be ready by May 1st. Treasurer Johnson interjected that we have an issue at the back end of our fiscal year, so this plan can only help us and that we are only hurting ourselves. There is also a possibility that this plan may produce more delinquent home owners. Caldwell stated that the last time we had a dues increase was 6 years ago and that she personally had to take out a home equity loan for $17K to stay here.
During director comments, Jake Bower stated that Daryl Gamble is digging into things at the CC so his hair is thinning. He is digging as deeply as possible to save money. Bower stated that communication is key and that the lack of it can cause groups to fail. He stated that the Events Committee needs help especially in events for the kids. He reiterated from a previous meeting that we are looking for volunteers to help out. Bob Leon stated that last night while at the bar he and his wife ordered dessert which was delicious but that when he asked for his check it did not include that item. The POS system is not working correctly. Dave Borsos stated that when he was running for the board he did research on what other communities in the area pay in dues. He wanted to share his results. They are as follows:
Arrowhead Lake – $1,870
Pocono Farms – $1,350
Locust Lakes – $1,282
Pocono Country Place (A) – $1,400
Stillwater – $840 (in addition this community has sewage fees)
Towamensing Trails – $458
Indian Mountain Lakes – $875
Al Leslie stated that as the old man in the group (28-29 years in ELA) once we were the community with the highest dues and we were considered the premier community.. He stated that the board is doing a great job. Stefania Johnson stated that she did not have much more to add, but that Charlotte on Finance and Planning did research on what other community dues were and that we were probably one of the lowest with all of our amenities. She stated that the board is doing great things and they are going in the right direction. She stated that there is a lot of work to do and it will probably take 2 or 3 years to see change, but change is coming. Gilda Spiotta stated that she agrees with everyone and that they are doing a lot together. Management issues are being put in place and they will continue to move forward. She further stated that the association must keep up with the new and continue to evolve.
Daryl Gamble thanked all for the praise and stated that the biggest problem was the breach between the office, board and community, and that collectively we can do something about it. The CC can be a lot more than it is. Things can get worse before they get better. He implored all to get the word out that we would like more people gathering at the CC, and he encouraged people to start clubs such as card playing. Groups can meet at the CC for their various clubs and have fun. If anyone wants to start a club he stated that they could create flyer for them to attract others that may be interested. He stated that we are not going change in a week what was a problem for years.
Next on the agenda was Committee Reports. Louise Leon stated as the representative for the Adult Water Aerobics Club that she was thankful for the morning hours, and the group consisted of 11 members. She further stated that the water temperature was not being maintained, and it needs constant monitoring. She recommended that we add a thermometer.
Dan Glasgow, representing the Events Committee, stated that he thought Daryl’s forehead was getting bigger vs. him losing his hair. He stated that there was a children’s Halloween party that afternoon and an adult party that night. Not all decorations were out since some are not appropriate for children. Glasgow stated that the form that the Events Committee must complete is a learning process and he appreciates the huge cornucopia of knowledge that Laura Jones has bought to the community and he commends her. His committee is trying to get a system in place but they have very few members and he is looking for help. The committee meets on the first Saturday of every month at 4:00PM.
Earl Frank of Finance and Planning made the recommendation for them to look at the receipts for people using the bar and grill. He stated that at this time there is nothing to report on the collections from Sunrise. Frank stated that in the first 6 months there was more going into checking than was going out. Frank further stated that Bill Henry’s research from 2009 to now shows that in 2011 overhead was $625K vs. this year at $900K. Frank asked why workshops were closed. Caldwell responded that they were closed so that the board can talk freely without interruption, and the majority of them wanted it closed. Frank again asked the board to approve them to review the bar and grill receipts. Johnson made the motion. Leslie seconded it and it passed unanimously.
Jake Bower reported for the Real Estate committee. He stated that a new chair was in place. The landlords’ meeting was a success, and they are looking at different policies and procedures for fireworks. They are also looking at what happens when a landlord is delinquent but tenant is up to date, and they are also looking at other procedures to see if we are following through if someone is not following the set rules. ELA’s total Real Estate income for last year was $108K (January to August. This year it is $97K + (January to August).
Dave Borsos reported for Rules and Regulations. This committee had two requests from the board. First request was that the board give them goals and objectives for the year. Second request was for a co-liaison to back up the liaison should they not be able to attend. Caldwell stated that if a liaison could not attend it was up to the committee chair to report to the board the outcome of the meeting. There were too many guests (board members) invading meetings and the committee members felt they were being watched, so the board decided not to assign co-liaisons.
Under old business, Caldwell discussed the update on Button Oil. Button’s attorney was given a deadline of 9/22 to respond to law suit but they missed deadline. We are currently looking to obtain all correspondence on this issue. Button proposed a tentative settlement but it was not accepted by board. Caldwell stated that our attorney dragged his feet so we are in a waiting game situation.
Under new business there was a resolution on a Clover POS System Project. Caldwell showed a picture of what the new system would look like. She stated it was a simple system that would cost $238/month as a lease, and in 3 years we would own the system. This POS system was for the bar and grill only. Jake Bowers stated that there are applications offered with this system and that this is one of the top systems out there. He is looking to obtain a quote from PNC on this system and that the system could be integrated with our TOPS system. Gilda Spiotta stated that she was uncomfortable with owning a system in three years. She questioned what support we would have at that point. She stated that we have to evolve with the system. Stefania Johnson stated that the system needs to not be complex and that we need to get support. She wants to review other systems and does not want to rush to judgment. Bob Leon stated that instead of waiting for the next meeting, the board should pass the resolution with a $ amount associated with it. There will be no board meeting in November due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Next scheduled open meeting is December 9th. This resolution was postponed and not voted on.
There were no new members to welcome to the community this month.
Pat Galderisi would like updates on the TOPS system. She then proceeded to praise Laura Jones and made the statement that she has been on the executive search committee to recommend a new general manager and the board has never accepted their recommendations. She further stated that comparing other community dues with our dues is like comparing apples and screwdrivers. As a history of ELA, we were left in a hole and never recovered from the builder. There are people in Classic’s pocket and we are never going to recover. People are fraudulent, and it will come out.
Joe Olall wanted to know what was the on current contract for our POS system. Caldwell stated that she has not seen that contract with Microworks, but it is up on January 1st. She stated that the company does not want to do anything for us and does not return calls. Caldwell stated that they do training, and that is all they are obliged to do. The company will not do anything for us now since their current contact with us is expiring. Olall stated that we should learn from our experience with this current vendor. Olall asked why our auditor didn’t pick up on the misallocation of money. Caldwell stated that he could not make heads or tails of it. Garbage in…garbage out. Olall also warned the board to be very careful about not offering quarterly payments on dues since it may be part of a resolution that was passed by the membership when the dues went up last.
Flo Mauri recommended that the board have a town hall meeting. Marketing of all the board’s accomplishments was important. She stated that Laura is doing a great job but there was a disconnect. The Association has been around for years and a negative message is being sent when you close the workshop meetings. She stated you should have nothing to hide and should be as transparent as possible. You need to tell membership more than once for it to sink in. (In advertising they say it takes 7 times before it sinks in.)
Earl Frank stated that the written policies are good. He wanted clarification that all checks generated required two signatures with the exception of payroll that only required one signature. He wanted assurance that all checks being signed were verified and that the signee looked at the bill and purchase order associated with check. He also asked if time cards were checked against checks being cut. Caldwell assured him that she does this personally for all checks going out and randomly checks time card against payroll.
Buz Whelan stated that if a dues increase is going to be requested a special meeting should be scheduled. He further stated that the board is handing a sword to members who will object to a dues increase in four areas. The first is canceling quarterly payments. Regardless of whether they are a part of the resolution, the membership was told if they granted the increase they would have quarterly payments. Canceling them will be viewed as a breach of faith, and objectors will use this to deny another increase. The one subject/two minute rule can be viewed as contempt for members’ suggestions, whatever the intent. Closing workshops creates the feeling that decisions are reached in private and only acted out at open meetings. There’s a lack of transparency. Whelan said he was pleased that Caldwell did not cut off the membership who went over the two minute timeline for comments at this meeting. He felt that if a member had something important to say, they should be afforded that time. Whelan stated that the grill is losing over $4K a month and that the treasurer’s report, while accurate, was misleading. While the combined cost of operation for the bar and grill was averaging about $2K/month, that was only because the bar profits were propping up the grill. The grill is actually on track to lose over $48K this year. At this point Treasurer Johnson stated that her report was not misleading. There was a $33K cost to the bar and grill with $40K in income which is a $9K profit. Cost for grill is at $2277 and profit of $12,300 for bar. The bar and grill is budgeted at $87K for year. Caldwell chimed in with that the Bar and Grill was only 4% of total budget. She stated that Bob Lauri did a breakdown of actual costs and that Earl and Bob had great discrepancies in their numbers.
