Monthly Archives: January 2018
by Kathy Leslie-Whelan
The meeting was called to order at 9:33 am. Six board members were present. Vice President Al Leslie was absent. Following the pledge of allegiance, a moment of silence was held for Mike Gruber, who passed away suddenly on January 5th. Mike was the accountant for Emerald Lakes for the past 24 years. He will truly be missed.
Caldwell immediately called for a motion to approve the December minutes. Bob Leon made the motion and Dave Borsos seconded it. The minutes were accepted unanimously with one abstention.
Caldwell began her President’s message stating that life is short and we should appreciate what we have. She stated that Mike Gruber was fully dressed and ready for work on the morning that he died. He was on the treadmill and was only 59 years old. She stated that the Emerald Lakes newsletter had a full page dedicated to Mike Gruber and she complimented Darryl Gamble for the fine job of preparing the piece.
Caldwell wished good health, happiness and prosperity to everyone. She stated as we ring in 2018, every year people make resolutions to make life changes and that ELA was on a path to change. The board and management have done a lot to make changes. There are things in the works so stay tuned. She thinks we will all appreciate these changes.
Stefania Johnson announced that there would be no Treasurer’s report due to the sudden passing of Mike Gruber. Office staff is trying to get a financial report together and it should be available over the next couple of weeks. Johnson said that she will have a report for the February meeting. Johnson further stated that they have a preliminary budget process in the works.
In the Manager’s Report, Laura Jones stated that she was deeply impacted by the death of Mike Gruber and that she had attended 2 funerals in one week. She wished everyone a Happy New Year and said that we should all hug our family more and appreciate sunrises.
Jones stated that The ELA official Facebook page keeps getting hacked so it is down a lot, there will be a link to this site on the ELA website page.
Currently a preliminary budget is being prepared and it will go to Finance and Planning (F&P) after the board has seen it. Jones plans on having forums on the budget and would like F&P to be present. She is looking to schedule something for a Friday night and a Saturday morning. She anticipates the budget will be ready for approval of the board at the February open meeting. Her deadline for mailing to the membership is March 30th. She is preparing the get the process ready in case she gets on a treadmill [sic]. The board will get the budget first, F&P second and the membership third. Jones further stated that we needed to tighten up collection on delinquent accounts. Jones also stated that our application for small games of chance license was turned down. She is waiting for a letter which identifies why we were turned down and will try to rectify the issue.
Jones spoke about a company that took us to court for $400 for the dam inspections. A hearing was set for January 17th but due to the snow she was unable to make the court date. She requested a postponement but was denied. The court gave the company suing us a summary judgment, but her intent is to appeal that judgment. Jones spoke next about a Reserve report that she sent back to the engineering firm. She stated that it would go to F&P after the board reviewed it but we should be prepared for a bad report. Right now we should have $940,000 in reserves.
Jones is currently waiting for an answer from our insurance company regarding the indoor pool. Our current system had an ice jam and the air exchange shut off. Jones and Darryl Gamble made an inspection of the pool and it was raining from the ceiling and it was so foggy that you could not see from one side of the pool to the other. When the ice chunk fell off, unfortunately it shattered an H coil. This coil is a custom made piece that costs $4,600 and has a 6 to 8 week lead time. All the financial paperwork is with the insurance company and she hopes to be able to order the coil this week. This may be an extensive repair.
Jones stated that the new Clover system (Point of Sale) is up and running. We had a little glitch with our internet speed. She is hopeful that since we changed the speed the system will now work.
Jones thanked Gamble and the maintenance staff for clearing the roads during the snow events. Some of our maintenance staff worked on Christmas Eve and Christmas and worked 25 hours to clear our roads.
At this point Caldwell interjected that she neglected to make her standard statement at the beginning of the meeting and proceeded to make it at this time. Caldwell stated the meeting would be held in accordance with Roberts 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 there would be an executive session at the end of the open meeting.
