Absentee Ballot Proposal Underway
By Buz Whelan
The ad hoc Committee to Revise the Bylaws had its organizational meeting on Saturday, November 2. Buz Whelan was elected chairperson to replace June Solla, who had been elected to the board. Dan Glasgow is the new board liaison. The committee received its marching orders from the board and will work to develop a fair, equitable, efficient and secure protocol for absentee voting. When this is accomplished and approved by the board it can be placed before the membership for an up or down vote. The committee also voted unanimously to schedule its meetings for the second Tuesday of each month at 9:30am in the Admin Office conference room. New members are welcome.
On Tuesday, November 12 the committee held its first full work session. The task of devising an absentee ballot protocol was broken down into a number of steps. How to ensure the security of the received ballots and the authenticity of the voter were discussed and a preliminary process was put forward.
Efforts to enact a process for either mail-in voting (in which all votes would be cast that way) and/or absentee balloting (in which only requested votes would be affected) have been put before the membership before, and they have failed. The current board is concerned that some members are being disenfranchised by the system now in place, which requires attendance at the Annual Meeting. Some directors and members feel that the right to participate in the election process is a precious one and should not be denied to members who cannot, for whatever personal reasons, attend the meeting. One complaint in the past has been that the process has not been carefully spelled out. The board and the committee both hope to assuage these concerns by putting forward a complete process, from request to ballot counting. The steps will include who may request an absentee ballot and how they would do that. Included will be the precise form of the physical ballots and envelopes, how they will be validated, how they will be secured and when and where they will be opened and counted. Also included will be the opportunity to write in candidates who have not declared themselves by the time of the mailing of the ballots. This would, of course, include those who make their intention to run ‘from the floor’ known to absentee voters.
It will be difficult to produce a ‘perfect’ system, but the committee hopes to offer for membership vote a carefully considered way to make it possible for those who cannot attend the Annual Meeting to nevertheless participate in the association’s political process. We believe it is the American way.
September 28, 2013 Monthly Open Board of Directors Meeting
President Alex Leslie called the meeting to order at 9:34 am on a beautiful fall Saturday. He began the meeting by telling the room that this President’s Message would be different from the usual. He then went on to describe, in somewhat vague terms, emails that seemed intended to undermine the board in general and himself in specific. He spoke of accusations of employees with arrest records, messages that hinted or charged outright that he and the board were not doing their due diligence in checking applicants’ backgrounds. He insisted that all prospective full time hires are given the same standard check and that one employee who had been singled out in the aforementioned emails had an arrest record that was made up of traffic violations. He also cited a recent Liquor Control Board surprise visit and inspection in which the association was given a warning. The initial warning contained comments on smoking violations and ‘gambling’ (bingo) violations. After a subsequent check of the law as written it was determined that as a private club we were not in violation of either smoking or gambling violations, and only an opened bottle in a restricted location remained in the citation. In all probability there will be a follow-up re-inspection, which the President is confident we will pass. He will be speaking with the association attorney on the matter.
As he concluded his remarks, the president expressed his belief that the emails indicated a lack of support for his leadership. He pointed out how easily he could be replaced and then, as chair, called for a motion to that effect. None was made.
Treasurer Earl Frank reported that aside from the Emerald Bar & Grill, we are currently under budget in all departments by the amount of $61,000. He said that the Bar & Grill have lost $12,000 in the first 4 months of the fiscal year. Some of this can be explained by overstocking caused by overly optimistic business projections. He also said that collections of delinquencies are far ahead of last year and if they remain on track we will collect over $100,000 more than fiscal year 2012/2013.
During the Committee Reports, Finance and Planning Committee liaison Frank relayed a number of recommendations from that committee. Chief among these was a declaration by the committee that a dues increase was not needed and that the committee would not participate in the upcoming Town Hall Meeting. The committee also reminded the board of their previous recommendation that swipe fees be charged to those members using credit cards to pay their dues, since the association receives a charge back commonly referred to as the discount. The swipe fees would compensate for that. The committee also reminded that they had recommended all late fees be raised from the current 10% to 15%, the maximum allowed by law. Of the more controversial recommendations were those involving the Community Center. One recommendation was that the center be closed for approximately 5 years with the money saved put into a building fund for a new state-of-the-art building, perhaps combining activity, meeting and administration venues. Another was to close the bar and grill or just the grill. Still another was to close the center for a year and use that savings to do necessary improvements.
Events Committee chair Stefania Johnson reported that the “Dancing with the Stars” event brought in $700 in revenue. Maintenance Committee Chair Bob Leon spoke of the committee’s task of ranking the major projects facing the association by priority. He also requested that the committee name be changed to the Property Management Committee with the committee assuming the responsibilities of the defunct Architectural Review Committee and the ad hoc Energy Conservation Committee. CrimeWatch chair Cookie Litwienski called for volunteers saying she was down to a committee of one.
Under Old Business the board passed a resolution filling the vacancy of resigned Director Joe Miller with the Annual Meeting’s first runner-up Margaret Fitzgerald. A resolution awarding the 2013/2014 paving contract to winning bidder Wayco was also passed. Wayco’s low bid was for $212,220.13 for road paving and $63,811.71 for the compactor area. The four road areas are Clover between Clearview and Sullivan Trail, Clearview from Clearview (no, that’s not a typo) to Clover, Glade from Roads End to Bull Run and the Glade/Ivy intersection.
Secretary Carmen Broadnax reported on a project to identify all Clause 15 properties and determine their status relative to the association. According to Broadnax, the deed covenants of these properties ran out in June of 1987. Ms. Broadnax explained that this is a slow, tedious process involving a great deal of research, including trips to the county recorder.
A reserve spending plan will be prepared when feedback from the F&P and Maintenance Committees on major project costs and priorities is received.
Under New Business the board passed goals and objectives for the standing committees and the ad hoc bylaws committee. Rules and Regulations were charged with eliminating redundancies and ensuring our regs are in harmony with the townships. Events was charged with producing a 2014/2015 annual schedule of events by early February so that the expected costs could be included in the budget. Maintenance and Finance and Planning were both charged with reviewing the latest reserve study and prioritizing projects using that as a guide. Bylaws was charged with producing a workable absentee ballot process. The board also approved new committee chairs, including Stefania Johnson for Events, Bob Leon for Maintenance, and Mark Davis for Real Estate. The Finance and Planning and Bylaws committees have not yet selected new chairs.
