Emerald Lakes Special Board of Directors Meeting, March 10, 2018

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.

Public Comments
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.


Emerald Lakes Board of Director’s Open Meeting, February 24, 2018


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)

Budget numbers

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

Public Comments

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.

UPDATE: Preliminary Budget Meeting – February 19, 2018


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.


Preliminary Budget Meeting – February 17, 2018


By Kathy Leslie-WhelanClassroom_4_tnb[1]

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.

Emerald Lakes Board of Director’s Open Meeting, January 27, 2018


by Kathy Leslie-Whelan

The meeting was called to order at 9:33 am. Six board members were present.  Vice President Al Leslie was absent. Following the pledge of allegiance, a moment of silence was held for Mike Gruber, who passed away suddenly on January 5th.  Mike was the accountant for Emerald Lakes for the past 24 years.  He will truly be missed.

Caldwell immediately called for a motion to approve the December minutes. Bob Leon made the motion and Dave Borsos seconded it.  The minutes were accepted unanimously with one abstention.

Caldwell began her President’s message stating that life is short and we should appreciate what we have.  She stated that Mike Gruber was fully dressed and ready for work on the morning that he died.  He was on the treadmill and was only 59 years old.  She stated that the Emerald Lakes newsletter had a full page dedicated to Mike Gruber and she complimented Darryl Gamble for the fine job of preparing the piece.

Caldwell wished good health, happiness and prosperity to everyone.  She stated as we ring in 2018, every year people make resolutions to make life changes and that ELA was on a path to change.  The board and management have done a lot to make changes.  There are things in the works so stay tuned.  She thinks we will all appreciate these changes.

Stefania Johnson announced that there would be no Treasurer’s report due to the sudden passing of Mike Gruber.  Office staff is trying to get a financial report together and it should be available over the next couple of weeks.  Johnson said that she will have a report for the February meeting.  Johnson further stated that they have a preliminary budget process in the works.

In the Manager’s Report, Laura Jones stated that she was deeply impacted by the death of Mike Gruber and that she had attended 2 funerals in one week.  She wished everyone a Happy New Year and said that we should all hug our family more and appreciate sunrises.

Jones stated that The ELA official Facebook page keeps getting hacked so it is down a lot, there will be a link to this site on the ELA website page.

Currently a preliminary budget is being prepared and it will go to Finance and Planning (F&P) after the board has seen it.  Jones plans on having forums on the budget and would like F&P to be present.  She is looking to schedule something for a Friday night and a Saturday morning.  She anticipates the budget will be ready for approval of the board at the February open meeting.  Her deadline for mailing to the membership is March 30th.  She is preparing the get the process ready in case she gets on a treadmill [sic].  The board will get the budget first, F&P second and the membership third.  Jones further stated that we needed to tighten up collection on delinquent accounts. Jones also stated that our application for small games of chance license was turned down.  She is waiting for a letter which identifies why we were turned down and will try to rectify the issue.

Jones spoke about a company that took us to court for $400 for the dam inspections.  A hearing was set for January 17th but due to the snow she was unable to make the court date.  She requested a postponement but was denied.  The court gave the company suing us a summary judgment, but her intent is to appeal that judgment.  Jones spoke next about a Reserve report that she sent back to the engineering firm.  She stated that it would go to F&P after the board reviewed it but we should be prepared for a bad report.  Right now we should have $940,000 in reserves.

Jones is currently waiting for an answer from our insurance company regarding the indoor pool.  Our current system had an ice jam and the air exchange shut off.  Jones and Darryl Gamble made an inspection of the pool and it was raining from the ceiling and it was so foggy that you could not see from one side of the pool to the other.  When the ice chunk fell off, unfortunately it shattered an H coil.  This coil is a custom made piece that costs $4,600 and has a 6 to 8 week lead time.  All the financial paperwork is with the insurance company and she hopes to be able to order the coil this week.  This may be an extensive repair.

Jones stated that the new Clover system (Point of Sale) is up and running. We had a little glitch with our internet speed.  She is hopeful that since we changed the speed the system will now work.

Jones thanked Gamble and the maintenance staff for clearing the roads during the snow events.  Some of our maintenance staff worked on Christmas Eve and Christmas and worked 25 hours to clear our roads.

At this point Caldwell interjected that she neglected to make her standard statement at the beginning of the meeting and proceeded to make it at this time. Caldwell stated the meeting would be held in accordance with Roberts Rules of Order and cautioned the membership that inappropriate language would not be tolerated.  As Secretary, Gilda Spiotta was taking minutes and the membership was not allowed to comment on the meeting until public comments and that 2 minutes will be allotted to each member in good standing. Caldwell stated that there would be an executive session at the end of the open meeting.

Director’s comments started with Dave Borsos.  He stated that everyone in this room and in the country has the right to free speech.  The downfall is that sometimes things can be misinterpreted.  The best thing for people to do is to ask questions.  He also stated that whatever we write or post has a consequence and that we could be sued for slander or liable.  Borsos went on to say that although you have a right to free speech, you do not have a right to an audience.  In conclusion, he thanked everyone for their patience and kindness for listening to him.

Jake Bower stated that he sees a lot of folks participating in functions at the Community Center (CC) and are also volunteering to help.  He extended kudos to Darryl Gamble and the staff at the CC.  The last two events were rocking.  Over 100 people attended the New Year’s Eve party.  Bower also stated that there was cross training happening and that was a good thing.