Dan Glasgow stated that it is important to keep information accurate on the bar and grill. He questioned that if the grill was closed how will traffic be at the bar. He stated that the board should keep in mind that we all have cell phones where new and improved versions come out. We should keep that in mind for the new POS system. Open or closed meetings, majority have closed sessions.
Carmen Broadnax was glad to see that the board was focusing on the Association as opposed to personalities. She sees a light at the end of the tunnel. She questioned whether board members can vote at committee meetings and was told no. Broadnax stated that so many things have deteriorated with committees.
Igor Palka stated that you will not get an accurate reading of the number of people by counting receipts. You do not know how many people were on a receipt. Palka stated that he had trouble stopping on the tar and chipped road on his motorcycle. He felt it was unsafe and that the Association could face a lawsuit. Palka also wanted to know if the toilet at the outside pool would reopen next season. He was told that it depended on our finances. Palka questioned why Preferred Management’s insurance company didn’t cover the expense for the shoddy work done on the last big snow storm. Johnson stated that we could not blame them since it was our problem that we did not have enough equipment in good working order.
Heidi stated the bar and grill is an amenity that she enjoys and appreciates. It is part of what we are paying for and part of the reason she bought here. When she gets to the community on a Friday night she enjoys that she can get a bite to eat at the CC. At this point in time Diane Caldwell made the statement that she will close the compactor before she closed the bar and grill. (Reporter’s note – Caldwell stated at the open meeting in September that she did not use the compactor. See my report dated 9/30/17 on this blog.) Heidi went on to say she loves the lakes. She further stated that if there is a problem with quarterly payments the board should offer an incentive for payment in full.
Ang Newman stated that she is new here and that her head is spinning. She feels the grill is amazing and is happy to be here. She also stated that more people should come out to the board meetings.
Johnson stated that Laura Jones has done research and that we can do Sip and Paint in the CC. Flo Mauri stated that Jones should do research on Dave Wengert’s Classic Quality Homes and how he is operating in this community. Pat Galderisi stated that William Owens our auditor was wrong when he stated at the annual meeting that overpayment of membership dues if refunded would go to members that didn’t pay their dues.
The final comment from Bill Henry was that he has copies of the Emerald News from years ago…what comes around, goes around.
by Kathy Leslie-Whelan
The meeting was called to order at 9:30 am, followed by the pledge of allegiance.
Opening comments were made by Diane Caldwell, President. Caldwell pretty much reiterated her message which was printed in the October newsletter. She commented on the weather and stated that her comments will be short and sweet. She stated that the season is changing and so is the board. She welcomed old and familiar faces and two new board members, Jake Bower and Dave Borsos. She stated that there will be major changes. Caldwell stated that as a board they “are not into titles; it is what we do. Some people will agree and some will not.” Caldwell further stated that Laura Jones is fine tuning the administration office and if someone wants to see the financials they can view them. They must first set up an appointment with Ms. Jones and sign a Right to Know Request form. Caldwell then proceeded to say that the administration building was designed for the safety of the employees with the new walls and locks. Caldwell stated that the redesign was due to a former employee entering the facility with a gun.
Caldwell stated that the board had a lot to do this year and it will be a struggle due to the financial issues of the association. As stated in her comments at the August open meeting, Caldwell advised the membership that the meeting would be held in accordance with Roberts Rules of Order and cautioned the membership that inappropriate language would not be tolerated. Gilda Spiotta was taking minutes and the membership was not allowed to comment on anything until the end of the meeting. Caldwell also stated that after meeting the new board would be going into a closed executive session.
Caldwell further stated that each board member would be a liaison to the committees and bring back recommendations to the board. The new liaisons are as follows:
Rules and Regulations – Dave Borsos
Real Estate – Jake Bower and Diane Caldwell as co-liaisons
Maintenance – Bob Leon
Appeals – Al Leslie
Finance and Planning – Stefania Johnson
Events – Stefania Johnson
Communications – Gilda Spiotta
The floor was handed over to Stefania Johnson for the Treasurer’s Report.
Cash on Hand $341,800 – Last Year $461,500
Reserves $405,500 – Last Year $294,600
New Capital $166,600 – Last Year $39,400
Dues $768,200 – Last Year $759,700
Attorney collections $101,100 – Last Year $127,000 (Reporter’s note: To clarify, a records check reveals that a total of $285K was collected last year. The $127K was for the first 4 months only)
Administration $5,666 over budget in August – Year to Date – $2,300 over budget
Public Safety (not sure)
Maintenance $5,900 under budget in August – Year to Date $21,400 over budget
Community Center over budget in August $3,479 – Year to Date $10,703
(Bar and Grill under budget $458 – Year to date $10,548 over budget)
Annual Budget 2 M
Public Safety – 8 1/2 %
Maintenance – 26.9%
Community Center – 11% (Bar and Grill 4%)
At this point in time Laura Jones interjected that the Compactor is an amenity and does not make money but costs $140,000/yr. The Community Center is here for the enjoyment of the membership and is not here to make money. Even if we close down Center we will still have costs. The Community Center costs $60,000/yr to run. Jones stated that we should not be calling any money that is a deficit in the bar and grill as a “loss” but as a “cost”. Jones stated that with the turnover rate in the Community Center (4 times this year) that they have a situation with the POS system. She is unsure of how to correct the situation at this time. At this point in time Buz Whelan asked about the resolution that was passed by the board over 90 days ago and both Caldwell and Johnson yelled out at the same time that public comments were at the end of the meeting.
Laura Jones went into her Manager’s Report with a statement that she lives 15 miles away and still cannot figure out the weather in the Poconos. She would still be home in her pajamas if she didn’t have to be here. She stated that the official Facebook page was operational and a link will be email blasted out. It is for information only and no comments will be allowed. Not only will the site advertise events in ELA but it will also contain events and happenings in the area. Jones further stated that Button Oil was served with a complaint for $48K but no court date has been scheduled. Chip and seal work has been completed on certain roadways. Membership were cautioned to slow down especially on a curve since you may not be able to stop on this surface when wet or you could damage the paint on your car. The new roads paved are not completed. The shoulders will be compacted down. Jones stated that the contractor had a vehicle stolen from their shop but will acquire a vehicle to remove some pieces of equipment that were still on ELA property. The 2017 dam inspections were completed and are being reviewed by maintenance. Jones stated that the contract with GOE is being cancelled and we are lucky that we don’t have a five year flood. She stated that the dams are in good condition. Jones stated that all residents must have their boats removed from the racks by November 15th. Any boats that are not removed will be picked up by staff and the member will be given a fine and charged a storage fee. After February 15th boats will no longer be available if they are not picked up. In addition, ELA will not pay to fix boats. Jones stated the maintenance vehicles are prepped for winter and currently she, Darrel Gamble and Ron in maintenance are reviewing the snow removal routes and that people that live on cul de sacs will be plowed last. Jones stated that everyone has an expectation to see black top but that is not going to happen because this is the Poconos. We have a contract for salt at $77/ton. November 1st will be our first delivery. Jones further stated that new winter hours will go into effect on October 16th. Jones stated that we are now set up to accept credit cards or debit cards for payments, with the exception of American Express and Discover. Anyone paying by this method will be charged a 3% fee. Jones stated that Sunrise Collection services will be handling delinquent accounts over $3,000 since they can collect out of state. Heather resigned as Community center manager and she wishes her well. There is a new condensed menu at the grill and a special football menu. The Community Center has the football package offered by Direct TV. New emails will be issued to all staff and board. The new addresses will be emailed blasted out.
Diane Caldwell gave a shout out to Don Atkiss for Project Elmway (butterfly garden). Don said that Linda Shuey helped and did a lot of weeding. Caldwell planted her milkweed plants on her dad’s grave.
During director’s comments, Director Dave Borsos stated that the butterfly garden did not cost a nickel and that volunteers were needed. He thanked everyone who voted for him and wants to work together to make this a better place to live. Director Jake Bower also thanked everyone for their votes and stated that he sees a lot of promise. We have financial hurdles but he sees a light at the end of the tunnel. He further stated that ELA needs volunteers to help out. Director Bob Leon stated that the official Face Book page for ELA shows events that compete with our own events and he doesn’t think that that is a good idea. Vice President Al Leslie welcomed new board members and Laura Jones and congratulated Chief Gamble on his promotion. He also stated that the board was moving in the right direction. Treasurer Stefania Johnson stated that the Community Center needed more foot traffic and the grill was not a restaurant but an amenity. It is a good place to come out to meet your friends and neighbors. She encouraged people to join committees and help out where they can. She is happy to have two new board members and she respects opinions and looks forward to working with them. Johnson further thanked Daryl Gamble and Laura Jones and stated that they had to address the resolution on the grill. Secretary Gilda Spiotta also welcomed the new members to the board and stated that we are in for an exciting year. She stated something about being helpful and that changes are coming to our beautiful, thriving community. She extended kudos to Daryl Gamble, Laura Jones and Diane Caldwell. (Reporter’s note – I am not sure what specifically the kudos were for since no event or accomplishment was identified.) Spiotta reiterated that this was going to be an exciting year with challenges and they will meet hurdles [sic]. She stated the board needs patience and support from the membership. The board is part of the membership and she is not going to do anything to hurt herself. (Reporter’s note – Since the public is not allowed to speak or ask a speaker any follow-up questions, I can only report from my notes as to what the board members said.)
