by Kathy Leslie-Whelan
The meeting was called to order at 9:31 am by Al Leslie, followed by the pledge of allegiance. All board members were present with the exception of Diane Caldwell who attended the meeting remotely. Laura Jones from Preferred Management was absent with Brad Jones filling in.
Leslie immediately called for a motion to approve the March 10th minutes. Jake Bower made the motion and Bob Leon seconded it. The minutes were accepted unanimously.
Leslie read the standard board meeting procedures which stated the meeting would be held in accordance with Roberts Rules of Order and cautioned the membership that inappropriate language would not be tolerated. He stated that any member who received two warnings would be asked to leave the meeting. 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.
The meeting was recorded and minutes were taken by Nicole Clemens. Leslie called for a motion to approve the March 24th minutes. Stefania Johnson made the motion and Gilda Spiotta seconded it. The minutes were accepted unanimously.
Leslie went on to say that there would be no president’s message since he just heard he was chairing the meeting.
The floor was turned over to Stefania Johnson for the treasurer’s report. The numbers reported were based on Fiscal Year to Date (FYTD) numbers.
Administration $14,210 over after removal of doubtful accounts.
Public Safety $1,452 over due to camera, salaries and insurance.
Maintenance $17,820 over due to vehicles and snow.
Community Center $1,522 under
Bar and Grill $2,216 under where a profit of $1,119 was made in March. Johnson stated that it is too little too late.
Collections – $278K FYTD
Collections from December to March
Sunrise – $43,646
Amnesty program – $68,600.
Previous Attorney – $166,310
Johnson stated that a breakdown of in-house collections will be provided in the future.
Assets – $268,529
Accounts Receivables – $485,182
Fixed Assets – $95,112
Reserves – $221,186 Last Year at this time $389,578
Dues Collections this year $1.3M, last year $1.2M and in 2015/2016 $1.39M.
Bower made motion to accept treasurer’s report, seconded by Leon. Report accepted unanimously.
Brad Jones started the manager’s report saying that the preliminary budget will be available to the membership for review on the official web site and at the administration office after the meeting when the board approved the revised budget that did not include the failed $200 annual increase. Jones stated that any delinquent account at $1,000 or less will be handled in house by phone and/or letters. Maintenance staff are currently fixing pot holes due to the harsh winter that we had. Roads are being prepped for work to be scheduled in the summertime. Maintenance is also working on the lakes and outdoor pool. Our fishing club will be installing artificial structures in our lakes. Boaters and swimmers were asked to avoid these structures if they see them. The structures are to help smaller fish survive by giving them an area to hide. This action is based on the recommendation of the lake maintenance contractor and will cut down on the need to restock the lakes.
Leon opened up the director’s comments by explaining why the geese eggs on our beaches are being targeted. Goose poop can cause E coli in our lakes and closing down of swimming areas. Lakes are tested on a weekly basis.
Borsos made a few observations on the special meeting. He stated that it was inefficient that people had to wait in lines so long which led to the 48 minute delay in starting the meeting. He was disappointed in the decorum of the meeting and that all the shouting made it difficult to hear what was going on. He was disappointed that the misstated points were not clarified when the membership was given their two minutes of floor time. An example he gave was that someone asked why the cook was considered full time when the kitchen is only open part time.
Bower stated that he would love to see as many people that showed up for this meeting to show up on a regular basis. He stated that our committees are skeletons so they are looking for more people to volunteer.
Johnson wanted to echo the sentiments of her fellow board members. Johnson is frustrated and stated we are in a tight monetary situation and have been for years. Services will continue to be cut and amenities will not be maintained. Johnson stated we are in this together. We have to work together. She further stated that things will not get done overnight. She appreciates the large turnout.
Caldwell had no comment.
Spiotta stated that she pays her dues as well as picks up trash. She tries to participate in events and that we are all in this together. She further stated that the butterfly garden cleaning will be on May 19th between the hours of 1PM to 4PM with a rain date of May 20th. Borsos interjected that the money for the butterfly garden came from the volunteers and that no association money was used.
Leslie stated that there are two distinct groups, one in favor and one that are doubters/haters. He urged people to come out and be informed. The special meeting was an example of what is wrong with our community. He hopes that things will turn around.
Johnson stated that they are trying to make the meeting more accessible to the membership, and she is hopeful that it will happen soon.
Under committee chair reports, Louise Leon spoke on behalf of the water aerobics club. She stated, “Wow, what a mess. The pool is out more than it is open.” She bought here for the pools since she and her daughter are avid swimmers. The pool is great for seniors to exercise.
Earl Frank, chair of Finance and Planning (F&P) stated that his committee would not approve the budget unless depreciation, which is an expense, is included on the budget. He asked when was the last time an inventory was completed on our assets. He also stated that with the new people in the office that there were a lot of adjustments and that we are going into the last month of our fiscal year. He requested a sit down to go over the delinquent collections.
Bower spoke for the Real Estate committee. He stated that there is a landlord meeting being planned to identify how we can help them. It is important that landlords communicate with their tenants.
Johnson spoke for the Events committee. Due to the committee members working long hours, this committee has gotten small and they are in dire need of volunteers to build more of a neighborly atmosphere. They need people to help execute the events.
Spiotta spoke on behalf of Rules and Regulations. She stated there was no new information and the last meeting was held over the winter. The next scheduled meeting will be on May 12th at 9:30 in the administration building. The meeting will be held with management to discuss what rules are enforceable and which ones are in conflict.
Eleven new members were welcomed to the neighborhood. Johnson made the motion to accept the new members, which was seconded by Leon. Passed unanimously.
Under new business, Jones stated that the 2017/2018 audit has been started by our outside auditor. It is anticipated to have this report in June. Jones went on to talk about the budget which he stated was bare bones. Service cuts will include elimination of the grill; bar will be open on Friday and Saturday only and will serve finger foods (hours can be expanded if there is traffic); compacter will be open 3 days instead of four which will reduce staffing (Saturday, Sunday and a day to be determined based on when garbage is hauled by contractor. Hours will remain the same on the weekend, but have not been established for the weekday.); road funds were reduced from $110K to $45K; temporary solution for bathhouse consisting of a structure for pool equipment and porta-potties.
An explanation was given for $100K identified in the old preliminary budget. The drainage system there is obsolete/non-existent and there is a cracked foundation, so the old structure was condemned and had to be removed. Excavation and a new drainage/septic system is needed. Engineering stamps of approval are needed as well as township permits (house construction permits are required). A new foundation has to be poured and a structure built that is ADA compliant. Need to change fencing and widen walkways and a chair has to be installed so that handicapped members can get into the pool.
Currently maintenance vehicles need to be replaced but there is no funding. Preferred Management recommended financing the vehicle over 5 years but the board decided to buy one out of reserves for $65K as a onetime purchase. New roads to be paved will be from special funding at $137K and is separate from budget.
Jones stated that a depreciation schedule from the auditor will be sent to Frank of F&P.
All directors commented on how low our reserves are.
Resolution # 1-42418 – Preliminary 2018-2019 Operating and Capital Budget Approval
Leon questioned why a special meeting was needrd to approve the budget and was told that it had to be after the 30 day membership review.
Bower made a motion to accept the revised preliminary budget which was seconded by Borsos. Passed unanimously.
Resolution 2-42418 – Rescinding of Temporary Trash Pass Policy
Members not in good standing will no longer be able to use the compactor. No discussion.
Johnson made a motion to accept rescinding temporary trash passes which was seconded by Bower. Passed unanimously.
Joan Gregorio stated that she wanted to vote for an increase but wants to know where the money is going. She questioned what was going on with the pool. She uses the pool as medicine for her back. Jones told her it was an insurance issue and there were already 3 meetings with the insurance company. Our attorney is pushing them but we cannot touch the pool until the insurance carrier makes a determination of what caused problem. Jones also stated that the money for the new dehumidification system is in the preliminary budget. (Reporter note: the insurance company in question is not our carrier but a contractor’s carrier. Anticipated repair costs are $5K.)
Monica asked if our cash reserves were being invested and was told that a portion was.
Christine Elizabeth thanked the board and handed them a petition to request that proxy voting for members in good standing be added to the August annual open meeting for membership vote.
Adam has been a resident for two years and questioned why all the money was asked for when taxes are due. Payments should be spread out over 12 months. He recommended that for security services we go to the police and finally we should put money in roads.
Darren Johnson suggested that all services be taken away and that we raze the buildings. Then he can start making plans to get out of here. He stated that social media is toxic, vitriol. The board will not comment on social media. Jones interjected that social media is frustrating and the board does not engage in social media. The comments are reactive and the board chooses to be proactive. Eventually you will be able to watch the board meeting via Facebook. There is too much misinformation out there. The board is being proactive so that people can watch in real time and see what is being said. Ms. Johnson interjected that they were on an austerity plan and that a reserve study will be released soon on all of our amenities which will include the life expectancy of them. There are $6-7M worth of repairs and maintenance of assets over the next 5 plus years. Ms Johnson stated that if we remove all the amenities we will only have administration, roads and lakes. Leon stated that the board is responsible for the amenities and we cannot eliminate them.
Larell Marie stated she understands the need for an increase but the board should be going for a smaller increase. Also she felt the penalties were unfair and that monthly or quarterly payments should be allowed.
Heidi Castro stated that the board did get an increase in the $60 that is being charged for people that opt to pay for the first six months. She questioned where this money was going. She stated the association should spend more resources on the watersheds. Water can be overwhelming and is coming up onto people’s properties close to their homes. Jones stated that all revenue collected as an administrative fee will go into operations. As to standing water on properties the owner is responsible to maintain the culverts.
Connie Simpson stated that a new home being built by her has no culvert. Jones responded that that is the last item that they install.
Kathy Rich asked what strategy is in place for irresponsible landlords. The septic systems are being overwhelmed, there is abusive language, there are too many cars, garbage is strewn all over. What recourse does she have? Bower stated that they are enforcing the rules and regulations and are identifying landlords. Any issues should be reported to the main office, Darryl Gamble and Ralph Musto.