Bob Leon reported that the first night the Clover system was in effect he noticed that his drink was $1 cheaper.  He also said that a glass of wine is also $.70 cheaper.  Stefania Johnson stated that she is not surprised with the Reserve study.  The Association is running on bare minimum and we are at a critical point in this Association.  If our membership wants to enjoy their amenities, changes have to be made.  Some folks worry about their property values and she wants to make sure our wants and needs are met. Gilda Spiotta agreed with Johnson and reiterated we are at a critical stage with finances.  The good news is that people care.  We have defined roles and there is a lot of passion and care for our homes values and each other.  We need to rebuild and reconstruct ELA.

Diane Caldwell spoke about needs and wants.  She bought up an example of her son wanting a new Subaru.  Did he actually need a new car?  She went on to talk about committees that recommend what they want and not necessarily what they need.  Instead of telling the board what you want, you should roll up your sleeves and make it happen.  An example was the front entrance repairs and lake maintenance.  Caldwell stated we are in a critical financial state.  The board is doing their fiduciary responsibility.  Caldwell stated don’t tell me what you want, tell me what you are going to do.  You sit on a committee to help, so roll up your sleeves and start working on things.  Board liaisons will have to put message out to the committees.  Any committees that are not supportive of the board will be addressed by the board.

Earl Frank started the committee reports for Finance and Planning F&P).  He stated that there was no committee meeting since they had no financials to work with but he had a few questions.  He asked about collections from collection agency and former attorney.  Jones stated that she did not have those figures with her.  Franks asked if F&P would get a copy of the budget before the next meeting and was told yes.  Franks’ final question was regarding the cost of our new counsel vs. our former attorney.  Jones stated that although he is more expensive, things are moving more expediently.

No other committee chairs were present so the board liaisons spoke on their behalves.  Borsos stated that Rules and Regulations has not met.  One meeting was cancelled due to snow and there was no quorum for the other meetings.  They only had one meeting since September. Bowers stated that the Real Estate committee is currently revising the short term rental policy, looking at the maximum occupancy and septic system requirements as well as looking at the TOPS system and how to get forms to renters.  They are working on a revised list of items that landlords need to advise their tenants.  They are also looking at redundancies in the Rules and Regulations.  The next meeting is scheduled for March 17th.  Maintenance Committee liaison Bob Leon spoke about the Shuey’s walking the community and how they report back on items that are needed such as signs down and ditches overflowing.  Johnson spoke of the Events Committee and complimented Darryl Gamble and his staff for the assistance they have been giving the committee.  They are down to only a few members and are looking for more volunteers to help out.  She requested that everyone reach out to our neighbors and friends for help.  Johnson also stated that the welcome to the neighborhood and the volunteer lunch are going to be combined since very few people showed up for the last welcoming function.  Spiotta shared what she observed at the committee meetings.  She stated that the volunteers are caring people and are willing to give of their time.  She further stated that it has been great working with Darryl on the social activities.  She stated that sometimes we get negative statements, but hopefully  they are misconstrued.

Under old business with Button Oil, Caldwell stated that since we are currently in the middle of legal action there was very little that she could say.  She did state that our new attorney has been in touch with our old attorney for his progress status and that depositions are soon to be scheduled for herself, Al Leslie, Brad Jones, Judy Kennedy and a few of the membership.

Under new business there were four resolutions on the agenda.  Two were tabled.  (Resolution 2-12718 – Rental Policies, Short and Long Term and Resolution 4-121818 – Standard Operating Procedures all Departments.)

Resolution 1-12718 – Fundraiser Policy.  Bowers made motion which was seconded by Spiotta. This resolution will ensure a consistent policy and practice and sets of rules for fundraising activities for both internal and external purposes.  Internal fundraisers are those that benefit ELA while external fundraisers are for charitable organizations, such as the American Cancer Society.  There was a list of rules read by Spiotta that will be uploaded to the ELA website.  Board discussion ensued.  Boros stated that the rules are the same for both internal and external activities.  Bower stated it was good to have in writing.  We can look to do certain things in the community to help the community.  We can have fundraisers for ourselves.  Spiotta stated that it was an equitable representation to everyone. Motion passed unanimously.

Resolution 3-12718 – Walking Trail – Johnson made motion which was seconded by Bower.  This resolution was to research the feasibility of clearing and cost for an off-road walking trail.  The location of the trail would be the old campground that is located next the compactor.  The area has electrical boxes above ground that are not live but could pose a tripping hazard. Board discussion ensued.  Spiotta stated that the area is part of ELA that is not being used and it should be opened to all.  She would like to call it Cookie’s Corner since Cookie Lietwinski came up with the idea.  She stated that there was already a path but would like to see it enhanced just like the butterfly area.  Johnson stated that it is good for health and wellness and it would be a more safe place to walk.  She reminded the crowd that the resolution was for researching the idea.  Bower stated that it would only be opened during the day and maybe they could do a fundraiser.  Resolution passed unanimously.

New members were welcomed.  This is the first time since the open annual meeting.  There were 25 new home owners, 6 foreclosures and 5 sheriff sales.

Public Comments

Connie Simpson asked what happens to the single stream recyclables since they are being crushed together.  Jones stated that the material is melted down and made into composite.

Earl Frank asked if the budget was going to reflect cash based accounting.  Jones responded that it doesn’t affect the budget.