Laura Jones then began to speak of the bar and grill again. She looked at 1 week of activity from May to September. She didn’t think that people didn’t eat and that our customers were lushes. She believes that the POS system doesn’t accurately reflect where funds are being spent. The POS system may need a complete start over. She believes that the bar is being credited with receipts that should have been credited to the grill. She wanted the resolution to close the grill revoked. The grill is a service to the community and if in the future the numbers are not better she will ask to close grill. Stefania Johnson stated that if costs are allocated inaccurately that will still have to address the cost the association will bear. Johnson then presented the resolution to revoke the previous passed resolution to close the grill and Spiotta seconded it. The resolution passed unanimously. Discussions on resolution were from Jake Bower and Dave Bursos. Bower stated that since Jones and crew dug up this information he wanted to give it another chance. Bursos stated that there is a constant debate on this issue but it seems that the cost is going down and that management is getting a handle on it. In referencing this resolution Chief Gamble stated the Community Center operation was too detached from management. He further stated that there should be more oversight by administration and the Community Center should be treated like every other department, i.e. maintenance, public safety. Caldwell stated that she wants hands on training and not training over the phone on the POS system.
Only one committee report was given since no other committee met or was present to give report. Earl Frank, chair of Finance and Planning (F&P) thanked the board and everyone present for their cards and donation to Clymer Library in memory of his wife who just recently passed. He went on to say that there were only 5 members on F&P and encouraged more to join. Frank stated that the grand total was $130k over budget and they anticipate running out of money in March. Laura Jones thinks it is more like February that we will be running out of money. As to the new collection policy, no one from F&P agrees with the hiring of Sunrise. He stated that money for paving is coming out of the reserves. Frank stated that the Community Center cannot do any more improvements and that other projects such as the outdoor pool bath house is not feasible due to the lack of funds. He does not know where the money will come from. The F&P committee is trying to get a feel for what was spent and after the designated roads are paved there should be $60k left in reserves. Frank stated that it was reported that we have a 51% collection rate with $200 going into reserves. He believes it is more like 75% since we billed out $1.9M and collected $1.5M. At this time both Laura Jones and Diane Caldwell stated that they were against quarterly payments. Jones took over the conversation and stated that financial statements will be available to the membership for viewing. One must first speak to her and sign a Right to Know form. She further stated that an individual did not show up for a scheduled meeting with her for that right to view the documents. Jones stated that drastic cuts may be needed but closing the Community Center has costs associated with it. The building still needs to be maintained. She stated that 95% of membership uses the compactor and 10% use the Community Center.
Under old business, Jones stated that we are in litigation with Button Oil as a civil complaint. Button was served with the complaint on 9/2 and a response was due back on 9/22. At this point we have not heard back from attorney. Caldwell interjected that the attorney did not respond to an email that she sent. She further stated that we have more to litigate than the $38K that they owe us. It was reported that Brad Jones stated that the attorney said that we owe Button $10K and they are willing to give us $38K which is the balance of our deposit.
Under new business
Resolution – Community hours of operation. There seemed to be confusion as to the hours that were in front of the board. There was so much debate so I was not able to record the hours. This resolution passed unanimously.
Resolution – Swim at your own risk/no lifeguards. This resolution was for all pools and lakes. No discussion was held. The resolution passed unanimously.
Resolution – Financial Policy was on the agenda but not discussed or acted on.
Resolution – Collection Agreement – Sunrise Collection will receive all delinquent accounts over $3,000. Gilda Spiotta bought up resolution and Al Leslie seconded it. It was passed unanimously before discussions.
Jones explained that office staff will be handling all delinquent accounts under $3,000. Office staff will talk directly to membership and try to get them on the track of a payment plan. She further stated that our staff will finally be doing work that we are paying them for. Uncollected dues between $3,000 and $10,000 which amounts to $2.7M will be turned over to Sunrise Collections. Sunrise will add 35% to amount due and that will be their fee. Jones stated that they have call centers all over the country. Jones stated that we will not settle for less than 70% on accounts that delinquent over $10, 000. If no agreement, ELA will sue. She stated that we should not bear the weight of delinquents that still owe money. We will go after them with a hammer and make an example out of them. We will have a more aggressive collection plan. Jones stated you are not a neighbor or friend and this plan is purely business. At this point in time the Directors finally started their discussions, however, the resolution was passed. Jake Bower stated that he works at a bank and Sunrise is a reputable company. Stefania Johnson stated we can’t put all our eggs in one basket and we need to spread our wings. Johnson stated that this is more diligent and this is the strategy they need to go to [sic]. Diane Caldwell stated that in six months they anticipate collecting $706K. She stated that we currently have no process to go out of state. Jones than thanked Caldwell and the board for being forward thinking and shed ended the discussion with “Cha Ching”.
Resolution – Ice Fishing/Ice Skating. Gilda Spiotta read the resolution and Al Leslie seconded it. Ice fishing and ice skating will be at your own risk. Warning signs will be posted. Resolution passed by 4-3. Discussions were as follows. Bob Leon is opposed to ice fishing since many people that partake in this activity do not live here. He also felt that ice skating should be limited to the small pond. Stefania Johnson stated that we have lakes and the membership must follow the rules and regulations. It is up to the individual to make the right decision. Johnson stated that we have rules today which prohibit individuals that do not live here from using the lakes. Gilda Spiotta stated she was uncomfortable with resolution. Holes and fire can make the ice less safe. Public Safety will have a hard time checking IDs and we should not put them at risk. In addition, Spiotta stated that this resolution would add $5,000 to our insurance policy. Spoitta stated that she loves the plan for Sunrise (see resolution above), but wanted to postpone resolution since money is not in bank yet. Dave Bursos stated frozen or unfrozen, membership should be able to use lakes. He is against taking rights away from membership. Jake Bower stated that he is not in favor. He lives on Pine Tree Lake and saw that a deer fell through ice and he and his wife were unable to help the animal. Votes were as follows:
Spiotta – No
Johnson – Yes
Leslie – Yes
Leon – No
Bower – No
Bursos – Yes
Caldwell – Yes (President breaks tie vote)
Public Comments – Please note members were given two minutes to speak and time was kept by Laura Jones.
John Palmisano disagreed on last resolution since catch and release is not followed. Nobody is going to stand out in cold weather to check on ice fishermen. He also stated that permits were given out in past and that we should consider this again.
Joe Olall stated that the new collection effort seems good and that he will follow up with Treasurer Johnson on the Community Center. Olall stated that the Community Center was only utilized by a small percentage but is 4% of budget. He stated that the compactor was a service and not an amenity. He finally asked how the quarterly payments of dues affected payments and are payments falling behind. Laura Jones responded that we do not recover enough money to pay for the notification that are sent to the membership that opted for quarterly payments and that we may do away with this program. Caldwell further stated that there may be an incentive for people who pay upfront. They will be presenting this issue at the next open meeting.
Pat Galderisi asked if there were GPS on vehicles and was told no. Next question was how do you communicate with vehicles and the response was by radio. She made a statement that she has been living here for 32 years and that 51% compliance with paying dues makes 49% non compliant. Total delinquent money is at $4.7M and did we write off doubtful accounts. She stated that this must be public. Galderisi stated that moving forward financial plan should have a write off, financial plan should identify reductions and certain items are required by law. At this point Galderisi time was up, but since she stated she had positive things to say she was given additional time. She stated that Laura Jones should have been hired three years ago and that we would be in a better spot. She also stated that our attorney’s advice which was done as a freebie was never on letterhead or signed.
Bill Henry stated that we used a collection agency 13 years ago, it did not go well, and that the service we have is unique.
George Hesser stated that by law we cannot stop people from selling their property. He is seeing more and more trash cans at the end of driveways and he feels that these are people that are not paying dues. Caldwell responded that she doesn’t use compactor and pays to dispose of her trash since she lives out of the main area.
Flo Mauri stated that she appreciates everything being done and feels a lot is being done. She feels the board has a different take and she likes the way the board is focusing on priorities. She stated that research was needed on the trash compactor and Community Center.
