Category Archives: BOD Meetings
September 27, 2014 Monthly Open Board Meeting
Dan Glasgow opened the meeting with his President’s remarks, which seemed to be meant to set the expectations of the audience (“Hold your questions until the end, please.”) and to explain certain items listed on the agenda. After this, the board’s first order of business was to appoint a new treasurer. Millie Bishop resigned that position (but not her directorship) at the most recent workshop meeting and so, in a unanimous decision, Buz Whelan was appointed.
After the board approved the minutes of the July 26th, 2014 BOD meeting, President Glasgow reviewed the actions of the new board to date. He noted that the organizational meeting and the workshop meeting held were both open to the public and that, after the workshop there was an executive session to discuss the accounts of certain members. The board has set a target of October 31st with the lawyer to have a written opinion on the membership review issue, so the board should have some news on this issue in November. They have also asked for an opinion from the lawyer on the issue of association documents that were shredded and his advice on how to proceed with this matter. Glasgow stated that the community’s investment in new equipment seems to be paying off already as it is being used in several drainage and road repairs. At the workshop, the board acted to re-establish the committees to assist the board and determined the board liaisons to those committees. Finally, he announced that he will be joining our manager, Judy Kennedy, for “Walk-in Wednesdays” on the third Wednesday of each month, (except that this October he will only be available on the fourth Wednesday) so that members may also use that time to approach him with their concerns. Walk-in Wednesday hours are from 1:30 to 3:30 pm at the administration building.
With four minutes as treasurer under his belt, Buz Whelan gave the Treasurer’s Report. He reported that our revenues (excluding the Bar & Grill) are at $796k, which represents $59k less in dues collection than at this time last year. He allowed that it is possible that more people are paying dues under the quarterly option, but that cannot cover all of the difference. (Later in the meeting, former Treasurer Earl Frank suggested that there seems to be a delay in the delivery of the current quarter’s billing which might account for this difference.) Whelan then addressed some specific areas of the financial picture. Our capital reserves fund variance is accounted for by the paving of the compactor area, but future transfer fees should help restore the balance in that account and so he feels that is not a current concern. He noted that year-to-date our attorney’s fees are over $20k, which is more than the combined total of all attorney fees for the prior two years. The Public Safety and Maintenance departments are on or under budget. The Community Center is under budget overall, but the Bar and Grill is a different story.
Whelan noted that because the B&G is our only amenity that comes with its own revenue stream, we report on it differently than other amenities. He reported the Bar revenue versus cost at +$1,813.99, and the Grill revenue versus cost at -$13,267.86. There are certain items that are also costs that cannot be broken out into either bar or grill because they are used by both (towels, uniforms, certain supplies, etc) that totaled $3,355.50.
Bar & Grill total revenue $25,191.21
Bar & Grill total cost $40,000.58
B&G Loss $14,809.37
The bottom line of all of this is that the Bar & Grill’s combined costs to the community for the first four months of the fiscal year stand at almost $15k. Whelan commented that this is unsustainable, and must be brought under control. He told the audience that Director Robert Lauri plans to work with Preferred Management to focus extensively on this issue and complete a comprehensive analysis of the operations and use of the POS system and training of staff and will determine a future course of action to stem the bleeding.
Manager Judy Kennedy reported on the re-establishment of the committees and plans to contact the former chairpersons and members of those committees to set up meeting times and dates for their initial meetings. At its workshop meeting, the board established liaisons for each committee, and also “co-liaisons”, whose function will be to back up the primary liaison in the event he or she cannot attend a committee meeting. Liaisons from the board were reported as follows (with co-liaisons in parentheses): Communications – Buz Whelan (June Solla), Maintenance – Robert Lauri (Buz Whelan), Events – Dan Glasgow (Millie Bishop), Finance and Planning – Buz Whelan (Millie Bishop), Nominations – June Solla (Diane Caldwell), Elections – June Solla (Diane Caldwell), Real Estate – Diane Caldwell (Alex Leslie), Rules and Regulations – June Solla (Diane Caldwell), Appeals – Alex Leslie (June Solla), Neighborhood CrimeWatch – Millie Bishop (Dan Glasgow).
Kennedy also reported that they had designed a newsletter policy for approval by the board and a variance policy as well.
There was a discussion of outstanding issues and concerns over the C&R Landscaping contract for the new storage building. Diane Caldwell asked if the revised contract had been signed and if it contained pricing on the doors and warranty information. June Solla questioned who was responsible for the debris left from the clearing of the site. Brad Jones, of Preferred Management, replied that he would ensure that the contract contained the requested language and information and that the debris was the responsibility of C&R. He maintains that the building is “two weeks out” and that a township building permit was being sought.
Director Caldwell, citing POS summary reports, expressed concern over the daily cash discrepancies. She reported that on various daily reports she found cash discrepancies of up to $55 over, and $33 short and that these kinds of discrepancies seem to be happening with some regularity and are not acceptable. She also described an incident when she arrived at the Center and there were several employees “hanging out” at the front desk, playing loud music. When she asked them to turn down the music the response was “Who the hell are you?” Robert Lauri discussed a similar experience he had seen where a member wanted to swim but there appeared to be no lifeguard even though the pool should have been opened and staffed. Lauri and Preferred Management agreed to examine all these issues and Lauri asked that members report their good and bad experiences at the Community Center so that they may be considered when designing procedures and policies to improve service there.
Robert Lauri asked that Preferred Management work on designing a comprehensive Emergency Management Plan that would make the Community Center available to the membership in certain situations, including the recent school closings during the police manhunt in our area and during storms and other emergencies. Cookie Lietwinski said that there was a committee to work on this but that it had fallen through the cracks.
Diane Caldwell asked that October be designated Cancer Awareness Month for ELA. June Solla made the motion, Buz Whelan seconded and it was passed unanimously.
Robert Lauri suggested that the Nominations Committee be tasked with putting together a packet to inform candidates for the board of the duties, obligations, and expectations of the job. He pointed out that the bylaws only say that a candidate must be 21 years of age and a member-in-good-standing and that this does not give any indication of the scope of the job.
June Solla stated that she and many members of the board and the community are cancer survivors and that October 11th will be Cancer Awareness Day at the Community Center. Activities will include a Survivor’s breakfast (all are invited to attend), kids activities, afternoon Bingo, a dinner and a show that will include local performers Lady A and Mike Gregorio, followed by lighting of luminaries on the CC lawn. There will also be a gift basket raffle, and she is looking for donations of baskets. All the money raised will go to the American Cancer Society and will stay in Monroe County.
As is standard during the public comments portion of the meeting, several topics were discussed and brought up by different members. Rather than present the comments in chronological order, I have tried to group them together according to topics.
Ex-director Carmen Brodnax began this section of the meeting by expressing her dissatisfaction with the management report. She was concerned that current contracts and discussions were not reported on and that, although she is glad that Director Lauri is willing to involve himself in the improvement of the Bar & Grill, she feels that Preferred Management is not doing their part in this matter. Brodnax also mentioned her concern that there are still recommendations from last year’s committees (specifically the Real Estate Committee) that have not been acknowledged or acted upon. She stated that while we know we are getting professional guidance from our lawyer (eliciting many groans from the audience), Preferred Management does not seem to her to be giving us our money’s worth.
Brad Jones replied by explaining that, since the board is just getting started for the year and has not taken any action on those items, there is nothing to report. He pointed out that as a former director, Brodnax should know the format and purpose of the management report is to update the homeowners on actions that have been taken, but that lack of new action on particular items does not mean that they are not doing work on them. He also noted that the lawyer talked about the real estate issues at the Annual Meeting and that we are waiting on information from him to proceed with addressing committee recommendations. Director June Solla interjected that there were items discussed at the workshop that were not on the agenda, and Jones answered that the board could have put those on the agenda. Ex-director Margaret Fitzgerald asked if the membership could get a copy of the management report. Jones said that he thought that could be done, but that he would have to consult with the board on how and when to provide that to those who are interested.
Joseph Olall (also an ex-director) added that he felt that Preferred Management should have had an explanation of the $4k variance shown in the financials for Waste Management, and that he feels that Preferred Management is shirking their responsibility to run the CC by allowing Director Lauri to take on this project and that the responsibility should be on the management company to bring these costs into line. Lauri replied that it is the responsibility of management to use all their resources to improve our community, and that they are doing exactly that by allowing him to use his expertise (for free) to help them identify and address those problems. Olall added that he understands that the Bar & Grill will never make money, but that there is a need to set tolerable limits to what it will cost the community. Buz Whelan agreed to the need to set acceptable limits to CC costs and said he would look into the Waste Management variance. Manager Kennedy then described the actions that she has taken in the CC to bring these costs under control, including the release of employees, the building of the POS database, and several changes in procedures. She noted that it is a long way from where they began last spring, but that there is much more work to be done and, with patience and time, we will see results.