Reggie asked about changing insurance companies since it is too long for them to resolve our case with the indoor pool. Jones told him it was just not our insurance carrier but our plumber’s carrier. We cannot touch system until it is resolved.
Louis Schneider asked why we were being punished for people that owe back dues and what are we getting for our money. Leslie stated that they changed the collection policy and are aggressively going after the delinquent accounts.
Flo Mauri stated that we have an engaged audience and we were informed and got an education about the $100K for the bathhouse. She recommended an ad hoc committee to look into why we need and how to get a dues increase.
Pat Galderisi questioned how much of our dues money was going into reserves. Jones told her that $200 was going into reserves and $800 into operations. Galderisi stated that last quarter 53% of membership was non compliant and did not pay their dues. Money hasn’t been put back into reserves. Classic/Wengerd pays no dues, no transfer fees. She requested a copy of the letter sent to our auditor requesting a full audit. She wanted to know who recommended the lake structures and was told it was by our lake maintenance contractor.
Galderisi stated she did not vote for a dues increase and it broke her heart. She feels the board is not transparent in our financials. She further stated that Classic sold over 50 homes in ELA and we did not get a transfer tree. ELA just settled with him. Galderisi also stated that there were “straw buyers” present at our special meeting casting votes. Jones responded that Classic pays their assessment when they sell their property and that we do go after them. We cannot prohibit this contractor from building. Brad further stated that they are not allowed to vote.
Igor Palka questioned that in addition to the $5K to fix the pool, what are attorney costs? Palka also questioned why all our dues money was required up front. Jones stated that he cannot give any more information on the pool but that the dues were needed up front since there was a small window of time to perform required maintenance in the community. Jones stated that 75% of the budget was spent in the first six months of our fiscal year. The $10 administrative fee is not a penalty.
Jay Caruso asked who do we ask to find out information on the insurance company and what legal actions can we take. Jones said he would look into protocol for members to contact insurer directly.
Louise Leon stated that she moved here for a recreational community.
Joe Olall stated that each township has a board of supervisors and that not a penny of our taxes comes back into our community. We should go to the township to get some money. We can solve the problem by installing one of our own to this position. If the supervisor doesn’t give us funds, we should vote them out.
Edward B. stated that he had no problem with increase but 6 month payments in a row is crazy.
Jeff B felt the same way. People do not have the means to pay six months in a row.
Jenn Gonzalez thanked the board for attempting to make the meeting more accessible to the membership. She agreed with Kathy Rich that this one rental house was a problem. She questioned what was happening to the geese eggs and if they were being destroyed. Jones stated that they are identified and reported to the state which then issues a permit for addling. The eggs are addled which means the eggs are physically rubbed with oil which prevents them from hatching. Gonzalez further commented on the insurance carrier for the pool and what time line are they on. She asked if the pool hours would change with the bar and grill hours. She questioned if we have shopped around for pricing on the pool house and was told that they are still looking into it. Finally she questioned if there was an age limit for the committees and volunteering. Johnson responded that we tried to get teen groups together as well as a parents’ club. These attempts were unsuccessful. If Gonzalez can find teens or people please let them come forward. Thomas P suggested that Penn Dot is currently doing milling and that we can reuse that material to do road work.
Joe Morgan stated that our unofficial face book page has 850 members that post all the time. If information is incorrect or numbers are wrong, why can’t it be corrected? The board should educate the members in a responsible way. Johnson stated she was not allowed to comment on the page. Over a period of time the page has gotten worse. She stated the board was cognizant of the page. Morgan questioned if the board had an action list for answering questions. He was told that the board addresses the questions directly to the individual or at the next meeting.
Kathy Leslie-Whelan commented for Bob Lauri who could not stay for the whole meeting. He felt that the board should be educating the membership on the website about important issues about reserve funding etc. Leslie-Whelan than asked about the Paul Capozzoli Memorial Scholarship and stated that she and her husband would like to contribute an addition $100 to the fund like they did last year. Caldwell stated that she sent the check for $200 to the guidance counselor at the high school. Jones stated that the board fulfilled their obligation and that if she wanted to contribute something she should do it on her own.
Buz Whelan started his comments with a compliment. How the board managed to get a cover letter written on April 20th into an envelope that was mailed on April 19th was beyond him. “This is real David Copperfield,” Whelan said. Whelan stated that when the membership approved the last dues increase they were promised 2 things, whether or not the word ‘promise’ was used. They were told that there would be quarterly payments and further that $200K would be dedicated to road maintenance. The quarterly payment argument has been made. But the latest budget, just passed, has repaving set at $165K down $35K from the amount promised. That makes two promises broken. Further, Bob Leon was correct earlier when he said the budget being passed was not presented first to the membership for comment which is required by our bylaws. The board put us in this position by waiting until April to ask for an increase. This need was known for over two years and the meeting should have been held in January or February. But Pa law requires a budget be in place by the beginning of the fiscal year, May 1st. Whelan said that he and others warned at three separate meetings that the meeting was headed for disaster, but the warnings were ignored. He then said that month after month resolutions reflecting complex issues are passed with little or no discussion telling him that the real discussions and decisions are made at the secret, closed workshops. Why should the membership trust the board as they repeatedly ask when they don’t keep promises or respect the membership?
Pat Galderisi stated that the April 14th meeting was premeditated to make the board look bad. It was an ambush to make it look like the board didn’t know what they were doing.
Meeting was adjourned at 12:17 PM.
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 Kathy Leslie-Whelan
The meeting was called to order at 9:33 am, followed by the pledge of allegiance. All board members were present.
Diane Caldwell read the standard board meeting procedures which 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 immediately called for a motion to approve the February minutes. Al Leslie made the motion and Jake Bower seconded it. The minutes were accepted unanimously.
Caldwell began her president’s message with stating that she hopes everyone is ready for spring. She stated that it was enough already with the snow, nor’easter and school closings. Caldwell mentioned the package that was sent out to the membership. She did not want to repeat herself and sound like a broken record, but if we look around things are falling apart. She also said that we live in a beautiful community and beautiful people live here. She stated that we should think and look around and make a conscientious decision when we cast a vote on April 14th.
The floor was turned over to Stefania Johnson for the treasurer’s report. Johnson reported that with the death of our accountant we do not have accurate numbers for her to report on. The numbers that were submitted need to be revised so she did not want to have to correct her report at a future board meeting. There have been challenges with the passing of Mike Gruber, but our outside accountant, Preferred Management and our newly hired accountant are working to correct the numbers. In addition, they are automating the system and changing the way the numbers are reported. Laura Jones added that there is nothing wrong with our financials, it is just a matter of correcting allocation numbers.
Laura Jones started the manager’s report saying that it snowed the first 15 days of March. The maintenance crew was worn out as well as the trucks used to plow. A driver suffered a minor injury when he was hit by a pick-up truck and one vehicle broke down. She commended staff for getting in and mentioned that it took Officer Ramos from public safety 4 hours to get to work during the storm. The administration office was closed during these snow incidents and only essential personnel were required to come in. Essential personnel were identified as herself, public safety and maintenance. Jones explained that the mound of snow at the end of your driveway is called a rift and it is not done on purpose. The plow causes the rift pushing snow. Jones further stated that there is no list of people where ELA plows their driveways. She cannot plow one person’s driveway if she cannot plow everyone’s driveway. However, if there is a medical emergency or other type of emergency such as a fire, they will go in and assist to get that individual plowed out. Jones further stated that due to HIPA laws she was not allowed to ask people what their medical emergency was and therefore could not maintain a list. She did not want to discourage any member who had a legitimate issue to call for assistance. She said she was sorry for the comments on the unofficial Facebook page.
Jones stated that the board has approved the preliminary budget with the 6 month payment plan at the March 14th meeting. Jones stated that there was an error in the call-to meeting notice and that she takes full responsibility for it. The call to meeting will be amended at the April 14th meeting. The meeting will be for the membership to vote on a $200 dues increase. Doors will open at 9:00 am and any member that is here by 10:00 am will not be turned away.
Jones stated that we currently have a lawsuit with Button Oil and Button sent us a check for less than what is owed. The check will not be cashed and Jones reached out to Nick Haros, our current attorney. Our denial on the small game of chance license was also turned over to our counsel. First step is to have ELA on the township agenda to have us designated as a civil organization under a tavern license. A restaurant would be required to be open by the state if we receive this license.
The draft reserve study which includes a road assessment has been received from Kipcon. The board is reviewing the document for any possible changes for funding methods. Once this document is approved by the board it will be made available to the membership.
The phone prompts at the administration building have been corrected by Frontier. New mailbox clusters have been delivered and will hopefully be installed this week if weather permits. The postmaster will need an additional 7 to 10 business days to install locks. Boxes will be distributed by the Toby post office. Finally Jones stated that walk in Wednesday still exists and she is available between the hours of 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm. If a member cannot make those times she will be available by appointment.
Dave Bursos opened up the director’s comments by explaining his abstaining from two votes at the last meeting. It was not that he was unprepared but the he wanted to show his displeasure/disapproval of those motions without being overly negative. He also stated that if homeowners plowed 10 feet off their driveways they would not get a rift.
Jake Bower stated that he is still a rookie on the board but that this board puts in thousands of hours as volunteers. Most people do not see all the time they spend to try to improve this association. They are looking for more people to volunteer.
Bob Leon had no comment.
Al Leslie said we need more people on committees. Committees are a big help to the board.
Stefania Johnson wanted to add to Bower’s point. She has been a resident for 9 years and although Facebook is interesting, we need a better way to communicate. Some people are playing a political game. Every year it is the same. The purpose of being on the board is a fiduciary responsibility to make this place better. They are trying their best and if we feel we can do better, we should step up to the plate and run for the board. The board will always get criticized but they need to fix things in the Association and they need the money to do it. Johnson is frustrated that the indoor pool is not open. She said that our infrastructure is falling apart and that she is trying to protect our investments. She said that the board is constantly attacked and people are not coming to them with solutions. Johnson received applause from Caldwell.