Betty Goodline reminded the membership that Saturday, October 7th was cancer awareness day. Door will open at 12:30 where people can buy tickets to bid on the various baskets. Bingo will start at 1:30 PM which means there will be no bingo at 7:30 as stated in the October newsletter. Between 7:00 PM and 10:00 PM, Long Time Coming will be performing in the Community Center. Cost for tickets is $15.00 in advance or $20.00 at the door. There will also be a bake sale and they are currently accepting donations for baked goods, baskets and money. So far the Events committee has collected $1,550 and will be donated to the American Cancer Society. Anyone wanting to donate money can make their checks payable to the American Cancer Society.
Earl Frank stated the Financial policy on the agenda is a board set policy and are requirements of the auditor. Bad debts were reduced and the plan should reflect these deductions. Frank stated that if we get a $200 dues increase it would bring in $300k/yr.
Buz Whelan stated that the collection process is shifting the burden of record keeping to ELA and there could be substantial cost to the association. He asked what is the criteria for success. Laura Jones stated that billing is an in-house function and it is our responsibility. She further stated that staff will be earning their keep. Jones stated that the collection agency has over 500 people working for them. 22 accounts will remain with our attorney who has law suits pending on delinquent accounts. $2.7M in delinquent accounts will be turned over to collection agency. Treasurer Johnson further added that over the past 4 months our attorney has collected $127K (Reporter’s note: That is last year’s figure for first 4 months. This year it is $101K so far). Johnson stated that she anticipates the collection agency will collect double or even more in 6 months. Johnson further stated that she will not banter back and forth with Whelan. Jones stated that we work for the Association and not George and he will only keep 22 accounts that are in litigation. Jones stated that they will get figures every month from Sunrise. Whelan spoke about the POS system and simple fixes but he was cut off by Jones since his two minutes were up. She stated she was interested in his comments but did not allow him additional time as she did another member who was complimenting her services.
Don Atkiss thanked all for helping with the butterfly garden and thanked ELA for the signage. Next Sunday there will be a drum circle at the site and he encouraged all to come out. He stated that he anticipates that the garden will be better next year since more of the plants will be in full bloom. Atkiss also handed out milkweed seeds to the membership to plant now. Seeds need to be frozen over for best results.
Linda Shuey thanked Don Atkiss for the garden and welcomed the two new board members. She found it disturbing that the board was okay with a $60K loss at the grill but didn’t have $1,000 for the fishing club to restock. She stated that the club would fund the restocking from their own pockets.
Carmen Broadnax had two issues. Issue one dealt with the school buses that are speeding in the community and there should be no need for them in the community. Chief Gamble stated that there are special needs children and they have to be allowed in to pick up these students. Broadnax was instructed to contact the school with the bus number if she sees them speeding. Issue two dealt with the yellow lines in the road. She was informed that only new roads were scheduled for striping.
Darren Johnson welcomed new board members and had a question if the board checked our liability with the restriction on notice of swimming at own risk and what if someone drowns. Laura Jones stated that she checked.
Heidi Castro had three issues. Issue one was that everyone’s life situations are different and she feels it is disgraceful that the board makes her relive her mother’s death. Castro has dual degrees and stated “don’t ever push me away”. There are people in ELA that are grandfathered in and don’t have to pay dues. Jones will address at a later time with Castro. Issue two was that Castro doesn’t agree with the resolution to have no life guards at the pools. She stated that we could have a legal issue if someone drowned or had a heart attack. Issue three was that ELA should give back to the kids. She allowed them at her home over the summer since they did not feel welcomed at our facilities.
Kathy Leslie Whelan (this Reporter) informed the membership that this article should be out at the end of the week and gave the site address where it would be available. Mr. Whelan stated that he knows how hard I work on this story. Secretary Spiotta made the statement that yes it is just a “story”. Reader may take that comment for what it is worth. In addition, Laura Jones stated that she will not respond to the unofficial web page.
by Kathy Leslie-Whelan
The meeting was called to order at 11:15 am, followed by the pledge of allegiance and board introductions.
Opening comments were made by Diane Caldwell, President. Caldwell read from Roberts Rules of Order and cautioned the membership that inappropriate language would not be tolerated. She stated that after meeting the new board would be going into a closed executive session. She announced that there were two open seats and that anyone running from the floor must register with the judge of elections. Caldwell reiterated her comments from her President’s message at the July open meeting. She stated that she met some good friends and members who have given of themselves. She further stated that she has seen the good, the bad and the ugly. (Editor’s note – in July open meeting this reporter noted that there was no comments for the ugly.)
The good is all of us. The bad is the challenges that we have i.e. falling infrastructure, roads. The ugly is the divide. She stated that it was disheartening that some only see what was done wrong and not recognize what was good.
Caldwell stated that there were challenges and something about integrity. She also stated that the board worked hard and the negative report card that was passed out at the front door was ugly, and she was critical of the negativity.
Caldwell thanked two board members, Bob Lauri and Buz Whelan, who decided not to run at this time.
Caldwell informed membership of major transitions. Judy Kennedy resigned as General Manager and was replaced by Laura Jones. Daryl Gamble was promoted to Chief of operations to keep things on track.
Caldwell stated that a wish list of items is just that. We have a dedicated group of people in community trying to accommodate others. Special events make adults and children happy. Other committees, such as Rules and Regulations, Real Estate and Finance and Planning, have volunteers that give up their time.
Caldwell ended her comments wishing everyone good health and that she will see us next year when she finishes out her term.
At this point in time Pat Galderisi asked if we had quorum and Caldwell stated yes.
Awards were given out as follows:
Steve Kavanagh – for Volunteer of the Year, presented by Buz Whelan. Penny Glassgow for Volunteer of Year, presented by Stephanie Johnson. Eileen Avrich was recognized for Lifetime Achievement, presented by Al Leslie.
Laura Jones was introduced and she stated she was happy to be here. Jones has been a property manager for 12 years, the last 8 at Penn Estates. She further stated that she was a candidate for this position back in 2013, but Preferred Management was hired. She decided to join them, so here she is today. Jones stated that she has driven on all roads in the community. She is a manager and not a miracle worker. Road work will be starting soon and we need a full road assessment. The Community Center needs work inside and out. Jones concluded her statement with that this is a great community, and she is glad to be here. She wants to make this a happy place to be here because it is the right thing to do.
George Hludzik was the first guest speaker to address the membership. Hludzik stated that we had a great fiscal year for collections of uncollected dues and that collections were up from last year. His firm collected close to $365K. Over the past 14 years over $3 million has been collected. Currently we have 22 counts filed in the county courts for members who are not current with dues. Hludzik further stated that last year he joined the Slusser Law firm and that 4 additional attorneys and a number of paralegal will be assisting with the collections of delinquencies. This firm will be identifying and removing all money that is on our books that is uncollectable. Uncollected monies could be from members that have died or moved out of state. Mr. Hludzik concluded with that he will continue to ensure that no delinquency is ignored. He looks forward to another banner year in collections.
Bill Owens, CPA opened up with our financial audit. Corporate reporting should be changed so that is more understandable. He favors a cash rather than accrual system for our revenue side. Our reserve reductions were due to roads, community center work and snow removal.
Owens explained the two resolutions:
Resolution # 1 Disposition of surplus funds. Currently the Association does not have surplus funds, but if we ever do, this resolution will allow our CPA to file our taxes in a way that is beneficial to the Association by taking certain tax breaks.
Resolution # 2 Apportionment of annual assessment. This resolution makes it clear to the IRS that the Association has authorized the board to split the dues assessment between the Operating and Capital budgets. Future invoices for annual dues of $1,000 will state $800 for operating and $200 for reserves. In addition, Owens answered a number of questions that were distributed at the front door.
- Is Association being audited by IRS? Not aware
- Is our current audit disclaimed or qualified? Unqualified
- What advice was given to Board through the Management Advisory Letter? Is this letter available to membership? – Board of Directors is already working on recommendations and it is up to Board as whether to release.
- In past fiscal years have there been any surplus funds and how were they handled? Cannot say since he was not our auditor at the time.
- In the past year what were the surplus funds? None
- What would be average refund from surplus funds? None
- Are surplus funds profits from rental income and not generated from over payments? Is the Association trying to hide profits from IRS? Is Association asking membership to sanction action? No on all counts.
- Regarding resolution # 1, do you intend to file form 1120 which allows an Association to defer taxes? No need, no tax consequences.
- Why is Association asking membership to permit Board to fund capital reserves when IRS prohibits this action? This rule deals with Condos.
- If membership chooses refund of their overpayment, how would it be handled? Complex issue. Funds would be better going toward capital since if it were to be distributed, members who didn’t pay their dues would receive a refund.
