January 28, 2017 Monthly Open Board Meeting
by Kathy Leslie-Whelan
After the traditional Pledge of Allegiance, President Diane Caldwell gave her message, noting that she expected 2017 to be a better year than 2016. She said that road repair and repaving would continue. Of our 4 trucks, 2 are old and need frequent repair. One truck is over 20 years old and should be retired. She also said that the expectations of the community exceed what we can afford to do. She pointed to the fact that we have not had a dues increase since 2011 and that the Treasurer will work with F&P Chairman Earl Frank to produce a list of needs for a dues increase. She went on to cite some of the major projects completed or underway. She expressed sadness that while the staff does the best they can with what resources they have, it is just not enough and more money is needed.
Treasurer’s Report: Treasurer Stefania Johnson reported that dues collection is below last year, year-to-date, by slightly over $90k but that delinquency collections are up by $88K over the same period last year. Reserves are at $379K and New Capital Reserves are at $86K. Administration is about $52K over budget, Public Safety about $5.6K under budget, Maintenance almost $18K over budget and the Community Center only slightly over budget. Figuring cost vs revenue, the Grill cost about $3K to operate in December. She closed by echoing the president’s comments that a dues increase is needed.
Manager’s Report: Manager Judy Kennedy reminded that complaints should be communicated directly to staff at the Admin Office or on the official web site, and not on Facebook which is not an official part of Emerald Lakes. The board will meet with Northeast Financial on Feb. 25th to discuss investment policy. The SOPs for Maintenance and Community Center are being revised. The Public Safety SOP is completed.
Information on 70 properties in question has been sent to the abstract company doing the research. Three accounting firms will be interviewed on Saturday February 18th to determine who will be awarded the auditing contract. Later that day Joe Gallagher will meet with the board to discuss lake maintenance and the invasive weed problem. On the monarch butterfly project, Don Atkiss held a meeting on January 14th and will hold another in March, date tbd.
Under the heading of general maintenance, GOE has corrected the dam reports. Brad Jones reported on the dehumidification project in the CC. The contractor awarded the contract (Button Oil) has withdrawn. A temporary ventilation system will be rigged to allow the pool to be heated and this should be done by the middle of February. The shed designated for the Events Committee has been delivered. Committee members will be building shelving and moving events materials to the shed for storage. Equipment has been winterized, including spreaders, and materials such as gravel and salt continue to be ordered. The maintenance head has been terminated and management will fulfill that role until a new hire is added.
Directors’ Comments: Director Buz Whelan began by thanking the board for the very thoughtful basket of goodies they sent after the loss of his brother. He said the basket contained at least a dozen items such as fancy crackers and cookies, cheese straws, and excellent tinned creamy cheese, smoked salmon, candies and a bottle each of red and white wine. He held up a small scissors that came in the package to cut open the various envelopes containing the treats. He described the basket as very classy and wanted to publicly thank his fellow directors.
Whelan then turned to an email sent by the board secretary to PP&L. He read the opening line, “I live in Emerald Lakes and am on the Board for the Association,” and the final sentence, “I am forwarding a copy of this to the full Board and will also advise them of your response.” In between these sentences was expressed concern for the way the company was stringing the wires. Whelan said he was disturbed by the fact that this was not first cleared with the rest of the board and further distressed that the board president had not followed up with a statement of policy on communicating without outside entities as a board member without board approval. Both the secretary and president objected to Whelan’s comments saying she did not clearly state she was speaking for the board. Whelan called this immaterial since merely stating her position and the fact that she would follow up with the board clearly implied board involvement. Ms. Spiotta also pointed out that she sent the email from her personal account and not the one she uses for board communication, but Whelan said this was irrelevant since PP&L had no knowledge of her accounts. The matter was left unresolved.
Whelan next complained about the latest edition of the Emerald News, calling it an embarrassment. He pointed out that the pictures of staff on the front page had no captions. He asked no one in particular if they had ever seen a picture of people in any publication that did not have a caption that read, “Pictured left to right are…” He said this was basic newspaper procedure and you did not have to be an editor to know this. He then went on about the choice of putting the article about the invasive lake weeds on page 5 instead of page one since this is both an important and relevant concern in a lake-based community. He said trying to hide bad news was wrong. President Caldwell objected to Whelan’s characterization saying that this was a holiday issue and the front page should be in that spirit. Whelan called this a distinction without a difference since, whatever the reason, the choice was still a poor one. When Whelan said he was just getting started and held up a long list of what he said were mistakes in the paper, Caldwell said we would talk about all that when the agenda item regarding the paper came up.
