by Buz Whelan
It was a short and sweet board meeting last Saturday. President Alex Leslie called the meeting to order at 9:30 and announced that the proceedings would be recorded due to the absence of the recording secretary Roxanne Chumacas. Present were the GM, the President, Vice President Dan Glasgow, Treasure Earl Frank, and Directors Millie Bishop and June Solla. Absent were Secretary Carmen Broadnax and Director Margaret Fitzgerald. Leslie also pointed out that since the recording device being used had a one hour capacity, the meeting would have to be limited to that time.
As he made the President’s Comments, Leslie thanked June Solla for her work in organizing the Veterans’ Day ceremony. He also thanked the GM for his and the maintenance staff’s efforts in keeping the roads drivable during the late Fall storms we’ve had. This was accomplished in spite of equipment problems that presented challenges in addition to the snow and ice.
Treasurer Earl Frank also kept his remarks brief stating that revenue exceeded projections by about $34,000 while the overall budget was under by approximately 10%. This in spite of the fact that the bar and grill are approximately $14,000 over costs. We have collected in total $1,093,000 in dues and other income which is on a par with the previous year. The reserve fund stands at $262,000, with new capital reserve at $10,000 after the paying of the paving for the compactor.
General Manager Allen Roth reported that with the current snowfall expected to be substantial, he had a shift that would continue to midnight and then would be relieved by a shift beginning then and continuing into the next day. All equipment is (was) currently operational. He also reported that he had put out an RFP for a new auditor. In response to a question from the November meeting, he told the room the association currently bills 1,633 improved lots (homes) and 349 unimproved. He also announced that the Emerald News would be delivered to the community on Friday, December 20th.
Under old business a report on Clause 15 properties was postponed due to the absence of Secretary Broadnax. In response to a question, the president explained that these are properties that are within the borders of Emerald Lakes but whose owners opted out when the association was established. According to preliminary opinion of counsel, these properties may be obligated to join the association and pay dues since they enjoy many of the services provided. More on this will be revealed next month.
Only one engineering firm has so far expressed interest in the Pine Tree Dam Valve and evacuation pipe repair project. Ace Engineering has offered to provide divers to determine the precise scope of work. According to GM Roth, the current leak may not be as severe as previously believed and, therefore, the time frame for repair may be more like five years than two or three.
There was a third and final reading of Resolution #24 which will restore the late fee charged on dues from 2 1/2% to 10%. When the association went to quarterly payments, some math-challenged individuals changed the late fee to two and one-half per cent on the mistaken notion that four quarters of that would equal 10% annually, which, of course, it does not. It equals two and one-half per cent. This is now corrected.
There was also a third and final reading of Resolution #25 which will put the burden of credit card transaction discount on the member using a card. (When a credit card is accepted, the accepting party receives less than 100% of the total charge. Generally they are charged a fee of 2 to 4% by the clearing house. This is referred to as the discount fee.) The new rule will be effective with the 2014/2015 billing, generally mailed around the 22nd to 24th of February.
Under New Business the GM reported that he has an appointment scheduled with an engineering firm to examine what needs to be done to bring the community center up to snuff. Among the repairs and improvements needed are a new HVAC system and improved insulation. The condition of the roof and underpinnings will also be examined.
President Leslie announced that the new Committee Chair Council will be meeting at a time and date TBD, probably January or February. The purpose of the committee is to improve communication between the committees, with an eye toward greater cooperation on common projects. The president also said that he will allow the council to brainstorm at its first meeting to set its own goals and objectives.
It was announced that the newly renovated conference room in the administration building has had new chairs delivered. A new conference table is also expected soon.
After a motion to welcome new members, three of which are repossessing banks, the meeting was adjourned at 10:22am.
by Buz Whelan
The Town Hall meeting held on Saturday, October 26th drew a full house. At a few minutes after 11am Dan Glasgow, a board director, began the meeting by explaining the water testing options and then handing out test kits and instructions to members who wanted them. Three levels of testing were offered. A package at $125 offered to test total coliform w/E. coli, nitrate and nitrite, pH, hardness, conductivity, lead, copper and iron. Another package at $85 included all but pH, hardness, conductivity and copper. A budget package at $30 tested only for total coliform w/E. coli. Anyone who missed the meeting but wishes testing done should contact Dan through the Emerald Lakes website or the admin office. You may also wish to contact the tester, Microbac Laboratories at (570)629-8900.