Lee Marsland described an evening at the CC wherein a member arrived intoxicated and how the staff did a good job of handling the situation. The member was not served additional alcohol, and was escorted outside and one staff member even relieved the member of her keys. Marsland suggests that training the staff on these situations will protect them and the Association.
Bob Leon said that during the previous night the CC was “packed” and that staff member Lisa did a terrific job of managing the crowd, but that staff allocation should be considered. He said the bar was crowded and there was a large group in the dining room, but that the pool area was completely empty. He also noted the fire extinguisher in the kitchen hallway is not charged and would be useless in an emergency, the bar code reader in the front does not work and hasn’t for some time, and there are often several staff and their friends “hanging out” by the front desk, but only some are working there. Gilda Spiotta suggested that First Aid training be included in the general training of the staff since some conditions mimic the symptoms of intoxication.
Spiotta then read a letter to the board concerning the incursion of a large family of beavers at the lake near her home. She described the many health and safety concerns presented by this infestation and asked the board to consider removing them. She pointed to ELA’s stringent rules protecting our trees and said that if this concern is real, then the beavers cause much damage to those very same trees and should be removed. There followed a general discussion about previous actions the board has taken, and Millie Bishop told of a time where the beavers were removed and this also damaged the lake ecosystem and the board had to go out and purchase beavers to restore the lake. Mario Balzano opined that we need to prioritize wildlife removal and that he believes delinquent members of the Association should take priority over the removal of the beavers. The board needs to investigate the problem and find a balanced, suitable solution. Diane Caldwell suggested bringing in an Audubon Society representative to consult on this situation. Linda Shuey echoed Spiotta’s concern, adding that beavers spread bacteria that endangers members who swim in the lakes.
Bill Crowley described a night when his home alarm system was tripped and he contacted Public Safety. He felt that the officer did not respond properly to his concerns and that the community is unclear on their role. He would like the board to clarify the process of communication, execution and expectations for Public Safety. Judy Kennedy responded that the officer was a new employee, he was reprimanded and that he should expect to be contacted by Chief Cruz to clear up any misunderstandings.
Pat Galderisi (also an ex-director, from many years ago) chastised the board about the technical aspects of holding a meeting and what she felt was the board’s failure to “ratify” 3 votes taken at the workshop. There was some discussion about whether or not a vote had even been completed, and some board members looked confused as to why the matter was raised since there is no mechanism for ratifying a motion that has failed, and further, ratification of a vote is only necessary when an item needs further action from the membership to complete the approval process. The issues in question were a failed motion to approve a member’s application to build on a lake, and the failed motion to accept Alex Leslie as treasurer upon the resignation of Millie Bishop from that position. Since no action was taken, there was no motion to be ratified. Perhaps this was an attempt to humiliate Director Alex Leslie who has served our community for so many years and, in doing so, has stepped on the toes of those involved in the questioning of this matter? In another attempt to publicly “catch” the board in a technical mistake, Ms. Galderisi asked if the revision to the 2013 Annual Meeting Minutes had been made so that they could be approved by the membership. The changes had been made and it was pointed out that they could not be approved until next year’s annual meeting where, according to President Glasgow, both 2013 and 2014 Annual Meeting minutes will be presented for approval. Galderisi also stated that the delay in answering her earlier requests to the board is “bordering on obstruction” and, when told that the lawyer had not yet replied regarding her requests, she stated that if her request generated a lawyer’s review and billing then she expected the official answer to come to her in writing.
In addition to his observation that there may be a delay in the third quarter billing, ex-director Earl Frank also gave the F&P Committee recommendations to the board. They include creating a guideline for the community’s investment strategies and a monthly breakout of legal fees to indicate what issues are being addressed and their associated costs. Flo Mauri (you guessed it – another ex-director!) passed on recommendations from ELDAS members, made at their most recent meeting. These were to look at the Association’s insurance policies to see if they will help defray the deficit in our reserves account, and to create an Ad Hoc committee to investigate the destruction of Association records. Mauri also said that the she was happy to see the “tone” of the board was improving from the confrontational one she saw last year toward Preferred Management. Other members, including Linda Shuey and Kevin Marsland agreed with this sentiment.
Stefania Johnson, speaking for the Events committee, informed the audience that the “Dancing with the ELA Stars” event had to be cancelled, but that she looked forward to seeing members attend the upcoming Haunted House and Halloween party events in October.
Welcome of New Members and Adjournment
The last order of business was to welcome the new members. Diane Caldwell informed the members that there were 13 foreclosures sold, 6 new properties sold and 13 newly foreclosed properties in the past month. The meeting was adjourned at 11:32.
(Editor’s Note: Thank you to Eileen Avrich and Gilda Spiotta for sharing their notes and observations of the meeting with me. This was a lot of information!)
August 23, 2014 Annual Meeting
This year’s annual meeting opened with a bombshell report from the auditor. A scheduling conflict meant that Auditor Scott Miller of Riley and Company had to give his report via cell phone, held up to the microphone for the audience to try to understand. This less-than-ideal situation left the audience straining to hear and the auditor was unable to answer questions clearly during his presentation. He noted that discrepancies between the number of lots in the association and the number of lots that are being billed prevent them from rendering an opinion on the financial statements of our Association. This is the “Clause 15” problem that the board has been recently investigating. At issue is the status of certain lots that may or may not belong to ELA. When asked if he saw any indication of impropriety or foul play, Mr. Miller stated that he saw none, but that he is not a lawyer and so could not make a determination on the matter. Many members were upset that the auditor was not in attendance and felt that the meeting should have been rescheduled to allow him to be there to explain this situation more fully and to answer questions. Board President Alex Leslie, Manager Judy Kennedy and Treasurer Earl Frank all agreed that the Board will need to focus on developing an accurate membership list and determine the steps necessary to collect dues from all appropriate members. Mr. Frank predicted an additional $50k in legal costs to address this problem.
President’s and Manager’s Reports
Alex Leslie and Judy Kennedy also discussed the highlights of their work over the past year, including the selection of a new lawyer, accounting firm and management company. New maintenance equipment was acquired at a cost of $103k. The rebuilding of the equipment shed is in progress. There are extended hours at various amenities, and staff and procedural changes have been put in place at the Community Center. They have begun addressing drainage concerns and road patching and repair work will continue into the fall. They have also instituted walk-in hours for members to talk to management at the Administration building on Wednesdays from 1:30 to 3:30 and by appointment on Saturdays from 10 to 2.
Earl Frank reported that the past year’s dues collected were the second highest ever, at $1.404m, including $184k in delinquencies. Operations expenses were $1.501m which was 6% under the budgeted amount. The Emerald Grill came in at $89k in expenses and $67k in revenue, for an overall cost of $22k. Our reserves are at $459k, but should be closer to $1.6m.
Our lawyer, Ed Hoffman introduced himself and described four issues that he would be focusing on for the Association. First, title search and forensic examination of documents to determine the actual lots for purposes of voting and assessments. Second, bylaws amendments, including an allowance for absentee balloting, Powers-of-Attorney and proxies. Third, the examination of fishing and conservation policies, specifically regarding ice fishing and possible liabilities to the Association. Fourth, the matter of real estate policies regarding the possible restriction of short-term (less than 7 days) rental of properties and the relation to Fair Housing and discrimination laws. In response to a question by Pat Galderisi, he also described the difference between various governing documents for our community. He called our covenants our controlling documents, with functions that are similar to the U.S, Constitution, but specifically for our community. Next in authority are the bylaws, which govern internal operations, then the Rules and Regulations which cover day-to-day functions and set procedures for collections and fines.
When asked how our collection policies and collection rates, Mr. Hoffman stated that ELA has a different lawyer for collections, but that he believed the procedures were being followed. Brad Jones, of Preferred Management steeped in to add that the national average for collections was around 85% and for communities of our size between 80 and 82%. When asked why we don’t hire a different lawyer for collections, he responded that while this is something we could do for future accounts, all accounts that have been turned over to the current lawyer had to remain with him until collected. This is standard procedure for all collections because the holder has already incurred costs in trying to resolve these accounts.
At this point, the floor was open for discussion of the recommendation to ban smoking at the Community Center and the dues increase proposal. Each speaker was allowed 2 minutes to discuss the issue, with up to 5 speakers allowed to argue for and 5 against each proposal. There seemed to be little interest in the smoking issue, with only one person willing to stand for each side. This was not true for the dues increase, as many speakers lined up to be heard. Those against the increase cited the discrepancies in the audit, the lack of information about what the additional funds will be used for, and the lack of proper management as reasons to reject the proposal. Speaking for the increase, members pointed to the need for repairs and upgrades to our amenities and services to maintain property values and account for increased costs.
