March 25, 2017 Monthly Open Board Meeting
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.