After public comments the meeting was adjourned.
- August 17, 2013 Annual Meeting Held (emeraldlakesfreepress.com)
New Board Officer Selection Produces Only One Change
by Buz Whelan
Immediately following the Annual Meeting the Emerald Lakes Board of Directors met to select the officers for the new elective year. Alex Leslie was returned as board president. Earl Frank was renamed treasurer. Once again, Carmen Broadnax will serve as secretary. For the only change, Daniel Glasgow will replace Millie Bishop as vice president. Per the election the board has one new member, June Solla. Director Joe Miller was absent from the reorganization meeting as well as the Annual Meeting. His absence fueled rumors of a pending resignation. Should this occur, Margaret Fitzgerald, the next-highest vote getter would automatically be elevated to the board. The bylaw change at the Annual Meeting mandating this came just in time for Ms. Fitzgerald. Under previous rules the board could select whomever they wished to serve as a replacement. The replacement, according to the bylaws, serves until the following Annual Meeting when the membership would select a candidate to serve out the term. In this case, with two years left on Miller’s term, the person elected next year would serve for one year.
August 17, 2013 Annual Meeting Held
by Buz Whelan
POCONO SUMMIT, Pennsylvania (ELFP) In the most civil Annual Meeting in recent years voters returned Millie Bishop to the Emerald Lakes Board of Directors and elected June Solla to her first term. Both are three year terms. The members present also passed all five suggested bylaw changes, though community life will be largely unaffected since they mainly bring the bylaws into congruence with current practices. Briefly, fines and appeals must be paid/filed within 30 business days rather than the 10 calendar days previously specified. Audits must be conducted annually by a certified public accountant or firm rather than every 5 years previously required. The Campgrounds Committee, moribund beyond anyone’s recollection, is officially dropped as a standing committee. Finally, when a board vacancy occurs midterm, the next-highest vote getter at the previous Annual Meeting automatically is installed until the next Annual Meeting when a vote would be held to fill out the term. If no next-highest vote getter is available, the board will select the temporary replacement.
The messages of President Alex Leslie and General Manager Allen Roth featured essentially the same highlights. These included upgrading association hardware and software, a new aggressive collection procedure for delinquencies, a system for tracking equipment and vehicle repairs, increased use of in-house maintenance projects such as road patching and basketball court repairs, landscaping projects such as that at Pine Tree Lake, outdoor pool repair, 12 drainage projects around the community, the looming purchase of a new public safety vehicle and single-stream recycling. The GM also reported that he and the board have decided to follow the Maintenance Committee’s recommendation to suspend repaving after the current cycle and concentrate on a long range plan to rebuild the roads. This would mean an extensive drainage and crowning project which would only then be followed by repaving. Pothole patching would continue as always. The intention is to create roads that would last 3 to 4 times longer than current. It seems that for the last several years we have been (chasing our tail, spinning our wheels, marching in place – choose your metaphor) falling further and further behind in road maintenance. This plan would correct that, but not without short term pain.
Treasurer Earl Frank reported under budget totals that are roughly balanced by revenue shortfalls. Our overall collections are running at about 75%. Our reserve fund stands at about $315,000 when professional studies report it should be around $1.6 million.
Our auditor Ray Zavada echoed Earl’s take on reserves, but gave the association high marks for adhering to Generally Accepted Accounting Procedures (GAAP). A high GAAP score indicates the proper handling of monies, but offers no comment on the wisdom of the spending choices made. Zavada also pointed out that our assets minus our liabilities leave a valuation of $3.8 million.
Attorney George Hludzik detailed the collection procedures his office is undertaking, emphasizing that we are ramping up our seizure demands by increasing the requests for liens and going after personal possessions of delinquents through sheriff’s sales along with house/property liens.
Finally, Finance & Planning Committee representative Buz Whelan went over that committee’s responsibilities and the availability of up-to-date association financial data. He pointed out that all F&P meetings are open to member visitors and are held in the Community Center at 9:30 am on the third Saturday of every month. He also said that anyone wishing assistance in understanding association finances would find willing helpers in the committee membership.
As has been the custom in recent years, no mention was made of the Pine Tree mugging, the Gap View murder victim or any other negative information such as break-ins, equipment and vehicle theft or personal assaults.
Board of Directors Vote Totals
Millie Bishop* 53
Margaret Fitzgerald 49
Sherri Ornitz 37
Connie Simpson 40
June Solla* 50
*Elected to board
Attending the Annual Meeting: What You Should Know
by Buz Whelan
Saturday, August 17, 2013 is the Annual Meeting. We’ll be deciding on some minor bylaw revisions, mostly to bring the bylaws into congruence with actual current practice, and most importantly we’ll be selecting two board members to serve for three years as directors. Who should we choose? Why?
First, the good news. The most commonly heard complaint at open meetings and on our Facebook page is, “Why aren’t we going after the deadbeats,” or, “Why aren’t we doing more to collect delinquent dues.” The answer, frustrating as it may seem, is that we are. We are doing all that is legally possible to collect all monies owed to the association, including delinquent dues, late fees and fines for other offenses. Absolutely no one is given a pass. Our attorney spends the bulk of the time he works for us on just this matter. So, why then are there still outstanding debts? There are a number of problems, roadblocks if you will. Many of those who owe have abandoned their homes. They have simply walked away, and have very little in the way of assets that can be attached. Further, many have also obtained the protection of court-approved bankruptcy which prohibits us from further collection attempts. And when banks seize properties through the foreclosure process, they often fail to pay dues. To be sure, we go after them, but it is a long process, expensive and difficult because of the many avenues of appeals and delays open to a bank with a staff of attorneys. Frequently, back dues are collected when the property changes hands, when the bank sells to a new owner. In order to transfer the property, all liens must be satisfied and we stand ready to collect. But this is not always the case. So far this year we have collected $92, 000 in back dues, fines and fees.
The most grievous fault of the current board is its total lack of respect for the membership. This fact can be seen in action after action by the board, and it not only leaves the membership completely out of the loop in decision-making, it is costly – wasteful, actually – as well. Following are examples of this.
