September 27, 2014 Monthly Open Board Meeting
Dan Glasgow opened the meeting with his President’s remarks, which seemed to be meant to set the expectations of the audience (“Hold your questions until the end, please.”) and to explain certain items listed on the agenda. After this, the board’s first order of business was to appoint a new treasurer. Millie Bishop resigned that position (but not her directorship) at the most recent workshop meeting and so, in a unanimous decision, Buz Whelan was appointed.
After the board approved the minutes of the July 26th, 2014 BOD meeting, President Glasgow reviewed the actions of the new board to date. He noted that the organizational meeting and the workshop meeting held were both open to the public and that, after the workshop there was an executive session to discuss the accounts of certain members. The board has set a target of October 31st with the lawyer to have a written opinion on the membership review issue, so the board should have some news on this issue in November. They have also asked for an opinion from the lawyer on the issue of association documents that were shredded and his advice on how to proceed with this matter. Glasgow stated that the community’s investment in new equipment seems to be paying off already as it is being used in several drainage and road repairs. At the workshop, the board acted to re-establish the committees to assist the board and determined the board liaisons to those committees. Finally, he announced that he will be joining our manager, Judy Kennedy, for “Walk-in Wednesdays” on the third Wednesday of each month, (except that this October he will only be available on the fourth Wednesday) so that members may also use that time to approach him with their concerns. Walk-in Wednesday hours are from 1:30 to 3:30 pm at the administration building.
With four minutes as treasurer under his belt, Buz Whelan gave the Treasurer’s Report. He reported that our revenues (excluding the Bar & Grill) are at $796k, which represents $59k less in dues collection than at this time last year. He allowed that it is possible that more people are paying dues under the quarterly option, but that cannot cover all of the difference. (Later in the meeting, former Treasurer Earl Frank suggested that there seems to be a delay in the delivery of the current quarter’s billing which might account for this difference.) Whelan then addressed some specific areas of the financial picture. Our capital reserves fund variance is accounted for by the paving of the compactor area, but future transfer fees should help restore the balance in that account and so he feels that is not a current concern. He noted that year-to-date our attorney’s fees are over $20k, which is more than the combined total of all attorney fees for the prior two years. The Public Safety and Maintenance departments are on or under budget. The Community Center is under budget overall, but the Bar and Grill is a different story.
Whelan noted that because the B&G is our only amenity that comes with its own revenue stream, we report on it differently than other amenities. He reported the Bar revenue versus cost at +$1,813.99, and the Grill revenue versus cost at -$13,267.86. There are certain items that are also costs that cannot be broken out into either bar or grill because they are used by both (towels, uniforms, certain supplies, etc) that totaled $3,355.50.
Bar & Grill total revenue $25,191.21
Bar & Grill total cost $40,000.58
B&G Loss $14,809.37
The bottom line of all of this is that the Bar & Grill’s combined costs to the community for the first four months of the fiscal year stand at almost $15k. Whelan commented that this is unsustainable, and must be brought under control. He told the audience that Director Robert Lauri plans to work with Preferred Management to focus extensively on this issue and complete a comprehensive analysis of the operations and use of the POS system and training of staff and will determine a future course of action to stem the bleeding.
Manager Judy Kennedy reported on the re-establishment of the committees and plans to contact the former chairpersons and members of those committees to set up meeting times and dates for their initial meetings. At its workshop meeting, the board established liaisons for each committee, and also “co-liaisons”, whose function will be to back up the primary liaison in the event he or she cannot attend a committee meeting. Liaisons from the board were reported as follows (with co-liaisons in parentheses): Communications – Buz Whelan (June Solla), Maintenance – Robert Lauri (Buz Whelan), Events – Dan Glasgow (Millie Bishop), Finance and Planning – Buz Whelan (Millie Bishop), Nominations – June Solla (Diane Caldwell), Elections – June Solla (Diane Caldwell), Real Estate – Diane Caldwell (Alex Leslie), Rules and Regulations – June Solla (Diane Caldwell), Appeals – Alex Leslie (June Solla), Neighborhood CrimeWatch – Millie Bishop (Dan Glasgow).
Kennedy also reported that they had designed a newsletter policy for approval by the board and a variance policy as well.
There was a discussion of outstanding issues and concerns over the C&R Landscaping contract for the new storage building. Diane Caldwell asked if the revised contract had been signed and if it contained pricing on the doors and warranty information. June Solla questioned who was responsible for the debris left from the clearing of the site. Brad Jones, of Preferred Management, replied that he would ensure that the contract contained the requested language and information and that the debris was the responsibility of C&R. He maintains that the building is “two weeks out” and that a township building permit was being sought.