Don Atkiss gave a butterfly update.  He stated that the population of butterflies was way up throughout the northeast and that next year should be a banner year.  Flutterfly bushes will be planted and that dues for the membership for this project will not be required. ($15.00 per member).  Caldwell stated that she could not thank Don enough for this project.  The project put us on the map.  Her intent is to get the ELA newsletter out once a month prior to the monthly open meeting and asked Don to prepare an article on this project.

Cookie Lietwinski stated that the proposed walking trail would be located where the haunted forest was held and that half the plugs didn’t work.

Darren Johnson stated that he has lived in ELA for 10 years. On a personal level he is doing well with his investments and thought that F&P should look into investments.  Jones stated that was why she was holding budget forums.  Investments will be addressed at that time.  She stated that the day of reckoning is here and the membership cannot sue board members.  There is not enough money in the reserves.  Caldwell stated that “George” was good at some things and not so good at others, so they put things in place with a collection agency that can go nationwide and are more aggressive.  The board has put measures in place to bring in money.

Igor Palka stated that he leaves his house early in the morning and he is pleased with the snow removal services that have been done by maintenance.  He also stated that he does not like that the pool is closed and would like to see it fixed.  He stated that it was unacceptable that we have to wait for the insurance company to inspect and approve the work.  Jones stated that it took three weeks for the insurance company to look at the damage and that we needed to wait for pricing on the custom piece.  It will be a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks before the pool is open. Jones added that they are still circulating and maintaining the pool so that we do not get any mold in the structure. Palka stated that an email blast should go out asking for help.  You may get 5 people, which is better than none.

Kathy Whelan thanked the board for welcoming new members since it does affect our liquor license.  Jones stated that it does not.  She sends a list to the liquor control board monthly.  Whelan stated that Jones should look into it since she heard from members such as Bill Henry that there is a reason to identify these members at the open meeting.  One board member stated we are reading out the info that was requested by a member and Whelan stated that she doesn’t care what a member requested but wanted it done with what the liquor board required.  Our license is a valuable amenity to the community.

Buz Whelan stated that he has not missed a meeting since 2005 and that he has heard about needs vs. wants numerous times.  It is time for the board to look at the cost of the operation of the grill.  There are always reasons to not look at the cost such as new chef, new menu, new manager and now new Clover system.  Whelan stated that this was now a time for the board to lead by example.  We want the grill but can we afford it. .. or do we need it. Whelan challenged the board to set a time limit and an acceptable cost to run the operation.  Borsos stated that the last board did set limits but it was ignored and rolled back.  He further stated that we put a lot of money into the CC so it would be a waste of that money to close the center.  Ms.Whelan stated that no one was talking about closing the center.  The discussion is on the grill. Spiotta stated that they did not have real numbers.  Caldwell stated that we needed a history and with the new system we do not have that.  She stated she needed at least 3 to 5 months of data.  Johnson stated that she needed to go back and see what was in the budget.  Caldwell stated that every amenity’s cost (from the lakes to the roads) has to be looked at to see if it was worth running.  Caldwell further said that the trash compactor was not an amenity, but a service.  Caldwell did agree with Whelan that in 3 to 4 months they will have a better picture and will address it at that time.

Chris Claude said that roof, pool and drywall should be tested before work is done in the indoor pool area.  If the board is asking for a dues increase, the membership should know what that dollar amount is and that amount should be justified.  Claude also stated that Lake Naomi has separate fees for their membership if they want to use the amenities.  He was told that that would require a by-law change.

Reporters Note: I write these reports based on notes taken during the meeting.  I get no special consideration or cooperation from the board.  I try my best to report accurately, but occasionally mistakes will be made.  I invite correction and have no desire to intentionally mischaracterize any comments or actions.



Michael Gruber, Colleague and Friend


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.

Emerald Lakes Board of Director’s Open Meeting, December 9, 2017


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.


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 Board of Director’s Open Meeting, October 28, 2017


by Kathy Leslie-WhelanClassroom_4_tnb[1]

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.

  1. Daily Cash and Receipt Policy – will be uploaded on official website.
  2. 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.
  3. Debit and Credit Sign-In Sheet Policy – new GL accounts will be created.
  4. ELA Collection Policy – a contract was signed with Sunrise for delinquent accounts that range from $3K to $10K.
  5. Administration Policy – internal but needed policy.
  6. 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

Budget numbers

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.


Public Comments

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.

Emerald Lakes Board of Director’s Open Meeting, September 30, 2017


by Kathy Leslie-Whelan

The meeting was called to order at 9:30 am, followed by the pledge of allegiance.

Opening comments were made by Diane Caldwell, President.  Caldwell pretty much reiterated her message which was printed in the October newsletter.  She commented on the weather and stated that her comments will be short and sweet.  She stated that the season is changing and so is the board. She welcomed old and familiar faces and two new board members, Jake Bower and Dave Borsos.  She stated that there will be major changes.  Caldwell stated that as a board they “are not into titles; it is what we do. Some people will agree and some will not.”  Caldwell further stated that Laura Jones is fine tuning the administration office and if someone wants to see the financials they can view them.  They must first set up an appointment with Ms. Jones and sign a Right to Know Request form.  Caldwell then proceeded to say that the administration building was designed for the safety of the employees with the new walls and locks.  Caldwell stated that the redesign was due to a former employee entering the facility with a gun.