During the Summer of 2012 the association purchased new software called TOPS that was intended to be a complete, integrated control system for all our finances and records. Among the capabilities of this software was a website that would be more comprehensive and responsive than our then-current one. We already had a webmaster, Bob Leon, and he was doing a pretty good job. Bowing to the desires of the General Manager, Bob was ordered to close the website while two employees were tasked with learning the format and operational requirements of the new website supplied with the new software. What was wrong with this decision? Well, I’m an experienced helicopter pilot, military trained and combat experienced. If you wanted me to fly a new bird, it might take me 10 to 25 hours to familiarize myself with the controls, the cockpit layout and the flight characteristics. But it would take a non-pilot hundreds of hours. As an experienced webmaster it might have taken Mr. Leon a month or two to learn the characteristics of the new website. But the two employees selected, with much more limited experience, have not gotten the new website to be fully operational one full year later. This, despite the fact that one employee was upgraded from part-time to full-time at considerable expense to the association. Mr. Leon was doing the work as a volunteer, for free.
We have three members that I know of that have experience as editors of newspapers; Denise Wilson, Lola Lauri and me, Buz Whelan. From 2004 to 2012 one or the other of us was the editor-in-chief of the newspaper. We had one absolute requirement: that we would be free from board interference in bringing the news to the members of the association, whether that news was happy or sad, flattering to the board or not. We also insisted that we had a right to publish an editorial and letters to the editor. All of that was taken away at the July 2012 Monthly Open Meeting. The General Manager was given authority over the Emerald News, and in conscience, Lola and I were forced to resign.
I was far from a perfect board president. But transparency was my watchword, whether I was comfortable with what that exposed to the membership or not. Everyone in the association had a right to criticize me, employee, management or the board as a whole, through published letters to the editor. I held two Executive Sessions (closed meetings) in my two years. This board has held as many as 3 in a single month and rarely fewer than 2 per month.
In the past year, real estate decisions have been made without any input from the Real Estate Committee. Maintenance decisions have been made without input from the Maintenance Committee. And structural changes with major financial ramifications have been made without any input from the Finance and Planning Committee. This is against both the spirit and letter of our bylaws.
Now we approach the time of the Annual Meeting and you will hear speeches touting the successes of the board. Listen to them with the skeptical ear of the seasoned observer rather than the wide-eyed optimism of the uninformed.
Who Should I Vote For?
You should vote for the candidates who you believe will best serve your interests. What those interests are will vary with the member. There are five candidates running for two open positions on the board. Each open position is for three years. There are two current directors running for re-election: Vice President Millie Bishop and Director Margaret Fitzgerald. There are three other candidates who would serve for the first time: Sherri Ornitz, Connie Simpson and June Solla. Each has made her case in the July issue of the Emerald News and at the August 3rd session of Meet the Candidates. We cannot go over everything covered in those two venues, but we can summarize. If you like the way the board has operated in the last year you must return Ms. Bishop to the board. She has been instrumental in virtually all the decisions referred to above. Contrariwise, if you are unhappy with many or all of the board’s actions, Margaret Fitzgerald, who has been a dissenting voice, should be your choice. The choice between the three other candidates is more difficult. I have served on one committee or another with all of them. None would be a bad choice. Each has worked diligently for you. But here we (Lola Lauri and I) have decided to endorse Connie Simpson. She approached us, sat down for an extended interview and gave us, in the main, the answers we were looking for. It is more the congruency of our principles than anything that makes us choose Ms. Simpson. She is in favor of returning control of our communications, the Emerald News and the website www.elainc.org, to the control of members rather than employees. She believes members have a right to have their voice heard via letters published in the Emerald News. And as a member of multiple committees, most prominently Finance & Planning, she is a strong supporter of the committee system.
So that’s our take on the upcoming meeting and election. We hope to see you there.
Meet the Candidates 2013: A New Format
by Buz Whelan
As it began at about 9:40am on Saturday, August 3, 2013 in the bingo room of the Community Center the room was filled with eager candidates and members who came to hear what they had to say. And, whether it was the fatigue caused by time, or a somewhat confusing format, by the time it came to a tired end there were 6 spectators left. I was one of them.
The candidates were: Millie Bishop, seeking reelection; Margaret Fitzgerald, also seeking reelection; Sherri Ornitz, Connie Simpson and June Solla, all seeking their first term. I list them as they sat, left to right.
Instead of asking a question and letting each candidate in turn have a crack at it, questions were asked of a specific candidate and after the answer a different question was asked of the next candidate. Eventually the questions were recycled and a different candidate was given the earlier question. By the time we entered the third hour of the session, candidates had to repeatedly remind the moderator that they were being given a question they had previously answered. A number of questions were never answered by several of the candidates, apparently due to this selection method.
Millie Bishop listed 24/7 security and mailing out the Emerald News as her two top priorities, should she be returned to the board. She also said that in order to build community spirit we should have more events. She failed to offer any ideas on how these additions to the budget would be funded. Increasing security to 168 hours a week would require at least 4 full time employees and possibly at least one part timer to supplement in the event of sickness or vacation. Where would the $100,000 plus come from? Asked about her position on absentee balloting, Ms. Bishop dodged the question saying that this was a matter being considered by the Bylaws Committee. Asked to give her opinion on the association’s management hierarchy she was unclear, putting several different entities (the board, the GM) on the same plane. She also gave a confusing answer to a question about how she would respond if confronted with a situation to which she had no prior experience or knowledge. She seemed to be answering a question about conflict resolution, saying she would ask each side for their version of the facts and go from there.
Margaret Fitzgerald pointed to the need to improve communication as a priority, saying that we, as a community, engage in excessive rumor-mongering, and that the website and paper should be used to give clear and complete information on current events. This contrasted with Bishop’s position that the Emerald News and website should carry only good news and that all negativity be suppressed. Ms. Fitzgerald also felt that paving the compactor area should be done forthwith, and revealed that this is already being recommended favorably by the Maintenance Committee, the General Manager and the rest of the board. On volunteerism, she said that this makes the community strong and has the secondary benefit of bringing people together in forging friendships. When asked if there was wasteful spending she would cut, she answered that she knows of no wasteful spending and if she did, she would already be working to eliminate it. But she went on to say that there are differences in perspective and that it is always possible to rethink choices and shift priorities.