Director Caldwell, citing POS summary reports, expressed concern over the daily cash discrepancies. She reported that on various daily reports she found cash discrepancies of up to $55 over, and $33 short and that these kinds of discrepancies seem to be happening with some regularity and are not acceptable. She also described an incident when she arrived at the Center and there were several employees “hanging out” at the front desk, playing loud music. When she asked them to turn down the music the response was “Who the hell are you?” Robert Lauri discussed a similar experience he had seen where a member wanted to swim but there appeared to be no lifeguard even though the pool should have been opened and staffed. Lauri and Preferred Management agreed to examine all these issues and Lauri asked that members report their good and bad experiences at the Community Center so that they may be considered when designing procedures and policies to improve service there.
Robert Lauri asked that Preferred Management work on designing a comprehensive Emergency Management Plan that would make the Community Center available to the membership in certain situations, including the recent school closings during the police manhunt in our area and during storms and other emergencies. Cookie Lietwinski said that there was a committee to work on this but that it had fallen through the cracks.
Diane Caldwell asked that October be designated Cancer Awareness Month for ELA. June Solla made the motion, Buz Whelan seconded and it was passed unanimously.
Robert Lauri suggested that the Nominations Committee be tasked with putting together a packet to inform candidates for the board of the duties, obligations, and expectations of the job. He pointed out that the bylaws only say that a candidate must be 21 years of age and a member-in-good-standing and that this does not give any indication of the scope of the job.
June Solla stated that she and many members of the board and the community are cancer survivors and that October 11th will be Cancer Awareness Day at the Community Center. Activities will include a Survivor’s breakfast (all are invited to attend), kids activities, afternoon Bingo, a dinner and a show that will include local performers Lady A and Mike Gregorio, followed by lighting of luminaries on the CC lawn. There will also be a gift basket raffle, and she is looking for donations of baskets. All the money raised will go to the American Cancer Society and will stay in Monroe County.
As is standard during the public comments portion of the meeting, several topics were discussed and brought up by different members. Rather than present the comments in chronological order, I have tried to group them together according to topics.
Ex-director Carmen Brodnax began this section of the meeting by expressing her dissatisfaction with the management report. She was concerned that current contracts and discussions were not reported on and that, although she is glad that Director Lauri is willing to involve himself in the improvement of the Bar & Grill, she feels that Preferred Management is not doing their part in this matter. Brodnax also mentioned her concern that there are still recommendations from last year’s committees (specifically the Real Estate Committee) that have not been acknowledged or acted upon. She stated that while we know we are getting professional guidance from our lawyer (eliciting many groans from the audience), Preferred Management does not seem to her to be giving us our money’s worth.
Brad Jones replied by explaining that, since the board is just getting started for the year and has not taken any action on those items, there is nothing to report. He pointed out that as a former director, Brodnax should know the format and purpose of the management report is to update the homeowners on actions that have been taken, but that lack of new action on particular items does not mean that they are not doing work on them. He also noted that the lawyer talked about the real estate issues at the Annual Meeting and that we are waiting on information from him to proceed with addressing committee recommendations. Director June Solla interjected that there were items discussed at the workshop that were not on the agenda, and Jones answered that the board could have put those on the agenda. Ex-director Margaret Fitzgerald asked if the membership could get a copy of the management report. Jones said that he thought that could be done, but that he would have to consult with the board on how and when to provide that to those who are interested.
Joseph Olall (also an ex-director) added that he felt that Preferred Management should have had an explanation of the $4k variance shown in the financials for Waste Management, and that he feels that Preferred Management is shirking their responsibility to run the CC by allowing Director Lauri to take on this project and that the responsibility should be on the management company to bring these costs into line. Lauri replied that it is the responsibility of management to use all their resources to improve our community, and that they are doing exactly that by allowing him to use his expertise (for free) to help them identify and address those problems. Olall added that he understands that the Bar & Grill will never make money, but that there is a need to set tolerable limits to what it will cost the community. Buz Whelan agreed to the need to set acceptable limits to CC costs and said he would look into the Waste Management variance. Manager Kennedy then described the actions that she has taken in the CC to bring these costs under control, including the release of employees, the building of the POS database, and several changes in procedures. She noted that it is a long way from where they began last spring, but that there is much more work to be done and, with patience and time, we will see results.
Lee Marsland described an evening at the CC wherein a member arrived intoxicated and how the staff did a good job of handling the situation. The member was not served additional alcohol, and was escorted outside and one staff member even relieved the member of her keys. Marsland suggests that training the staff on these situations will protect them and the Association.