Caldwell stated that the board had a lot to do this year and it will be a struggle due to the financial issues of the association.  As stated in her comments at the August open meeting, Caldwell advised the membership that the meeting would be held in accordance with Roberts Rules of Order and cautioned the membership that inappropriate language would not be tolerated.  Gilda Spiotta was taking minutes and the membership was not allowed to comment on anything until the end of the meeting. Caldwell also stated that after meeting the new board would be going into a closed executive session.

Caldwell further stated that each board member would be a liaison to the committees and bring back recommendations to the board.  The new liaisons are as follows:

Rules and Regulations – Dave Borsos

Real Estate – Jake Bower and Diane Caldwell as co-liaisons

Maintenance – Bob Leon

Appeals – Al Leslie

Finance and Planning – Stefania Johnson

Events – Stefania Johnson

Communications  – Gilda Spiotta

The floor was handed over to Stefania Johnson for the Treasurer’s Report.

Cash on Hand  $341,800  – Last Year $461,500

Reserves $405,500 – Last Year $294,600

New Capital $166,600 – Last Year $39,400

Dues $768,200 – Last Year $759,700

Attorney collections $101,100 – Last Year $127,000 (Reporter’s note: To clarify, a records check reveals that a total of $285K was collected last year. The $127K was for the first 4 months only)

Budget numbers

Administration $5,666 over budget in August – Year to Date – $2,300 over budget

Public Safety (not sure)

Maintenance $5,900 under budget in August – Year to Date $21,400 over budget

Community Center over budget in August $3,479 – Year to Date $10,703

(Bar and Grill under budget $458 – Year to date $10,548 over budget)

Annual Budget 2 M

Public Safety – 8 1/2 %

Maintenance – 26.9%

Community Center – 11%  (Bar and Grill 4%)

At this point in time Laura Jones interjected that the Compactor is an amenity and does not make money but costs $140,000/yr.  The Community Center is here for the enjoyment of the membership and is not here to make money.  Even if we close down Center we will still have costs.  The Community Center costs $60,000/yr to run. Jones stated that we should not be calling any money that is a deficit in the bar and grill as a “loss” but as a “cost”.  Jones stated that with the turnover rate in the Community Center (4 times this year) that they have a situation with the POS system.  She is unsure of how to correct the situation at this time.   At this point in time Buz Whelan asked about the resolution that was passed by the board over 90 days ago and both Caldwell and Johnson yelled out at the same time that public comments were at the end of the meeting.

Laura Jones went into her Manager’s Report with a statement that she lives 15 miles away and still cannot figure out the weather in the Poconos.  She would still be home in her pajamas if she didn’t have to be here. She stated that the official Facebook page was operational and a link will be email blasted out.  It is for information only and no comments will be allowed.  Not only will the site advertise events in ELA but it will also contain events and happenings in the area. Jones further stated that Button Oil was served with a complaint for $48K but no court date has been scheduled.  Chip and seal work has been completed on certain roadways.  Membership were cautioned to slow down especially on a curve since you may not be able to stop on this surface when wet or you could damage the paint on your car.  The new roads paved are not completed.  The shoulders will be compacted down. Jones stated that the contractor had a vehicle stolen from their shop but will acquire a vehicle to remove some pieces of equipment that were still on ELA property.  The 2017 dam inspections were completed and are being reviewed by maintenance. Jones stated that the contract with GOE is being cancelled and we are lucky that we don’t have a five year flood.  She stated that the dams are in good condition.  Jones stated that all residents must have their boats removed from the racks by November 15th.  Any boats that are not removed will be picked up by staff and the member will be given a fine and charged a storage fee.  After February 15th boats will no longer be available if they are not picked up.  In addition, ELA will not pay to fix boats.  Jones stated the maintenance vehicles are prepped for winter and currently she, Darrel Gamble and Ron in maintenance are reviewing the snow removal routes and that people that live on cul de sacs will be plowed last.  Jones stated that everyone has an expectation to see black top but that is not going to happen because this is the Poconos.  We have a contract for salt at $77/ton.  November 1st will be our first delivery.  Jones further stated that new winter hours will go into effect on October 16th.  Jones stated that we are now set up to accept credit cards or debit cards for payments, with the exception of American Express and Discover. Anyone paying by this method will be charged a 3% fee. Jones stated that Sunrise Collection services will be handling delinquent accounts over $3,000 since they can collect out of state.  Heather resigned as Community center manager and she wishes her well.  There is a new condensed menu at the grill and a special football menu.  The Community Center has the football package offered by Direct TV.  New emails will be issued to all staff and board.  The new addresses will be emailed blasted out.


Diane Caldwell gave a shout out to Don Atkiss for Project Elmway (butterfly garden).  Don said that Linda Shuey helped and did a lot of weeding.  Caldwell planted her milkweed plants on her dad’s grave.