Sherri Ornitz pointed to her employment background in team building and supervising the execution of contracts and projects. She said that we should be preparing for long term goals rather than the short term planning and reacting that characterizes, in her opinion, current operations. She also cautioned, in response to a question on cutting full time employees, that she does not believe that could be done and still maintain the current level of services. One of her ‘pet peeves’, as she put it, is the association’s failure to develop alternate revenue streams, especially ones that may be considered non-traditional.
Connie Simpson began by reading a long introductory statement regarding her priorities and plans should she win election. Among many proposals was one to maintain or return foreclosed properties to the same standards of good repair and grooming as occupied homes. She also spoke of acquiring abandoned properties and utilizing them for meetings, events (private or open) and other association purposes, thus relieving strain on the Community Center. She emphasized the value of long term employees and the importance of treating them with respect. She proposed that just as we dedicate a portion of our annual revenue to road maintenance and reserves, a portion should be put into capital reserves with the intention of developing a plan to pave all unpaved roads. She also offered some specific advice on handling any repair contracts, including ensuring the association go with the best bid on projects, securing warranties on work and setting and sticking to cost overrun limits. When questioned on the recent decision to purchase a Ford Explorer as the new security vehicle, she said that a number of similar organizations (which she cited) used the less expensive Escape model, but she was also the only responder to suggest that other nameplates including GM, Chrysler and even foreign manufacturers such a Subaru should have been researched.
June Solla gave the most comprehensive answer on long term road maintenance. She cited the recent Maintenance Committee recommendation that we cut this year’s repaving to only the most severe sections, putting extra money into doing a complete drainage overhaul. This would begin the process of upgrading all road drainage to the highest standards. In the next few years, all roads would be brought to this standard, rather than the endless patch and repatch that we are currently doing. By starting with the fundamentals of road building we will eventually be able to have roads that would need far less patching, and could last as long as ten years before repaving was necessary. Asked to name her three most important issues, she cited finances, security and amenities. She said that realistically, a dues increase was in the future. She said security needed to be increased and that our aging amenities need repairs sooner rather than later because the longer we wait the more difficult and expensive those repairs would be. Asked about leadership she pointed to 12 years in the military and her organizing skills in planning and executing events here and chairing several committees.
By the end of the third hourly installment, fatigue had reduced the gallery to six members. The energy of the candidates, however, never appeared to flag. The takeaway seemed to be that if you are happy with the current board, Millie Bishop should be your number one choice. She has been instrumental, as she pointed out, in much of the board’s actions this year. All the other candidates, including current board member Margaret Fitzgerald, offered criticism of recent actions and pledged to change the way the board does business in the future. Margaret, speaking for a minority on the board, pointed out that she feels there are too many Executive Sessions (read ‘secret meetings’) and that she voted against the purchase of the new vehicle. The three new office seekers all agreed that transparency in doing business was important to build trust with the membership.
And here’s a final side note. An announcement was made at the beginning of the session to the effect that one or more of the candidates had been given advance access to the prepared questions, giving them unfair advantage. Therefore, all previously prepared questions were eliminated and spectators were asked to submit, on supplied note cards, questions they wanted asked. The questions obtained thusly turned out to be excellent. But for some reason, the General Manager was asked to screen the questions for duplicates. A submitted question that asked whether employees or members should control association communications (i.e., the website and Emerald News currently controlled by the GM) was never asked. This presents an amusing irony: did the GM, who controls our communications, ‘control’ the question regarding his control? Food for thought.
July 27, 2013 Monthly Open Board of Directors Meeting
By Buz Whelan
Yesterday’s open board meeting was one of the most contentious of the year. After several months of relatively serene and compact meetings, the room exploded on a number of issues.
President’s Comments and Treasurer’s Report
President Alex Leslie called the meeting to order at about 9:35 and the minutes of the previous meeting were approved without corrections. Mr. Leslie then gave an extremely brief President’s Comment thanking the year’s committee members and other volunteers for their efforts on behalf of the community. He then read the Treasurer’s Report for the absent Earl Frank, struggling somewhat with the wording of the report. Revenue is up by $11,000 and expenses are currently $32,000 under budget. Not counting the bar and grill, salaries and benefits are $11,000 under budget. It was not made clear what that position would be if B&G salaries and benefits were included. It was further noted that inventory purchases and the addition of a sous chef had caused the B&G expenses to balloon. In order to control expenses, a meeting between the chef/community center manager and the GM resulted in a hard look at the menu. It may be necessary to shrink the menu to control costs and reduce shrinkage. The assistant (sous chef) is being trained, according to the GM, to provide a backup for Chef Todd, now that he has additional managerial responsibilities and will, at some point, take vacation. Director Miller pointed out that the Snack Shack lost $1,100 in a single month, an unacceptable amount. Because of the problems with the Pine Tree Lake dam valve, a particular eye will be cast toward building up reserve monies. It was noted that the Finance and Planning Committee’s recommendation to increase the late fee to 15% has been adopted.
The Manager’s report focused on the dam valve problem. It is apparent that the outlet pipe is leaking, will at some future point fail altogether and must be replaced. The valve may also have to be replaced. (These exist because when Pine Tree Lake was established the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection ordered them installed with a requirement that 90,000 gallons per day be released downstream. The valve can be manipulated to control for this release.) It was pointed out that in 2008 an estimate of $250,000 was given to replace the valve. While a successful fix negated that necessity, it now may be required due to the leak. Surveys, plans and receiving the necessary construction approvals could take as much as 4 years, and the cost will almost certainly be above the previously received figure. The valve and outlet pipe are as much as 30 feet under lake level. The lake will have to be lowered and a temporary dam installed to protect the worksite. It is a major construction repair project.
The manager also reported that Chris Tarvin has been assigned to help with the website which remains only partially operational. He will also assist with other TOPS (the association’s software) tasks. Directors Margaret Fitzgerald and Joe Miller both objected to bringing in Tarvin saying we have a capable webmaster in member Bob Leon who has volunteered his services.
There is apparently no love lost between Director Millie Bishop and Director Joe Miller. Every time Miller spoke, whether about road maintenance, Snack Shack, employee matters, or vehicle purchase, Ms. Bishop rolled her eyes, shook her head and wore an expression of annoyance, impatience or contempt, your guess which.