Committee Reports: Speaking for Finance and Planning Chairman Earl Frank emphasized that we have a cash flow problem and that a dues increase was necessary. He said he will be getting with Brad (Jones of Preferred Management) to begin the budget process.
The President, as co-liaison to Real Estate reported that rental fees brought in $70K for the most recent year. They are asking for a budget of $7K to cover costs of printing, promotion and staff time. There is a landlord meeting 4/22 with an eye to getting more landlords into compliance.
Rules and Regs: the updated document was ready for approval. The directors voted unanimously to approve the changes and additions.
Committee Procedures: Director Whelan passed out an updated version prepared by he and Treasurer Stefania Johnson. The directors will familiarize themselves with the changes in time for the next workshop.
Paul Capozzoli Memorial Scholarship: Whelan passed out a paper with the criteria for the scholarship. There were 3; that applicant have above average scholastic record in the opinion of faculty, that applicant has an expectation of attending college (these first two were described as ‘gatekeepers’) and as the determining criterion that applicant must have demonstrated altruistic behavior by contributing to the betterment of his/her community through service that was not remunerated. Secretary Gilda Spiotta suggested that applicants should be graduating seniors, a suggestion Whelan agreed with. In response to a question of eligibility, Whelan said it should not be confined to only EL residents. The board consensus was to agree.
Note: Other agenda items in this section were covered during the Manager’s Report and by Brad Jones reporting on the HVAC situation
ELA Newspaper: Whelan again criticized the paper saying that virtually all the errors and misjudgments were the fault of ELA not the Journal beginning with the fact that no Publication schedule had ever been set up. He stated that when he was editor the paper was published on the Friday after the first Monday every month and this was accomplished by a meeting with Journal personnel and setting a schedule together. This held for 2 years during Whelan’s term as editor and for 2 more under Lola Lauri. In any case the board voted to sever the relationship with the Isenbergs/Journal and self-publish. President Caldwell said that with advertising revenue the paper would pay for itself. Directors Whelan and Leon dissented, saying that it was doubtful enough advertising revenue could be raised to pay for the paper.
Monarch Butterfly update: A meeting was held Jan 14th and a number of people have expressed interest in participating. Another meeting will be held in March. The plants necessary to attract the bugs will be supplied (in the form of seeds) and maintenance is low to non-existent.
Rules and Regs: as previously noted the board unanimously approved the changes.
New members were approved and welcomed by consensus.
Public Comments: (highlights) Linda Shuey asked that missing stop sign at Gap View (Director Johnson added Cedar) be replaced. She also asked why the Real Estate Committee needed a budget. Whelan, Caldwell and Jones each partially answered that cost of print materials, staff time and other ancillary costs be properly cited as Real Estate Committee costs. This would be about 10% of monies raised by the program. Martin Van Sise repeated his suggestion originally made 5 years previous, saying if his advice had been taken then we would have over a million dollars in reserves. Kathy Leslie-Whelan asked Secretary Gilda Spiotta for clarification of her claim that she consulted with an attorney before writing the PPL letter. Whelan wanted to know if it was a New Jersey or Pennsylvania based attorney. Spiotta responded by saying, “I choose not to respond.” A member identified as Igor asked why it took so long for ELA to realize the HVAC installation wasn’t working. He also suggested that we could make money if we had a dumpster for furniture and appliances and charged for their disposal. Former compactor attendant Cookie Lietwinski stated that people did not cooperate in the past, dropping furniture and appliances without paying and at locations all around the compactor area.
Reporter’s Note: During the meeting I was admonished by President Caldwell to ‘get it right” meaning the details of the meeting. I can only say that I do my best, but that since I can’t record the meeting I must rely on hand written notes. If I make a mistake, if any principal at the meeting feels I got their contribution wrong, they are invited to correct the record in the comments below.-Kathy Leslie-Whelan