- If membership allowed Board to carryover surplus to next fiscal year, doesn’t this have an effect on being a pre-payment assessment? Will membership see a reduction in dues bill? Yes. It would show on statement
- How will Association prove that surplus funds are being carried over? Will we see if reflected on the assessment billing as a deduction? Not an issue this year.
- Must the Association ask the membership every year for their choice regarding surplus funds? No, it should not be necessary.
Pat Galderisi thanked Owens for being transparent.
(Editor’s note – Some questions above are not exactly how worded on hand out)
Stephania Johnson went on to Treasurer’s Report. Good news is that operations up from last year due to the collections of previously uncollected dues. Administration was over budget, Public Safety under budget, Maintenance over budget (due to storm) and Community Center under budget. Bar and Grill were over budget under CC.
Candidate speeches commenced at this point of the meeting. Three candidates spoke and the tallies will be reported at the end of this article. There were no candidates that ran from the floor.
While the votes were being tallied, questions that were submitted via index card and from the floor were addressed by Laura Jones.
One member asked if the Association would pay for car repairs since roads are in bad shape. Jones stated no, just like she will not be reimbursed if any damage to her car. Someone wanted to know about the financials and was told to look on website. One member requested that Saturday night bingo be moved so that the bingo room could be rented out. Another member inquired about the outside bathroom facility at the outdoor pool and what were the plans for replacing the structure. Jones stated that it depended on whether we have the money. Facility is still there since it houses all the filters, etc.
A question came up on a snow plan and will there be a person that will answer the phones. Jones stated that this was the biggest storm in 19 years and most HOA’s had problems with removal. She further stated that there was someone answering the public safety line. A question was posed on the POS system and what were the plans to get it operational, why weren’t proper permits obtained during renovations of the Community Center and why didn’t we follow ADA act. Jones stated she wasn’t here at the time so she could not answer so Brad Jones responded that at the time we were told that no permits were needed and that we only need an ADA facility at the maintenance area. A member stated that for storm prep a listing of members that are elderly and disabled should be identified and a list of pot holes should be maintained. Laura Jones stated that the pot holes change daily so it would be impossible to maintain list. One member stated that Classic Home Design does not pay dues or transfer fees, they build on wet lands and we give them free land. Jones stated that she believes they are paying. Paperwork has crossed her desk stating so. It was also bought to the attention of the membership that Classic Home Design advertises that ELA has no dues. Another member requested that the broken stop signs be repaired or replaced and finally a member stated that everyone should have a right to vote; please bring absentee voting back for a vote. (Editor’s note no Board member responded to the questions posed by its membership).
Voting was announced by Bill Owens our current CPA, rather than by the Judge of Elections, which has been a past practice. The results are as follows:
Board of Directors (2 open seats) – 109 valid votes cast
Dave Borsos 77
Jake Bower 67
Iretha Nalls 51
Resolutions – 102 valid votes cast
#1 65 yes 37 no (passed)
#2 71 yes 31 no (passed)
by Kathy Whelan
President’s message: President Diane Caldwell commented on the size of the crowd for a hot day and stated that they are prepping for the Annual Meeting.
Three candidates are running and you can read about them in the ELA newsletter. If there are candidates running from floor they usually run on stating that they will not be voting for a dues increase.
Caldwell stated she has seen the good, the bad and the ugly. There is a good group of people in the community that form an extended family that she has seen pull together when the chips are down. The bad is that you don’t always get what you want, and our financials are disgraceful since we have not had a dues increase in 6 years. These problems have been going on for years, and if we don’t have money, we can’t keep going on.
She stated that she doesn’t go with flow and speaks from her heart.
This reporter did not hear any comments from the president about the ugly in the community (see above for her statement on the good the bad and the ugly).
Caldwell also stated that procedures will be implemented for these meetings. They are run by Robert’s Rules of Order, and according to the agenda, deeded members are allowed to speak only during public comments. Members are only allowed to discuss one topic and will be limited to two minutes.
Committees have liaisons and make recommendations to the board. Board votes on these recommendations.
Caldwell also brought up the unofficial face book page about it being dynamite in the butt.
At this point Caldwell tears up, emotionally stating that it was a pleasure serving as president and working with awesome people like Betty, Jim, Dan, Penny and Cookie. Editor’s note – all of these individuals are on the events committee.
In closing Caldwell stated that changes have to be made and she promises changes.
Treasurer’s Report- Filling in for the treasurer, VP Al Leslie reported $349K cash on hand. He reported almost $327K in reserves and $139K in New Capital reserves. So far this year dues collected are $515K, up $8K over same period last year. Delinquency collections are at $65K, up $2.2K over previous year. The Community Center is $11K over budget. The Bar and Grill is $4,700 over budget. Director Buz Whelan interjected that the bar actually made money, over $2,300, The Grill lost $6,556.61, a new record for losses. Whelan went on to say after setting a goal of $1,250/month for the grill losses at the last meeting, we have actually gone in the opposite direction with losses increasing rather than decreasing.
Laura Jones introduced herself and stated that she was customer service focused but she won’t make promises. Some people will be pleased and some will be angry. She lives by the marine motto “Continue to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do”. She started on May 23rd and she follows best practices for HOA’s. Book is in conference room and anyone that wants to see it can do so. She can quote every page. She said that thus far Walk-in-Wednesdays usually have members looking to have their roads paved first or have their dues reduced.
We need our road maintenance plan updated.
Ballots sent out with Call to Meeting are samples. The watermark was too light and did not print on document.
Auditors are working on our financials and will be available at annual meeting.
Darrel Gamble, Manager of Operations, is our most valuable asset (now that Roxanne Chumacas is gone -Ed).
Ecosolution is currently treating lake for Fan Wart (Cambomba) Bladder wart is taking growth around edges and sometimes it takes up to a year for chemicals to work. In the Fall, you may see black murky water along the edges which is normal. Treatment does not kill fish, frogs, people etc. Only plants.
Although July 4th was noisy there were no injuries or property damage. No action can be taken on people lighting off fireworks unless they are seen physically setting them off.
Dogs need to be on leashes and registered in the office. AWSOM will chip your dog and give them a lifetime registration for $65.
Road proposals are being sent out.
New stainless steel backboards are replacing broken glass ones that were vandalized. If it continues the manager will close down courts.
Completed tasks include striping tennis and basketball courts, repair to roof over indoor pool, chairs moved to outdoor pool.
Temporary dehumidification system is working well, but when there is high humidity outside, it has a problem. When phase two of project is complete this situation should be rectified.
Solar covers and cover roller has been ordered for the outdoor pool.
Directors’ Comments: Director Whelan started to talk about Roxanne, who was recently terminated by Preferred Management, when President Caldwell stopped him since all personnel issues should be discussed in executive session. Mr. Whelan commented that it would be improper for her departure to go unremarked. He said that after 24 years of diligent and praiseworthy service she deserved more than to simply be gone. Mr. Whelan further stated that this was a real loss to the community and added, “And I miss her.” At that point Mr. Whelan received an enthusiastic round of applause from the audience and, although it is frowned upon for audience members to speak, some felt the need to whole heartedly agree with Mr. Whelan by calling out loud.
Committee Reports: F&P – Did not meet this month but Earl Frank stated that F&P never received financials for that month. Laura Jones thought the Treasurer sent them out, but stated she would send them out when she got back to office. He said that with increased salaries, taxes were not in budget.
Events Committee Chair Dan Glasgow said that is his understanding that money made from events went into their budget vs. the grill. This would lessen at least a portion of the grill losses. The committee recommends enclosed bulletin boards at various locations where people congregate, bus stops, beaches. A Labor Day event is being planned, and a community-wide yard sale. They are seeking donations for an October 7th cancer awareness event. Diane interjected that Tobyhanna Township wants to go with electronic signage and we should work with them.
Rules and Regulations – The committee recommends that an Ad Hoc committee be set up, comprised of all other committees, so that they could report back on what is going on. Long Range committee so that everyone on same page. Road map to future.
President Caldwell reported on Button Oil issue. She went to DA’s office as well as police Department to find out that we did not have a criminal suit, but a civil suit. Civil suit was not yet so maybe in October we could have a resolution, however, our chances are slim to none on collecting. Mr. Whelan then relayed a conversation he had with Button. He was interrupted by the president and accused of being unethical by talking to Button when we were in a legal process. Mr. Whelan continued to talk and relayed info on how to get our money back without going through the courts. Since we still owed Button almost $10K on the installed boiler, and since they were holding $48K in deposit money for future work, Button would agree to return $38K as full settlement and no court case with court and lawyer fees need be incurred. This could occur forthwith.
Clause 15 Update – Master Deed states that all people have to adhere to 15 covenants since it “runs with land”. Attorney has to prepare amendments to individual deeds.