Committee reports included a notice that the bylaws and energy committees would not meet again until September, after a new board is installed. Bylaw Chairperson June Solla complained that a Special Meeting was not called to allow for detailed explanation of the suggested changes, especially the one designating the next runner-up in the previous election as the automatic replacement should a board seat become vacant (currently the board names a successor to serve until the next Annual Meeting). Board Secretary Carmen Broadnax responded that Ms. Solla had not made her request for such a meeting in writing to the board, or in any other formal way. After a brief ‘back and forth’ it was agreed that an agenda item could be added, giving the chairperson an opportunity to explain the reason for the change to the membership at the Annual Meeting.
Maintenance and Road Repair
Under Old Business the manager reported that he is looking at used mowers and attachments to determine if we could save money without losing significant dependability by going that route.
The manager reported that he had prepared a map of primary, secondary and tertiary road sections, 5 in all, that would cost approximately $590,000 to repair. This would unfold over 3 or more years. Director Miller objected on several grounds. He pointed out that this had not gone through the maintenance committee. He also stated that he had seen a report that in 1986 a conflict of interest was found to exist between Fred Spot Engineering, currently the overseer of road maintenance and proposed contractor Waco, who has performed road repair for the association and is expected to do so in the future. The GM pointed out that this was 27 years ago and no such conflict is known to exist at this time. This exchange could be fairly described as heated. Director Miller went on to point out that recent work on Clearview Drive had deteriorated to the extent that a patch had to be made. Mr. Roth replied that this was temporary and that the paver was returning to redo approximately 25 feet of roadway under warranty. Miller said that labor and material would have been better spent repairing non-warranteed road defects.
Security Vehicle Purchase
A final recommendation on the purchase of a security vehicle was made by the GM. The board voted 3 to 2 to purchase a Ford Explorer from Ray Price Ford and equip it as a security vehicle (light bar, decals, etc). An umbrella amount of $35,000 was allocated, though the final cost is expected to be somewhat less. Voting for the purchase were Carmen Broadnax, Millie Bishop and Dan Glasgow. Voting in the negative were Joe Miller and Margaret Fitzgerald.
Under New Business, the GM reported that they are looking at a variety of solutions to the dehumidification problem in the Community Center. He also reported on several real estate issues, including a denial of Leisure Lane resident to purchase an adjacent lot (stating that it is needed for drainage and shouldn’t be altered) and a decision to purchase a property on Clearview Drive from repository for the amount of $800 and convert it into non-taxable Class 6.
Public Comments and Discussion
During Public Comments Anna Alicia, the Leisure Lane property owner cited above, requested that some sort of ditch be dug in the property adjacent to hers to ameliorate the flooding that often occurs, spilling over into her residential property. GM Allen Roth agreed to look into it.
Several residents of Seneca Court, a Ms. Shilinski and Beverly Divins, asked that their road be paved. They cited promises made by the Heuston board nine years ago that it would be paved within a year. They were even shown a schedule of paving, known to exist at that time. They produced estimates from a paving company that were considerably under those given by the association ($21,200 vs. $39,000, a difference of $17, 800). President Leslie stated that no new paving would be done this year, and that a request for a special assessment to pave all remaining unpaved roads (4.6 miles) was rejected by the membership at the 2005 Annual Meeting.
John Palmisano volunteered that there should be tar and chipping of main thoroughfares to extend their life.
Two landlords complained that the $25 per rental fee was excessive since they already pay their dues in a timely fashion.
June Solla suggested that communication between the board and the membership needs to be improved, saying that signage should be provided at work sites (such as the basketball courts, currently) stating what was being done and when it would be finished. She also suggested that a program be started for trapping and neutering feral cats.
In a final public comment, Kathy Leslie-Whelan read an email from Bob Lauri, stating that he asked that it be read at the meeting. It said, “I was very disappointed to read Mrs. Bishop’s bio where she takes credit for the ice rink within the community. I happened to be present when Mr. Whelan presented the idea as well as accompanying both Mr. Whelan and former GM Mr. Werner to the site. Harry was also with us at the site. The only thing Ms. Bishop did concerning this matter was to take credit for it when she had nothing to do with it.”
Full disclosure: the following remarks were delivered during the Public Comments by the author of this article.
Buz Whelan rose to state that he had a number of what might seem to be unrelated issues, but that they could be tied together.
He started by calling attention to the fact that the $590,000 road paving program had not been presented to the Maintenance Committee. He pointed out that such an elaborate plan, with color-coded maps, set priorities, and detailed cost estimates had not just dropped out of the sky, but had to be prepared over a matter of months. He said that if this isn’t a Maintenance Committee program, we should not have a Maintenance Committee.
He went on to state that the upgrading of the junior secretarial position in the office from part to full-time, with all its financial implications, including the adding of additional pay, benefit package, vacation and sick time had not been vetted by the Finance and Planning Committee and had not even been publicly discussed at any Open Meeting. He cautioned that this was not a personnel decision to be decided in Executive Session. Firing or replacing an employee, promoting one or disciplining another are all personnel actions. Changing a position from part to full-time is a structural change that should have been passed through F&P and publicly finalized at an open meeting.
He then pointed out the three real estate decisions just made had not been presented to the Real Estate Committee.
Whelan then reminded the board that in July of 2012 as the TOPS software was being installed, two employees were designated as the co-webmasters, essentially dismissing previous webmaster Bob Leon. Using himself as an example, Whelan said, “If you want me to fly a new helicopter, it might take me 10 to 25 hours to familiarize myself with the flight characteristics, instrumentation and controls, to be ‘checked out.’ But I’m a helicopter pilot. It would take a non-pilot hundreds of hours to learn to fly the bird.” This is essentially the mistake that was made with the website. Instead of training Mr. Leon, an experienced webmaster, two employees with no such experience were installed. A year later, the website is still not fully operational. Did the board finally turn to Mr. Leon? No, they doubled down by promoting Nikki to full time as discussed. That still didn’t work out, so Chris Tarvin was recalled and given more hours to make the site work.