Director’s comments started with Dave Borsos. He stated that everyone in this room and in the country has the right to free speech. The downfall is that sometimes things can be misinterpreted. The best thing for people to do is to ask questions. He also stated that whatever we write or post has a consequence and that we could be sued for slander or liable. Borsos went on to say that although you have a right to free speech, you do not have a right to an audience. In conclusion, he thanked everyone for their patience and kindness for listening to him.
Jake Bower stated that he sees a lot of folks participating in functions at the Community Center (CC) and are also volunteering to help. He extended kudos to Darryl Gamble and the staff at the CC. The last two events were rocking. Over 100 people attended the New Year’s Eve party. Bower also stated that there was cross training happening and that was a good thing.
Bob Leon reported that the first night the Clover system was in effect he noticed that his drink was $1 cheaper. He also said that a glass of wine is also $.70 cheaper. Stefania Johnson stated that she is not surprised with the Reserve study. The Association is running on bare minimum and we are at a critical point in this Association. If our membership wants to enjoy their amenities, changes have to be made. Some folks worry about their property values and she wants to make sure our wants and needs are met. Gilda Spiotta agreed with Johnson and reiterated we are at a critical stage with finances. The good news is that people care. We have defined roles and there is a lot of passion and care for our homes values and each other. We need to rebuild and reconstruct ELA.
Diane Caldwell spoke about needs and wants. She bought up an example of her son wanting a new Subaru. Did he actually need a new car? She went on to talk about committees that recommend what they want and not necessarily what they need. Instead of telling the board what you want, you should roll up your sleeves and make it happen. An example was the front entrance repairs and lake maintenance. Caldwell stated we are in a critical financial state. The board is doing their fiduciary responsibility. Caldwell stated don’t tell me what you want, tell me what you are going to do. You sit on a committee to help, so roll up your sleeves and start working on things. Board liaisons will have to put message out to the committees. Any committees that are not supportive of the board will be addressed by the board.
Earl Frank started the committee reports for Finance and Planning F&P). He stated that there was no committee meeting since they had no financials to work with but he had a few questions. He asked about collections from collection agency and former attorney. Jones stated that she did not have those figures with her. Franks asked if F&P would get a copy of the budget before the next meeting and was told yes. Franks’ final question was regarding the cost of our new counsel vs. our former attorney. Jones stated that although he is more expensive, things are moving more expediently.
No other committee chairs were present so the board liaisons spoke on their behalves. Borsos stated that Rules and Regulations has not met. One meeting was cancelled due to snow and there was no quorum for the other meetings. They only had one meeting since September. Bowers stated that the Real Estate committee is currently revising the short term rental policy, looking at the maximum occupancy and septic system requirements as well as looking at the TOPS system and how to get forms to renters. They are working on a revised list of items that landlords need to advise their tenants. They are also looking at redundancies in the Rules and Regulations. The next meeting is scheduled for March 17th. Maintenance Committee liaison Bob Leon spoke about the Shuey’s walking the community and how they report back on items that are needed such as signs down and ditches overflowing. Johnson spoke of the Events Committee and complimented Darryl Gamble and his staff for the assistance they have been giving the committee. They are down to only a few members and are looking for more volunteers to help out. She requested that everyone reach out to our neighbors and friends for help. Johnson also stated that the welcome to the neighborhood and the volunteer lunch are going to be combined since very few people showed up for the last welcoming function. Spiotta shared what she observed at the committee meetings. She stated that the volunteers are caring people and are willing to give of their time. She further stated that it has been great working with Darryl on the social activities. She stated that sometimes we get negative statements, but hopefully they are misconstrued.
Under old business with Button Oil, Caldwell stated that since we are currently in the middle of legal action there was very little that she could say. She did state that our new attorney has been in touch with our old attorney for his progress status and that depositions are soon to be scheduled for herself, Al Leslie, Brad Jones, Judy Kennedy and a few of the membership.
Under new business there were four resolutions on the agenda. Two were tabled. (Resolution 2-12718 – Rental Policies, Short and Long Term and Resolution 4-121818 – Standard Operating Procedures all Departments.)