A resolution was passed to transfer $53K, earlier transferred to reserves from operating funds to cover road paving, back to operating fund.
NEW BUSINESS: A resolution was passed to adjust Maintenance salary budget by $17K and reducing several line items by a like amount.
Resolution – Road Proposals: Passed – new road paving and maintained of tar and chip
Resolution – for an on-site fuel tank: passed
Resolution – Community Center Access: passed new hours for Monday, Wednesday and Friday are 9:30 am to 11:00 am. All members using facilities at this time must sign a waiver since there will be no lifeguards or staff.
Linda Shuey thanked everyone for the Elmway project and mowing in that area and for treating the lakes.
Dave Borsos asked if we were depleting reserves by taking $275K out. Board response was that this is what the reserves are for and that they will be replenished by incoming dues.
Earl Frank asked for listing of roads that are being repaved with money associated with it.
Carmen Broadnax asked for an explanation of two resolutions that will be voted on at Annual Meeting. Laura stated that she would have Auditor Bill Owens explain them at the Annual Meeting. Carmen stated that she would like that explanation before the meeting.
June Solla – June identified that the Call to Meeting did not identify the time that registration begins for the annual meeting, nor does it identify who is the Judge of Elections. Who is responsible for putting out the Call to Meeting? Gilda Spiotta was identified as the Judge of Elections.
Joe Olall – stated that the procedure for raising one’s hand to vote for the two resolutions has flaws. There are people in attendance that may not be members in good standing. In addition, there may be more than one person from a household voting when they are only entitled to a single vote. [Ed note – also, those with more than one property will have to be counted appropriately.]
Margaret Fitzgerald wanted more information on the on-site gasoline pump. Laura assured her that it will be under camera surveillance and that better controls will be in place. Logs will be maintained on who and what time the tank is being used and for what vehicle is being fueled.
Ron, who is a weekender since 2010, has a problem with a neighbor who has a dog that constantly barks even after he spoke to them.
Bob Nickolson stated his concerns about speed and recommending installing speed bumps. Laura Jones stated that they will be driving over people’s lawns to avoid them (?) and they are quite costly. Island Drive to the bridge is a speed zone.
Dick Styles is an ice fisherman and he wants to sign a waiver to fish, since we are allowing members into the CC without staff if they sign a waiver. Diane Caldwell stated that our insurance coverage does not provide for ice skating and ice fishing. She stated she will look into it again.
Kathy Leslie Whelan, this writer made a comment that she thought it was disingenuous to blame a recently terminated employee for issues of lost documents. There were no minutes to be approved at this meeting and, however they were lost, there is no evidence that Roxanne was at fault.
by Kathy Leslie-Whelan
President Diane Caldwell opened the meeting with a sermon on ‘conscience.’ She pointed out that board members are very different people who often disagree, sometimes angrily, but in the end support the majority decision. We must all take responsibility for what we say. The EL Facebook page is filled with misinformation born of ignorance and deliberate misrepresentation, but we cannot dwell on that. What is ahead is not a pretty picture. She went on to list many things that must be fixed or replaced. An example was the outdoor pool bathhouse which, due to water damage, has been condemned and must be replaced. Our entire infrastructure is deteriorating. We have not had a dues increase in 6 years and we desperately need one. She urged that people be part of the solution, not the problem. If we do not increase dues, amenities will have to be partially or wholly shut down. These include the outdoor pool, the trash compactor, bar & grill and the community center itself.
Treasurer Stefania Johnson gave what has become the traditional gloomy financial picture. Among the lowlights, the operations budget is $105K over budget. Dues collection for fiscal year 2016/17 was down $66K over dues collection for fiscal year 2015/16. Dues collection is currently up $41K over the same period last year. The bar & grill, taken as a unit, continue to lose money. For the month of April the combined revenue/expense difference was a negative $2,117. For the year, costs exceeded income by $35.5K. Delinquency collections, at least, are up for the third consecutive year.
New Manager Laura Jones will (or has) start on Tuesday, May 23rd. The newsletter has been delivered and is available at a number of locations around the community. It is intended to become a monthly publication. The Annual Meeting is scheduled for Saturday, August 19th. The abstract company hired to research properties of questionable affiliation to the association, has not performed and a new company is being sought. The Rules and Regulations document is on the website and can be picked up at the office. Joe Gallagher of Ecoscientific has put buoys out to mark the area of the invasive species (cabomba) on Mountaintop Lake. Boaters are reminded to wash their boats to avoid transporting spores from one lake to another. Boat washing signs ordered at $35 each. Indoor pool roof repair and mold removal will begin 5/22. A new compactor will soon be delivered. Two more clusters of mailboxes, 16 boxes each, will be installed by the post office at Glade Drive and Emerald Boulevard. Maintenance is working to repair gravel roads. We are looking for a new proposal for spray patching. A new dump truck with 9′ plow and tailgate spreader can be purchased for $62K. (The board voted to approve this purchase unanimously). A new commercial grade landscaping vehicle is available for $5,999 including a $500 discount. (Board voted to approve purchase)
During Directors’ Comments Bob Lauri moved that the grill be closed. Buz Whelan seconded. After a spirited discussion, the motion failed. Buz Whelan then moved that after a 90 day period, if the grill were losing in excess of $1,250 per month, a rate of $15K per year, that it be closed. Al Leslie seconded. After another spirited round of comments from the directors, the vote was 2 for, 2 against and 2 abstaining. President and Chair Diane Caldwell then broke the deadlock by voting for the motion and it therefore passed.
Director Whelan suggested that, after conferring with the Maintenance Committee, Dan Glasgow and Betty Goodline of the Events Committee and newly promoted Ass’t Manager Daryl Gamble, that Cleanup Day be skipped this year. Whelan reasoned that the community has never looked cleaner and that only 11 or 12 people typically show up for the task. The one to two miles total that they clean is not significant when considering we have 36 miles of roads, 72 when both sides of roads are figured. Brad Jones of preferred Management disagreed, stating that it was a tradition that should be maintained. After some discussion it was decided to continue the tradition of Cleanup Day.
Reporting for the Finance and Planning Committee, Earl Frank said our cash position has improved since February. He seconded the comments that the grill is losing excessive money.
Dan Glasgow, Events Committee chair said that part of the losses at the grill could be explained by the loss of foot traffic due to the pool being unheated for 5 months. He spoke of Community Day events including a bounce house, evening DJ and – weather permitting – an outdoor movie, “Troll.” He also reminded that Comedy Night VII will be held Saturday, June17th featuring international comedy star Maureen Langan and the return of the very popular Tommy Gooch. Tickets ($13 advance, $15 door} are currently available in the Community Center and Admin Office. He closed by saying a date needs to be set for Cleanup Day.
Maintenance Chairperson Ken Shuey suggested an email blast be sent out explaining the buoys used to mark off forbidden waters containing invasive weeds on Mountaintop Lake. He also said that rules be drawn up regarding decorating the Bingo Room to avoid damaging walls and ceiling. He said that reusable stencils could be purchased to stripe basketball and tennis courts at a fraction of the price of hiring a vendor to do the work. He also reported that 3 unpaved roads – Bowstring, Sioux and Gap View – are not on the new paving list.
Real Estate Chairperson Jake Bower said the committee will meet at 10am, 5/27 in the admin office. He said a meeting for landlords is being planned for Saturday, June 10th at 10:30am in the Bingo Room.
Under old business, a proposal by a member/landlord to spruce up the sliver of land between Strawberry Landing and Mountaintop Lake was removed from the table because the member did not attend the meeting to detail the proposal. Also under old business, President Diane Caldwell outlined the board’s plan to sponsor a general scholarship rather than favor one deceased member over others. The scholarship would be awarded as in the memory of all deceased members. The special 5-year Paul Capozzoli Memorial Scholarship previously approved and with 4 more years to run will be unaffected.
Public Comments: John Palmisano thanked the board for the decision to decide the fate of the grill by establishing criteria that must be met in 90 days. Dennis Green expressed concern about whether the CC parking lot is adequately lit at night. Connie Simpson stated that scholarships should go to Emerald Lakes members.
by Kathy Leslie-Whelan
Board President Diane Caldwell opened the meeting with her President’s Message. She spoke about the coming season and the preparations underway including preparing to open the outdoor pool and the beaches. She reported that new CC Manager Heather is doing well. She went on to say that continuing to progress will be impossible on the current association income level. A dues increase will be necessary in the near future. A check of the monthly financials and the annual budget make clear that we cannot operate the community successfully at the current dues level.