Finally, Mr. Whelan discussed the Emerald News. We have at least three experienced editors in the community: Denise Wilson, Lola Lauri and Buz Whelan. But in July 2012 the editorship was turned over to GM Allen Roth, a person with no editorial experience whatsoever. The latest edition of the paper is a prime example of the foolishness of that decision, with 3 pages devoted to the Emerald Grill menu, a puzzle page and on page 15 an ‘article’ titled “Wing Eating Contest 2013” under which appear 4 photos. What are the subjects of the photos? Who are these people? Who won the contest? How many wings did he eat? Did he have hot sauce, sweet sauce or no sauce at all? Who came in second and how many wings of what kind did he eat? And on and on. No details of the contest given whatsoever. This is embarrassing. And it’s also wasteful. We pay for this paper. Yet a menu that could be on one page is on three. Puzzle pages and pictures without explanations or captions all cost money. Is your money being spent wisely? And finally, where are the letters to the editor? Your board is telling you, “We don’t want your praise. We don’t want your suggestions. And we damn sure don’t want your criticism.”
What ties all these things together is a complete contempt by the board for its membership. They disregard the committee system established by our bylaws. They appoint employees to control association communications. And they tell you they do not want to hear from you. On Facebook, the Emerald Lakes version of a town square, robust discussion takes place. And just as the mayor and council members might visit the square and schmooze with the citizens, a few of your directors join in. We see Margaret Fitzgerald, Dan Glasgow and Joe Miller talking to us, explaining what’s going on as best they can. But the same directors who don’t ever visit the square are the ones who voted to take away communications and ban your letters. Think about that when you vote.
- June 22, 2013 Board of Directors Monthly Open Meeting (emeraldlakesfreepress.com)
June 22, 2013 Board of Directors Monthly Open Meeting
by Buz Whelan
After the usual pledge to the flag and acceptance of the previous meeting’s minutes (with the standard minor corrections) President Al Leslie gave his message. Prefacing his remarks with the call for a short meeting due to a scheduled party and his not feeling well, he admonished the community in general to eschew rumor-mongering and instead go directly to the source of the concern. He pointed out that the GM is readily available as are the various directors.
During an unusually brief Treasurer’s Report, Earl Frank pointed to an article in the Pocono Record that indicated approximately 66% of Pocono Mountain West High School students were receiving some form of public assistance. This would have some explanatory value, he said, in understanding why delinquencies are running so high.
General Manager Allen Roth informed the room that the deadline for the special July edition of the Emerald News is Tuesday, June 25th. This issue will have the candidate bios and campaign statements.
Deadlines come and go, and bog removal in East and West Emerald Lakes is a sure example of that. This issue has been tossed around for at least two years, maybe more, and today GM Roth informed us that the June 20th date for work initiation had been missed. Contacting Joe Gallagher of Ecological Solutions, the firm hired to do the removal, he was informed that it was preferable to wait until the bogs rose to the surface of the lake, since their appearance would ease removal. Last year the bogs appeared early, in late June, due to an unusually mild spring and early summer. But in 2011, a more typical year weatherwise, the bogs did not appear in East Emerald Lake until the third week in July and West Emerald Lake in early August. Adding to the confusion was the memory of some members that last year we were told that it was easier to remove the bogs before they surfaced.
The GM also reported that with the beaches open the hot dog wagon would be making appearances and the Snack Shack at the outdoor pool is open.
During Committee Reports, the recommended changes to the collection procedures were discussed, and a recommendation that the board begin preparing for a Special Meeting in late October or early November was made. The purpose of the meeting would be to ask for a dues increase. The manager’s recommendation of a three-year program with increases of $60, $50 & $40 respectively was noted in the recommendation.
Under Old Business the board approved a resolution for payment of the repairs to the outdoor pool, in the amount of $13,700. The 2012/2014 budget, recently passed, contains a line item of $20,000 for outdoor pool repair. This was an estimate, since the precise scope of work could not be known until the repairs were well underway. The board also passed a resolution accepting the Finance and Planning Committee’s recommended changes to the collection procedure. When a delinquency first occurs, a 10% penalty will be attached and the entire amount of the Annual Dues remaining shall immediately become due.
Under New Business, the board approved the selection of Mark Davis as chairperson of the newly re-formed Real Estate Committee. The chair had been elected at the committee’s first meeting and he reported that the committee is made up of short and long term landlords, renters and non-leasing homeowners.
The board accepted the ad hoc Committee to Revise the Bylaws’ recommendations for changes to be put to a vote at the Annual Meeting in August. Among those that bring the document into congruence with already existing practice are recommendations to require a complete audit every year (as opposed to current bylaw for every fifth year), to extend appeal and payment deadlines for citations from 10 to 30 days and to eliminate from the bylaws reference to the moribund Campground Committee. The committee also recommended formalizing the process for replacing a mid-year board vacancy by going to the next highest vote getter at the previous Annual Meeting, then going to the next highest after that if the first next (is this getting confusing?) is unavailable. When all losing candidates have been exhausted, or if there weren’t any, the board may choose a replacement who would serve until the next Annual Meeting when a vote could be held to fill out the term, or select another director if the term is expiring.
During a discussion of roadside mowing, it was reported that the mower was expected to be repaired by early next week and mowing would then continue. The board also directed the GM to research the cost of a new mower, including choices of manufacturer, models and vendors. Should a new mower be purchased, the current one would become a backup.
During Public Comments Paul Capozzoli suggested sealing cracks in our roadways. He said that his research shows that we can significantly extend the life of any given road segment by doing this. He reported that he had spoken with individuals involved in county road maintenance and this is something that they do and recommend.
Pat Galderisi brought up the problem of chickens running loose in sections of the Estates. Of course, our Declarations forbid the keeping of livestock. Phyllis Shedlock said that she had observed chickens on Sage Road. After much joking about chickens crossing the road and so on, it was agreed that the GM would have the Code Enforcement Officer Ralph Musto investigate.
Progress on Cabaret ’35, to be held August 10 was also reported. It was underscored that this is to be a total night club experience not just another singing performance. Audience members are encouraged to come in period dress (‘20s & ‘30s) and prizes will be given. Tickets ($10 advance, $12at the door) are currently being sold at the Community Center.