Finally we came to the election portion of the meeting. This year, in addition to the four slated candidates, four people chose to run from the floor. These were Carmen Brodnax, Diane Caldwell, Earl Frank and Joseph Olall. Beginning with the candidates from the floor, each candidate was given four minutes to make a speech to the attendees.
In the end, Robert Lauri and Buz Whelan were elected to three-year terms and Diane Caldwell was elected to a one-year term. The dues increase did not pass and the smoking recommendation did pass, banning smoking at the Community Center at all times and in all locations . Currently smoking had been allowed from 8pm to closing in the bar room only. At the organizational meeting held by the new board, Daniel Glasgow was chosen as President, Robert Lauri as Vice President, Millie Bishop as Treasurer and Diane Caldwell as Secretary. Below are the vote counts:
194 total ballots cast
181 ballots were valid
Robert Lauri (99 votes) and Buz Whelan (95 votes) each gained a 3-year term, and Diane Caldwell (70 votes) gained a 1-year term.
Joseph Olall (66 votes), Earl Frank (58 votes), Bob Leon (55 votes), Carmen Brodnax (54 votes), and Connie Simpson (21 votes) were the rest of the candidate results.
The dues increase did not pass (134 No, 58 Yes)
The No Smoking Resolution passed (136 Yes, 48 No) (This means there will be no smoking in the CC).
July 26, 2014 Monthly Open Board Meeting
by Buz Whelan
The meeting was unusual in that the time and energy of the Public Comments section greatly overshadowed that of the prepared agenda items. What is normally a brief and uneventful portion of the meeting was instead characterized by angry exchanges between board members and attendees.
The meeting was called to order at 9:34am and began with the usual pledge of allegiance to the flag.
President’s Comments: President Leslie said he hoped to see “all of you” at the annual meeting. He added that he was proud to serve as this board’s president for the past year and was also proud of all they accomplished. These remarks brought puzzled looks by many of those in the audience. He concluded by calling for the treasurer’s report.
Treasurer’s Report: Treasurer Earl Frank said that due to the ongoing year-end audit, no financials were available. He further stated that the audit was on schedule and would be completed in time for presentation at the annual meeting. He said that to his knowledge, thus far no irregularities were discovered.
Manager’s Report: GM Judy Kennedy wished all the candidates for this year’s election good luck. She expressed the hope that all would have a mindset to work with management. Ecological Solutions will be treating Deer Lake Tuesday, July 29th. Public Safety will be putting stickers on illegally parked cars warning of towing if not moved and that, if the warning was ignored, towing would follow. Director Fitzgerald then interrupted, asking a question about Ms. Kennedy’s credentials. This forced Ms. Kennedy to discuss a procedural difficulty caused by her recent name change (Fitzgerald’s question elicited personal information inappropriate for a public forum. I’m uncomfortable having to write even that much on the subject). Ms. Kennedy also responded to another question from Fitzgerald, assuring the board that she is working with the new attorney in helping to get him acclimated to our particular situation and set of problems.
Committee Reports: As is the usual case leading up to the annual meeting, the Maintenance Committee, Finance & planning Committee and the ad hoc Committee to Revise the Bylaws will not meet again until September.
Reporting for the Events Committee, Chairperson Stefania Johnson reported on a very successful Sock Hop/Classic Car Display/Drive-in Movie event held the night before. She announced that Dancing With The Stars is being moved from August 16th to September 27th. Ms. Johnson then reported that the Adult Night, scheduled for August 23rd at the outdoor pool would be moved to the Community Center. This is due to inadequate lighting at the pool that would cause the event to be terminated prematurely as twilight fell. She was stopped by GM Kennedy who said that the board would have to approve the move. Alternatively, the date of the event could be changed. Stay tuned.An Octoberfest celebration is in the planning stage with a date TBD. Halloween falls on a Friday this year. That night there will be an adult costume party at the community Center. A kids’ party will be held at the center the following day.
Speaking for the Nominations Committee, Chairperson Cookie Lietwinski reminded all that Meet the Candidates will be held at 9:30am, Saturday, August 2nd in the Community Center. She will act as moderator of the question and answer event.
Liaison Carmen Broadnax reported that recommendations by the Real Estate Committee were being considered.
–Clause 15 – Attorney – Second Opinion Newly engaged attorney Ed Hoffman is now studying the “Clause 15” properties and problems thereof. This is the same problem that attorney George Hludzik had been studying for the last year.
-Bylaw Changes The new attorney is also studying the bylaw changes submitted to the board on January 25th last, and which had been under review by our former attorney since then. Therefore, there will be no bylaw revisions on the annual meeting agenda.
-Variances The new attorney blah, blah, blah.
-Resolution #45 – Equipment Purchase A total of $103,000 was appropriated for the purchase of a tractor, mini excavator, roadside cutter and equipment trailer.
-Resolution #46 – Tax Appeal – Reclassification The board unanimously resolved to seek reclassification of recently acquired properties to class 6 (amenity use, non-taxable).
A resolution was offered and then withdrawn on approving a form for beach usage by members for group activities such as parties. The consensus was that individual forms were not properly handled through official resolutions.
(Author’s note: The public comment section of the meeting was somewhat chaotic in that members raised issues that were briefly discussed, abandoned to new topics and then re-addressed. Instead of attempting to present these in the normal temporal order I have grouped them by topic. Where possible there are quotes, but conversation was often so fast and furious I can only characterize it.)
“Clause 15 Properties”: Pat Galderisi, who has done considerable research on these properties and the problems they present, spoke at least 4 times on the subject. She is frustrated by the lack of action by the board and attorney. She pointed out that she worked with then-board Secretary Carmen Broadnax last summer and that the fruits of that labor were turned over to the board. Apparently there was considerable detail in the report and a great deal of effort was involved in putting it together. Ms. Galderisi emphasized that grouping all problem properties under the “Clause 15” nomenclature was misleading. Some properties were designated as Emerald Lakes only until a specific point in time, such as 1987. Other properties do not have declarations attached to the deeds, and while they are located in Emerald Lakes geographically they are not technically (or officially, whatever) part of the association. In many of these cases owner/residents pay dues and enjoy the full benefits of membership -including voting at annual and special meetings. This ‘voluntary membership’ is not permitted under our bylaws and Pennsylvania Act 180. Galderisi cautioned Judge of Elections June Solla that she must take care in ensuring that non-members, whether dues-paying or not, are not allowed to vote. Carmen Broadnax asked that Pat give the Judge of Elections a list of these non-member dues payers. Galderisi responded that she had given all the information to all the board members and was not about to duplicate the effort. She demanded that the board prepare a list from the information they already had. Other members, for instance Flo Mauri, also contributed to this discussion/debate that flared up again and again throughout the comment period. At one point President Alex Leslie said of the issue, “This board will see it through. You have my word.” When asked for a deadline, Leslie declined to provide one.
Staffing: Member Kevin Marsland questioned why, when a huge event was underway at Pine Tree Island Beach on Saturday, July 5th, the Community Center was also open and fully staffed. He complained that this was not an efficient use of resources, since very few members utilized the center while over a hundred were at the beach. GM Kennedy, thrown under the bus by board members, tried to justify the decision by saying that the center normally stayed open during past external parties. She was apparently given this incorrect information by board members, though none stepped up to shoulder responsibility. Events Chair Stefania Johnson corrected the misinformation, and member Buz Whelan pointed out that the board has dominion over all amenities and can open or close them at their discretion. Examples given were the comedy shows and the cabaret night where paid admission was required. Whelan also cited the fact that the CC was once open 7 days a week, and though it is open Wednesday nights during the summer, it was closed Wednesdays during the Winter. To a director’s comment that the beach event was successful (so what’s the problem?) a number of members protested that voluntary actions by members were responsible for that success. Flo Mauri said that using the success of the party as justification for pulling staff was totally unfair, since it could not be known that members would step up and, in any case, substituting volunteers for staff is poor management (or words to that effect).
Beach Rental: Another back and forth as members pressed for details on large parties at the beaches, most often Pine Tree. Apparently there is no charge per se for the permit, though a $200 refundable clean up deposit is required. There is also a $5 per person bracelet charge for non-members. Questions about size and noise limitations went unanswered. The GM said that even if a party were authorized the beach remains open to members. This seemed a bit disingenuous since huge, noisy parties of any particular group have an inhibiting and intimidating effect on non-invitees, regardless of whether the beach is said to be ‘open.’