In the second part of the meeting Officer Dan Jones of the Pocono Mountain Regional Police made a presentation, complete with slides, on personal security and neighborhood watch practices. Jones is a large man with an even larger personality. He used both exhaustive statistics and a sense of humor to educate the attendees on local – Emerald Lakes – criminal activity. Among the 650 calls so far this year, 1 was for homicide, 1 arson, 1 rape/sexual assault, 2 robberies, 10 assaults (including attempted and threats of violence), 12 burglaries, 22 thefts, 1 act of fraud, 2 receiving stolen property, 17 acts of vandalism and 57 domestic disputes. He also noted that there were 141 false alarms and that an excess of 3 false alarms in a single year would result in a fine.
On the defensive side, Jones said that most crimes are committed by individuals ranging between 14 and 24 years of age, and further, that the peak time period is between 3 and 7pm. One of the ways to guard against a high crime rate is to provide supervised activities for young people, including Boy and Girl Scouting. Jones also said that ‘environmental design’ plays a role in vulnerability to crime. Such things as lighting, landscaping or structural impedimenta that give cover to burglars or, in the case of lighting, limit such cover, can be manipulated by the homeowner to decrease the attractive nature of his or her home to a criminal. He suggested that knowing one’s neighbors and familiarization with their vehicles helps in reporting suspected crime. Jones emphasized that anyone seeing what they suspect is criminal activity should report that to the police and never, ever confront a suspected perpetrator. He closed by saying he could be reached a email@example.com or (570)895-2400.
In the third installment of the meeting Fishing and Conservation Club representative Eric Bergstrom spoke on fishing and stocking. He discussed the problem of ice fishing. Emerald Lakes has a catch and release rule. Any fish caught, of any size, must be promptly released back into the lake from which it was taken. Many members, including this writer, have observed ice fisherman set up multiple holes, with flagging devices that alert the fisherman to a catch. The fish is then hauled in and placed in a bucket which leaves with the fisherman. Ice fishing is rarely done for sport and is mainly subsistence fishing. A spirited discussion ensued in which it was pointed out that much of this activity occurs on winter weekends when Public Safety is not on duty. Calls for assistance are often delayed until
the fishermen have left. It was proposed that large chest tags be issued to members only so that they could be easily identified at a distance. It was also widely suggested that ice fishing be banned altogether.
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)
By Lola Lauri
Cabaret ’35 began at 7 pm on August 10th at “Club Emerald” (formerly known as the Community Center). Its creators worked all day to create the illusion of a nightclub from the 1930’s, and their attention to detail showed. Guests entered past the old time ticket booth, which was graced with a large sign declaring this performance “Sold Out”. The dining room was elegant, with black tablecloths topped with mirrors and lovely white candle lamps. A glance out the window, showed a dark city skyline with a bright crescent moon above. A peek over the fireplace afforded a view of the “band”, in its art deco orchestra pit. In front, to the left, a large lighted sign dotted with fireflies declared that this was Club Emerald in elegant script and, to the right, a dazzling
tinsel curtain covered the hallway exit. In the center, an art deco patterned curtained served as a backdrop for the stage where the performance was soon to begin.
As the stylishly dressed guests filed in, greeting friends and neighbors, anticipation for the show began to build. The staff hurried to seat and take orders from the more than 70
guests in attendance. Overwhelmed by the initial rush of patrons, they struggled to get drinks and food to everyone but, by 8:15, most were enjoying their drinks and settling in for the entertainment.
Chef Todd had a superb menu for this evening, with an assortment of small plates, designed for sharing. Shrimp cocktail, a classic from the era, was a popular selection, along with the crab stuffed mushrooms and the potato
blintzes smothered in a caramelized onion crème. The London broil salad in balsamic vinaigrette and the fried calamari with marinara sauce for dipping were both tasty and delicious too. There was also a special cocktail menu for those who wished to sample drinks that were typical fare in 1935. Peach Bellinis and Mint Juleps were refreshing choices for several guests.
Before the show, guests were directed to the giant crescent moon in the corner for a photo opportunity. With
legs draped across the moon, guests cuddled and smiled for the camera, then left their contact information so they could have a digital keepsake of this fun event. Bob Lauri was our eager photographer, and he captured many memories of the evening, including the ones pictured here in this article. (Thanks, Honey!)