May 18, 2013 Monthly Board of Directors Open Meeting
by Buz Whelan
After the traditional call to order, pledge of allegiance and acceptance of the previous month’s minutes, President Alex Leslie gave his President’s Report. Mr. Leslie thanked Director Margaret Fitzgerald and all who assisted her for the organization of the Relay for Life, to be held that evening and night, and for meeting the fund raising goal of $3,500. Mr. Leslie also announced that the board was adopting a new and revised collection procedure, prepared with the cooperation of the association attorney. The essentials of the procedure provide for a series of notices and deadlines, with a penalty fee of 2.5% of the money owed initially charged at the time of 10 days delinquency. A series of steps that include notices that all fees assessed by the association attorney will be added to the monies owed. At the 90 day mark (of delinquency) the attorney will take charge of the account and all further communications shall be between him and the delinquent member. At the 105 day mark a Notice of Claim of Lien will be recorded and the member notified. Should the delinquency continue, all legal remedies, including the filing of suit will proceed according to the best interests of the association as determined by the attorney in consultation with the association general manager. This procedure was formally adopted by resolution passed under New Business.
Treasurer Earl Frank reported that $1.394M in dues has been collected for fiscal year 2012/2013, now closed out. This is down from $1.440M collected for fiscal 2011/2012. While Mr. Frank reported that we are under budget in spending in all departments except the Emerald Bar & Grill, the growing delinquency rate is our most serious financial problem. He expressed some hope that the new, more aggressive collection policy would stem this trend. Member Pat Galderisi and Director Joe Miller both stated that the association should be going after bank owners who have seized ownership through foreclosure. They should be required to pay dues and maintain their properties according to the same standards to which individual homeowners are held. Failure to do so should result in citations.
Following the Treasurer’s Report the manager reported that all dams have been inspected, with reports to follow. Permits have been received for bog removal in East and West Emerald Lakes, though no schedule for the actual work is currently available.
During the Committee Chair Reports section of the meeting, Finance and Planning Chairperson David Pope reported that his committee is working toward a recommendation for increased revenue to be presented at the Annual Meeting. Several levels and types of increases are being examined, from a simple set increase in dues to several types of multi-year escalators. These will be hashed out at a special F&P meeting to be held the week of May 19-25 at a time TBD.
Director Carmen Broadnax reported that the Nominating Committee is currently emailing invitations to run for the board to all committee members and that notices will be on the website and in the next edition of the Emerald News. Several members present reported that they had received the email solicitations.
Appeals Committee Chairperson Paul Capozzoli reported that two appeals had been postponed until next month.
Author of this story Buz Whelan, reporting as a “committee of one” told the assembly that the May 4th Comedy Night earned over $1,100 in ticket sales and did more than $1,000 in food and beverage business.
ELDAS liaison, Buz Whelan reported several recommendations from the society to the board. Among these was a suggestion that the Communication Committee assign someone to take pictures of all committees, publish them in the paper, on the website and in an Annual Meeting program. It was also suggested that the recognition plaques for past presidents and volunteers of the year be moved from the admin bldg to the Community Center where they would be more visible to members. Another suggestion was to obtain an estimate for the cost of updating all ID badges. During this process, census data could be taken since all members would have to participate in the updating. The ELDAS members are also willing to volunteer to serve as liaisons, freeing up directors who often must serve as liaisons to multiple committees. And lastly the society recommends that planning begin for a series of events to be held during our upcoming 40th anniversary year.
Under New Business, Secretary Carmen Broadnax read a resolution to approve the purchase of a new public safety vehicle. The motion included make and model, amount of purchase, and selected bidder. It was for a Ford Explorer, and Ray Price Ford, the middle bidder in terms of amount, was named as the seller. It was explained that the vehicle being replaced was also a Ford Explorer and that Price Ford was the closest bidder, a supposed advantage for service needs. At this point Director Joe Miller objected. He reasoned that a Ford Escape could perform public safety tasks equally well, would get better gas mileage and would cost in the neighborhood of $5,000 less. He further reminded the room that a vehicle can be serviced, including warranty work, at any same brand dealership, regardless of purchase location. Gallery member David Pope echoed Miller’s opinion, as did numerous directors and members who followed. The matter was finally removed from the table for future consideration and discussion.
Resolutions to adopt a new committee procedures manual and new collection procedure, previously cited, were passed.
Director Miller then went off the agenda to bring up outdoor pool maintenance for discussion. Miller’s point was that the work had not been approved by board motion nor had the work been put out for bid. He objected to the GM’s selection of a vendor to begin the work, currently under way, without these elements. He asked Mr. Roth for the expected cost of the work, which was not immediately available (the 2013/2014 budget lists estimated cost at $20,000).
During Public Comments, several members (whose names we are withholding) complained that a home on Doe Drive is unsightly, with much debris, junk and bags of garbage strewn about. They also state that there is constant traffic in and out of the home with short term visits occurring at all hours. The CEO will check for the unsightly premises, but it was recommended that regional police be contacted regarding the frequent short visits.
Several residents of Seneca Court, formerly North Glade Court, complained that their road is virtually impassible, with mud pits and ruts and a complete lack of gravel. The GM will look into possible relief.
Director Margaret Fitzgerald ignited a furious exchange over the early closing of the Emerald Bar and Grill on Friday, May 17th. Apparently a large contingent of folks who had attended the bonfire on Pine Tree Beach decided to top off the evening with a drink or two at the bar. Arriving at about 9:15 they were told the bar was shortly closing and they could order a single drink. Various reasons were given including slow business and possible intoxication of patrons. After much ado, protestations and a visit by the board president, they were escorted out by public safety before 10 pm. President Leslie took full responsibility, promised published hours would be adhered to in the future and agreed that it was important to do so.
Heidi Castro of Cedar Drive reported a creeping wetland in her backyard, fearing it could reach the house. She has contacted the Army Corps of Engineers and was told it was a local matter. GM Allen Roth will look into it.
Finally, there was a comment about the failure of many homeowners to post the new address signs required by the county. The problem as stated was that even if a particular homeowner is in compliance, failure by his neighbors could slow emergency vehicles as the approach that location without progressive signage. It was suggested that Rules and Regulations ‘address’ the address problem.
The Year in Review
You know those boring, annoying annual family summaries that some people send along with their Christmas cards? Well, here’s our version all about the Emerald Lakes family, every bit as annoying, but perhaps a teensy less boring.
Merry Christmas, one and all. This is your dear cousin Emmy (as in Emerald Lakes, get it?). It’s the most wonderful time of the year and all, so I thought I would sit down and remind you of all the fun we have had this past year.