During director’s comments, Director Dave Borsos stated that the butterfly garden did not cost a nickel and that volunteers were needed.  He thanked everyone who voted for him and wants to work together to make this a better place to live.  Director Jake Bower also thanked everyone for their votes and stated that he sees a lot of promise.  We have financial hurdles but he sees a light at the end of the tunnel.  He further stated that ELA needs volunteers to help out.  Director Bob Leon stated that the official Face Book page for ELA shows events that compete with our own events and he doesn’t think that that is a good idea. Vice President Al Leslie welcomed new board members and Laura Jones and congratulated Chief Gamble on his promotion.  He also stated that the board was moving in the right direction.  Treasurer Stefania Johnson stated that the Community Center needed more foot traffic and the grill was not a restaurant but an amenity.  It is a good place to come out to meet your friends and neighbors. She encouraged people to join committees and help out where they can.  She is happy to have two new board members and she respects opinions and looks forward to working with them. Johnson further thanked Daryl Gamble and Laura Jones and stated that they had to address the resolution on the grill.  Secretary Gilda Spiotta also welcomed the new members to the board and stated that we are in for an exciting year.  She stated something about being helpful and that changes are coming to our beautiful, thriving community.  She extended kudos to Daryl Gamble, Laura Jones and Diane Caldwell. (Reporter’s note – I am not sure what specifically the kudos were for since no event or accomplishment was identified.)  Spiotta reiterated that this was going to be an exciting year with challenges and they will meet hurdles [sic]. She stated the board needs patience and support from the membership.  The board is part of the membership and she is not going to do anything to hurt herself.  (Reporter’s note – Since the public is not allowed to speak or ask a speaker any follow-up questions, I can only report from my notes as to what the board members said.)


Laura Jones then began to speak of the bar and grill again.  She looked at 1 week of activity from May to September.  She didn’t think that people didn’t eat and that our customers were lushes.  She believes that the POS system doesn’t accurately reflect where funds are being spent.  The POS system may need a complete start over.  She believes that the bar is being credited with receipts that should have been credited to the grill.  She wanted the resolution to close the grill revoked.  The grill is a service to the community and if in the future the numbers are not better she will ask to close grill. Stefania Johnson stated that if costs are allocated inaccurately that will still have to address the cost the association will bear.  Johnson then presented the resolution to revoke the previous passed resolution to close the grill and Spiotta seconded it. The resolution passed unanimously.   Discussions on resolution were from Jake Bower and Dave Bursos.  Bower stated that since Jones and crew dug up this information he wanted to give it another chance. Bursos stated that there is a constant debate on this issue but it seems that the cost is going down and that management is getting a handle on it.  In referencing this resolution Chief Gamble stated the Community Center operation was too detached from management.  He further stated that there should be more oversight by administration and the Community Center should be treated like every other department, i.e. maintenance, public safety.  Caldwell stated that she wants hands on training and not training over the phone on the POS system.


Only one committee report was given since no other committee met or was present to give report. Earl Frank, chair of Finance and Planning (F&P) thanked the board and everyone present for their cards and donation to Clymer Library in memory of his wife who just recently passed.  He went on to say that there were only 5 members on F&P and encouraged more to join.  Frank stated that the grand total was $130k over budget and they anticipate running out of money in March.  Laura Jones thinks it is more like February that we will be running out of money.  As to the new collection policy, no one from F&P agrees with the hiring of Sunrise.  He stated that money for paving is coming out of the reserves.  Frank stated that the Community Center cannot do any more improvements and that other projects such as the outdoor pool bath house is not feasible due to the lack of funds.  He does not know where the money will come from.  The F&P committee is trying to get a feel for what was spent and after the designated roads are paved there should be $60k left in reserves.  Frank stated that it was reported that we have a 51% collection rate with $200 going into reserves.  He believes it is more like 75% since we billed out $1.9M and collected $1.5M.  At this time both Laura Jones and Diane Caldwell stated that they were against quarterly payments. Jones took over the conversation and stated that financial statements will be available to the membership for viewing.  One must first speak to her and sign a Right to Know form.  She further stated that an individual did not show up for a scheduled meeting with her for that right to view the documents.  Jones stated that drastic cuts may be needed but closing the Community Center has costs associated with it.  The building still needs to be maintained.  She stated that 95% of membership uses the compactor and 10% use the Community Center.

Under old business, Jones stated that we are in litigation with Button Oil as a civil complaint.  Button was served with the complaint on 9/2 and a response was due back on 9/22.  At this point we have not heard back from attorney.  Caldwell interjected that the attorney did not respond to an email that she sent.  She further stated that we have more to litigate than the $38K that they owe us.  It was reported that Brad Jones stated that the attorney said that we owe Button $10K and they are willing to give us $38K which is the balance of our deposit.


Under new business

Resolution – Community hours of operation.  There seemed to be confusion as to the hours that were in front of the board.  There was so much debate so I was not able to record the hours.  This resolution passed unanimously.

Resolution – Swim at your own risk/no lifeguards.  This resolution was for all pools and lakes.  No discussion was held.  The resolution passed unanimously.

Resolution – Financial Policy was on the agenda but not discussed or acted on.


Resolution – Collection Agreement – Sunrise Collection will receive all delinquent accounts over $3,000.  Gilda Spiotta bought up resolution and Al Leslie seconded it.  It was passed unanimously before discussions.

Jones explained that office staff will be handling all delinquent accounts under $3,000. Office staff will talk directly to membership and try to get them on the track of a payment plan.  She further stated that our staff will finally be doing work that we are paying them for.  Uncollected dues between $3,000 and $10,000 which amounts to $2.7M will be turned over to Sunrise Collections.  Sunrise will add 35% to amount due and that will be their fee.  Jones stated that they have call centers all over the country.  Jones stated that we will not settle for less than 70% on accounts that delinquent over $10, 000.  If no agreement, ELA will sue. She stated that we should not bear the weight of delinquents that still owe money.  We will go after them with a hammer and make an example out of them.  We will have a more aggressive collection plan.  Jones stated you are not a neighbor or friend and this plan is purely business.  At this point in time the Directors finally started their discussions, however, the resolution was passed. Jake Bower stated that he works at a bank and Sunrise is a reputable company. Stefania Johnson stated we can’t put all our eggs in one basket and we need to spread our wings.  Johnson stated that this is more diligent and this is the strategy they need to go to [sic].  Diane Caldwell stated that in six months they anticipate collecting $706K.  She stated that we currently have no process to go out of state.  Jones than thanked Caldwell and the board for being forward thinking and shed ended the discussion with “Cha Ching”.