When it was time for the show to begin, Buz Whelan introduced the performer for the evening, Elizabeth Knecht. Buz and I met Elizabeth last year when she performed at The Speakeasy Lounge (see here, for a review of that evening)
and we were both extremely excited to bring her to Emerald Lakes. Elizabeth took to the stage with a black and gold sequined dress and a short black flapper hairdo. She set the mood by singing “Cabaret” and then launched into her rendition of “All That Jazz” while actively recruiting audience members to sing and dance along with her. Resident Melanie Balzano took no time at all to decide that she was going to be in the act, as she enthusiastically leapt to the dance floor. Elizabeth also brought along her young niece, Ashley, who lent her dancing skills to the festivities throughout the night. Soon enough, many of the other guests took turns dancing
and singing as well. But it was Elizabeth that caught everyone’s heart with her powerful and heartbreaking version of “Memories”. The standing ovation that followed showed just how much the audience was captured by her performance.
After a brief intermission Buz introduced “Liz K” – Elizabeth, but with a black lace dress and a blond curly hairdo. She continued to wow the crowd with selections
that alternated from romantic to rousing, keeping toes tapping, hands clapping and the dance floor full. All too soon, the last song was upon us and she closed the evening with “The Best of Times is Now” (from La Cage Aux Folles).
Everyone rose to their feet, clapping and singing along as Elizabeth took her leave from the stage.
The only piece of business left was for us to announce the winners of the
best dressed couple prizes. We awarded Melanie Balzano second place because, even though her husband Mario did not dress in costume, Melanie had enough spirit and costume for two. With gangster-style pinstripes and flapper
fun (and a boa that shed feathers in its wake!) first place
went to Emerald Lakes President Alex Leslie and his wife, Gini.
Finally, it takes a lot to bring a night like this together, and Buz and I are very thankful for all the folks who helped us. The ELA staff was wonderful – especially Todd, Heather and Jackie; even our Public Safety officers helped out when the servers fell behind! In fact, Heather and Jackie spent the whole week leading up to the show working on ways to make this event special. They designed costumes and makeup for the servers; they spent hours creating
and setting up the lovely table centerpieces and the old time ticket booth for the entrance to the Community Center; and they put their creative skills to work all day Saturday designing and painting the lighted “Club Emerald” sign for the stage area, all before helping the rest of us decorate and set up the room for the evening. These two gave a very special effort for Cabaret ’35 and we could not have pulled the evening together nearly so well without their creativity and talent. We also want to thank Stefania, Darren, Kathy, Shari, and Meredith, who gave the afternoon to help with decorations and, of course, we can’t forget the Lovely Elizabeth Knecht. In spite of the troubles, disagreements and difficulties of our community and of the present time, it is when we all come together to celebrate that we can remember that the Best of Times really is now. Buz and I truly enjoyed bringing this party to the community and hope you all will support us in the future.
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.
By Buz Whelan
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
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)
Emerald Lakes will be holding its annual Meet the Candidates on Saturday, August 3rd, 2013 at 9:30 am in the Community Center. Some notices, and emails mistakenly reported that it will begin at 9:oo. This meeting is your chance to hear what the candidates have to say about our community and what they want to do if elected.
The Board is still discussing the format of this meeting, trying to decide if members will have a chance to ask questions of the candidates directly or if the questions will only come from the elections committee.
- June 22, 2013 Board of Directors Monthly Open Meeting (emeraldlakesfreepress.com)
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.
What an amazing production at the Funhouse (aka Community Center)! Four days of scary turns and twists that sent some running out the door even before the end of the tour!
Brave participants were greeted by The Evil Gypsy Fortune Teller, and then led past the friendly but tortured soul who just wanted new friends she could make look like her or her hollow-eyed doll. At every corner the scary clowns and mimes warned all to play fairly. They said they just wanted to be friends, but woe to those who said no, for they would suffer terrible consequences! All around was evidence of what happened to those who did not please them. Victims were jailed, tortured, beaten, stabbed by the Ring Master. There was Jack who didn’t stay in his “box” but instead came after visitors with his Chainsaw trying to chop up his the next meal! Through it all, there was a crazy Jester who would pop up in places that you would never imagine. The final stop on this terrible tour was the play room, where sadistic clowns were waiting for each group, trying to lock them in, making them beg for mercy before they were released, except for one young soul. She absolutely never left! We’ll see next year where she is found…or NOT.