Our annual family reunion at the Pocono Mountain West High School went as well as could be expected; which is to say it was embarrassing. It started when one of the twins (who can tell them apart?) complained that having to put her ballots into two different boxes was really hard and she didn’t think that our family was smart enough to handle such stringent requirements. When we were done laughing, we got to vote, but nothing was passed. Nothing. After spending three years rewriting our bylaws so they don’t force the board to break the rules by requiring them to travel back in time each year to present a budget to the family in August that has to be passed in May, the very few folks that showed up said the new rules weren’t any good because they got cooties on them when some unsavory person touched them. Also, the extended family that can’t show up to vote weren’t there to vote that they can mail-in their votes, so the meanies that did show up made sure there won’t be mail-in votes so they’ll never be able to vote. Guess they showed who’s boss here.
There was a changing of the guard this year, with Lola Lollipop’s hubby, Bobby deciding to step away from the fighting at the table at the end of his term, and later, Red Sox Johnny C stepping down too. They were replaced by Dapper Dan G. and the talkative, but lovable, Margie F. We all look forward to seeing what kind of mark these two will leave on our fair family’s business dealings but, with the holidays, they haven’t had much of a chance to work. You know, between Labor Day and New Year’s, there is just no time to actually do anything.
There have been big doings at the Community Center this year. When the ratty carpeting became one big stain instead of hundreds of smaller stains, we finally got new tile flooring installed. There were fights, with some insisting that mold was a lovely shade for a carpet, but they got the new beige floor in just in time for the Haunted House folks to bleed all over it. They had crazy clowns chopping up bodies for the entertainment of parents who love to watch their kids pee in their pants. It’s a great service these folks provide; for the rest of the year when the kids get out of line one only has to say “the clowns won’t like that.” and the kids will walk straight and narrow without argument (although a few are still wetting the bed). Anyway, for the maybe twenty days a year when we actually have more than five people in the dining room, this floor is an investment that will probably go paying for itself indefinitely.
We were all very worried and excited when crazy Joanne found oil in the well, but after everyone in the world looked at all the wells around her place and found it nowhere else, I figure someone probably got mad at her for one of her late night, spirits-induced rants and just dumped a can of Valvoline’s finest directly into the pump. Which is a good thing, because we really don’t want all the wells around here tested. Word might get out and our property values could plummet. (I prefer bottled water anyway, don’t you?)
The fight against fun has continued throughout the year, with some of our family members taking their noise complaints to mom and dad at the board. They were mad because some people partied on Summer nights. Oooh. Partying in the Summer? We’ll put a stop to that! Since they don’t have any fun friends like that, they don’t think any of us should be allowed to have them over or laugh and dance to music. After listening to both sides, our esteemed Patriarch Al told us all that he didn’t see anything and couldn’t prove anything, so no one would be punished, but we can be sure that he will make sure the babysitters at Public Safety keep an eye on things over there. The Aunties were smirking, and I guess they are going to be looking for anything they can find to keep the noise down over there. In the meantime, Mean Old Millie (MOM) got her friends at Rules and Regs to pass a “no loitering” rule, just to make sure everyone is in bed before dark. Don’t get caught outside after dark, or you may get in big trouble! And while we’re at it, if you have something to say, you better say it here and not on a sign on your lawn, because they also passed a rule about signs. In fact, I am a little worried about my “Merry Christmas” sign. Technically, it’s against the rules, isn’t it? Oh, but wait, signs are okay if they say things that the Aunties like. It’s only bad if it personally offends them. You see, that’s the problem with the fight against fun; it’s only enforced against the family members that the older generation doesn’t like.
As for this blog, most of you know by now that crazy Uncle Buz and Lola Lollipop have been writing like crazy. MOM and Auntie Carmen got a bee in their bonnets and decided that they were talking waaaay too much about things they would rather forget and and that people were better off not knowing so, after trying enough times, they finally got a couple of the boys on the board to make a rule about the paper only telling their side of any story. Since Uncle Buz and Lola Lollipop just don’t ever know when to shut up, they decided that the board could keep its silly little paper, and they would finally step out of the dark ages and write to you all online. It seems to be working out pretty well, too, because they can talk everyday now, instead of waiting two whole months for the paper to be published.
Speaking of our little family’s online presence, let’s talk about the new website purchased with the TOPS system for more than $10,000. This little beauty is supposed to do everything. Billing, accounts, property records, newsletter, website, probably even the laundry, who knows? This amazing piece of electronic wizardry managed to … well, there is a website now. Many of us remember the good old days, when we used Cousin Leon’s website. Of course, it was free, and you get what you pay for, right? Leon’s website had lots of news and pictures, it was updated daily, and questions were answered promptly. It had an easy to read format for finding information on events, committees, and board actions. It even had contact numbers for the staff and the board. Yessir, cousin Bob did a bang-up job. So, of course, they fired him. Then they tried launching their brand new TOPS website. And the very first thing it did was publish all the names, addresses, home and work phone numbers and email addresses of every single member. Whoops. It’s been about five months since they launched the new website, and well, let’s just hope the other parts of the system work a little better than the website module. It should be working like they promised any day now.
We celebrate all the holidays here in Emerald Lakes, just not the way most families do. There’s Independence Day (no fireworks, of course, that would be fun), Veteran’s Day (there was a lovely memorial wreath put out for 5 minutes to commemorate the occasion, but it had to be taken in so it wouldn’t be stolen), and Halloween. Now on Halloween we don’t trick or treat; we trunk or treat. In theory it’s a great idea. Kids go to the Community Center parking lot and generous townfolk open their treat-filled trunks to the costumed kids. It’s supposed to be for two hours, but what happens is that the early arrivals just keep circling the lot endlessly, going back again and again and filling their greedy little bags until all the treats are gone. It generally takes about 20 minutes. And then there’s nothing left for the later arrivals. Oh well. But this year, we are doing Christmas right. Christmas caroling at the Main Entrance. (Just don’t stay too long, or you will get fined for loitering!) On December 22 from 1 to 3, Santa and Mrs. Claus will visit the Community Center and the children will perform in a play called “Help Santa Save Christmas”. You should all come so we can talk about the ones that don’t show up.
‘Till next year,
Merry Christmas from Aunt Emmy and the Emerald Lakes Free Press!