Resolution – Ice Fishing/Ice Skating.  Gilda Spiotta read the resolution and Al Leslie seconded it.  Ice fishing and ice skating will be at your own risk.  Warning signs will be posted.  Resolution passed by 4-3.  Discussions were as follows.  Bob Leon is opposed to ice fishing since many people that partake in this activity do not live here.  He also felt that ice skating should be limited to the small pond.  Stefania Johnson stated that we have lakes and the membership must follow the rules and regulations.  It is up to the individual to make the right decision.  Johnson stated that we have rules today which prohibit individuals that do not live here from using the lakes.  Gilda Spiotta stated she was uncomfortable with resolution.  Holes and fire can make the ice less safe.  Public Safety will have a hard time checking IDs and we should not put them at risk.  In addition, Spiotta stated that this resolution would add $5,000 to our insurance policy.  Spoitta stated that she loves the plan for Sunrise (see resolution above), but wanted to postpone resolution since money is not in bank yet. Dave Bursos stated frozen or unfrozen, membership should be able to use lakes. He is against taking rights away from membership. Jake Bower stated that he is not in favor.  He lives on Pine Tree Lake and saw that a deer fell through ice and he and his wife were unable to help the animal.  Votes were as follows:

Spiotta – No

Johnson – Yes

Leslie – Yes

Leon – No

Bower – No

Bursos – Yes

Caldwell – Yes (President breaks tie vote)


Public Comments  – Please note members were given two minutes to speak and time was kept by Laura Jones.

John Palmisano disagreed on last resolution since catch and release is not followed.  Nobody is going to stand out in cold weather to check on ice fishermen.  He also stated that permits were given out in past and that we should consider this again.

Joe Olall stated that the new collection effort seems good and that he will follow up with Treasurer Johnson on the Community Center.  Olall stated that the Community Center was only utilized by a small percentage but is 4% of budget. He stated that the compactor was a service and not an amenity.  He finally asked how the quarterly payments of dues affected payments and are payments falling behind. Laura Jones responded that we do not recover enough money to pay for the notification that are sent to the membership that opted for quarterly payments and that we may do away with this program.  Caldwell further stated that there may be an incentive for people who pay upfront.  They will be presenting this issue at the next open meeting.


Pat Galderisi asked if there were GPS on vehicles and was told no.  Next question was how do you communicate with vehicles and the response was by radio.  She made a statement that she has been living here for 32 years and that 51% compliance with paying dues makes 49% non compliant.  Total delinquent money is at $4.7M and did we write off doubtful accounts.  She stated that this must be public. Galderisi stated that moving forward financial plan should have a write off, financial plan should identify reductions and certain items are required by law.  At this point Galderisi time was up, but since she stated she had positive things to say she was given additional time.  She stated that Laura Jones should have been hired three years ago and that we would be in a better spot.  She also stated that our attorney’s advice which was done as a freebie was never on letterhead or signed.


Bill Henry stated that we used a collection agency 13 years ago, it did not go well, and that the service we have is unique.


George Hesser stated that by law we cannot stop people from selling their property.  He is seeing more and more trash cans at the end of driveways and he feels that these are people that are not paying dues.  Caldwell responded that she doesn’t use compactor and pays to dispose of her trash since she lives out of the main area.


Flo Mauri stated that she appreciates everything being done and feels a lot is being done.  She feels the board has a different take and she likes the way the board is focusing on priorities.  She stated that research was needed on the trash compactor and Community Center.


Betty Goodline reminded the membership that Saturday, October 7th was cancer awareness day.  Door will open at 12:30 where people can buy tickets to bid on the various baskets.  Bingo will start at 1:30 PM which means there will be no bingo at 7:30 as stated in the October newsletter. Between 7:00 PM and 10:00 PM, Long Time Coming will be performing in the Community Center.  Cost for tickets is $15.00 in advance or $20.00 at the door.  There will also be a bake sale and they are currently accepting donations for baked goods, baskets and money.  So far the Events committee has collected $1,550 and will be donated to the American Cancer Society.  Anyone wanting to donate money can make their checks payable to the American Cancer Society.


Earl Frank stated the Financial policy on the agenda is a board set policy and are requirements of the auditor.  Bad debts were reduced and the plan should reflect these deductions.  Frank stated that if we get a $200 dues increase it would bring in $300k/yr.


Buz Whelan stated that the collection process is shifting the burden of record keeping to ELA and there could be substantial cost to the association.  He asked what is the criteria for success.  Laura Jones stated that billing is an in-house function and it is our responsibility.  She further stated that staff will be earning their keep.  Jones stated that the collection agency has over 500 people working for them.  22 accounts will remain with our attorney who has law suits pending on delinquent accounts. $2.7M in delinquent accounts will be turned over to collection agency.  Treasurer Johnson further added that over the past 4 months our attorney has collected $127K (Reporter’s note: That is last year’s figure for first 4 months. This year it is $101K so far).  Johnson stated that she anticipates the collection agency will collect double or even more in 6 months.  Johnson further stated that she will not banter back and forth with Whelan.  Jones stated that we work for the Association and not George and he will only keep 22 accounts that are in litigation.  Jones stated that they will get figures every month from Sunrise.  Whelan spoke about the POS system and simple fixes but he was cut off by Jones since his two minutes were up.   She stated she was interested in his comments but did not allow him additional time as she did another member who was complimenting her services.