Resolution 1-12718 – Fundraiser Policy. Bowers made motion which was seconded by Spiotta. This resolution will ensure a consistent policy and practice and sets of rules for fundraising activities for both internal and external purposes. Internal fundraisers are those that benefit ELA while external fundraisers are for charitable organizations, such as the American Cancer Society. There was a list of rules read by Spiotta that will be uploaded to the ELA website. Board discussion ensued. Boros stated that the rules are the same for both internal and external activities. Bower stated it was good to have in writing. We can look to do certain things in the community to help the community. We can have fundraisers for ourselves. Spiotta stated that it was an equitable representation to everyone. Motion passed unanimously.
Resolution 3-12718 – Walking Trail – Johnson made motion which was seconded by Bower. This resolution was to research the feasibility of clearing and cost for an off-road walking trail. The location of the trail would be the old campground that is located next the compactor. The area has electrical boxes above ground that are not live but could pose a tripping hazard. Board discussion ensued. Spiotta stated that the area is part of ELA that is not being used and it should be opened to all. She would like to call it Cookie’s Corner since Cookie Lietwinski came up with the idea. She stated that there was already a path but would like to see it enhanced just like the butterfly area. Johnson stated that it is good for health and wellness and it would be a more safe place to walk. She reminded the crowd that the resolution was for researching the idea. Bower stated that it would only be opened during the day and maybe they could do a fundraiser. Resolution passed unanimously.
New members were welcomed. This is the first time since the open annual meeting. There were 25 new home owners, 6 foreclosures and 5 sheriff sales.
Connie Simpson asked what happens to the single stream recyclables since they are being crushed together. Jones stated that the material is melted down and made into composite.
Earl Frank asked if the budget was going to reflect cash based accounting. Jones responded that it doesn’t affect the budget.
Don Atkiss gave a butterfly update. He stated that the population of butterflies was way up throughout the northeast and that next year should be a banner year. Flutterfly bushes will be planted and that dues for the membership for this project will not be required. ($15.00 per member). Caldwell stated that she could not thank Don enough for this project. The project put us on the map. Her intent is to get the ELA newsletter out once a month prior to the monthly open meeting and asked Don to prepare an article on this project.
Cookie Lietwinski stated that the proposed walking trail would be located where the haunted forest was held and that half the plugs didn’t work.
Darren Johnson stated that he has lived in ELA for 10 years. On a personal level he is doing well with his investments and thought that F&P should look into investments. Jones stated that was why she was holding budget forums. Investments will be addressed at that time. She stated that the day of reckoning is here and the membership cannot sue board members. There is not enough money in the reserves. Caldwell stated that “George” was good at some things and not so good at others, so they put things in place with a collection agency that can go nationwide and are more aggressive. The board has put measures in place to bring in money.
Igor Palka stated that he leaves his house early in the morning and he is pleased with the snow removal services that have been done by maintenance. He also stated that he does not like that the pool is closed and would like to see it fixed. He stated that it was unacceptable that we have to wait for the insurance company to inspect and approve the work. Jones stated that it took three weeks for the insurance company to look at the damage and that we needed to wait for pricing on the custom piece. It will be a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks before the pool is open. Jones added that they are still circulating and maintaining the pool so that we do not get any mold in the structure. Palka stated that an email blast should go out asking for help. You may get 5 people, which is better than none.
Kathy Whelan thanked the board for welcoming new members since it does affect our liquor license. Jones stated that it does not. She sends a list to the liquor control board monthly. Whelan stated that Jones should look into it since she heard from members such as Bill Henry that there is a reason to identify these members at the open meeting. One board member stated we are reading out the info that was requested by a member and Whelan stated that she doesn’t care what a member requested but wanted it done with what the liquor board required. Our license is a valuable amenity to the community.