Gilda Spiotta stated that she agrees with Johnson, Bower and Leslie. Although this is her second year on the board, this is the first year she gets it. There are real clear numbers but it is not a pretty picture. She stated that we all understand what is needed. She moved in to ELA in 2004 and things need to be maintained. We cannot continue to go on, we must maintain the Association in a healthy manner. She further stated that the board is not working in a vacuum. The board is responsible and diligent. Spiotta stated the budget was a structure and must be adjusted. The board has a huge responsibility to the Association and that we are all in this together. Spiotta stated that it breaks her heart that the pool is closed. She further said that when we air dirty laundry we insult the board, the staff and our neighbors. We should not be airing this laundry on social media and that the unofficial Facebook page is irresponsible. She stated that she just lost a neighbor and that life was short. We should enjoy life and make it beautiful. We should wake up with a smile on our faces and if not we should chop wood.
Diane Caldwell thanked everyone she sits with on the board and all the time they put in. Caldwell stated that our greatest assets, besides our children, is our home values. Caldwell also stated that she didn’t want anyone to misconstrue what they are doing. They are not threatening just stating the facts. The numbers are there and have been mapped out for the membership and all negativity flies. She stated that this board has shown transparency and that she has been called everything from the c word down. She is just trying to do her job.
Earl Frank, chair of Finance and Planning (F&) started the committee chair reports stating that the minutes with 5 recommendations from F&P was sent to the board. He requested a confidentiality form so that this writer can continue to attend these meeting and take notes. Franks requested that the dues collected be reported on separately from what is deposited into our checking account. Franks asked if more money was collected by Sunrise and was told yes by Jones. Neither Jones or Johnson had a copy of these figures. F&P is recommending that if a $200 dollar increase is approved by the membership that $100 should go into reserves and that the board should commit to that number. In addition, since the budget only lists $150K in delinquent dues collections, that any money collected over that amount also should go towards reserves. At this time Frank turned the floor over to Buz Whelan to discuss an F&P concern. The concern was that according to our bylaws the membership does not vote on the budget but on the requested dues increase. Whelan said he is happy at least some of the board and management read Facebook, though they will never admit it, because they are making the exact changes he wrote about on social media regarding the actual subject of the vote (dues increase). Frank went on to say that the notice of call to meeting was deceiving but Jones stated it was not. F&P made a recommendation that if the board was not committed to their recommendations, he wants it on record that F&P will not approve the budget. Spiotta asked if that was a threat.
Jake Bower spoke for the Real Estate committee. The purpose of this committee is to make it easier for landlords to rent their properties. If someone has a bad experience with a renter, that information is disbursed to the other landlords. If someone double booked their rental, they can reach out to other landlords that have rentals available. In additional, landlords are informed of any township rules such as how many people can rent a home, i.e., 2 people per bedroom.
Stefania Johnson spoke for the Events committee. The Easter egg hunt and breakfast with the bunny will be held next Saturday. Over the past months this committee has gotten small and they are in dire need of volunteers. They need people to help execute the events. Hands on work needs to be done. Their next meeting will be after the dues increase meeting to see where they stand. There will be an email blast going out to the membership to look for volunteers.
Ten new members were welcomed to the neighborhood. Al Leslie made the motion to accept the new members, which was seconded by Bob Leon. Passed unanimously.
Under new business Resolution # 1-32418 – Approval of PNC Bank Treasury Management Services passed unanimously. Stefania Johnson made the motion while Bob Leon seconded it. Under discussions Bursos stated that it would save the Association an average of $300 monthly. Bowers stated that the resolution bring us up to current banking methods vs. what was done in 1950. All checks now can be scanned at the administration office and deposited into our account on the same day. The account will be viewable online and also has fraud alerts. Jones stated that for bounced checks, which are very few, the fee of $35 is given to the party that issued the check.
John Palmisano asked the question that if a member owned multiple properties was a discount given on their dues. Jones stated no, they were charged the full amount, however unimproved lots are billed at a lower rate. Also, landlords pay $250 per property annually on top of their dues.
Bill Henry stated that we were 5 weeks from the new fiscal year and he has not received an invoice. Jones stated that the bill will go out after the April 14th meeting and the homeowner will have 30 days to pay. However, everyone is welcomed to pay now. Henry stated the website is out of date when it comes to dues and that it appears that ELA owes him $1,000. Jones stated that Preferred Management hosts our website so our office staff cannot update it.
Linda Shuey had an issue with the call to meeting notice where it asked the membership to approve the budget. She was concerned that the membership was not properly notified that the meeting was for a dues increase. Jones stated that the notice did state that there was a dues increase being voted on. Johnson stated “duly noted”. Shuey stated that an email blast should go out for the landlords meeting. Shuey agreed with Spiotta the board had a huge fiscal responsibility and that we do need a dues increase but the budget costs for the bar and grill are at $74K. In her opinion the board members are not good stewards of her money. Shuey stated that it isn’t enough for the board to say “we spent all your money, now give us more.” The board is not showing fiscal responsibility. Johnson stated that what is on budget is what it is costing at the grill. Looking at the salaries, although it is high it is what it takes. The budget for the grill includes one full time cook with benefits, one server and one dish washer. Johnson warned the membership not to get caught up on the grill. Money is needed for our infrastructure and we should have $1.5 M in reserves.
Louise Leon reminded the room that she was on the board in 2010 and she stated the board was on track. She was insulted by two separate families after she was off the board. One accused her of stealing funds and another asked her in the parking lot as to why they did not get their roads paved. She feels the board is doing a fabulous job. Leon bought her home for the pools and the lakes and she sits quietly when people say they want to close the pool.
Ange Noonan advised the board to ignore social media. She noticed that no one from the board commented on social media. Spiotta stated that they were not allowed to and that there were not “educated comments” on social media. Jones stated that the ELA website runs out of room unless something is deleted and that it was cheaper to have Preferred Management host our site. Noonan said that see has also seen an increase in members using the grill every week. She feels if we give it a chance it will succeed. Finally she stated she was away during the snow but was happy when she returned that her road was plowed.
Darren Johnson stated that he was frustrated, and a dues increase was needed. The problem in ELA happened over the last 40 years. Members in the room, who have been on past boards are abject failures. Their boards were not fiscally responsible and will be held accountable. Social media is ignorant. Mr. Johnson told a story of a boom that he and his wife heard in their home. Their heating system went out and had to be replaced for $6K. They changed insurance companies and it wasn’t covered. The lessons he learned was never to buy into an HOA and have a reserve fund. He further stated there is a political agenda on social media. He cannot sell his home at this time and he did not want his wife to run for the board again. We are all losers if the dues increase doesn’t pass.
Tony Arcy asked why the preliminary budget had $58K for lifeguards. Jones stated that was for pool attendants. Mr. Arcy also questioned the $66K salary for the cook and was told that the cook does not make that much. If she did Jones would want the job since it is more than she makes. Arcy also asked what would open first, the indoor or the outdoor pool. He felt that the indoor pool being closed affected the traffic at the bar and grill.
Margaret Fitzgerald was disappointed that there was no treasurer’s report. Last week she has dinner at the grill and enjoyed herself. Nicole and staff did an outstanding job. Fitzgerald would like to see projects completed. Fitzgerald commented that the renovations on the community center under Buz, were completed and look wonderful. She is frustrated and finds it mind numbing that there was no treasurer’s report. Fitzgerald stated that speech after speech beat up the membership sitting on this side of the table.
Buz Whelan asked about the hourly fees for the attorney that we are paying as of December 9th. Jones stated that that was a right to know request so Caldwell stated $260/hour which is all inclusive and includes litigation. Whelan further stated that he has not missed a meeting since June of 2005 and that he appreciates how hard the board works but never once during the 6 years he was on the board did he tell the membership how hard he worked or lectured them on how they should behave. He said that we (members) are adults. We come to these meetings to be informed, not to listen to the directors demonstrate their keen grasp of the obvious by telling us we are all in this together, our property values are affected and so on. We don’t need to sit through 15 minutes of directors patting themselves and each other on the back during every meeting. Whelan agreed with Fitzgerald that Johnson should have reported on how much did we collect in dues, delinquencies. A modified treasurer’s report should have been given. He recommended that at the dues increase meeting on April 14th, brief remarks should be given so that people are not voting in the dark.
Earl Frank stated that according to the Pocono Journal the township attorney fees are $160 to $165 an hour. Jones told him that there is a difference in a township attorney and an HOA attorney. Frank further stated that in previous budgets the bar and grill was budgeted at $30 to $35K. In the current budget it is up to $70K. He cannot see why the cost doubled since we always had a cook. Jones stated that the grill will never make money. The question is how much money are we willing to spend to keep it open.
Margaret Fitzgerald also stated that the new POS system was right on target. Jones said she will congratulate staff since they usually do not receive them from the public. Fitzgerald stated that she did let staff know of her good experience. Caldwell added that she wished Fitzgerald was there for the numerous events such as Valentine’s day, Christmas and New Year. The events would have knocked her socks off.
Stefania, as treasurer spoke that she agreed with Fitzgerald and Whelan regarding the treasurer’s report. She just did not want to give out numbers that were potentially wrong. Overall the numbers were right, but the allocations were wrong. As treasurer she is responsible for those numbers and does not want to be held responsible if they are incorrect. Johnson anticipated revised financials for December, January and February within the next two weeks.
Linda Shuey requested that an email blast go out letting the membership know that the vote on April 14th is for a $200 dues increase. Jones said they would discuss it in executive session.
Buz Whelan suggested that whatever programs we have for ensuring emergency access to our disabled during snow events be made public.
Spiotta stated that people abuse that privilege.
Our new accountant is Tom Mugan who worked for the City of New York. Jones stated that Mugan had a super analytical mind and that he was tightening things up.
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.
Emerald Lakes Special Board of Director’s Meeting, March 10, 2018
by Kathy Leslie-Whelan
The meeting was called to order at 9:35 am. Four board members were present with Diane Caldwell joining the meeting by phone. Absent were Stefania Johnson and Jake Bower. Following the pledge of allegiance, Al Leslie immediately turned the floor over to Brad Jones who explained the association’s dire need for a dues increase. If no dues increase is approved by the membership, Mr. Jones stated that there would be no major road repairs or infrastructure work. The bar and grill would be eliminated and less money would go into the reserves. Instead of $500K, less than $250K would be going into reserves. After reworking of the numbers, the budget includes provisions for keeping the compactor open.
