Monthly Open Meeting March 28, 2015
President Daniel Glasgow welcomed everyone and then moved right into his President’s comments. The Board has decided that although the workshop meetings will remain open to the membership, they will no longer allow public comments at that time. He did say that everyone is encouraged to make their comments at the regular open meetings.
In his Treasurer’s report, Buz Whelan discussed our improving financial picture. Dues collections are up, already over the total collected last year, and collections on delinquencies are also already higher than all of last year due to the board “releasing the Kracken” as Whelan put it, “and authorizing the lawyer to take all means necessary” to collect past due accounts. Attorney fees, which were at an all time high for the first 5 months of the year, continue to decline as the Board aggressively works to keep these under control. And, joked Whelan, the (now closed) Bar and Grill finally broke even for the month of February! He calculates the savings in February for having closed the Community Center at approximately $14k.
Whelan continued his report with an explanation of the meaning of the disclaimed audit and the actions that the Board has taken to rectify the concerns. He said that the main reason that the annual audit was disclaimed was that the auditor found that Monroe counted listed many more properties in our Association than our records show. They had no opinion on which set of records were correct, but could not sign off until this matter was reconciled. Another concern for the auditor was the cash control procedures at the Bar and Grill, and the rest consisted of technical preferences of this particular firm for accounting procedures. In response, the Board has created an ad hoc committee to reconcile the property records, has overhauled the procedures at the Bar and Grill, and has organized the recordkeeping system to meet the suggestions of the Auditor. Glasgow interjected that at this point, a letter has been sent to the auditor seeking a clean audit.
In the Management report, Judy Kennedy said that a bug in the website that allowed posts from members to be put up before moderation has been fixed. Scalping of the roads will begin in the next few weeks. Road ban signs to keep trucks over 10 tons from our roads during the spring thaw have been ordered. Electrical work on the saunas has been completed. Ms. Kennedy will be on vacation next week, so “Walk In Wednesday” has been cancelled for next week.
Lola Lauri reported that the Ad Hoc committee for the CC renovations is continuing to work, selecting furniture and lighting for the dining room and bingo room. The Finance and Planning committee has submitted a proposed budget to the Board. The Rules and Regulations committee requested a liaison from the board be assigned. The Crime Watch committee needs a room in which to meet. The Real Estate committee has compiled a list of landlords in the community and will meet to discuss options developing revenue from rentals. Diane Caldwell noted that not only is developing this revenue stream important on its own, but also renters often become buyers in the community. She also added that our rules and regulations should be amended to increase fines and amenity fees for associate memberships. The Events committee has cleaned out and organized the inventory stored at the Community Center.
Melanie Balzano, reporting for the potential Parents Club, reported that their first meeting had a decent turnout, with parents discussing the possibility of creating a summer program and an afterschool program for children in the association. “We are a village,” she said, “and we need to find ways to raise our children.” She added that there will be a fee to parents for any program created, and that they also discussed fundraising ideas to help with those fees. Parents who are interested should attend their next meeting on April 18th. The Maintenance committee is happy to report that the Strawberry Landing issue has been resolved and the structure has been removed. They also repeated their recommendation to the Board to consider adding a solar heating system for the outdoor pool.
Addressing Old Business, Brad Jones reported that a “stop work” order was issued by Tobyhanna Township for construction on the Community Center in response to a complaint and phone call from a member. Although no fines were issued and only one small correction was necessary to the project, the plans are still with the township and work cannot resume until the response is received. He estimates that this has set the project back about ten days.
In New Business, the Board approved a budget to complete the Homeowner review to examine property deeds and determine which properties are and are not members of the association. Brad Jones stated that the new Association budget will be available for inspection for 30 days and may be adopted at the next open meeting. Dan Glasgow described the road plan for the next year, beginning with the scalping project. Notification will be given one week in advance of work beginning on a particular road. After that, drainage areas will be inspected and repaired, with the work being done in-house as much as possible. Then roads will be inspected and slated for repair where needed. There is 30k budgeted for scalping and an additional 170k for all road work and Glasgow assured us that every penny will be used for that purpose. The “road bans” mentioned in the management report mean that during the spring thaw when the roads are soft and easily damaged, trucks over 10 tons will be banned from using our roads for 30 days. This excludes fuel trucks and the garbage trucks removing Association garbage.
In Public Comments, a resident asked about the scalping project, designed to direct water away from the roads. He was concerned about how this might impact his property. Jones took his address and promised to look at the problem and see if there was anything he could do to make sure it did not impact him negatively.
Bob Leon asked if absentee balloting would be on the ballot in August and was told that the matter was being discussed with the lawyer.
John Palmisano asked if the “Fisch” properties and the Gap View road debate were continuing and who is responsible for the roads in that area. He also suggested that the Association should include some small amount of paving of unpaved roads into each year’s plan to at least reduce number of unpaved roads over the long term. Glasgow responded that the membership review included the Fisch properties and that the results might help shed some light on the road responsibilities there as well.
Connie Simpson asked why the Association did not just obtain a loan to finish the roads. Whelan responded that this was offered and the membership voted it down. Jones added that the membership also rejected a dues increase and therefore, there is no extra money for new paving. Unfortunately, said Whelan, 85% of the membership lives on paved roads and is unlikely to vote for an increase or assessment to pave the remaining roads.
Flo Mauri read a series of recommendations from former directors, including the suggestion that “permits should be obtained” when required by Pa law, our camera surveillance system should be upgraded, there should be an “official” Emerald Lakes Facebook page, the Board should follow the bylaws and seat Mr. Olall, and the Board should reply to all recommendations made. She also stated that she believes that all recommendations from ELDAS should appear in the minutes of the open meetings, to which Whelan replied that this would be contrary to what “Robert’s Rules” require.
Kathy Leach asked when construction would begin on the new building in the Administration area and was told it was scheduled for May first.
Mary Kavanaugh complained that the person who answered the Public Safety message line was rude. Jones said they would address this. She also asked if anything could be done about the potholes along Long Pond Road. Kennedy said that she was talking to Penndot about the issue.
Linda Shuey asked if the budget would be available online and Jones confirmed that it would be. She also asked if the stop work order meant that all work at the CC was halted. Jones replied that this was a stop order for construction only, and painting and other work could continue.
Carmen Brodnax asked what the stop work order was about (in spite of the fact that it was explained earlier). She also said that we fine members for not following permit regulations and that it is Management’s responsibility to obtain the proper permits for work. “Correct” replied Jones. She then asked if this same problem happened last year during construction of the storage building. “Not correct.” Replied Jones.
Linda Shuey asked if construction in the CC might mean that we could be required to build handicapped accessible bathrooms there. Jones replied that since there is no construction going on in the bathrooms, these should not be required. Glasgow added that the sill plate repair required by the inspector should be an easy fix and that the architect did not see a reason for a permit in the first place, but because somebody called the inspector, he would be determined to find something to justify the call.
Gilda Spiotta and Stefania Johnson both expressed their satisfaction with the work of the Board in recent months and thanked them for their dedication and hard work.
Pat Galderisi asked Mr. Frank to confirm that the total delinquent accounts debt owed to the Association was approximately $4million and that the Board had recently written off $3M as bad debt, unlikely to be repaid. Glasgow explained that writing off a debt for Auditing purposes is not the same as declaring that you will no longer attempt to collect that money. Galderisi then read a statement from Joe Miller who could not be present. The statement said that there was a double standard applied when the Association fines members for not getting permits and then does not get permits for its own work. He also asked why pictures of the progress at the CC have not been posted. Since Mr. Miller’s statement was obviously written before the meeting and before the explanation given for the permit problems, the Board’s only response was from Glasgow who stated that we had not posted pictures because it would be nice if all the updating and changes were a surprise at reopening.
Flo Mauri stood again, and said that there seemed to be a discrepancy. Did we or did we not need permits for the work at the CC? Once again, Brad Jones patiently explained. He said that there were 4 major projects in the renovation. For 3 of the 4, permits were needed and applied for as needed. The fourth project was deemed by the architect to be cosmetic and should not have required a permit. Unfortunately a member called the township and the inspector disagreed with this assessment because of the lack of a pressure treated plate needed in the Bingo room. This was in no way an attempt to avoid the permit process; it was a mistaken call on one small part of the project. Glasgow added that no fines were assessed and that the permits for the other projects were all applied for and in order. Mauri said that she accepted this explanation but that there was clearly a communication problem with the membership and that the Board should ask themselves why a member would call the township in the first place. (To which the audience reacted loudly and vehemently, with calls of “To be spiteful” and “To be a &!@*” and “to make trouble, of course”). Glasgow said that the Board has done everything possible to be transparent and to keep the membership up-to-date on developments. When asked why the stop work order was not explained to the membership, Jones stated that it WAS explained, in this meeting, today, the first meeting held since it happened.
Darren Johnson stated that it was clear that the Board and Management had no negative intentions in their actions and equally as clear that the caller had only negative intentions or he or she would have gone to management with their concerns rather than directly to the township.
Another member stated that he had dealt with the Tobyhanna Township inspectors on more than one occasion and he had found them to be quite difficult and arbitrary in their requirements and often seemed to change their minds from one meeting to the next and so he was not at all surprised that we had encountered difficulty.
Finally, Melanie Balzano said that she saw accidents on Long Pond Road regularly and could there be some kind of sign to warn drivers to slow down in that area. Glasgow wondered if we may be responsible for erecting a fence to contain snow and keep it from drifting across the road at that spot, to which Jones replied that it might be and they agreed to consider this action. Diane Caldwell suggested that contacting the township and local representatives might help in getting signs and reflectors for that area.