Bylaw Revisions: Speaking on behalf of his committee members, Chairperson Buz Whelan voiced his frustration that no bylaw revisions would be on the annual meeting agenda. Not only was the committee specifically charged with developing a comprehensive amendment and procedure for absentee voting in September of 2013, it succeeded in the task and presented both the amendment and protocol for voting to the board at the January 25, 2014 monthly open board meeting. At every single successive board meeting, workshop and monthly open, Whelan asked about the status of the amendment and was told, every time, that the attorney was studying it. Now, said Whelan, we are told that the new attorney is looking at it, and the process is back to where it was in January. Whelan also asked why the question of removing the unsightly property amendment from the bylaws was not being considered since it is hardly a legal question. He reminded the board that an interview with Code Enforcement Office Ralph Musto revealed that not one citation for unsightly property has ever been written based on the bylaw amendment. According to Musto, the issue is more comprehensively covered in the Emerald lakes Association Rules and Regulations, and that is the basis for citations. No answer was forthcoming to the question of why this is not being offered for a vote.
Misfeasance of Board Authority: Member Darren Johnson rose to complain that a board member with a personal vendetta against his wife Stefania used her access to member records to harass her. Apparently, though Darren and Stefania had updated their property deed to include Stefania upon the occasion of their marriage, this information had not yet made its way to the office records. A letter was sent informing Stefania that she could no longer chair the Events Committee since she was not a member of the association. While the Johnsons were able to correct the misinformation, Darren expressed his outrage that access to personal information by a board member could be used to forward a personal agenda. Director June Solla asked President Leslie to make a previously agreed upon statement. Leslie said that the board approved the letter. Johnson responded that this approval was based on incorrect, outdated information.
June 28, 2014 Monthly Open Board Meeting
by Buz Whelan
The June open board meeting was called to order at 9:30am by President Al Leslie with a call for the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. About 45 members packed the audience in the cramped Bingo Room of the Community Center. All seven directors were present along with Judy Kennedy and Brad Jones of Preferred Management. Leslie called for approval of the previous month’s minutes. Director Fitzgerald objected, saying she only got the packet the previous evening, around 7pm. Apparently the 14 1/2 hours intervening were insufficient for Ms. Fitzgerald to read both pages of the minutes. Fitzgerald’s complaint notwithstanding, the minutes were approved. President Leslie used the President’s Message only to welcome all those in attendance. He then passed the baton to Treasurer Earl Frank.
Treasurer’s Message Treasurer Frank reported that the audit by Riley & Co., continues and is on schedule to be completed before the Annual Meeting. He reported that the association netted $32,000 in delinquent debt and fines, collected by the attorney over the previous month.
Manager’s Report On-site General Manager Judy Kennedy reported that the outdoor pool is open. GOE, the firm that inspected the Pine Tree Dam, valve and evacuation pipe has been contracted to monitor and inspect our dams for the next three years. She reported that solar covers for the outdoor pool are en route and that roadside cutting had begun the previous Tuesday. She then turned the report over to Brad.
Brad Jones then read a letter he had written to the board. In it he cited Carmen Broadnax, liaison to Preferred Management, for unprofessional behavior, unethical conduct, and with being uncooperative to the extent that she was undermining their work. He ended the letter with a request that a new liaison be appointed to the position. (For a moment, you could hear a pin drop). Then Vice President Dan Glasgow took the lead, saying he would like Ms. Broadnax to be removed as liaison from any and all committees, as Judge of Elections, and as board secretary. He cited what he called stalling behavior, unprofessionalism and clear, multiple violations of the board’s Code of Ethics. Director Fitzgerald said she had a hard time understanding what was going on and began blathering on about hearsay, though Mr. Glasgow was referring to and presenting direct evidence. Broadnax challenged Glasgow to prove her guilty of anything. He read from the Code of Ethics, produced a copy with her signature and then produced evidence that Broadnax had shared confidential information (in the form of letters from members to the board considered in executive session) with committee members and others not on the board. Pointing out that what is discussed in executive session must stay in executive session, Glasgow asked Ms. Broadnax to voluntarily step down. She unhesitatingly refused. With a slight shake of his head, Glasgow took a breath and then said, “Then I make a motion that Carmen Broadnax be removed as Board Secretary, Judge of Elections and all her liaisons.” President Leslie called for a second, turning toward Treasurer Frank who gave an audible sigh and said, “Yeah, sure, I’ll second that.” As the vote was taken, Bishop, Frank and Glasgow voted in the affirmative, Broadnax, Solla and Fitzgerald against. Three to three. President Leslie shrugged slightly and said. “Then I’ll break the tie. I vote for the motion.” Broadnax immediately stood up and quickly left the room, not to return for the rest of the meeting.
Committee Reports Stefania Johnson reported for the Events Committee. She said flags would be displayed for Flag Day (June 11th). She reminded everybody in the room that Adult Night would be held that evening. She pointed to poor attendance for the Gay Pride event and hinted that a different type of event would be planned for the next year. She said there would be a party on Pine Tree Beach between 1 and 6pm on Independence Day. She also said an event called Dancing with the Stars would be held August 16th, and another Adult Night was being planned for August 23rd.
Buz Whelan reported that the Finance and Planning Committee had endorsed the board’s request for a $200 annual dues increase by a majority vote at their June 21st meeting. Reporting also for the ad hoc Committee to Revise the Bylaws, Whelan read a proposal to drop Section 3, Unsightly Property, from the Amendments. The committee reasoned that regulations on this are more comprehensive in the Rules and Regulations of the association, and that the Code Enforcement Officer has stated that he has never used the bylaws in his citations, but rather the R&R which are more specific. This makes the amendment redundant and inappropriate where it is now. The recommendation to allow a vote on absentee voting and a protocol for conducting such an exercise was previously presented. Responding to a recent request by Director Broadnax, the committee met on Wednesday, June 25th and created revised language for all sectors of the bylaws that would be affected should the initiative pass.
Nominations Committee Chairperson Carol Lietwinski reported that Meet the Candidates would be held on Saturday, August 2nd at 9am. Any interested candidates who had not yet put in their paperwork had until COB Monday, June 30th to do. Reporting for the Emerald Lakes Directors Alumni Society, Flo Mauri said her organization was sponsoring a Volunteer Appreciation/Welcome New Members Luncheon on Saturday, July 19th in the Community Center beginning at noon. Invitations have been sent.
Clause 15 – Second Opinion Attorney Edward Hoffman had been engaged to give a second legal opinion on the disposition of Clause 15 properties and a recommendation on how to proceed.
Bylaw Changes (see Committee Reports)
Variances (see new policy under New Business)
Resolution #41 – $200 Dues Increase The board approved that a recommendation for a $200 increase in the annual dues be presented to the membership at the Annual Meeting. It further recommended that $100 of this be dedicated to operations and $100 to the reserve fund. The vote was 4-0, with Director Margaret Fitzgerald abstaining.
Resolution #42 – Variance Policy Code Enforcement Officer Ralph Musto shall be tasked with attending township hearings when a variance on an Emerald Lakes property is being considered. It was also suggested that a director or other member also attend.
Resolution #43 – GOE Annual Inspections The GOE engineering firm will conduct dam inspections for the next three years.
Resolution #44 – Matthew Cuadra Scholarship $200 in scholarships shall be awarded each year divided into 2 $100 awards to two deserving students. (Matthew, then a senior, was struck and killed by a car on Long Pond Rd and Roads End while waiting for his bus in December of 2007).
Brad Jones presented a summary of the maintenance building collapse, recommended it be replaced by a stronger steel structure, He said that with the $27,000 insurance payment it would only cost $7,000 additional to the community. All were in favor except Director Solla, who said she wanted an additional study.
Heidi Castro kicked off a long discussion on the lack of children’s programs and the need to begin planning them forthwith. Brad suggested that a list of desired programs be presented to the board. He said the first requirement would be to find a state-certified person to oversee the programs. Currently, no staffers are qualified.
Bob Leon suggested we consider speed bumps to slow speeders.
Mark Davis said that short term rentals are still creating problems for neighbors, the same issues as last year. These general complaints were echoed by neighbor Bill Reiser.
Former board member John Cress, who served with some distinction from 2010 until a new job forced his resignation, pleaded with the board to work together. Former director Buz Whelan added his two cents, pointing out that whenever one observes a fight the temptation is to view the combatants as equally guilty, but in virtually every confrontation there is an aggressor and a defender. Whelan claimed to see that in this board, with some members genuinely trying to do the people’s work, while others were constantly obstructing. He said that although it was made clear several months ago that Preferred Management was chosen by a split decision (4 to 3), he was tired of hearing at every single meeting about why the minority voted against them. He said that this was part of a process of undermining what he viewed as competent management, and for the good of the association it was time (actually long past time) that all directors get behind the management team and support them.