Mr. Jones highlighted the preliminary budget figures as follows:
Item w/Increase w/o increase
Maintenance $613,900 Same
Public Safety $152,410 Same
Rec/Pools/Lake $109,502 Same
Administration $477,746 Same
Community Center $213,483 $56,840
Insurance $88, 845 Same
Utilities $65,800 Same
Real Estate Tax $4,000 Same
TOTAL $2,302,495 $1,908,695
On April 14th, a special meeting will be held to address the dues increase. On Monday, March 12th a call to meeting notice will be mailed to the membership which will include a copy of the preliminary budget approved by the board, a copy of the board approved collection policy and payment plan. In addition to the mailing of this notice, numerous email blast will go out as well as various posting in the community. All board members present gave their reasons for the need for this increase.
Under new business 5 resolutions were passed. They are:
Resolution 1-31018 Preliminary Operating and Capital Budget Approval
Bob Leon made the motion to approve this resolution. Dave Bursos seconded the motion. Four members voted yes and the motion passed.
Resolution 2-31018 Collection Policy
This resolution approved the 6 month payment plan with a $150. delinquency fee. This policy eliminated the quarterly payments and set the payment schedule at $200/month for the first 6 months with a monthly administration fee of $10. If any payment is late a $150 delinquency fee will be added with 1.25% per month interest fee. The $50/year discount for paying up front was eliminated.
Bob Leon made the motion to approve this resolution. Diane Caldwell seconded the motion. Three board members and the Chair, Al Leslie voted yes on this resolution with Dave Bursos abstaining from the vote.
Resolution 3-31018 Payment Plan
This resolution established dates for the 6 month payment plan having the first payment due on May 30th, 2018. All payments must be received by October 30, 2018. This plan includes a $10/month administrative fee, $150. delinquency fee and a 1.25% interest fee. If a member keeps up with the payment plan his total dues would add up to $1,260. Bob Leon made the motion to approve this resolution. Diane Caldwell seconded the motion. Three board members and the Chair, Al Leslie voted yes on this resolution with Dave Bursos abstaining from the vote.
Resolution 4-31018 Notice and Call to Special Meeting to Vote on 2018-2019 Fiscal Budgets
This resolution set the date for the special meeting as April 14th. Bob Leon made the motion to approve this resolution. Diane Caldwell seconded the motion. Four members voted yes and the motion passed.
Resolution 5-31018 Establish the Date of Record for Members in Good Standing for the Special Meeting to Vote on the 2018-2019 Fiscal Budgets
This resolution established a date of record as March 31, 2018, for members to be up to date on paying their dues to be considered a member in good standing. This resolution follows our bylaws, which state that the member must be paid up to date 15 days prior to the vote. Bob Leon made the motion to approve this resolution. Diane Caldwell seconded the motion. Four members voted yes and the motion passed.
Vanessa Saunders-Hamilton asked if there were any mismanagement problems with the budget and was that why they eliminated the quarterly payments. According to Mr. Jones, the 6 month payment plan gave the board the ability to accomplish certain work where there was a small window of time to complete. This included road and drainage work, outdoor pool and lake work. Jones stated that the bulk of work that needed to be completed was done before November and that they had a 4 to 5 month window of opportunity to complete work.
Buz Whelan said he and most of the people in the room agree there is a need for a dues increase and perhaps Mr. Jones is correct that it really should be as much as $500. But that is not doable so the $200 is fine. But, Whelan added, in spite of all the talk about fiscal responsibility, he questions certain numbers. Last year maintenance salaries were budgeted at $208,925, this year $255,000. This is an increase of 22%. As of December 31, 2017 the bar made $17,682.95 while the grill lost $39,334. Yet in the new budget the grill salaries and benefits total $88,243 with the total cost at approximately $113,000. This is no small number and could significantly contribute to reserves if we close the grill. Should the increase fail, it makes no sense to close both the bar and grill since the bar actually makes money, as much as $23,000 this year. Whelan added that from 1975 to 2012 we operated without a grill. Mr. Jones agreed that this was something to look at.
Eileen Avrich commented on the pot luck dinner that were held at the Community Center (CC) and that the costs of planned functions should be coming out of the Event’s committee budget and not the CC budget. She further stated that we should charge a fee to the membership that has garbage picked up at their properties since the trucks were driving on and damaging our roads. Mr. Jones stated that he sees the value in that idea, however, there is a gray area in the legal system. Finally, Avrich requested that we increase our maintenance staff to plow and mow membership homes for a fee. Mr. Jones stated that there were insurance issues with that idea.
Mr. Wharton wanted to know what guarantee would the board give that there will not be another request for a dues increase next year if this increase passes. Mr. Jones stated that there was no guarantee. A reserve study by an Engineering firm is currently under review by the board which addresses the conditions of our infrastructure. Currently our annual dues should be around $1,700.
Chris Claude wanted to know when a hard copy of the budget would be available to the membership Mr. Jones stated it would be included in the call to meeting notification. Claude further asked if line item on the budget would be included. He was told no since it contain sensitive items such as salaries. A copy of last year’s budget will be included in the mailing so that the membership can understand the budget and where the money was going. Mr. Jones stated that the budget is based on a 75% compliance rate.
Carol DeMarco wanted to know when she can see the package for the special meeting and was told 30 days prior to the meeting date. She also told Mr. Jones that the roads this winter are aces over last year and that it was a pleasure to hear from the board.
Kathy Leslie Whelan inquired if there was still going to be an open board meeting in March since we have the special meeting today and the special meeting on April 14th. Al Leslie responded that there will be an open meeting on the fourth Saturday in March.
Tom Thomason from Blueberry Estates stated he was on a budget and cannot afford to pay an increase. He said that the distribution of money is not fair for the people living in his area. Caldwell responded that the court ordered his area to be part of the association and although she is sympathetic to his concerns, he and his family can enjoy the amenities if they choose to. Since he lives on township roads the association cannot supply security or maintenance to the roads. Caldwell said that we are all in this together and we need to keep up the infrastructure and home values intact.
Eileen Avrich stated that when we have a dues increase meeting, sometimes the crowd is argumentative. She recommended handing out index card to the membership to ask any questions they had.
Hector Gonzales wanted to know where we were at with the delinquent accounts. Mr. Jones stated that the collection agency collected $60K in the first two months and that last year $285K was collected. Mr. Gonzales stated that we must work together and work with the budget you have. Mr. Jones responded that the budget was bare bones and that all the fat was cut out of the budget.
by Kathy Leslie-Whelan
The meeting was called to order at 9:40 am. All board members were present. Following the pledge of allegiance, Caldwell immediately called for a motion to approve the January minutes. The minutes were accepted unanimously.
Caldwell did not give a President’s message, stating the meeting would be held off agenda. Stefania Johnson started with the Treasurer’s report.
(Money is reported on as Fiscal Year to Date)
Administration $41.9K [sic] over budget
Public Safety $1,500 over budget due to camera expenses
Maintenance $10,600 over budget due to purchase of salt and truck expenses
Community Center $9,600 over budget due to maintenance
Bar and Grill $21,200 over budget due to food and beverage purchases, printing of new menus and additional food purchases for the holiday functions.
Delinquent collections December through January are at $37K for Sunrise Collection and $30K attributed to the amnesty program.
Cash on Hand – $203,200
Al Leslie made the motion to accept the Treasurer’s report, Bob Leon seconded the motion and it was approved unanimously.
At this point in time Brad Jones and Laura Jones (no relation) addressed the room. Mr. Jones stated that we were not going to talk about the budget today since they needed to hammer out certain details. He would like to see the budget up to 100% accurate mathematically. The discussion on the budget was tabled for a couple of days. The board would meet in a few days and then it would be given to Finance and Planning (F&P) for review. The meeting for the membership was postponed to early April. The dues assessment date may also be moved to May 15th. Mr. Jones stated that they are trying to stretch our dollars. At this point in time Dave Borsos interjected that since the board wanted to take into account the feedback received from the membership during the two preliminary budget meetings.
A member, Mr. Reed from Glade Drive, asked what the board was doing about delinquent accounts, and what was the increase being voted on. He has been in the community for 14 years and enjoys the amenities. He was told that the dues increase being requested is $200/yr and that the board is aggressively looking at collections.
Christine Robertson of Minsi Trails stated she was new and asked if the board could introduce themselves when they addressed the room. At that time we went into Director’s comments.
After Dave Borsos introduced himself, director Jake Bower also introduced himself and stated that everyone on the board is a volunteer and that we need more volunteers to make this community successful. Al Leslie introduced himself and stated that he has been on board for 10 years and yes, there will be bingo tonight.
Diane Caldwell stated that she appreciates everyone that comes out. She said that everyone on the board works hard doing everything to draw people out so that you will know what is going on. Her seat is coming up in August and she has not made the decision as to whether she will run again.
Treasurer Stefania Johnson stated that she has been the treasurer for two years, and it is a difficult position. She said that at every open meeting she conveyed to the membership that our financial condition is at a critical stage. She further said that our home values are affected by our amenities. Her position is also up in August and she has not decided if she will run again. Johnson further went on to urge the membership to be open and to get the facts and not others’ perception. Membership should be looking at the actual facts and all questions should be directed to the board to obtain the facts.
Gilda Spiotta stated that she moved here in 2004 and loves this community. There is good, bad and ugly but she focuses on the good. She is not a full time resident yet but she spends her weekends here. She is open to intelligent communication. She further stated that she heard our concerns at the preliminary budget meeting, and changes are being made. She also hoped to see people at the Valentine’s Day festivities later that night.
Bob Leon stated that new mailboxes were being ordered where the post office will install locks. They will be at Glade Drive and the Estates. Currently there are 29 families that need mail boxes.
Under the Manager’s report, Laura Jones thanked everyone for coming out to the two preliminary budget forums. She stated that we listened and heard the membership and will make changes to the budget. Our small game of chance application was denied due to the guidelines that are set but she feels that we fit in under the civic group category. She is asking our attorney and plans on appealing that decision.
Currently the reserve study that was prepared by an engineering firm is being evaluated and a meeting will be held to go over the items. Ms Jones explained that a reserve study is a living document and changes all the time. The example she gave was that if a roof had to be replaced every 20 years, that item would be changed to 20 years out once the work was completed.
On February 20th, Ms. Jones was notified by our insurance carrier that a new inspection will be done on March 7th on our pool area and we were instructed we could not touch that area. Our insurance carrier is trying to subrogate the claim and hold the installer of the air hauling system responsible for the damage. Jones further stated that they had a problem with the phones in the administration building and were not able to change the outgoing message. Frontier was called in and they were able to change the message that identifies the correct hours of operation and staff names and extensions. Jones updated the membership on the collections. Between December 4th and January 3rd, Sunrise Collections collected $37K and $33K was collected under the amnesty program. In addition, 11 delinquent members agreed to a payment plan due to the amnesty program. These 11 members are now in good standing. Jones reminded the membership that walk-in Wednesday is between the hours of 1 and 3 pm. If you cannot meet with her on a Wednesday she will still meet with you via an appointment. The membership was urged to keep that appointment, especially if Jones has to stay past her regularly scheduled hours.
At this point in time Leon requested that we start to receive numbers for the people who are on plan, have paid through Sunrise etc. He also requested that the 4 digit phone extensions be made public.
Darryl Gamble spoke on the specifics of the new mail boxes that will be installed. There will be three clusters ordered at $1,200 each. Each cluster box has 16 mail slots so we will have extra boxes for any new residents. Two clusters will be installed at Glade Drive and one installed in the Estates. Our maintenance team will install the units with the post office installing the keys. The units will be color coordinated to match the current clusters.
Committee Chair reports started with Earl Frank of F&P. He had no comment at this time since he just received the December statement. Linda Shuey spoke for the maintenance committee. This committee had two recommendations to the board. First motion pertained to the humidity in the indoor pool area. The committee recommended that the humidity be monitored and the data analyzed. Actions need to be taken to limit the humidity. Application of ‘cover free’ was recommended based on information obtained by Strand Pool. A physical cover was researched but the cost for this cover was $10K. Caldwell asked for safety information on this product before the board takes up the discussion on utilizing this product. Spiotta had concerns that this chemical was safe for women. The second recommendation was that the H coil for the pool should be ordered, since we need the part, and not wait for the insurance company to conclude their research. Ms. Jones stated that since it is a custom piece it is not wise to order since the insurance company may deem that this part is not a correct part and may have caused the damage. Right now the insurance company is stating that they believe the cleanup of this incident is covered but not the air handler itself.
Jake Bower for Real Estate spoke of the landlord’s responsibility to relay information to renters and that another landlord meeting will be scheduled so that the committee can hear their concerns.
Chair Diane Caldwell recognized Buz Whelan to speak on F&P issues. Mr. Whelan said he had three points. The first was that our bylaws clearly state that the notification of special meeting and the annual meeting be in member’s hands no later than 30 days prior to meeting date, not post marked 30 days before. Brad Jones agreed saying this was part of his reasoning to move the meeting to April. Whelan then said that most speakers at the Saturday – Monday meeting prefaced their remarks by saying they supported the budget increase or grudgingly supported its need. The main complaint was on the cancellation of quarterly payments and the excessive charges for the pay over time plan. Whelan suggested that assuming the dues increase passes, a small surcharge could be added as administrative costs. Members could be charged $10 for each payment or $310 total. This would be reasonable. At this point, Brad Jones said that Buz was getting into his head and he agreed with a similar policy. Whelan’s final point was on the reactivation fee of $25 per membership card for delinquents being restored to good standing. That would be a total of $250 since we are issued 10 cards. Laura Jones said she would change the wording to $25 per household, one fee for all cards.
New members were welcomed to the community there were 11 new home purchases and 5 foreclosures and sheriff sales.
Under Old Business Al Leslie made a motion to approve Resolution 2-12718 – Rental Policies, Short and Long Term. It was seconded by Spiotta. Borsos made an amendment to the resolution under short term rentals that it stated 30 days or fewer. Resolution passed unanimously with the amendment.
Under New Business all resolutions were tabled since they pertained to the budget. They were:
Resolution 1-22418 Preliminary Operating and Capital Budget Approval
Resolution 2-22418 Collection Policy
Resolution 3-22418 Payment Plan
Resolution 4-22418 Notice and Call to Special Meeting to Vote on 2018-2019 Fiscal Budgets
Resolution 5-22418 Establish the Date of Record for Members in Good Standing for the Special Meeting to Vote on 2018-2019 Fiscal Budgets
Linda Shuey stated she was in favor of the $200 increase but she had a problem with the budget and payment plan. She stated that the bar and grill should pay for itself. She further stated that Bob and Lola Lauri got the bar and grill to where it cost us a little over $100 a month, so expenditures need to be controlled. Treasurer Johnson said that the budget included staff. Electricity and propane were included on other lines. There is $87K budgeted for the bar and grill. Johnson conceded that the cost should be covered by what is an acceptable cost to operate that amenity.
Donna Brown stated that they had their property since ’76 and have always voted for a dues increase. She fears that some of the comments on Facebook are mean spirited and that we need to work together. Some Facebook comments seem to be coming from petulant 12 year olds. She further stated that she understands what it’s like to have a thankless job and that she still cleans up the mailbox area on Glade Drive.
Chris Claude announced that he will be running for the board in August. He had three recommendations for the board. 1) Board should over communicate what is going on. Meeting should be videotaped and put on website. Time to act is now. 2) It would be nice to know the number of delinquent accounts with Sunrise. What are the number of people who are not paying their dues? The board needs to be more transparent. 3) Since the budget distribution is being delayed since it is not approved, how long will it take to get approved? Mr. Jones commented that it would take 7-10 days.
Christine Robertson thanked all for volunteering and she would also like to see videotaping since so many of the membership cannot attend meetings. In addition she would like the meeting held down to a couple of hours. Caldwell responded that she tries to be fair and let people speak so she limited it to two minutes. She is damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t. She gets criticized about social media but she was advised not to speak out on the unofficial Facebook page. She does not want to create a libelous situation. She would like to video tape the meeting so that the membership can hear what is said instead of someone’s perception. They are looking into the videotaping but they also need a legal opinion.
Buz Whelan stated that a meeting should be as long as it takes to do the business that has to be done. He stated he felt that part of the meeting is ideas from the membership. As long as a member doesn’t repeat themselves and remains decorous, they should be allowed to speak.
Chris Claude added a comment that he was having difficulty stopping payments on his credit card for automatic quarterly payments. There was no easy way to terminate credit card payments.
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 Kathy Leslie-Whelan
Monday’s budget meeting was largely a reprise of Saturday’s meeting with a few important changes.
The most dramatic change was a withdrawal of the administrative charges that increased the total owed for paying-over-time members by $350. At least for this year, General Manager Laura Jones stated the additional charges would not be levied. She added that she is not making any promises for next year. Quarterly payments remain cancelled in the proposal, and the payments must be made monthly over the first six months of the fiscal year which commences on May 1st.
Jones stuck by the March 24th date for a special meeting to vote on a $200 dues increase. Buz Whelan pointed out that our by-laws require 30 days notice of any annual or special; meeting. In order to fulfill this requirement the ‘Call to Meeting’ would have to be mailed no later then February 22nd. Ms. Jones disagreed and stated that association counsel told her February 24th mailing would be sufficient.
Speaking for Finance and Planning (F&P), Chairperson Earl Frank insisted there were ways to reduce costs and increase income without closing the community center or compactors. He especially objected to the change in delinquency collection pointing out that our previous collector averaged $265K over the last three years while only $150K is currently projected as the annual total from all new sources. He also pointed to a $60K cost of operating the grill (expense minus income) and excessive cost in maintenance department salaries.
Jones stated the budget is based on a 75% compliance rate. She further stated that according to our auditor we are collecting only 60%. F&P chair challenged that number since we are currently billing out at $1.925M and are collecting $1.450M. Those numbers represent a 75% collection rate.
Many of the membership questioned why they could not have a hard copy of the preliminary budget that was projected on a screen. The numbers projected were not large enough for the membership to see. Jones responded that since the board has not approved it, she could not distribute it. She further said that another meeting will be held in early March where hard copies of the budget will be distributed to the attendees. This document will also be available at the administration building after the open board meeting on Saturday, February 24th. It will also be posted on the official ELA website.
Regarding the compactor, one possibility suggested by Jones was a pay-for-use. Annual or monthly charges could be levied rather than closing the facility. No dollar amount on these charges was mentioned. According to Jones we pay $170K annually for the compactors. Pay-for-use services would only be implemented in the event that the dues increase fails.
One interesting trend at the meeting was that virtually all speakers agreed that a dues increase was needed and probably overdue. It was the way money is being spent, the choices made that was the focus of the objectors.
By Kathy Leslie-Whelan
About 30 members and 5 directors attended a meeting held to consider the preliminary budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. A dues increase of $200 per annum was proposed as part of the budget package.
Presenter General Manager Laura Jones said that the dues increase was needed in order to maintain services as they currently are. Should the membership reject the dues increase, Jones feels it would be necessary to close the community center which would include the bar and grill, indoor pool, exercise and meeting rooms and bingo. She further recommends that the compactor be closed as well. These closures would be subject to board approval.
Speaking on the details of the dues increase, Ms. Jones said that members who pay by cash or check by April 30th would receive a $50 discount. Those who pay by credit card would pay the full $1,200. For those unable to pay the full amount by the due date, a six month pay plan would be available. The fees and interest associated with the payment plan would bring the total obligation to $1,550. Several members present objected strenuously to the short notice of the payment option changes, leaving them unprepared to pay the full amount.
While agreeing that a dues increase is overdue, several members of the Finance and Planning (F&P) Committee disagreed with the necessity to close facilities if the increase is rejected. F&P chair, Earl Frank prefaced his remarks by stating he believes a dues increase is needed. He went on to say that should the membership refuse the increase it would not be necessary to close either the community center or the compactors. He said that savings could be found in a number of areas, citing delinquency collections, legal fees, maintenance payroll and the grill, which he said is hemorrhaging money. He said it all adds up to around $350K. Buz Whelan agreed with Frank saying that changing from a successful collector who averaged approximately $265K/yr for the last three years to a system involving in-house collections and a collection agency increased costs while reducing projected income. He further said that switching to an attorney who charged far more than our previous attorney and one who we quit in the ’90s because he was too expensive was wasteful. He also said that the grill, budgeted to lose almost $60K, was an unnecessary ‘want’ rather than a need.
When member Bridgitte Hoff asked if quarterly payments would be continued, Jones rolled out the proposed payment plan that would replace the quarterlies. The total price of $1,550 drew angry responses from all corners of the room.
During her presentation, Ms. Jones spoke in the first person singular, telling the room what she was going to change, what she would close if the increase failed and so on. At one point, member Buz Whelan emphasized that the bylaws give the board dominion over all amenities, facilities and services, and that a legal opinion to that effect was obtained in 2010. Ms. Jones could recommend, but only the board could act on these proposals.
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.
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.
by Kathy Leslie-Whelan
The meeting was called to order at 9:33 am, followed by the pledge of allegiance. Six board members were present. Treasurer Stefania Johnson was absent due to a death in her husband’s family.
Diane Caldwell read the standard board meeting procedures, which state that the meeting would be held in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order, and she cautioned the membership that inappropriate language would not be tolerated. As Secretary, Gilda Spiotta would be taking minutes, 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 also stated that there would be an executive session at the end of the open meeting.
Caldwell immediately asked for a motion to approve the October minutes. Al Leslie called for the motion and Bob Leon seconded it. The minutes were accepted unanimously.
Caldwell began her President’s message by stating there is a lot going on. Everyone is shopping, there is a lot of traffic, and that it is a good time of year to be with loved ones. She stated that it is a time for us to be joyous. She prayed that we all had a healthy, prosperous new year and wishes the best for everyone. She wished people Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a Happy New Year.
Caldwell also stated that it was unfortunate that she had to speak of negative things. She reiterated her issues with social media and basically stated that there is a site that gives out information that is incorrect. She cautioned members to be careful as to what you post and say because it could cause ramifications that will not be pleasant. She went on to say that she had received an email from our attorney who thought his services were being terminated when they weren’t, based on an article on this blog. She stated that we were terminating part of his collections, but he walked away from the Association. She further stated that all board members past and present were sworn to secrecy in perpetuity. Caldwell stated that the attorney heard it through rumors and minutes on a website. Caldwell reiterated that it was not true, and that in closing he terminated his services with us. Caldwell stated that you will hear that we interviewed another law firm. Caldwell stated that we should not be posting on how badly we are doing financially. She asked that people who post consider how they might be hurting ‘our assets.’ She also stated that she has witnessed untruths said about her, but she can handle herself. She ended her message by saying that she will be talking to the new attorney on how the Association will handle this, and that it wasn’t the official ELA minutes to the public that caused this. She further stated that we could take it for what it is worth. (Reporter’s note: In the September issue of this blog, it was reported that the board voted on changing the collection process. There was no mention of retaining our current attorney’s services until the public comments of the meeting. Laura Jones responded to a comment from Buz Whelan where she stated that our current attorney would keep only the 22 delinquent accounts where lawsuits were pending.)
Al Leslie read the Treasurer’s report for the absent Johnson. He stated that Administration was down, Public Safety was down, Maintenance was over, the Community Center was over, and the Bar and Grill were over. [sic]. The attorney collections year-to-date were $125K. Dues collection was down at $925K. Leslie further stated that the Bar and Grill have reduced their monthly costs from$4.8K to $3.2K. He stated that we have an allocation problem, and that that was the end of the Treasurer’s report. Caldwell interjected that Johnson’s spreadsheet will be in the newsletter and on the official ELA website. Leon made a motion to accept the Treasurer’s report as read, Spiotta seconded and the report was unanimously accepted as read.
In the Manager’s Report, Laura Jones stated that she wanted to thank the maintenance team who came out early that morning to prepare for snow removal. Currently, employees were spreading an 80% salt, 20% cinder mixture. When the roads are plowable, the mixture ratio is 60% salt, 40% cinder. She stated that the warmth of the tires riding on our roads will crush salt. She said that maintenance was on top of the snow situation. Jones also stated that our gaming license request was returned since a signature was not notarized. The form was resubmitted and it will take 3 to 6 weeks to learn if we are approved. Jones stated that legal RFPs were sent out and Young and Haros was selected to be the new attorney of record. An employment manual is being prepared. It is a “How to do this Job” document and will contain Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). A fundraiser policy is currently under review by the board. Caldwell stated that the fundraiser and solicitation policy should be posted on our website. Jones stated that we have a legal problem (civil suit). A hearing is set for 1/17/18. A vendor is claiming that we did not pay them in full. Jones stated we paid them, but will not pay for work not approved. She is confident that she will be successful in court.
Jones stated that 175 delinquent accounts were turned over to Sunrise on 12/4/17. She also stated she sent out a severance letter to our current attorney on 11/1/17. The letter gave our current attorney a deadline of 12/3/17 for our delinquent collections. Jones stated that Sunrise has 4 settlement offers, so it is “starting to work out”. Currently Nicole, Nicky and Mike are being trained to handle in-house collections. Jones described an amnesty program which will be offered to delinquent homeowners. It is a onetime offer that will reduce fees and interest on their account if they pay it in full. Jones went on to thank Daryl Gamble for turning around the Community Center. She stated that “no one can match his vision”. She also heard that karaoke night was a blast. She further stated that the atmosphere at the Community Center has changed and no one deserves more praise that Daryl. She stated “It wouldn’t be the same without him”.
Jones stated that the annual road maintenance is completed with $48K remaining in the budget. That money will be used to keep up our roads on pot holes and cracks.
Jones gave kudos to Caldwell on the pressure she put on Mario Scavello and the township. They supplied materials for the roads in Blueberry Estates where 11 members live. She stated that 6 1/2 tons of material was given to us and that our maintenance team did a great job of applying it to the roadways. Caldwell interjected and stated that our maintenance staff did an amazing job. She also stated that she told Scavello that he is up for election soon and that she has no problem going to the Pocono Record. She than commended his aggressiveness and stated that thank you letters will be going out to all parties that were involved.
At this point Jones continued with her manager’s report, stating that she wanted Rules and Regulation to team up with the Fishing Club to revise the rules for ice fishing. She went on to state that we have a beaver problem and that they are tearing down trees. 8 trees were down on Main Beach. She stated she was learning about beavers and how they break ice and tear down trees. She stated she knows of no way of stopping them without killing them. They may die. Nobody minds killing spiders, but it is harder to kill a beaver. She spoke to the Gaming Commission and they recommended setting leg hold traps that would clamp down on the beaver. She rejected that idea since we have children that play at our lakes. Currently Maintenance is wrapping our larger trees. Aluminum sheets will be used on the smaller trees. Jones stated that the code enforcement stats will be posted on the web and in the newsletter. Jones ended with wishing everyone happy holidays and that she hopes we celebrate them with love.
Director’s comments started with Dave Borsos. His wished all a happy holiday and stated that they have long meetings to make these open meetings run smoothly. Jake Bower wished everyone the same. He stated he is getting more involved with the community, and he has a positive attitude, and that they have a lot of things to correct. Bower stated we are going against ourselves when we post negative things. He believes the Community Center is unbelievable and that they are going to keep the ball rolling. He also stated that there are precious pictures of the children from the tree decorating function to be posted.
Bob Leon reminded everyone of the New Year’s Eve Party and wished everyone a happy holiday. Al Leslie reiterated the earlier kudos to Caldwell with the action on Blueberry Estates. He wished everyone a safe and happy holiday and stated that bingo will go on tonight even though it is snowing. The jackpot was up to $580. Gilda Spiotta wished everyone a happy holiday and stated that it is the time of year when her students are off the wall. She reminded all to remember the beautiful things and to try to work things out. She also stated that if you have a suggestion, she is interested in your input, and she thanked everyone for their contributions.
Earl Franks started the committee reports for Finance and Planning. He stated that the October issue was resolved and proposed going from accrual to a cash system. He stated there will be a new accounting recording system. He asked, since our attorney terminated all services, who is doing our legal work now? At this point Caldwell interjected that our current attorney was very unprofessional. Franks stated that as to the bar and grill, we are getting into next year’s funds. The board should determine an acceptable cost. Frank took exception to the numbers in the treasurer’s report and stated that we are $51k below in collections and $15k under in dues. He then wished everyone a happy holiday.
Loretta Schneider reported for the Real Estate Committee. In November they developed their objectives and goals. She stated that there was an educational component to their objectives and goals and that the landlords should be involved in the TOPs system. They are currently reviewing and implementing a long term rental policy. Schneider further stated that she is a landlord and lives far away so she will not be able to make all the open meetings. Susan Bower will represent her when she cannot attend.
Louise Leon thanked the board again for the Adult Water Aerobics (AWA) hours. At this point, Caldwell offered kudos to the AWA for their patience. There were ups and downs and ups and downs. Caldwell stated she recognized the value, and that a former board member who was against this group stated that he was joining. Caldwell commends the value AWA brings to the Association. Leon stated that they will offer a prize to every new member. She would not say what that prize would be, but she will pass on Caldwell’s comments to the group.
Under old business, with Button Oil, Caldwell stated that she forwarded a text message to Mr. Jones at Preferred Management that stated that the Button verification needed to be signed. Mr. Jones said that he sent it but did not get a confirmation that it was received. He stated he would re-send and Caldwell told him that she also wanted it sent to her.