Treasurer Stefania Johnson underscored the president’s comments on dues. Cash on hand is at a very dangerous $23.5 K. Dues collection for fiscal 2017/18 is off to a slow start due to a late mailing of the dues statement. A little over $100K was moved from investments to operations, though this money was already designated as operation funds. One bright spot is delinquency collections which are up by almost $11k over last year ($251K vs $240K), while last year was a record setter for delinquency collections, so it looks like a 3rd record-setting year in a row. The net cost of the bar & grill has been $33,694 year-to-date. We are awaiting inventory figures that may ameliorate some of this cost, but careful attention will be paid to lowering the grill cost. The bar revenue consistently exceeds costs.
Manager Judy Kennedy announced that this would be her last meeting and that her place would be taken by one Laura Jones, a highly qualified professional at community management. Kennedy thanked the board and the membership for the support she has received during her three years here and drew applause from the assemblage for her service. The new manager is expected to continue walk-in Wednesday, but all hours of operation will be reviewed, administration, pools and community center. The updated rules and regulations have been approved and a new, complete Rules and Regulations document will soon be available. The auditor began the annual audit the previous Tuesday. There is heat in the pool, the temperature in around 82 degrees and phase 1 and 2 of the upgrade have been completed. Approval on phases 3 and 4 is pending. Mold on the pool room ceiling, roof repair, painting and associated tasks are awaiting proposal approval and the cupola also needs repair. A new contract by Waste Management will offer an 8% discount with final numbers to be available soon. An insurance payment on the damaged truck has been received and the truck will be repaired. The outdoor pool building housing the bathrooms has issues at the base due to water runoff and management is seeking repair bids. A French drain will be added to prevent future damage of this type. The Breakfast with the Bunny event was a huge success and Heather did a stand up job.
Joe Gallagher, our current lake manager, reported that the invasive cabomba (or fanwort) now covers approximately 5 acres. Thanks to a grant he obtained, cost will be a fraction of what it could have been. He expects to be able to completely rid Mountaintop Lake of the weed and cautions boaters to thoroughly wash their boats when moving from one lake to another. Treatment will begin soon and fish stocking will be suspended until it is completed. Lower Deer Lake dropped a foot due to a warm summer and could not be treated without killing the fish. Monthly tests show the overall health of our lakes is good.
During Directors’ Comments Buz Whelan reported that the originally approved Paul Capozolli Memorial Scholarship, originally approved at $200 had swelled to $500 due to personal contributions by board members. At noon on Saturday, May 13th a brief presentation ceremony followed by a covered dish luncheon will be held. Friends of Paul who wish to join in celebrating his memory are encouraged to sign up to bring a covered dish to the luncheon. Whether you were a personal friend of Paul’s or not, you are encouraged to attend.
Reporting for the Events Committee Betty Goodline stated that over 100 breakfasts were served at Breakfast with the Bunny. The evening of May 13th will feature a Mother’s Day special menu at the community center bar and grill. On Saturday, May 27th there will be a Community Day celebration in and around the community center. Food and games will be featured in this celebration of Emerald Lakes commencing at 12noon. June 10th will be a Father’s Day celebration with details to be announced. On Saturday, June 17th Comedy Night VII will be held in the community center. This will see the return of popular Tommy Gooch and a very special appearance by international comedy star Maureen Langan. Tickets are $13 in advance and $15 at the door if any are left. Those interested are cautioned to get their tickets as soon as possible as seating is limited and the show is expected to be a sellout. They are on sale at the CC and admin office at this writing.
Reporting for the Maintenance Committee, Ken Shuey reiterated a request that signage of rules be posted at boat launches. Staff should be trained in the proper maintenance of vehicles to extend their useful lives. On storm response focus should be on providing safety. Focus should be on clearing drains and stand pipes so emergency vehicles can pass before snow removal to the CC roof and parking lot. He then requested that a different liaison be provided to the committee.
F&P Chair Earl Frank recommended that information on the coming dues increase request be publicized. He said that while the bar consistently makes money the grill is a disaster and if costs cannot be controlled consideration to closing it should be made.
Louise Leon spoke for the Adult Water Aerobics Club asking that hours be changed from afternoon to midday at the indoor pool and 11am at the outdoor pool when it is open. These are exclusive use requests.
Don Atkiss reported that a garden for migrating butterflies has been established across from the parking lot on Gap View Drive overlooking Mountaintop Lake. (This is the old ski slope) Two loads of bog dirt have been laid down and the area defined by an arrangement of rocks. Anyone wishing to establish their own garden for the Monarchs can receive a kit including plants and seeds for a $15 donation. There will be a workshop at 10am in the community center on Saturday, May 13th for interested folks. It will run around a half hour.
Eric Bergstrom of the Fishing Club announced there will be a fishing rodeo at Pine Tree Lake near the beach area on Saturday, June 24th.
It was announced that just 5 people reviewed the annual budget during the 30 day review period. It was also posted on the ELA website, though no comments were received. A motion to give the budget final approval was passed unanimously.
During Public Comments member Joe Olall questioned the transfer of funds. He was reminded that these funds were already designated as operations. He also asked about the dehumidification project earlier reported on. A new company is being sought to finish the project and the previous vendor is being investigated by the county district attorney. Olall asked about what was being done to control costs in the bar and grill. We have a new manager that is expected to better control inventory and staffing.
There was further discussion on the bar and grill with most expressing dismay at the costs.
In final remarks President Diane Caldwell suggested interested members draw up a list of ‘wants’ that the board could consider, including the expected costs of such wants. She also stated that it has been 6 years since ELA has had a dues increase.
by Kathy Leslie Whelan
While there were quite a few items discussed at the March open meeting, three topics seemed to dominate the session: snow removal, EL finances and the need for a dues increase and the ongoing project to upgrade the heating and ventilation systems of the Community Center, including that project’s effect on pool temperature
President Caldwell called for discussion on the snow removal during the recent storm to start the meeting. She pointed out that we had roughly 30 inches of snowfall and that whatever flaws occurred during plowing, that amount will always pose problems for plows. She called on Public Safety Chief Darryl Gamble to describe the efforts made before, during and immediately following the storm. Gamble said that he set up a command center at the administration office beginning at 10pm Monday night, shortly before the first flakes fell. By the very early morning hours of Tuesday enough snow had fallen to begin sending the plows out. From that time on, plowing continued around the clock until 5:30am Friday. During that time there were equipment breakdowns, repairs made and trucks returned to service and four separate outside companies brought in with heavier equipment than EL trucks because the snow had gotten so deep and so heavy that EL equipment alone couldn’t handle certain tasks. One difficulty, that of members not realizing public safety was operating 24/7, will be corrected. Currently, the recorded menu for reaching particular parties at the office lists option 2 (press 2) as for compactor hours, option 3 for office personnel and option 4 for public safety. It had become apparent that many callers pressed 3, got a recording that the mailbox was full and hung up thinking no one was there. Had they listened for the next choice, option 4 would have connected them to public safety or to the answering service which would have gotten them a return call. Manager Judy Kennedy will arrange for public safety to be moved up to option 2 which is the first choice. Chief Gamble also explained that while he doesn’t follow our Facebook page, others made him aware of complaints that time and effort was wasted plowing the Community Center lot. He explained that he wanted it to be ready to receive members should a widespread power outage occur. He also explained that the heavy snow had to be removed from the roof to prevent a roof collapse. Following Chief Gamble’s presentation and again during public comments, a number of members complained of hardships endured because of having to wait for their street to be plowed.
After Treasurer Stefania Johnson gave a somewhat gloomy picture of current EL finances a discussion on dues ensued. Johnson was emphatic in the need for an increase. Tying that to the snow removal discussion, she listed various needs, including that of our aging equipment and the fact that we need two new vehicles at a minimum, the projected cost about $120K. Finance and Planning Chairperson Earl Frank warned that the audit will show that we carried a negative balance in the association checking account for a period of time and that we do not have enough annual revenue to properly operate the association. Director Bob Lauri said that we should close the Community Center for two years (or more). This would save as much as $500K. Member Anthony Harsey (sp?) later stated that when he went for a home improvement loan the bank officer asked if the Community Center was open or closed. When he answered that it was open, the officer raised the appraised value of his home by 10%. Director Whelan added that he had a similar experience having his home loan interest lowered from 9.9% to 3.9% based on upping his appraised value. Former Director and President Dan Glasgow added that maintenance problems including snow removal are the fault of the membership for not voting in more realistic annual dues. Director Whelan pointed out that there have been negative stories in the Pocono Record involving intra-association disputes in Pine Ridge, Willow Creek and Stillwater Civic Association, all centered on financial shortfalls. These communities have in common with each other – and Emerald Lakes – the fact that dues amounts are voted on by the membership. In more solvent and successful communities such as Lake Naomi, Arrowhead Lake, Hemlock Farms and the Hideout, dues are set by the board of directors. The problem with a system like ours is that those people with the least understanding of what it takes to run the community are the ones who set the revenue stream. Whelan added that we have been living on reduced services and deferred maintenance for at least the last 10 years, naming a number of services that have been reduced or eliminated entirely over that time. Director Al Leslie, a nine-year veteran of the board, noted that when a member gains knowledge about association finances and operations he or she often undergoes a change of attitude. He cited that Dan Glasgow ran for the board on a platform of austerity and was against any dues increase, then as he served on the board changed his opinion 180 degrees.
