Emerald Lakes Board of Director’s Open Meeting, October 28, 2017
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.