Author’s note: I’d like to thank Arlene Ciervo whose notes proved invaluable in preparing this article. My own notes were incomplete due to an illness that caused difficulty in recording the events of the meeting.
May 24, 2014 Monthly Open Board Meeting
by Buz Whelan
President Alex Leslie called the meeting to order at 9:35 pm. All seven directors were present along with GM Judy Kennedy and Preferred Management representative Brad Jones. About 25 members were also in attendance.
President’s Message: President Al Leslie announced that Preferred Management has been selected to replace our departed GM on a more or less permanent basis. The board has signed a 2 year contract with the company, with Judy Kennedy as the on-site GM. This was greeted with enthusiastic applause by all except 3 directors. Board Secretary Carmen Broadnax said that her first choice had been K. Diehl Management (formerly Appletree Management) because they are an older, more experienced company with deeper resources. Directors Solla and Fitzgerald also dissented, but a majority comprised of Treasurer Earl Frank, Vice President Millie Bishop, Director Dan Glasgow and President Alex Leslie prevailed. Following brief remarks recognizing the Memorial Day holiday and what it stands for, Leslie turned the meeting over to the treasurer.
Treasurer’s report: Treasurer Earl Frank stated he would be presenting the year-end financial figures, but cautioned that because our newly hired auditor Reilly and Co, had only just begun their audit, that these were unaudited figures. He added that the audit should be completed by mid-July.
Frank reported that our total revenue of $1.885M exceeds our budgeted revenue by $43K. This is primarily due to an increase over budgeted amounts on various fees, resale certificates, permits, and code and public safety violations of $50K. For example, this month the Appeals Committee upheld approximately $3,900 in fines. Also, as cited last month we collected $6,800 from our insurance company due to the damage to our Ford truck. These positive variances are partially offset by the bar and grill costs topping out at $22K. Our dues collection this year of $1.404M is the second highest over the past 8 years, and our attorney collected $184K on past due accounts compared to $130K last year, a 42% increase. Our total operating expense, excluding depreciation, of $1.708M is under budget by $133K or 7.5%.
For the second straight month, the treasurer tempered the rosy financial picture with a caveat. He asked members to remember that while our revenue slightly exceeds the budget and our expenses are slightly below, this is needed to ensure a positive cash flow. In order to provide sorely needed repairs and upgrades to our amenities and infrastructure, more money is needed. In addition to this, many members have expressed a desire for increased access to our amenities, with more and longer days of availability. The board and Preferred Management are trying to accomplish that this year, but our maintenance equipment also needs both repair and replacement. This will be near impossible under our current dues structure. The Finance & Planning Committee has recommended that the board ask the membership for a $100 annual dues increase.
Administration costs are under budget by $37K or 2%
Public Safety costs are under budget by $4K or 2%
Maintenance costs are under budget by 445K or 8.5%
The Community Center costs are under budget by $58K or 19%
The Bar & Grill revenue is $67K while expenses are $89K for a net loss of $22K
Finally, Mr. Frank said that if any member wants further details, they can call him or stop by the Administration Office.
Manager’s Report: The word ‘interim’ deleted from her title, GM Judy Kennedy announced the new hours for beaches and pools, covered in last week’s Emerald Lakes Free Press article. To recap, the beaches are open 7 days dawn to dusk. They will not be staffed, so swimming is at one’s own risk. Signs to that effect will be posted, along with “Members Only/No Trespassing” which will be enforced by Public Safety. The outdoor pool will be open 11am to 6pm weekdays and from 9am to 6 pm Saturday and Sunday. The indoor pool will be open Wednesday and Thursday from 6 to 9pm, Friday from 5 to 9pm, Saturday from 1 to 9pm and Sunday from 1 to 4:30pm. Kennedy announced that the Community Center staff had been reorganized and a new menu instituted. The menu is available on the association website. She also reminded everyone that diverting water and/or altering drainage so that water flows onto another’s property is strictly forbidden. Pothole patching is proceeding apace. Walk-in hours to meet with the GM have been changed from 1 to 3pm to 1:30 to 3pm to conform with lunchtime closing of the Administration Office. Saturday hours, 10am to 2 pm by appointment, remain unchanged. She closed with a reminder of our leash rules, because some loose dogs have been sighted.
Nominating Committee: Chairperson Cookie Lietwinski reported that letters had been sent to members who the committee felt were likely candidates to run for the board. Included were committee chairs and members and former board members. She said that intent to run forms were available in the office along with candidate bios and Q&As. Director June Solla asked that these be posted on the ELA website.
Events Committee: Chairperson Stefania Johnson reminded all those present of events planned for that day then went on to list future plans. There will be an Adult Night at the Community Center on Saturday, June 14th. That is also Flag Day and flags, presumably American, will be placed at the Main Entrance. There will be a Gay Pride march on June 21st and lunch for marchers. July 4th will be celebrated on, what else, July 5th, and the festivities will be combined with a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the association. This will take place on Pine Tree Beach. Another Adult Night is tentatively planned for Saturday, August 15th at the outdoor pool. On August 23rd, Dancing with the ELA Stars is also planned. In a final comment, Johnson said she took offense to a remark published in the most recent issue of the Emerald News. An opinion piece written by board Secretary Carmen Broadnax contained a sentence that read, “As an Association[sic], we spend more time and energy thinking of ever more ways of how to entertain rather than how to preserve our infrastructure.” Ms. Johnson went on to point out that planning and executing events actually provided revenue, a good thing, and additionally had no bearing on whether or not the board did its job in maintaining our amenities and infrastructure. Secretary Broadnax said that she did not mean to impugn the Events Committee, no matter what the words actually said. (This is a distillation of a spirited discussion that ensued on the subject)
Maintenance Committee: Chairperson Bob Leon researched a claim by the committee’s board liaison, June Solla, that the three dump sites we maintain are putting us in danger of serious fines by the townships in which they are located. Mr. Leon said that he met with the Tunkhannok Code Enforcement Officer who informed him that dump sites within the borders of the community are not subject to township control. He then relinquished the floor to committee member Buz Whelan who reported that the liaison had missed 6 of 8 meetings in one stretch without sending a replacement. A careful reading of the committee rulebook reveals no obligation on the part of the liaison to do that. Whelan asked that the board consider amending the rules to make such replacement mandatory.
Finance and Planning Committee: Speaking for absent Chairperson John Avrich, committee member Buz Whelan expressed disappointment that nothing had been done on the committee’s recommendation for the dues increase, a recommendation formalized at the committee’s March 15th session and included in those minutes. Whelan pointed out that the committee’s sole charge from the board, issued the previous September, was to recommend some form of revenue enhancement, yet the proposal had not even been included on the agenda of any of the board’s six succeeding meetings, not had it even been informally discussed. He pointed out that the committee members and their liaison had mentioned this at several meetings, but no action resulted. Treasurer and F&P liaison Earl Frank confirmed Whelan’s claims and expressed his own disappointment that nothing was being done.
Bylaws Committee (ad hoc) : Chair Buz Whelan reminded the board that the recommended revision to allow absentee voting, originally presented to the board at the January 25th Open Board Meeting, still had not made a single agenda. On being informed, once again, that the matter was in the hands of the attorney, Whelan expressed his frustration, pointing out that absentee voting was not a legal question, but a political one, to be decided, not by an attorney, but by our membership. He pleaded with the board to allow the membership to decide this at the Annual Meeting.
–Clause 15 The board is seeking the opinion of a second attorney, yet to be selected.
– Bylaw Changes Discussed above
–Variances Brad Jones (Preferred Management) and GM Judy Kennedy both pointed out that variances issued by the townships are not reported to the association and carry no legal requirement for notification to nearby property owners. Such bills of variance as posted on trees on affected property are done so without warning and would required constant patrolling by the CEO in order to be recorded and neighbors notified. This is not practical, nor is it a cost-effective use of the CEO’s time. Neighbors should be vigilant in watching for such notices and act according to their own interests.
–Judicial Sale Process Director June Solla objected to the association’s long-standing practice of having the association attorney handle all judicial sales. Ms. Solla feels that this is a waste of money, and should be handled by employees or designated association officers (at least I think that was her point).
–Resolution #39 – Approve Preferred Management – Two Year Contract This was approved 4 to 3, with Secretary Carmen Broadnax, and Directors Solla and Fitzgerald voting against
-Resolution #40 – Approve attorney to acquire green belt properties (This resolution would endorse a fait accompli, i.e., the purchase of a mitigated wetland on Beaver Dam Rd and 4 properties located behind the tennis courts on Cedar Drive adjacent to the outdoor pool. These were purchased at tax sale for an approximate cost of $900.) The resolution passed 4 to 3 with Secretary Broadnax, Directors Solla and Fitzgerald opposing. Discomfort at ratifying an accomplished fact was cited as a reason for dissent.
Public Comments: Buz Whelan brought attention to departing member David Pope, pointing to Pope’s many accomplishments and long service to the association. Among these were 9 years on the board, tenures as board treasurer and president, chairmanships of Finance and other committees and literally tens of thousands of hours spent in service of his community. Mr. Pope received a well-deserved sustained standing ovation. He bid us all goodbye and wished the community well. Darren Johnson rose to point out the well-known Whelan-Pope feud, expressed pleasure that it had been put aside for the good of the community and suggested it could serve as an example to others.
John Palmisano asked whether beaches, sans lifeguards, would be cleaned regularly as the guards had done at the beginning of shifts and would badges or ids be checked. He was assured that maintenance would be responsible for beach cleanliness and Public Safety for badge checking.
Mrs. Schneider, an owner-landlord, read an impassioned letter, presented in its entirety at the end of this article.
New member Kevin Marsland, who joined us in late fall 2013, expressed dissatisfaction with the timeliness of snow plowing, saying that he had to leave for work very early and that plowing beginning at 7 was too late for him. He also stated his feeling that when Public Safety parks directly in front of the CC door it presents a danger in case of fire. He also gave his opinion that events are a good thing to bring the community together.
Former board President Flo Mauri expressed her belief that whoever serves as Judge of Elections should be ethically bound to self-disqualify as a candidate for the board in that year. She reminded Carmen Broadnax that she did that in 2011 and should not repeat the act should she decide to rerun this year.
Pat Galderisi inquired if there had been any delinquency write-offs and was told there have been none for the last 3 years.
Letter regarding landlord/owners follows:
Emerald Lakes Board of Directors,
Emerald Lakes Association, Inc.
1112 Glade Drive
Long Pond, PA 18334
My husband and I attended the Emerald Lakes Real Estate Committee meeting on January 18th where the committee and attendees discussed “renter issues.”
Background Information: We have owned property at EL for about 41 years. When we bought the property, the selling points were that we could rent and make a profit. We bought our current home in 1990 and have rented “short term” since that time. We have followed all the rules that the Association has imposed on renters. To our knowledge there has never been a complaint against us or our renters.
At the meeting it seemed that residents were having problems in East Emerald lakes where landlords rent their properties. We spoke to one resident who rents on East Emerald lakes and they assured us that they care for EL and their property.
Our question: Why punish everyone for a few?
Is there a list of people who have complaints about renters?
Were the complaints investigated and addressed with the owners for corrective action?
Were they reprimanded? Fined?
If rules are going to be in place for rental properties: then these rules apply to all the residents of EL and they should be enforced i.e. parking restrictions, loud behavior, fireworks, etc.
Our question: Does EL have enough money and man power to enforce these rules?
We rent weekends, weeks and months. We are very particular as to who rents our house. By eliminating the weekend renters (typical winter weekend skiers), you limit how often we can rent our home. There are 124 long term rental properties and 50 short term rental properties within EL. EL gets income from renters and those who rent might be potential buyers.
Summation: It seems that there are complaints only from people who live on East/West Emerald lakes. Are the complaints submitted by the same individuals?
Were there complaints submitted about homes on the other lakes in the community?
We felt it important to voice our opinions and have given much thought to sending this letter. We hope you will consider some of the points we outlined above.
James and Loretta Schneider
April 26, 2014 Monthly Open Board of Directors Meeting
by Buz Whelan
It was an unusual Board of Directors meeting in that no old or new business was conducted. The meeting was dominated by reports and public comments. About 30 members were in attendance in the main meeting/dining room of the Community Center. All board members and interim GM Judy Kennedy were present. It was called to order by President Al Leslie shortly after 9:30 and following the standard Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag the minutes of the March 22nd meeting were approved without correction.
President’s Report: President Al Leslie opened on a very sad note extending his and the board’s condolences to former Board President Jerry Viola whose son was tragically killed in a Florida traffic accident the previous day. Murmurs of agreement rippled through the crowd, many of whom were unaware of the sad event. Leslie went on to report that the ad hoc GM search committee had completed its work and that a decision on a new, permanent GM would be announced at the May Open Meeting.
Treasurer’s Report: Treasurer Earl Frank gave his report based on the first eleven months of fiscal year 2013/2014. He said that revenue of $1.754 million exceeds our budget by $44K. This is primarily due to an increase over budgeted amounts in the areas of various fees, resale certificates, permits, code and public safety citations of $52K. We also were awarded $6,800 from our insurance company on the damage – due to snow – to the Ford truck. These positive variances are partially offset by operational costs of $18,000 (net, ytd) of the bar & grill. Dues collected so far this year of $1.381 M surpass last year’s 11 month total by $16K. In addition, our attorney had collected $178K on delinquent dues compared to $130K for the entire 12 months. With a month to go, at our current rate we will collect approximately $195K for the year, an increase of 50%.
Total operating expenses, excluding depreciation, are $1,590M, under budget by $108K. Projecting operating expenses for the balance of the year, we should underrun our annual budget by $125K, or 7%.
Members are cautioned to keep in mind, said Frank, that even though our revenue slightly exceeds our budget and our expenses are under budget, this is being done to maintain a positive cash flow, while we struggle to keep our community maintenance on track and our amenities from further deterioration. Many of our members have made it known that they wish our amenities to be open and available for longer periods. Our maintenance department needs better equipment, vehicles and machines in better repair. In many cases we need upgraded equipment. We have major projects ahead that we should be addressing, such as the Pine Tree Lake dam valve, community center equipment and structure and much more. This will be impossible to do within our current dues assessment. We are living on reduced services and deferred maintenance. The Finance and Planning Committee has recommended to the board that we increase the annual dues by $100 per year.
And now, briefly,
Admin costs are under budget by $30K
Public Safety is under budget by $2K
Maintenance is under budget by $35K
The Community Center is under budget by $52K
The Bar & Grill revenue is $63K, total expenses are $82K for a shortfall of $19K
Finally, the board has selected a new auditor to perform our annual year-end audit, Riley & Co. of Stroudsburg. This is order to give us a fresh look at our records.
If any more detailed financial information is required, contact the office or stop by in person.
Manager’s Report: Interim GM Judy Kennedy delivered the manager’s report. She said that the Paylease charge system for dues payment was being well-received. They are updating and enlarging the email blast package to reach as many members with as much up-to-date information as possible. She said that some homeowners have redirected drainage and that they are being contacted to correct and refrain from doing this. She went on to say that our insurance package has been updated to eliminate unnecessary coverage and increase coverage where appropriate. The Annual Meeting has been set at Pocono Mountain West High School on Saturday, August 16th. Amenities, such as beaches and the outdoor pool are being prepared for the summer season. A camera system is being considered for wider and longer period coverage. Ms. Kennedy closed by explaining that last week’s indoor pool closing was due to a pump glitch that has been corrected. She apologized for any inconvenience caused.
Old Business/New Business: As stated in the first paragraph, no old or new business was conducted.
Nominating Committee: Committee Chairperson Cookie Lietwinski said that the committee is currently seeking candidates to run for the Emerald Lakes Board of Directors at the August 16th Annual Meeting. There will be three directorships contested. Anyone interested may sign up at the Admin Office. A candidate must be a member-in-good-standing and sign an agreement to serve for 3 years. Interested parties may also call Ms. Lietwinski @ (570)646-2053.
Ad hoc Committee to Revise the Bylaws: Chairperson Buz Whelan asked for clarification on the two committee recommendations. (They are to eliminate Amendment III dealing with unsightly property, properly covered in the Rules and Regulations, and to allow absentee balloting). President Al Leslie said that these are currently being considered by the association attorney.
Connie Simpson asked if the pool was being maintained at the proper temperature of 84 degrees. President Leslie stated that this had been changed by board resolution to 82 degrees. Ms. Simpson also inquired about For Sale signs for homes. According to Secretary Carmen Broadnax these are proscribed by our covenants and cannot be overridden by the board. Signs naming a realtor are allowed and can be gotten at the Admin Office. These in actuality provide similar information that the home is on the market.
Joan Gregorio inquired as to why lifeguard certification classes were no longer being offered. GM Kennedy said that cost was a factor, that there is little benefit to the association to train and certify lifeguards who can then hire themselves out to the highest bidder.
David Pope said that the current reporting of association finances does not give a clear and true picture of our financial situation. He also stated that any request for an increase should be accompanied by detail on how the additional collected funds would be used. In other comments, Mr. Pope said we need to develop long range plans based on real information rather than simply reacting to whoever makes the most noise (author’s characterization). He said that without definitive knowledge of our membership’s makeup, we are merely thrashing about. While last year’s survey did not produce the desired results, Pope suggested a more complete survey could be done by requiring all members to obtain updated ID cards during a designated period. During that office visit, members could be required to fill out an information sheet that would produce the comprehensive demographic information needed. Planning could then be based on our true condition rather than guesswork.
Flo Mauri rose to propose that any initiative for absentee or mail-in voting be accompanied by some sort of revenue escalator. She said that it is her belief that dues increases would be very unlikely to be approved if meeting attendance was not required for voting.
Bob Leon pointed out that CC manager and chef, Todd W. was told he could no longer give cooking tips during meetings of the Cooking Club. He said club members greatly enjoyed the 15 minute sessions on such things as crepe-making and wanted to know why this was forbidden. GM Judy Kennedy explained that Todd had many duties and his time was already sufficiently burdened. He simply could not satisfactorily complete his duties and perform individual tasks for members as well.
Joe Olall asked about the status of the maintenance barn. Ms. Kennedy said that insurance had green-lighted the repair. He also sought clarification on the Bar & Grill costs, and Treasurer Frank restated that there was a net ‘loss’ of $18,000 year-to-date.
David Samad read aloud a letter he had written to the board. He said that he owns 2 homes which he rents. In an exhaustive, detailed report (the letter) he described both the importance of rentals to a community and the legal justification, including case law, that grants him the freedom to act as a landlord. In a separate article to be published here in the next few days, we will print the full text of Mr. Samad’s letter as well as commentary on the rental question.
“I Abstain!” Is It Shirking Responsibility?
by Buz Whelan
There are occasions when a vote of abstention is appropriate and even mandatory. When minutes of a previous meeting are put up for approval, for example, a member who did not attend that meeting must abstain. When a complicated piece of business has been examined and discussed while a member is ill, that member may not feel qualified to vote in judgment. But when a vote to abstain is cast simply because the voting member does not wish to take a public stand, that is failing to perform one’s duty.
At the July 21, 2013 meeting of the Finance and Planning Committee a discussion centered on the cost of credit card discounting to the association. Whenever a credit card is used in a transaction there is a discount fee which varies with the card and the merchant’s agreement with the clearing house. If you paid your annual dues with a credit card and the discount rate for that card was 3.5%, the association would receive only $965 rather than the full $1,000. At this meeting it was agreed by the committee members to pass a recommendation to the board that whenever a credit card is used to pay dues, the cost of the transaction should be borne by the payer. General Manager Allan Roth was present at the meeting and soon after began seeking a vendor who would cooperate in the charge back. Eventually, he found several and prepared a packet of detailed information along with a recommendation that the company best suited to association needs was Paylease.
Approximately one week before the October 18th board work session, the packets of information were distributed to each director’s mailbox so that they would have time to prepare for the discussion and have any questions ready for the GM to answer. At that meeting, Mr. Roth made a comprehensive presentation, explaining how the new system would work and why he felt Paylease was our best choice. At the conclusion of his presentation a discussion period ensued, with the GM answering all the directors’ questions and concerns. When no further questions were forthcoming, it was decided that a resolution would be prepared for a vote at the next weekend’s open meeting. The meeting then moved on to the next topic.
The following day, Saturday, October 19th the Finance and Planning Committee met in the same conference room. Present as observers were several board members including President Alex Leslie and Directors June Solla and Margaret Fitzgerald. By sheer coincidence, committee member Walter O’Neill asked the GM what had become of the credit card recommendation. Mr. Roth repeated his presentation from the day before for the benefit of the committee members. He again took questions and, as at the previous day’s meeting, the topic was exhausted and the meeting moved on.
We now come to the October 26th open meeting. Secretary Carmen Broadnax reads the resolution regarding the new credit card policy, the chair gets a second and a vote is called. Earl Frank, Millie Bishop, Carmen Broadnax and Dan Glasgow vote in the affirmative. It is now Director Margaret Fitzgerald’s turn. She says she is abstaining because she does not have enough information. The chair calls on Director June Solla who says she is abstaining for the same reason as Ms. Fitzgerald.
To recap, a packet of information has been given to each of these directors. They attended two successive meeting in which the change was discussed in detail. They knew the vote was coming and had a week to seek out any additional information they felt they needed. And they abstained.
The very next vote was to endorse a change order in the amount of $11,000 for additional work needed to resolve foundational problems discovered during road paving. Again, this issue had been previously discussed, again the vote was scheduled a week in advance and again both Ms. Fitzgerald and Ms. Solla abstained.
This is an opinion piece. It is labeled as such, and it is my opinion that these directors have failed to perform their duty. Perhaps they have an explanation that I have yet to fathom. But when detailed information is provided and sufficient time elapses without any effort to obtain whatever clarification the directors feel they need, then they are not acting responsibly.
We elect directors to make decisions. That’s what they are supposed to do. It is their main job. Anyone can make the easy decisions that have little effect on the way the association does business. It is when difficult decisions on complex issues must be made that we separate the strong performers from the weak ones. Here are two examples of very weak performance.
December 14, 2013 Monthly Open Board Meeting
by Buz Whelan
It was a short and sweet board meeting last Saturday. President Alex Leslie called the meeting to order at 9:30 and announced that the proceedings would be recorded due to the absence of the recording secretary Roxanne Chumacas. Present were the GM, the President, Vice President Dan Glasgow, Treasure Earl Frank, and Directors Millie Bishop and June Solla. Absent were Secretary Carmen Broadnax and Director Margaret Fitzgerald. Leslie also pointed out that since the recording device being used had a one hour capacity, the meeting would have to be limited to that time.
As he made the President’s Comments, Leslie thanked June Solla for her work in organizing the Veterans’ Day ceremony. He also thanked the GM for his and the maintenance staff’s efforts in keeping the roads drivable during the late Fall storms we’ve had. This was accomplished in spite of equipment problems that presented challenges in addition to the snow and ice.
Treasurer Earl Frank also kept his remarks brief stating that revenue exceeded projections by about $34,000 while the overall budget was under by approximately 10%. This in spite of the fact that the bar and grill are approximately $14,000 over costs. We have collected in total $1,093,000 in dues and other income which is on a par with the previous year. The reserve fund stands at $262,000, with new capital reserve at $10,000 after the paying of the paving for the compactor.
General Manager Allen Roth reported that with the current snowfall expected to be substantial, he had a shift that would continue to midnight and then would be relieved by a shift beginning then and continuing into the next day. All equipment is (was) currently operational. He also reported that he had put out an RFP for a new auditor. In response to a question from the November meeting, he told the room the association currently bills 1,633 improved lots (homes) and 349 unimproved. He also announced that the Emerald News would be delivered to the community on Friday, December 20th.
Under old business a report on Clause 15 properties was postponed due to the absence of Secretary Broadnax. In response to a question, the president explained that these are properties that are within the borders of Emerald Lakes but whose owners opted out when the association was established. According to preliminary opinion of counsel, these properties may be obligated to join the association and pay dues since they enjoy many of the services provided. More on this will be revealed next month.
Only one engineering firm has so far expressed interest in the Pine Tree Dam Valve and evacuation pipe repair project. Ace Engineering has offered to provide divers to determine the precise scope of work. According to GM Roth, the current leak may not be as severe as previously believed and, therefore, the time frame for repair may be more like five years than two or three.
There was a third and final reading of Resolution #24 which will restore the late fee charged on dues from 2 1/2% to 10%. When the association went to quarterly payments, some math-challenged individuals changed the late fee to two and one-half per cent on the mistaken notion that four quarters of that would equal 10% annually, which, of course, it does not. It equals two and one-half per cent. This is now corrected.
There was also a third and final reading of Resolution #25 which will put the burden of credit card transaction discount on the member using a card. (When a credit card is accepted, the accepting party receives less than 100% of the total charge. Generally they are charged a fee of 2 to 4% by the clearing house. This is referred to as the discount fee.) The new rule will be effective with the 2014/2015 billing, generally mailed around the 22nd to 24th of February.
Under New Business the GM reported that he has an appointment scheduled with an engineering firm to examine what needs to be done to bring the community center up to snuff. Among the repairs and improvements needed are a new HVAC system and improved insulation. The condition of the roof and underpinnings will also be examined.
President Leslie announced that the new Committee Chair Council will be meeting at a time and date TBD, probably January or February. The purpose of the committee is to improve communication between the committees, with an eye toward greater cooperation on common projects. The president also said that he will allow the council to brainstorm at its first meeting to set its own goals and objectives.
It was announced that the newly renovated conference room in the administration building has had new chairs delivered. A new conference table is also expected soon.
After a motion to welcome new members, three of which are repossessing banks, the meeting was adjourned at 10:22am.
November 23, 2013 Monthly Open Board Meeting
by Buz Whelan
The November open meeting was called to order by President Alex Leslie at 9:30am sharp. After a fast approval of the October minutes, Leslie opened his comments with a cryptic statement regarding the September meeting, saying the comments made then were his own and that he was not speaking for the board. He apologized for any confusion this may have caused. He then went on to say that the recent seminar on committee/board relations and procedures had produced a recommendation for a Committee Chair Council, and the board was prepared to act on this. He also mentioned that the bog removal project for East and West Emerald Lakes had been completed.
Treasurer Earl Frank commenced his report by stating that the upcoming issue of the Emerald News will contain new information. Along with showing the actual dollars and variances from the budget items, readers will see the % of each major line item of expense by department to the total operating expense. A graphic chart will reflect expenses incurred by department through Oct. 31, 2013. This is intended to give members a better insight into the state of our finances.
Frank continued that our current year-to-date revenue of $960,000 exceeds budget expectations by $29,000. This is primarily due to increased collections on code violations of $15,000 and fees for rentals, resale certificates and permits by another $10,000. In addition to these monies, our attorney has collected $96,000 year-to-date as opposed to $51,000 for the same period last year. Our total operating expenses of $825,000, excluding depreciation, is under budget by $70,000 or 8%.
1. Administration costs are under budget by $25,000, with salaries and benefits under $17,000.
2. Public Safety is under budget by $6,000.
3. Maintenance is under budget by $37,000 due to a favorable variance in salaries and benefits of $18,000, $10,000 in lake maintenance and vehicle expenses of $8,000.
4. The Community Center is under budget by $33,000 due to favorable variances in salaries and benefits of $22,000 and related items in the maintenance of our outdoor pool by $10,000 and the heating cost by $5,000.
5. The Bar & Grill is over budget by $12,000. Revenue year-to-date is $38,000, while expense is $50,000 for a shortfall of $12,000. (editor’s note: this shortfall is an average of $2,000/mo for the first half year, down significantly from the $3,000/mo reported for the first three months)
Regarding the total annual budget, we expect to be under by 10% which should offset any reduction in dues collected.
Finally, our reserves balance is $389,000 and the new capital fund balance is $72,000. Road paving will eat up $224,000 of the reserves while compactor paving will reduce new capital by $65,000.
GM Allen Roth repeated the news that the bog removal had been completed in his Manager’s Report, and added that the removed material had been dried and stored and will be used as fertilizer. He also informed the room that the road paving project had been completed and that a punch list developed after completion had also been completely addressed. He stated that RFPs have been put out for the Pine Tree Lake dam valve and pipe repair, but that as of now only two firms have expressed interest.
In a sad addendum, Roth reported the recent death of Fred Spott, long time engineering consultant for Emerald Lakes and a friend of the association.
During the committee chair reports, ad hoc Committee to Revise the Bylaws chair Buz Whelan reported that the singular task of developing a complete protocol for absentee voting was well underway. The committee’s goal is to present the finished product to the board in time for the February open meeting. Committee members have agreed to hold extra meetings, if necessary, in order to meet this self-imposed deadline.
Whelan also reported on the Property Management Committee in place of ailing chair Bob Leon. There was some discussion about the name of the committee, several board members maintaining that the bylaws specify that we have a Maintenance Committee, not a Property Management one. Whelan argued that we do, in fact, have a maintenance committee in that Property management performs all appropriate maintenance committee tasks. But the committee has also taken on those tasks of the moribund Architectural Review Committee, also specified by the bylaws. By working under the title of Property Management, but functioning as both ARC and Maintenance, the bylaw requirements are met. Whelan’s point was that it wasn’t about the name, but the function.
Moving on to committee work, the committee is working on a signage project, intended to bring community signage up to date. It was also mentioned that the one way signs on Emerald Blvd. are missing. A car was observed traveling the wrong way on this past Friday. The committee is also working on obtaining a surveillance system. One that has been researched would provide a 17 camera system with recording capability. Cost would be about $3,500.
Stephania Johnson, Events Committee chair reported on a full schedule of events for the coming year. Highlights include Santa for the kids, a New Year’s Eve party, a murder-mystery night for Valentine’s Day with a jilted lover theme, a St. Patrick’s Day bash with the Gallagher Dancers, a May comedy show, and a return to Cabaret ’35 in the early Fall. Watch the website and Emerald News for a more complete list with dates and details.
Earl Frank reported on a Finance & Planning Committee recommendation that the board consider requesting a special assessment from the membership. This would be $199/per property/per annum for a total of $398. According to calculations, at the current compliance rate, this would bring in approximately $550,000. The figure is meant to match the estimated cost of replacing the HVAC system in the Community Center (about $250,000) and repairing the Pine Tree Lake dam valve and leaking pipe (about $300,000). Membership approval would be required.
Under Old Business, Secretary Carmen Broadnax read the two resolutions, passed in October, on shifting the credit card discount burden to the member when paying dues, and raising the late fee on dues from 2.5% to 10%. This is the second reading. A third will be made next month to complete the public notice. The credit card charge of 3.5% on dues payment will be effective February 24, or in time for next year’s dues payments. Fourth quarter payments for 2013/2014 dues made on time (Feb 1, 2014) will be unaffected.
Under New Business, the board voted to accept the donation of Lot 4918, located on Clearview Drive opposite the skating pond. The area could be used as a small parking lot. The board also voted to approve Buz Whelan as Bylaw Committee chair and Sherri Ornitz as Rules and Regulations Committee Chair. Finally, the board authorized the establishment of a Committee Chair Council, with organizational details to be worked out later.
During the Public Comments section, member Buz Whelan thanked Flo Mauri for a well run seminar on committee to committee and committee/board communication and function. The Committee Chair Council is a result of that event. A round of applause was given to Ms. Mauri.
Whelan went on to comment on the special assessment suggestion calling it a “band-aid on a sucking chest wound.” We have serious problems with operational fund shortfalls. While some on Finance & Planning have pointed to our balanced budget and the fact that we are under in almost all areas, this is a fool’s paradise. In 2007 we had 17 full time employees. We now have 9. The beaches were both open 7 days a week. Now they alternate weekdays, with only one or the other open. The outdoor pool was open 7 days a week in season; now it is open 4. The Community Center was open 7 days a week; now it is open 3½. The compactor was open 5 days; now it operates 4. We had a Youth Activities Program with a full time Youth Activities Director; that has been completely eliminated. As for being currently under budget, for instance, we are $10,000 under in lake maintenance because we haven’t done any. We are living and operating on reduced services and deferred maintenance. There is a huge difference between having a balanced budget and having sufficient funds to properly maintain this community.
In welcoming new members to the community, 6 properties changed hands, one a foreclosure and 3 were purchases of Classic Quality Homes.
Absentee Ballot Proposal Underway
By Buz Whelan
The ad hoc Committee to Revise the Bylaws had its organizational meeting on Saturday, November 2. Buz Whelan was elected chairperson to replace June Solla, who had been elected to the board. Dan Glasgow is the new board liaison. The committee received its marching orders from the board and will work to develop a fair, equitable, efficient and secure protocol for absentee voting. When this is accomplished and approved by the board it can be placed before the membership for an up or down vote. The committee also voted unanimously to schedule its meetings for the second Tuesday of each month at 9:30am in the Admin Office conference room. New members are welcome.
On Tuesday, November 12 the committee held its first full work session. The task of devising an absentee ballot protocol was broken down into a number of steps. How to ensure the security of the received ballots and the authenticity of the voter were discussed and a preliminary process was put forward.
Efforts to enact a process for either mail-in voting (in which all votes would be cast that way) and/or absentee balloting (in which only requested votes would be affected) have been put before the membership before, and they have failed. The current board is concerned that some members are being disenfranchised by the system now in place, which requires attendance at the Annual Meeting. Some directors and members feel that the right to participate in the election process is a precious one and should not be denied to members who cannot, for whatever personal reasons, attend the meeting. One complaint in the past has been that the process has not been carefully spelled out. The board and the committee both hope to assuage these concerns by putting forward a complete process, from request to ballot counting. The steps will include who may request an absentee ballot and how they would do that. Included will be the precise form of the physical ballots and envelopes, how they will be validated, how they will be secured and when and where they will be opened and counted. Also included will be the opportunity to write in candidates who have not declared themselves by the time of the mailing of the ballots. This would, of course, include those who make their intention to run ‘from the floor’ known to absentee voters.
It will be difficult to produce a ‘perfect’ system, but the committee hopes to offer for membership vote a carefully considered way to make it possible for those who cannot attend the Annual Meeting to nevertheless participate in the association’s political process. We believe it is the American way.