Bob Leon said that during the previous night the CC was “packed” and that staff member Lisa did a terrific job of managing the crowd, but that staff allocation should be considered. He said the bar was crowded and there was a large group in the dining room, but that the pool area was completely empty. He also noted the fire extinguisher in the kitchen hallway is not charged and would be useless in an emergency, the bar code reader in the front does not work and hasn’t for some time, and there are often several staff and their friends “hanging out” by the front desk, but only some are working there. Gilda Spiotta suggested that First Aid training be included in the general training of the staff since some conditions mimic the symptoms of intoxication.
Spiotta then read a letter to the board concerning the incursion of a large family of beavers at the lake near her home. She described the many health and safety concerns presented by this infestation and asked the board to consider removing them. She pointed to ELA’s stringent rules protecting our trees and said that if this concern is real, then the beavers cause much damage to those very same trees and should be removed. There followed a general discussion about previous actions the board has taken, and Millie Bishop told of a time where the beavers were removed and this also damaged the lake ecosystem and the board had to go out and purchase beavers to restore the lake. Mario Balzano opined that we need to prioritize wildlife removal and that he believes delinquent members of the Association should take priority over the removal of the beavers. The board needs to investigate the problem and find a balanced, suitable solution. Diane Caldwell suggested bringing in an Audubon Society representative to consult on this situation. Linda Shuey echoed Spiotta’s concern, adding that beavers spread bacteria that endangers members who swim in the lakes.
Bill Crowley described a night when his home alarm system was tripped and he contacted Public Safety. He felt that the officer did not respond properly to his concerns and that the community is unclear on their role. He would like the board to clarify the process of communication, execution and expectations for Public Safety. Judy Kennedy responded that the officer was a new employee, he was reprimanded and that he should expect to be contacted by Chief Cruz to clear up any misunderstandings.
Pat Galderisi (also an ex-director, from many years ago) chastised the board about the technical aspects of holding a meeting and what she felt was the board’s failure to “ratify” 3 votes taken at the workshop. There was some discussion about whether or not a vote had even been completed, and some board members looked confused as to why the matter was raised since there is no mechanism for ratifying a motion that has failed, and further, ratification of a vote is only necessary when an item needs further action from the membership to complete the approval process. The issues in question were a failed motion to approve a member’s application to build on a lake, and the failed motion to accept Alex Leslie as treasurer upon the resignation of Millie Bishop from that position. Since no action was taken, there was no motion to be ratified. Perhaps this was an attempt to humiliate Director Alex Leslie who has served our community for so many years and, in doing so, has stepped on the toes of those involved in the questioning of this matter? In another attempt to publicly “catch” the board in a technical mistake, Ms. Galderisi asked if the revision to the 2013 Annual Meeting Minutes had been made so that they could be approved by the membership. The changes had been made and it was pointed out that they could not be approved until next year’s annual meeting where, according to President Glasgow, both 2013 and 2014 Annual Meeting minutes will be presented for approval. Galderisi also stated that the delay in answering her earlier requests to the board is “bordering on obstruction” and, when told that the lawyer had not yet replied regarding her requests, she stated that if her request generated a lawyer’s review and billing then she expected the official answer to come to her in writing.
In addition to his observation that there may be a delay in the third quarter billing, ex-director Earl Frank also gave the F&P Committee recommendations to the board. They include creating a guideline for the community’s investment strategies and a monthly breakout of legal fees to indicate what issues are being addressed and their associated costs. Flo Mauri (you guessed it – another ex-director!) passed on recommendations from ELDAS members, made at their most recent meeting. These were to look at the Association’s insurance policies to see if they will help defray the deficit in our reserves account, and to create an Ad Hoc committee to investigate the destruction of Association records. Mauri also said that the she was happy to see the “tone” of the board was improving from the confrontational one she saw last year toward Preferred Management. Other members, including Linda Shuey and Kevin Marsland agreed with this sentiment.
Stefania Johnson, speaking for the Events committee, informed the audience that the “Dancing with the ELA Stars” event had to be cancelled, but that she looked forward to seeing members attend the upcoming Haunted House and Halloween party events in October.
Welcome of New Members and Adjournment
The last order of business was to welcome the new members. Diane Caldwell informed the members that there were 13 foreclosures sold, 6 new properties sold and 13 newly foreclosed properties in the past month. The meeting was adjourned at 11:32.
(Editor’s Note: Thank you to Eileen Avrich and Gilda Spiotta for sharing their notes and observations of the meeting with me. This was a lot of information!)