Don Atkiss thanked all for helping with the butterfly garden and thanked ELA for the signage.  Next Sunday there will be a drum circle at the site and he encouraged all to come out.  He stated that he anticipates that the garden will be better next year since more of the plants will be in full bloom. Atkiss also handed out milkweed seeds to the membership to plant now.  Seeds need to be frozen over for best results.

Linda Shuey thanked Don Atkiss for the garden and welcomed the two new board members.  She found it disturbing that the board was okay with a $60K loss at the grill but didn’t have $1,000 for the fishing club to restock.  She stated that the club would fund the restocking from their own pockets.


Carmen Broadnax had two issues.  Issue one dealt with the school buses that are speeding in the community and there should be no need for them in the community.  Chief Gamble stated that there are special needs children and they have to be allowed in to pick up these students.  Broadnax was instructed to contact the school with the bus number if she sees them speeding.  Issue two dealt with the yellow lines in the road.  She was informed that only new roads were scheduled for striping.


Darren Johnson welcomed new board members and had a question if the board checked our liability with the restriction on notice of swimming at own risk and what if someone drowns. Laura Jones stated that she checked.


Heidi Castro had three issues.  Issue one was that everyone’s life situations are different and she feels it is disgraceful that the board makes her relive her mother’s death.  Castro has dual degrees and stated “don’t ever push me away”.  There are people in ELA that are grandfathered in and don’t have to pay dues.  Jones will address at a later time with Castro.  Issue two was that Castro doesn’t agree with the resolution to have no life guards at the pools.  She stated that we could have a legal issue if someone drowned or had a heart attack.  Issue three was that ELA should give back to the kids.  She allowed them at her home over the summer since they did not feel welcomed at our facilities.


Kathy Leslie Whelan (this Reporter) informed the membership that this article should be out at the end of the week and gave the site address where it would be available.  Mr. Whelan stated that he knows how hard I work on this story.  Secretary Spiotta made the statement that yes it is just a “story”.  Reader may take that comment for what it is worth. In addition, Laura Jones stated that she will not respond to the unofficial web page.

Emerald Lakes Annual Meeting, August 19, 2017


by Kathy Leslie-Whelan

The meeting was called to order at 11:15 am, followed by the pledge of allegiance and board introductions.

Opening comments were made by Diane Caldwell, President.  Caldwell read from Roberts Rules of Order and cautioned the membership that inappropriate language would not be tolerated.  She stated that after meeting the new board would be going into a closed executive session. She announced that there were two open seats and that anyone running from the floor must register with the judge of elections. Caldwell reiterated her comments from her President’s message at the July open meeting.  She stated that she met some good friends and members who have given of themselves. She further stated that she has seen the good, the bad and the ugly. (Editor’s note – in July open meeting this reporter noted that there was no comments for the ugly.)

The good is all of us.  The bad is the challenges that we have i.e. falling infrastructure, roads. The ugly is the divide.  She stated that it was disheartening that some only see what was done wrong and not recognize what was good.

Caldwell stated that there were challenges and something about integrity.  She also stated that the board worked hard and the negative report card that was passed out at the front door was ugly, and she was critical of the negativity.

Caldwell thanked two board members, Bob Lauri and Buz Whelan, who decided not to run at this time

Caldwell informed membership of major transitions.  Judy Kennedy resigned as General Manager and was replaced by Laura Jones.  Daryl Gamble was promoted to Chief of operations to keep things on track.

Caldwell stated that a wish list of items is just that.  We have a dedicated group of people in community trying to accommodate others.  Special events make adults and children happy. Other committees, such as Rules and Regulations, Real Estate and Finance and Planning, have volunteers that give up their time.

Caldwell ended her comments wishing everyone good health and that she will see us next year when she finishes out her term.

At this point in time Pat Galderisi asked if we had quorum and Caldwell stated yes.

Awards were given out as follows:

Steve Kavanagh – for Volunteer of the Year, presented by Buz Whelan. Penny Glassgow for Volunteer of Year, presented by Stephanie Johnson. Eileen Avrich was recognized for Lifetime Achievement, presented by Al Leslie.

Laura Jones was introduced and she stated she was happy to be here.  Jones has been a property manager for 12 years, the last 8 at Penn Estates.  She further stated that she was a candidate for this position back in 2013, but Preferred Management was hired.  She decided to join them, so here she is today.  Jones stated that she has driven on all roads in the community.  She is a manager and not a miracle worker.  Road work will be starting soon and we need a full road assessment.  The Community Center needs work inside and out. Jones concluded her statement with that this is a great community, and she is glad to be here.  She wants to make this a happy place to be here because it is the right thing to do.

George Hludzik was the first guest speaker to address the membership.  Hludzik stated that we had a great fiscal year for collections of uncollected dues and that collections were up from last year. His firm collected close to $365K.  Over the past 14 years over $3 million has been collected.  Currently we have 22 counts filed in the county courts for members who are not current with dues. Hludzik further stated that last year he joined the Slusser Law firm and that 4 additional attorneys and a number of paralegal will be assisting with the collections of delinquencies.  This firm will be identifying and removing all money that is on our books that is uncollectable. Uncollected monies could be from members that have died or moved out of state.  Mr. Hludzik concluded with that he will continue to ensure that no delinquency is ignored. He looks forward to another banner year in collections.