The current Point of Sale (POS) system has no tech support. The board researched several systems and selected a Clover system. The Board talked to Wells Fargo and PNC to see that it was compatible and how it could be used. Caldwell stated that it was an easy touch screen system and will be located at the front desk, the bar, and the kitchen. The system has a good reporting function, and this was a good turning point for us to get back on track. A resolution was proposed to accept the Clover POS System. Discussion from Borsos was that this system is used by other places like us and small businesses. Bower stated that he cannot vote and recused himself since he works for Wells Fargo. He stated that the Clover system has a button that can be hit if there is a problem and that we will receive a call back in three minutes. He stated that this system is used across the world and the updates are downloaded overnight. The system is usable from a laptop and changes can be made easily. Leon stated that he researched the old and new system on-line. For the old system there is a charge to reach out to them for support. Clover has YouTube videos for instructional purposes. He also stated that there were hand-held devices that could help with bingo. He cited an incident that happened the night before when a member was sitting at the bar while his family swam in the pool. After the swimming they sat down for dinner and were issued two bills. The current system could not combine the two bills. Leon favored PNC over Wells Fargo since PNC will give a discount on credit cards.
Leslie stated that the system was a lot easier and that he favored PNC. Spiotta stated that she had done research, and that they had accurate reporting. The system will give us what we need and she chooses PNC.
The motion passed with all directors in favor of the system and using PNC. (Director Bower recused himself from voting.)
After voting Leon stated that the resolution did not say we were leasing the system. The board reread the motion with the correct language and the board held another vote with the same count as mentioned above.
Under new business, Caldwell stated that what transpired this week meant new counsel was needed. 18 RFPs were sent out to legal firms and on December 1st the board interviewed Young and Haros in Stroudsburg. Motion was passed unanimously.
A collection amnesty program resolution identified 175 delinquent accounts. Any delinquent account between $9,999 and $1,000 will be eligible for a one time reduction of fees and interest if they pay their account in full. Anyone less than 1 year in arrears is not eligible. Leon stated that it was wrong and in conflict with something. He questioned about the delinquent accounts under $1K and was told they are still paying. Spiotta made motion to accept resolution. Leslie seconded and resolution passed unanimously.
Under public comments John Palmisano stated no one should be allowed to use roads if they don’t pay their dues. Jones stated that yes there is no free ingress or egress.
Joe Olall gave kudos to the board for their due diligence for selecting a professional HOA attorney.
Louise Leon wished everyone a happy holiday and profusely thanked the board again for the AWA hours.
Ange Noonan stated that she loves being here and that the changes are amazing. Food is delicious and that we are probably better off without our old attorney. She wants a yoga class with a professional instructor where members can pay dues. Jones instructed her to see her after the meeting. Also she requested a dog run but was told that the funds were not available at this time. Maybe in the future. Jones stated that if Noonan heads it up and gets donations she would fully support it. Noonan asked why it took so long to post the minutes so that people will get the “real message”. Caldwell stated that they are looking into live streaming so that there are no discrepancies. The live streaming will only be available to members and that when minutes get approved the stream will come down.
Loretta Schneider asked if the board would consider conference calling so that members can participate. Caldwell stated they are investigating that with Verizon. Caldwell stated that it is an interactive live media.
Buz Whelan stated that he once again will to be “the skunk at the picnic”, but he said that he didn’t think that the attorney resigned over social media. He stated that these open meetings are public forums and are subject to public scrutiny. He further pointed out that the resolution to turn over all delinquencies from $3, 000 to $9,999 to Sunrise Collection and have delinquencies below $3,000 handled in-house was made at the open meeting on September 29th. The ethical, businesslike and courteous thing would have been to notify Mr. Hludzik of this sweeping change in the relationship immediately, no later than the next business day. It was this attempt to keep the change secret that caused the attorney’s resignation. Caldwell interjected that she has it here in black and white and that she was not quoted properly or that things were left out. She further stated that Hoffman, who was our attorney for a while said that no board or director should comment on unofficial media. She wants to vomit. She withholds her comments on the advice of counsel and does not post on underground media. She has a fiduciary responsibility. Whelan responded that she mischaracterized Hoffman’s advice, and that he was at the meeting. Hoffman answered Bob Lauri’s question by saying directors could post if they wanted to.
Kathy Whelan asked what the date was on the letter sent by our attorney when he resigned from the Association. Caldwell stated that she will not answer that question. She stated we had other collection matters with George and they were forced to hire for other things. [sic}
Leslie makes motion to end meeting.
*Please note, for the second consecutive month, there was no welcoming of new members.
by Kathy Leslie-Whelan
The meeting was called to order at 9:33 am, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Diane Caldwell, President, immediately called for a motion to approve the September meeting minutes and stated that the board package was just sent out the night before. Caldwell asked if everyone had read the package and they all said yes. Director Leon had one correction which was to correct the spelling of Bill Henry’s name. The board approved unanimously September’s minutes with the one correction. Caldwell proceeded to read a statement where she reiterated her comments that the meeting would be held in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order and cautioned the membership that inappropriate language would not be tolerated. As Secretary, Gilda Spiotta was taking minutes and the membership was not allowed to comment on the meeting until public comments and that 2 minutes will be allotted to each member in good standing. Caldwell stated that liaisons to committees will bring any recommendations to the board but that the board members don’t have to agree with the recommendation.
Caldwell stated she wanted to give insight into what the board was working on and rate it in the form of a report card.
- Daily Cash and Receipt Policy – will be uploaded on official website.
- Reduction of Accounts Receivable Policy – there will no longer be automatic withdrawals from ELA accounts. Only computerized checks will be generated and signed by board. A new form was developed for requesting checks to be cut.
- Debit and Credit Sign-In Sheet Policy – new GL accounts will be created.
- ELA Collection Policy – a contract was signed with Sunrise for delinquent accounts that range from $3K to $10K.
- Administration Policy – internal but needed policy.
- Record Retention Schedule – will be posted on official web site
Caldwell stated that the board members are an amazing group of people and she stated that Jake Bower is looking into a new POS system for the Community Center (CC). The current system is garbage and we are not going forward with the current system. Caldwell stated that the allocations were not correct for years. Bower is looking into a Clover System. It is the most feasible and not that expensive. Caldwell stated that Stefania Johnson has uncovered items in the budget that are incorrect and that Bob Leon has great ideas with the lakes for a fountain process that aerates the lakes and a solar cover for the outside pool. Dave Borsos is a numbers man and technical man and always asks the right questions. Al Leslie has over 10 years of experience and Caldwell stated that she appreciates his experience and patience. Gilda Spiotta is precise and gives of herself. She is like Sherlock Homes where she drives around the community and identifies signs that should not be up. Spiotta also picks up trash.
Caldwell further stated that the board is trying to bring changes to the Association and turn things around. She further stated that Laura Jones from Preferred Management has educated the board and she commends her. Caldwell further stated that there will be more policy changes to come.
Caldwell ended her message by stating that she loves social media but there is too much negativity. The membership should be looking at the official not the unofficial web site to get their information. In addition, the board is looking into live streaming their meetings so that information will not get reported incorrectly. (Reporters Note: My report comes from my hand written notes. If I report incorrectly, I welcome anyone to make corrections where they deem they are needed.)
Stefania Johnson started the Treasurer’s report stating that she hoped to see all at the Halloween party later that evening.
(Money is reported on as Fiscal Year to Date)
Reserves $407,000 – Last Year $385,000
New Capital $176,600 – Last Year $52,400
Dues $794,087 – Last Year $798,004
Attorney collections $111,000 – Last Year $158,600
Administration $45.1 [sic] over budget
Public Safety $4.4 [sic] under budget
Maintenance $8.5 [sic] over budget
Community Center $9.3 [sic] over budget
(Bar and Grill $12,400 over budget, but there is an allocation problem)
Budget cost for Bar and Grill is $24K /yr so monthly budget is $2K. Over by $774.
Caldwell then stated that she forgot to mention Daryl Gamble during her president’s message. Gamble has been overseeing staff at the CC, decorated the CC for Halloween and has identified problems in the CC. He is a hard worker.
Since Laura Jones was out on a medical leave, Caldwell read the Manager’s report. As to newly paved roads, problems have been identified with shoulder work so they are holding Contractor’s payment until corrected. The treatment of the Cabomba on Mountain Top Lake has been considered successful. The contractor is going to apply for another grant so the Cabomba can be kept under control. On 11/15 all boats must be removed from boat racks. On 11/16 fines will be issued and the boats will be disposed of at the owners’ expense. A new health insurance package for staff was presented to the board. The most cost effective policy that benefits the staff most is Geisinger Gold. The Association will save $58,146 and the policy will go into effect on 12/1. Jones is looking into items where the Association should have been tax exempt (electric, etc.) and is working on getting a reimbursement on these payments. Jones feels that we should be reimbursed $10K. The Pine Tree walkway was temporarily repaired. We may need an Engineer’s report on this area. A small game of chance license has been applied for. This will expand the bingo operation and bring in more foot traffic. Currently Jones is looking at the TOP’s program under Preferred Management. We were billed at an amount well over what we were supposed to be paying. Bower is currently researching whether we can tap into TOPs software by having credit reporting done on delinquent home owners and identifying their delinquency on their credit reports. Bower interjected that this should be another deterrent for not being delinquent. He stated that he will keep us informed on his research.
Caldwell continued with the Manager’s report stating cover letters will go out with the May 1st dues letter. Quarterly payments are not working out since it hurts our cash flow. Jones is currently working on a six-month plan where a percentage will be added onto the member’s dues that opt to pay in installments. The member will have to sign a form agreeing to pay this additional percentage, and she anticipates that the plan will be ready by May 1st. Treasurer Johnson interjected that we have an issue at the back end of our fiscal year, so this plan can only help us and that we are only hurting ourselves. There is also a possibility that this plan may produce more delinquent home owners. Caldwell stated that the last time we had a dues increase was 6 years ago and that she personally had to take out a home equity loan for $17K to stay here.