A discussion of the proposed budget showed some disagreement among board members as well as between the board and the Finance and Planning Committee. A budget resolution meeting to finalize the budget will be held Wednesday evening. The board wants a finalized budget available for review and comment by members for 30 days prior to its official adoption at the April open meeting. By law, the budget must be approved by the beginning of the fiscal year which is May 1.
Summarizing discussion on the upgrade of the CC HVAC system, Judy Kennedy predicted that the pool would be heated “by the end of next week.” This was a reference to the temporary fix that would allow pool use until the next phases of the upgrade were accomplished.
Speaking for the Events Committee Chairperson Dan Glasgow thanked all who made the St. Patrick’s Day celebration a success, including a performance by the Step dancing Gallagher Girls. He also drew laughter at a sly reference to the Adult Bingo held on March 4th. He spoke of Breakfast with the Bunny to be held Easter Saturday. He said that Comedy Night VII has been moved to Saturday, June 17th from May 6th due to headliner Maureen Langan’s one woman show being extended through May. The show will be themed to coincide with Father’s Day which is the next day. There also will be a special Father’s Day breakfast on Saturday morning of June 17th, so the entire day will be a celebration of dads.
Director Gilda Spiotta reported that the Emerald News is currently gathering articles for an April publication.
Don Atkiss reported that Project Elmway, meant to facilitate the migration of Monarch butterflies is moving forward and those interested in providing a site can obtain necessary supplies, including young milkweed plants (the insects’ favorite food) for a $15 donation. He pointed out that milkweed is poisonous to all animals and insects except the Monarchs, and that consuming them provides a level of protection against predatory birds. The main Monarch Waystation garden will be established and maintained at the overlook of Mountaintop Lake across from the bus stop/parking lot on Gap View Drive. An informational meeting will be held on Saturday, May 13 at 10am in the Community Center. A complete plan will be laid out in the next edition of the Emerald News.
Reporter’s Note: I remind the reader that this is an unofficial description of the highlights of the meeting. It is not intended as a substitute for official minutes which can be obtained at the Administration office. The information here is from hand written notes as recording is not allowed. I do the best I can.
by Kathy Leslie-Whelan
President Diane Caldwell used her President’s Message to speak on various aspects of social media. She reminded the gallery that the unofficial Facebook page and the Emerald Lakes Free Press are not sanctioned by the Emerald Lakes Board of Directors. Any complaints or calls for action should be made directly to management or the board. This can be accomplished several ways. Members may go to the official website at elainc.com and use the “Address the Board” form. They may also post on that site. They may go to the Admin Office on Wednesdays at 1:30pm (Walk-in Wednesday) to meet with On-site Manager Judy Kennedy or send a letter or email to her. Ms. Caldwell went on to caution members about what they post, not only because of any potential legal liability, but also because a careless or harsh post could be hurtful to others. She mentioned, too, that often information posted is inaccurate and put there by third parties who did not directly witness or participate in an event or occurrence they are describing. It was pointed out that this regular report is not to be taken as an official record of the meeting and that only official minutes could be taken that way. (This reporter concurs)
Treasurer Stefania Johnson began her report by saying she is reporting on the year-to-date, rather than monthly numbers. We currently have about $193K in operating funds. We have $413.8K in reserves and $93.4K in New Capital reserves. Dues collection at $1,174,480 ytd and is down by about $61.6K over the same period last year. Delinquency collections are $221K so far. As to the cost centers, Administration is approximately $56K over budget ytd, Maintenance is $37K over budget, Public Safety is $6.5K under budget and the Community Center is $2K under budget. The cost of operation for the bar and grill so far this year is $25.8K, most of the loss being in the grill operation.
During the Manager’s Report, Judy Kennedy touched on a number of topics. Among them, that the board was scheduled to meet with the association financial advisor that afternoon regarding parameters for the investment account. She also said that SOPs for Public Safety were completed. Maintenance and Community Center SOPs would be submitted to the board when completed. Personnel policy is currently being revised and will be given to the board when completed.
The manager also reported that our attorney is working on getting our deposit monies back from Button Oil and Propane since they have withdrawn from the CC HVAC upgrade project. She also said a temporary fix at cost of $4,900 would be put in place. To a later question from a member she said she hoped that this much would be done within approximately 30 days allowing the pool to be heated. Further contracts on work to complete the project have not been signed as of yet.
On road maintenance, Kennedy reported that potholes are being filled and signage restored. Road ban signs will be posted before a complete thaw, which will render the road beds vulnerable to collapse due to a soggy, unstable base. Vehicles over a specified tonnage will be banned from all paved roads.
An offer from a company called Aqua Right to host an informal session with members on water use and safety in drinking, cooking and bathing will be folded into a larger program to be organized by the Events Committee. A request by member Louise Leon to distribute materials supporting the Clymer Library was discussed. Later in the meeting the board approved the distribution in the community center. A request for a fund-raising event to benefit the library was put off for further review.
During Directors’ Comments, Buz Whelan said that the President’s Message was timely, and for him, personal. He said that as she cautioned that posts could come back to haunt you, that has happened to him. He said that he posted his disappointment in the quality of the food at a recent event, and that while he also praised the work of the Events Committee in that post, he now regretted his public candor. He said that he had an extended conversation with Events Committee member Betty Goodline who pointed out to him that his comments could be generalized by members as an overall dissatisfaction with the event and therefore could make promoting future events more difficult. He said he supports the work of the committee and recognizes the hard, unselfish work they do, often spending their own money to buy supplies. He quoted Director Bob Lauri who once said that the Community Center was the hub that gave us a sense of community rather than a being just bunch of people living in the same area. The Events Committee is the central agent in bringing people into the center. He also mentioned that in planning a future comedy show, he went to the Events Committee and they were most gracious in receiving him and offering assistance in promotion. Whelan summed up by saying he will be at the St. Patrick’s Day event on Saturday, March 18th and he hoped many members would join in the fun.
Ken Shuey, Maintenance Committee chairperson reminded management and the board that signs should be placed at all boat launch sites warning of the potential spread of invasive plant species if boats were moved from lake to lake without some cleansing. It was Ken’s question about what was being done in that area that prompted President Caldwell to inform him that a plan was in place and that normal lake maintenance and the removal of cabomba would only cost about $1,000 more than normal maintenance alone because Joe Gallagher had gotten a grant that would pay for the expensive chemical needed to eliminate the plant. Real Estate Chairperson Jake Bower said efforts are underway to encourage more rentals. New policy and procedures are in place and swipe cards for renters will soon be available. Rules and Regs Chairperson Bob Leon suggested that now that we have adopted the recommended changes a clearly defined and speedy process be developed for any future changes. He said that this would allow changes to be made quickly as the need is recognized. Speaking for the Events Committee, Jim Goodline enumerated scheduled upcoming events including Adult Bingo on Saturday night March 4th. He also reported that there would be a St. Patrick’s Day celebration on Saturday, March 18th, with a special menu serving at normal meal times and the Gallagher Dancers at 8pm. Breakfast with the Bunny will be on Saturday April 15th from 9 to 11am with the Easter Egg hunt scheduled for 10am. He also said that Comedy Night VII would be held May 6th with Buz Whelan hosting, Tommy Gooch returning and international and tv comic Maureen Langan headlining. More details as they become available.
Under Old Business, the board approved the update of the Committee Procedures Manual. They also approved the wording of the criteria for the Paul Capozolli Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship, in the amount of $200, will be awarded for five consecutive years to a graduating senior from Pocono Mountain West High School. The recipient must have an expectation of attending college and have performed some outstanding community service, for which Mr. Capozolli was known.
It was reported that the Emerald News will be an in-house project and the first issue is expected in late April. The 70 properties that were sent to the abstract company for research on their history (to determine if they are part of Emerald Lakes) have not yet been reported on. Judy Kennedy will follow up.
Under New Business the board has selected the William Owen Company as its new auditor. The board unanimously voted to approve a one-year contract. The lake management proposal was accepted and the Monarch butterfly project is moving forward and will not cost the association any money.
Editor’s Note: This article is a summary of the open meeting. It is not meant to be confused with the minutes, which are the official record. I take handwritten notes during the meeting and report what I think is the most significant information. I welcome any corrections or additions from principals who attended the meeting. Kathy Leslie-Whelan.