Buz Whelan stated that he has not missed a meeting since 2005 and that he has heard about needs vs. wants numerous times. It is time for the board to look at the cost of the operation of the grill. There are always reasons to not look at the cost such as new chef, new menu, new manager and now new Clover system. Whelan stated that this was now a time for the board to lead by example. We want the grill but can we afford it. .. or do we need it. Whelan challenged the board to set a time limit and an acceptable cost to run the operation. Borsos stated that the last board did set limits but it was ignored and rolled back. He further stated that we put a lot of money into the CC so it would be a waste of that money to close the center. Ms.Whelan stated that no one was talking about closing the center. The discussion is on the grill. Spiotta stated that they did not have real numbers. Caldwell stated that we needed a history and with the new system we do not have that. She stated she needed at least 3 to 5 months of data. Johnson stated that she needed to go back and see what was in the budget. Caldwell stated that every amenity’s cost (from the lakes to the roads) has to be looked at to see if it was worth running. Caldwell further said that the trash compactor was not an amenity, but a service. Caldwell did agree with Whelan that in 3 to 4 months they will have a better picture and will address it at that time.
Chris Claude said that roof, pool and drywall should be tested before work is done in the indoor pool area. If the board is asking for a dues increase, the membership should know what that dollar amount is and that amount should be justified. Claude also stated that Lake Naomi has separate fees for their membership if they want to use the amenities. He was told that that would require a by-law change.
Reporters Note: I write these reports based on notes taken during the meeting. I get no special consideration or cooperation from the board. I try my best to report accurately, but occasionally mistakes will be made. I invite correction and have no desire to intentionally mischaracterize any comments or actions.
by Buz Whelan
When Board President Diane Caldwell called me with the sad news of Mike Gruber’s passing I was stunned. It was Friday morning, January 5th. Mike had died just a few hours earlier. Knowing I had been friendly with Mike, Ms. Caldwell decided to inform me personally, and I appreciate the gesture, sorrowful that the message was.
On the professional side, Mike was hired on Nov. 14, 1995. It was a reorganization of sorts, bringing Emerald Lakes accounting from an outside bookkeeping contract to in-house control . Mike held a B.Sc. in Accounting from Brooklyn College. He brought with him 14 years of accounting experience, including positions with various companies in New York and Pennsylvania. He was the accountant for Buck Hill Falls Community in the 5 1/2 years prior to coming to Emerald Lakes.
Mike was charged with organizing the accounting operation by the association board, led by then-President Flo Mauri. He was tasked with developing financial statements and analytical reports that would assist the board in operating more efficiently in the financial realm. He succeeded brilliantly creating clear reports that reflect the month to month financial status of the association, as well as annual reports that ensure accurate budgetary operation. In his 22 plus years here he passed 22 annual audits by 3 separate auditing firms. In comments included in the audit reports, his accuracy in recording our finances and assisting the auditor in the preparation of the report drew praise from auditor after auditor, year after year. Emerald Lakes has lost a valuable asset with his passing.
On the personal side, I considered Mike a friend. It’s not that we socialized outside EL. But we shared some interests and found many of the same things funny. What began as a straightforward professional association eventually became one of collegiality and affection.
I knew Mike from my work as editor of the Emerald News beginning in the spring of ’05. I occasionally needed information from him for an article. But when I had to assume the duties of treasurer due to the sudden illness of the previous treasurer, our association became much closer and more frequent. The first thing I did was sit down with Mike for a tutorial. He patiently walked me through our financial procedures over one March ’08 afternoon. It took about three hours to get the details through my thick head. My questions must have seemed incredibly naive, but he never once showed impatience or disdain. And during that period and times soon after I learned that we were both Yankee and football Giants fans. We celebrated together and agonized together over the following years depending on whether our teams were playing well or not.
Mike was amused by my daily FB posts on my timeline. Turns out our senses of humor and irony meshed. I’ll miss his comments and suggestions about those posts. But Mike had one flaw: he was a conservative Republican while I am a liberal Democrat. Okay, maybe it wasn’t really a flaw, but I loved to needle him, and he gave back as good as he got. I’ll miss those conversations as well.
Now, at what seems to me to be the young age of 59, Mike is gone. His financial acumen, his diligence, his experience over 22 years here are lost. That’s a blow to the Emerald Lakes operation. But to me, it’s the loss of a friend. Good bye, Mike. I won’t forget you.