During director comments, Jake Bower stated that Daryl Gamble is digging into things at the CC so his hair is thinning. He is digging as deeply as possible to save money. Bower stated that communication is key and that the lack of it can cause groups to fail. He stated that the Events Committee needs help especially in events for the kids. He reiterated from a previous meeting that we are looking for volunteers to help out. Bob Leon stated that last night while at the bar he and his wife ordered dessert which was delicious but that when he asked for his check it did not include that item. The POS system is not working correctly. Dave Borsos stated that when he was running for the board he did research on what other communities in the area pay in dues. He wanted to share his results. They are as follows:
Arrowhead Lake – $1,870
Pocono Farms – $1,350
Locust Lakes – $1,282
Pocono Country Place (A) – $1,400
Stillwater – $840 (in addition this community has sewage fees)
Towamensing Trails – $458
Indian Mountain Lakes – $875
Al Leslie stated that as the old man in the group (28-29 years in ELA) once we were the community with the highest dues and we were considered the premier community.. He stated that the board is doing a great job. Stefania Johnson stated that she did not have much more to add, but that Charlotte on Finance and Planning did research on what other community dues were and that we were probably one of the lowest with all of our amenities. She stated that the board is doing great things and they are going in the right direction. She stated that there is a lot of work to do and it will probably take 2 or 3 years to see change, but change is coming. Gilda Spiotta stated that she agrees with everyone and that they are doing a lot together. Management issues are being put in place and they will continue to move forward. She further stated that the association must keep up with the new and continue to evolve.
Daryl Gamble thanked all for the praise and stated that the biggest problem was the breach between the office, board and community, and that collectively we can do something about it. The CC can be a lot more than it is. Things can get worse before they get better. He implored all to get the word out that we would like more people gathering at the CC, and he encouraged people to start clubs such as card playing. Groups can meet at the CC for their various clubs and have fun. If anyone wants to start a club he stated that they could create flyer for them to attract others that may be interested. He stated that we are not going change in a week what was a problem for years.
Next on the agenda was Committee Reports. Louise Leon stated as the representative for the Adult Water Aerobics Club that she was thankful for the morning hours, and the group consisted of 11 members. She further stated that the water temperature was not being maintained, and it needs constant monitoring. She recommended that we add a thermometer.
Dan Glasgow, representing the Events Committee, stated that he thought Daryl’s forehead was getting bigger vs. him losing his hair. He stated that there was a children’s Halloween party that afternoon and an adult party that night. Not all decorations were out since some are not appropriate for children. Glasgow stated that the form that the Events Committee must complete is a learning process and he appreciates the huge cornucopia of knowledge that Laura Jones has bought to the community and he commends her. His committee is trying to get a system in place but they have very few members and he is looking for help. The committee meets on the first Saturday of every month at 4:00PM.
Earl Frank of Finance and Planning made the recommendation for them to look at the receipts for people using the bar and grill. He stated that at this time there is nothing to report on the collections from Sunrise. Frank stated that in the first 6 months there was more going into checking than was going out. Frank further stated that Bill Henry’s research from 2009 to now shows that in 2011 overhead was $625K vs. this year at $900K. Frank asked why workshops were closed. Caldwell responded that they were closed so that the board can talk freely without interruption, and the majority of them wanted it closed. Frank again asked the board to approve them to review the bar and grill receipts. Johnson made the motion. Leslie seconded it and it passed unanimously.
Jake Bower reported for the Real Estate committee. He stated that a new chair was in place. The landlords’ meeting was a success, and they are looking at different policies and procedures for fireworks. They are also looking at what happens when a landlord is delinquent but tenant is up to date, and they are also looking at other procedures to see if we are following through if someone is not following the set rules. ELA’s total Real Estate income for last year was $108K (January to August. This year it is $97K + (January to August).
Dave Borsos reported for Rules and Regulations. This committee had two requests from the board. First request was that the board give them goals and objectives for the year. Second request was for a co-liaison to back up the liaison should they not be able to attend. Caldwell stated that if a liaison could not attend it was up to the committee chair to report to the board the outcome of the meeting. There were too many guests (board members) invading meetings and the committee members felt they were being watched, so the board decided not to assign co-liaisons.
Under old business, Caldwell discussed the update on Button Oil. Button’s attorney was given a deadline of 9/22 to respond to law suit but they missed deadline. We are currently looking to obtain all correspondence on this issue. Button proposed a tentative settlement but it was not accepted by board. Caldwell stated that our attorney dragged his feet so we are in a waiting game situation.
Under new business there was a resolution on a Clover POS System Project. Caldwell showed a picture of what the new system would look like. She stated it was a simple system that would cost $238/month as a lease, and in 3 years we would own the system. This POS system was for the bar and grill only. Jake Bowers stated that there are applications offered with this system and that this is one of the top systems out there. He is looking to obtain a quote from PNC on this system and that the system could be integrated with our TOPS system. Gilda Spiotta stated that she was uncomfortable with owning a system in three years. She questioned what support we would have at that point. She stated that we have to evolve with the system. Stefania Johnson stated that the system needs to not be complex and that we need to get support. She wants to review other systems and does not want to rush to judgment. Bob Leon stated that instead of waiting for the next meeting, the board should pass the resolution with a $ amount associated with it. There will be no board meeting in November due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Next scheduled open meeting is December 9th. This resolution was postponed and not voted on.
There were no new members to welcome to the community this month.
Pat Galderisi would like updates on the TOPS system. She then proceeded to praise Laura Jones and made the statement that she has been on the executive search committee to recommend a new general manager and the board has never accepted their recommendations. She further stated that comparing other community dues with our dues is like comparing apples and screwdrivers. As a history of ELA, we were left in a hole and never recovered from the builder. There are people in Classic’s pocket and we are never going to recover. People are fraudulent, and it will come out.
Joe Olall wanted to know what was the on current contract for our POS system. Caldwell stated that she has not seen that contract with Microworks, but it is up on January 1st. She stated that the company does not want to do anything for us and does not return calls. Caldwell stated that they do training, and that is all they are obliged to do. The company will not do anything for us now since their current contact with us is expiring. Olall stated that we should learn from our experience with this current vendor. Olall asked why our auditor didn’t pick up on the misallocation of money. Caldwell stated that he could not make heads or tails of it. Garbage in…garbage out. Olall also warned the board to be very careful about not offering quarterly payments on dues since it may be part of a resolution that was passed by the membership when the dues went up last.
Flo Mauri recommended that the board have a town hall meeting. Marketing of all the board’s accomplishments was important. She stated that Laura is doing a great job but there was a disconnect. The Association has been around for years and a negative message is being sent when you close the workshop meetings. She stated you should have nothing to hide and should be as transparent as possible. You need to tell membership more than once for it to sink in. (In advertising they say it takes 7 times before it sinks in.)
Earl Frank stated that the written policies are good. He wanted clarification that all checks generated required two signatures with the exception of payroll that only required one signature. He wanted assurance that all checks being signed were verified and that the signee looked at the bill and purchase order associated with check. He also asked if time cards were checked against checks being cut. Caldwell assured him that she does this personally for all checks going out and randomly checks time card against payroll.
Buz Whelan stated that if a dues increase is going to be requested a special meeting should be scheduled. He further stated that the board is handing a sword to members who will object to a dues increase in four areas. The first is canceling quarterly payments. Regardless of whether they are a part of the resolution, the membership was told if they granted the increase they would have quarterly payments. Canceling them will be viewed as a breach of faith, and objectors will use this to deny another increase. The one subject/two minute rule can be viewed as contempt for members’ suggestions, whatever the intent. Closing workshops creates the feeling that decisions are reached in private and only acted out at open meetings. There’s a lack of transparency. Whelan said he was pleased that Caldwell did not cut off the membership who went over the two minute timeline for comments at this meeting. He felt that if a member had something important to say, they should be afforded that time. Whelan stated that the grill is losing over $4K a month and that the treasurer’s report, while accurate, was misleading. While the combined cost of operation for the bar and grill was averaging about $2K/month, that was only because the bar profits were propping up the grill. The grill is actually on track to lose over $48K this year. At this point Treasurer Johnson stated that her report was not misleading. There was a $33K cost to the bar and grill with $40K in income which is a $9K profit. Cost for grill is at $2277 and profit of $12,300 for bar. The bar and grill is budgeted at $87K for year. Caldwell chimed in with that the Bar and Grill was only 4% of total budget. She stated that Bob Lauri did a breakdown of actual costs and that Earl and Bob had great discrepancies in their numbers.
Dan Glasgow stated that it is important to keep information accurate on the bar and grill. He questioned that if the grill was closed how will traffic be at the bar. He stated that the board should keep in mind that we all have cell phones where new and improved versions come out. We should keep that in mind for the new POS system. Open or closed meetings, majority have closed sessions.
Carmen Broadnax was glad to see that the board was focusing on the Association as opposed to personalities. She sees a light at the end of the tunnel. She questioned whether board members can vote at committee meetings and was told no. Broadnax stated that so many things have deteriorated with committees.
Igor Palka stated that you will not get an accurate reading of the number of people by counting receipts. You do not know how many people were on a receipt. Palka stated that he had trouble stopping on the tar and chipped road on his motorcycle. He felt it was unsafe and that the Association could face a lawsuit. Palka also wanted to know if the toilet at the outside pool would reopen next season. He was told that it depended on our finances. Palka questioned why Preferred Management’s insurance company didn’t cover the expense for the shoddy work done on the last big snow storm. Johnson stated that we could not blame them since it was our problem that we did not have enough equipment in good working order.
Heidi stated the bar and grill is an amenity that she enjoys and appreciates. It is part of what we are paying for and part of the reason she bought here. When she gets to the community on a Friday night she enjoys that she can get a bite to eat at the CC. At this point in time Diane Caldwell made the statement that she will close the compactor before she closed the bar and grill. (Reporter’s note – Caldwell stated at the open meeting in September that she did not use the compactor. See my report dated 9/30/17 on this blog.) Heidi went on to say she loves the lakes. She further stated that if there is a problem with quarterly payments the board should offer an incentive for payment in full.
Ang Newman stated that she is new here and that her head is spinning. She feels the grill is amazing and is happy to be here. She also stated that more people should come out to the board meetings.
Johnson stated that Laura Jones has done research and that we can do Sip and Paint in the CC. Flo Mauri stated that Jones should do research on Dave Wengert’s Classic Quality Homes and how he is operating in this community. Pat Galderisi stated that William Owens our auditor was wrong when he stated at the annual meeting that overpayment of membership dues if refunded would go to members that didn’t pay their dues.
The final comment from Bill Henry was that he has copies of the Emerald News from years ago…what comes around, goes around.