Bill Owens, CPA opened up with our financial audit. Corporate reporting should be changed so that is more understandable. He favors a cash rather than accrual system for our revenue side. Our reserve reductions were due to roads, community center work and snow removal.

Owens explained the two resolutions:

Resolution # 1 Disposition of surplus funds.  Currently the Association does not have surplus funds, but if we ever do, this resolution will allow our CPA to file our taxes in a way that is beneficial to the Association by taking certain tax breaks.


Resolution # 2 Apportionment of annual assessment.  This resolution makes it clear to the IRS that the Association has authorized the board to split the dues assessment between the Operating and Capital budgets.  Future invoices for annual dues of $1,000 will state $800 for operating and $200 for reserves. In addition, Owens answered a number of questions that were distributed at the front door.

  1. Is Association being audited by IRS? Not aware
  2. Is our current audit disclaimed or qualified? Unqualified
  3. What advice was given to Board through the Management Advisory Letter? Is this letter available to membership? – Board of Directors is already working on recommendations and it is up to Board as whether to release.
  4. In past fiscal years have there been any surplus funds and how were they handled? Cannot say since he was not our auditor at the time.
  5. In the past year what were the surplus funds? None
  6. What would be average refund from surplus funds? None
  7. Are surplus funds profits from rental income and not generated from over payments? Is the Association trying to hide profits from IRS?  Is Association asking membership to sanction action? No on all counts.
  8. Regarding resolution # 1, do you intend to file form 1120 which allows an Association to defer taxes? No need, no tax consequences.
  9. Why is Association asking membership to permit Board to fund capital reserves when IRS prohibits this action? This rule deals with Condos.
  10. If membership chooses refund of their overpayment, how would it be handled? Complex issue. Funds would be better going toward capital since if it were to be distributed, members who didn’t pay their dues would receive a refund.
  11. If membership allowed Board to carryover surplus to next fiscal year, doesn’t this have an effect on being a pre-payment assessment? Will membership see a reduction in dues bill? Yes. It would show on statement
  12. How will Association prove that surplus funds are being carried over? Will we see if reflected on the assessment billing as a deduction? Not an issue this year.
  13. Must the Association ask the membership every year for their choice regarding surplus funds? No, it should not be necessary.

Pat Galderisi thanked Owens for being transparent.

(Editor’s note – Some questions above are not exactly how worded on hand out)


Stephania Johnson went on to Treasurer’s Report.  Good news is that operations up from last year due to the collections of previously uncollected dues.  Administration was over budget, Public Safety under budget, Maintenance over budget (due to storm) and Community Center under budget.  Bar and Grill were over budget under CC.

Candidate speeches commenced at this point of the meeting. Three candidates spoke and the tallies will be reported at the end of this article. There were no candidates that ran from the floor.

While the votes were being tallied, questions that were submitted via index card and from the floor were addressed by Laura Jones.

One member asked if the Association would pay for car repairs since roads are in bad shape. Jones stated no, just like she will not be reimbursed if any damage to her car.  Someone wanted to know about the financials and was told to look on website.  One member requested that Saturday night bingo be moved so that the bingo room could be rented out.  Another member inquired about the outside bathroom facility at the outdoor pool and what were the plans for replacing the structure.  Jones stated that it depended on whether we have the money.  Facility is still there since it houses all the filters, etc.

A question came up on a snow plan and will there be a person that will answer the phones.  Jones stated that this was the biggest storm in 19 years and most HOA’s had problems with removal.  She further stated that there was someone answering the public safety line.  A question was posed on the POS system and what were the plans to get it operational, why weren’t proper permits obtained during renovations of the Community Center and why didn’t we follow ADA act. Jones stated she wasn’t here at the time so she could not answer so Brad Jones responded that at the time we were told that no permits were needed and that we only need an ADA facility at the maintenance area.  A member stated that for storm prep a listing of members that are elderly and disabled should be identified and a list of pot holes should be maintained.  Laura Jones stated that the pot holes change daily so it would be impossible to maintain list.  One member stated that Classic Home Design does not pay dues or transfer fees, they build on wet lands and we give them free land.  Jones stated that she believes they are paying.  Paperwork has crossed her desk stating so. It was also bought to the attention of the membership that Classic Home Design advertises that ELA has no dues. Another member requested that the broken stop signs be repaired or replaced and finally a member stated that everyone should have a right to vote; please bring absentee voting back for a vote.  (Editor’s note no Board member responded to the questions posed by its membership).

Voting was announced by Bill Owens our current CPA, rather than by the Judge of Elections, which has been a past practice.  The results are as follows:

Board of Directors (2 open seats) – 109 valid votes cast

Dave Borsos        77

Jake Bower          67

Iretha Nalls         51

Resolutions – 102 valid votes cast

#1     65 yes        37 no         (passed)

#2     71 yes        31 no         (passed)



Reform PA Charter Schools

A topnotch WordPress.com site

Granted, and...

thoughts on education by Grant Wiggins

With A Brooklyn Accent

"Because you CAN handle the truth."

Reclaim Reform

by Ken Previti

Americas Education Watch

A child is like a butterfly in the wind. Some can fly higher than others, but each one flies the best it can. Why compare one against the other? Each one is different. Each one is special. Each one is beautiful.

%d bloggers like this: