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Update on the Olall Thing

Lola Lauri

[Ed. note: If you have no idea what this is all about, click here and here for the original articles]

Here is a comment we received from Michael V. Gazza regarding our most recent article:
I’m an attorney representing Joe O’Lall. Please be advised that Mr. O’Lall’s record was EXPUNGED pertaining to the events of 2010.
The expungement means that the arrest, charges, and results of this matter cannot legally be held against Mr. O’Lall.
As an internet publication, you can be held liable for printing about his arrest or charges because you failed to also publish that the case was dismissed and expunged.

I am no legal scholar, but a quick internet search shows that expungement is the process by which a person’s criminal record has been sealed and removed from the public record. It means that the person can claim that they were never convicted of that crime when applying for a job. It means he or she can pass most background checks. However, it does not mean that the Men In Black have shown up with their “blinky thingie” and erased all memory of said actions. We are free to remember.
Now here at Emerald Lakes Free Press we are always happy to publish the other side of a story, and we are glad to set the record straight. So, it may be true that Mr. Olall’s record was expunged, and you may make of that information what you will, but now I would like to tell you why I think that this may not be the best approach for getting that information out.
First, while it may be true that Mr. Olall and the courts managed to come to an agreement that they will erase any mention of this episode in their records, we made no such agreement. I can “hold this matter” against Mr. Olall in the same way I hold it against anyone who I feel has wronged me, no matter the legal outcome of a situation. I will use what I know to determine and color my future dealings with this person in any way I see fit. I do not need a criminal conviction to know that Mr. Olall is not someone that I want to deal with in any capacity, based on these and many other actions of his over the years I have known him.
Second, as for the claim that I can be held liable for reporting on what was said in an open board meeting, I don’t see how. It’s true that I wrote the word “arrest” in the original article, and the Board asked me to correct that, which I did, but not having the benefit of a recording device, I wrote as fast as my little fingers could go to capture the important details of what happened at the meeting and I substituted a word. Of course, his arrest did happen, and was reported in the newspapers at the time, so I was not making up something that never happened The article itself was straight reporting of an event. It contained no opinion or commentary on Mr. Olall’s character or history. I simply reported the Board’s statement, and if Mr. Olall has a problem with what they said, he needs to take that up with them, not shoot the messenger.
Third, although there may be an expungement of the records of the events, I cannot understand why a good lawyer would recommend that his or her client bring this matter to the attention of the community yet again. I would think that it might be better to let the whole sad affair fade from memory. But I am not a lawyer, so what do I know?
So, with that in mind, dear reader, here it is – Mr. Olall’s record with the state of Pennsylvania has apparently been expunged. You may continue with your day.

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November 1, 2014 Monthly Open Meeting

Lola Lauri

thCA3ZBTNPOur board has been very busy in the last month, working on all the issues and concerns that come with running our community. These include, but are not limited to, the membership review, the condition of the roads, the excessive legal fees we have incurred this year, rental restrictions within the community, the replacement of the maintenance building, and the expenses of the Emerald Bar and Grill. Much information was given throughout this month’s meeting about each of these topics. Rather than skip back and forth to each topic, I will present each separately and then list the other issues that were brought up.
Membership Review
imagesCAVDSRC8Upon the disclaiming of the audit at our Annual Meeting, the general membership has become aware of the discrepancy between who we have listed as our members and what the county records show. The Board is working with the attorney to reconcile these. Brad Jones reported that the Attorney Hoffman could not meet the October 31st deadline for his opinion on the membership review, and was requesting an additional two weeks to complete his research. Hoffman would be willing to attend the November 14th meeting in person (at no additional charge) to answer questions and clarify concerns. Diane Caldwell clarified that the delay was due to information that is not available online but only at the courthouse. Jones felt that having the lawyer present would be a good idea since he could answer their questions and concerns directly at the meeting. The Board voted 5-2 to accept the attorney’s request.
Before approving the audit, Buz Whelan wanted to clarify for the membership the meaning of the “disclaimed” audit. He explained that although the auditors chose to disclaim this year’s audit, they did so because of the discrepancy between the county records and our records, and that they found no irregularities or difficulties in obtaining the information needed to perform the audit. When describing certain “misstatements” in our records, they were referring to their preferences in the way we record certain information. Each auditor has preferences for the way information is recorded, but these are not necessarily right or wrong. Whelan wanted to stress that this disclaimer was not an indication of any wrongdoing on anyone’s part. Brad Jones noted that all 7 recommendations of the auditors were resolved. The treasurer’s report by Buz Whelan included an example of one of the changes and how it effects our budget. He reported that the Administration department has exceeded its YTD budget by $61k, but explained that part of the difference may be attributed to changes in the way we record our collections accounts. Previously, we would not count the attorney’s collection fees as income since we never actually see this money (he is paid by the delinquent account holder as part of the collection fees). Our new auditor would like to see that money recorded as income and then the fees portion as an expense to the lawyer. The resolution to approve the audit passed.

Road Repair and Maintenance

Road crews on Rt. 940, hard at work in the cold rain.

Road crews on Rt. 940, hard at work in the cold rain.

Brad Jones, Robert Lauri and Bob Leon completed a road survey and developed a plan for road maintenance. Robert Lauri addressed two main issues at the meeting; grading and plowing. He supplied the audience with pictures from the road survey showing alligator cracks, seams and potholes. Mr. Lauri said that the water that collects in the roadways causes the cracks and then our current plowing procedures rip up the uneven asphalt. He warned that the weather here ensures that we will always have road issues and that the goal is to preserve the safety of our members and the integrity of our roads for as long as possible. Their plan is to complete “scalping” of the edges of all the roads to direct the water away from the roads. “It’s going to be ugly,” he said, “but it has to be done. Without proper drainage, our roads are doomed.” He assured everyone that the grass and weeds would grow back quickly, and that our roads would be better for it. He also stressed that they must work to communicate to the membership what is being done and why. Lauri would also like to seal the seams in the roads (but not the alligator cracks; he believes those are beyond saving).
The plowing portion of the plan includes marking unpaved roads and adding and using shoes on the plows set above the ground to avoid tearing up the roads. He said that training the plow operators in proper “pushback” procedures will also help ensure that the snowmelt drains off of the roads.
Lauri turned the subject over to Brad Jones who recommended that the Board approve the community-wide grading project. He had one bid for $2,340 per day (using our staff to supplement the work by cleaning up and carrying out the materials removed by the scalping), with a worst-case estimate of 3 miles per day completed. He stated this would cost at most $28k, which would come from funds already budgeted for the roads. After some discussion about other companies to solicit for bids, Lauri made a motion to accept up to $30k in expenses for this project. The motion passed 6-0 (June Solla left the meeting early for an emergency). Since the roads were being addressed, Diane Caldwell interjected a plea on behalf of the Blueberry Estates residents for management to contact Pocono township regarding the roads in that area. She said there are potholes the size of the conference room tables there and no one will work on the roads. George Haab added that Powderhorn Drive also has enormous potholes that should be addressed.

Legal Fees
public-domain-clipart41[1]In his treasurer’s report, Buz Whelan expressed his concern with our mounting legal fees. Whelan pointed out that our other attorney’s fees (not the collections attorney) are a large part of the increased expenses in the Administration department. The Association has spent $29k on legal opinions from our attorney in just the past 5 months. Compare that to the previous year when we spent only $6,500 for the whole year. He presented examples of advice solicited on issues that he felt could have been handled in-house by the Board and Management. They include:
$1,771 for advice on creating an absentee balloting policy for which we still have no amendment.
$1,475 for an opinion on handling social media (i.e. the unofficial Facebook page) which determined that they were unlikely to prevail in any attempts to stop the use of this page.
$1,628 for advice on member’s requests for Association documents and records.
$2,624 for an opinion on rental restrictions for the community for which the lawyer said were all unlikely to withstand any legal challenge.
Whelan said that the directors need to commit to a willingness to make many of these decisions to stem the rising legal costs. He said that abdication of a director’s responsibility by sending all these decisions to the lawyer is too expensive for us all. His suggestion is to move forward on these kinds of decisions and, if a legal challenge is presented, those would be covered by our insurance. Joseph Olall questioned Whelan’s argument by reminding him that board members are not lawyers and in fact, one of the first actions of Mr. Whelan’s former presidency on the Board was to fire an employee who then sued the association. Olall suggested that, with legal counsel, the cost of that challenge could have been avoided. Whelan stated that the only cost was to meet that employee’s contracted requirement of 30 days notice, which a lawyer’s advice would have warned us about, but the opinion itself would have cost us additional money.

Rental Restrictions
thCAXUHYV5In his Director’s comments, Whelan used the last example above to express his desire to make ELA an rental friendly community. He and Director Diane Caldwell are working on developing ways to increase the community’s income from rentals. Rather than creating restrictions to members’ ability to rent their properties, Whelan and Caldwell believe that we need to develop policies that encourage short-term rentals and bring speculators to our community who would be willing to invest in homes where they can make money through rentals. Caldwell has experience in this area and says that given the Kalahari and Aquatopia projects in our area, the time to jump on this opportunity is now. Lake Naomi has a model that allows them to split a 26% commission on rentals with the brokers. Whelan described a vision of a rental office that advertises and manages rentals for the landlords of the community and collects the commissions for the community. He states that landlords pay dues at a higher percentage than other members because their livelihood depends on being able to offer their renters the amenities that our community provides. Both admit that there is a need to protect other members from the problems that short-term renters sometimes bring, but do not see that as an impossible challenge to surmount considering the potential return for the Association.
Construction of Maintenance Building
under-construction-sign-hi[1]Construction on the new maintenance building and storage shed has been delayed because of permit issues (the township requires a handicapped accessible bathroom and parking space). Delivery should happen on November 4th, and they will build the cinder bins first, while they work on the permit for the main building. Dan Glasgow explained that the original building was built without a permit and thus could not be grandfathered in for an exception to these requirements. They are trying to get the township to approve a plan to bring the bathroom in the existing building up to the standard since it is close enough to the other building to qualify.
Emerald Grill

I "heart" Creamy Tomato Basil Soup.

I “heart” Creamy Tomato Basil Soup.

Manager Judy Kennedy has been working along with Robert Lauri to train the bartenders and to address problems with the POS. Sales for Friday night party were $847, a significantly higher than average, and he was confident that expenses would continue to dwindle and service will improve.
Whelan broke out the Bar and Grill in the treasurer’s report and described the income verses expenses of its operation. He pointed out that although the B&G is $17k over budget, the month of September showed a smaller loss ($2,200 versus an average of $3,700) than the first 4 months of the year. He is confident that the work being done by Preferred Management and the assistance provided by Robert Lauri will continue to bring these costs down. When asked what he would consider an acceptable cost for this amenity, Whelan said he believes that between $1k and $1.5k per month would be a reasonable expectation. For comparison, he noted that the outdoor pool costs approximately $4k/month to operate and he believes that it serves fewer members.

Changes in Scheduled Meetings
putthis_on_calendar_clip_art[1]President Dan Glasgow talked about the schedule changes for upcoming meetings of the board. November 14th will be a workshop, dedicated to the issue of the membership review. December 5th will be a regular workshop meeting, and December 13th will be a combination open meeting.

Treasurer’s Report
In addition to those items discussed above, Treasurer Buz Whelan presented the financials as of 9/30/14. He compared current numbers to last year’s and described several negative trends. We have collected $96,500 less in dues than the same period from last year, spent $169k more in expenses, have a cash balance of $110k less, and a reserve balance of $36.5k less than last year. He also mentioned that our New Capital balance is $29k lower than last year, but mentioned that the money went to needed repairs and as such is not a concern.
Maintenance is under budget, due mainly to work that has yet to be done, and Public Safety is on budget. The Community Center is under budget by almost $12k due to a decrease in salaries.
Manager’s Report
Manager Judy Kennedy stated that, once approved, the completed audit will be available at the office and on the website. They have begun work on an Emergency Management plan and, as part of that effort, some of the staff has received first aid training and others are scheduled for that training in the future. Digital time clocks have been installed for tracking staff hours. The fire extinguishers in the Community Center have been repaired and charged. She noted that the HVAC was not cooling during the Cancer Awareness event and she thanked everyone for their patience and their participation in the event. Kennedy also noted that the new digital system in the pool says that the water is at 83 degrees, even though some members insist it is not. The broken pool table has been replaced with a pay-for-play model installed and maintained by an outside vendor. The community will split evenly the $1 per game revenue with the vendor. The sauna and septic repairs at the Community Center will be completed next week. In response to a request from a member at last month’s meeting, each management report will be available to members both at the office and on the website after its approval by the board.
Beavers
beaverAt the workshop, the Board discussed the beavers and decided that no action would be taken at this time. Robert Lauri, who was absent from the workshop due to a death in the family, stated that while he does not wish to undermine a decision made by the Board, he would like to consider the long-range negative effects that the beavers may cause to our waterways and common property before dismissing this as simply a responsibility of the members themselves. Glasgow read an article written last year by Director Millie Bishop for the Emerald News. Bishop said that beavers can have positive effects on the environment as well, noting that when the beavers were eliminated Lower Deer Lake began to dry up and so the board at the time decided to repopulate the area.
Bank Signatories
Next, the board voted to approve four officers as signatories for the ELA accounts. These are Dan Glasgow, Robert Lauri, Buz Whelan and Millie Bishop. Earl Frank asked if the general manager should also be a signatory, but the Board decided not to include them at this time.
Address the Board Policy
Brad Jones had a first draft of the policy for handling the letters sent to the “Address the Board” section of the website. He expressed concern about the timeline for replies and suggested that management be given the discretion to respond to simple procedural requests and save the Board from dealing with the more trivial questions. Diane Caldwell expressed concern that a registered letter was sent to the office that contained seven separate sealed letters for each member of the board. She said she believes this is a federal offense, and should not be accepted. The Board agreed to discuss these changes at the workshop in December.
Committee Reports
Reporting for the maintenance committee, Bob Leon reported that they have concerns about the performance of compliance officer Ralph Musto, who apparently issued a permit for a resident to build on Association property. He believes this is the equivalent of giving away property and it opens us up to legal concerns.
Louise Leon thanked the Board and Management company on behalf of the Adult Water Aerobics club.
Earl Frank submitted a list of 9 recommendations from the F&P committee (he did not read them), and noted that the collections attorney has done a good job with collections on past due accounts so far this year.
Stefania Johnson reported that the Events committee is waiting on a response from the board regarding their recommendation for an electronic sign. They are also changing the ELA Dancing with the Stars event to ELA’s Got Talent, to allow for a broader range of acts. The tentative date for this event is January 17th. She thanked everyone involved in the Halloween Haunted House and the other Halloween events in the community. The committee is looking to bring back a monthly Dance Party and a monthly kids movie event at the CC. They are finalizing plans for a Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas tree decoration party. They are in discussions with Buz Whelan regarding an event in February and they would like to declare the entire month to be Heart Disease Awareness month.
For Crimewatch, Connie Simpson wanted to thank all who were involved in managing the Halloween Trunk or Treat.
Joseph Olall expressed his concern with the delay in holding a Communications Committee meeting. Judy Kennedy explained that since she had gotten no response to her emails to Mr. Olall, she went ahead and set a meeting date for October 25th but, upon getting no confirmation from Olall himself, and having received several cancellations and then finding out that some people who had wanted to participate were never informed of the meeting in the first place, she and Liaison Buz Whelan decided to postpone the meeting until November 8th.
Diane Caldwell said that she would contact Mark Davis and work to set up the first meeting of the Real Estate Committee.
Public Comments
attention_clipart1Carmen Brodnax asked if the Board had approved outside advertising of the Haunted House in the Community Center. The Board was unaware of any outside advertising.
Cathy Leach was concerned that adding shoes to the plows would increase costs for cinders. Brad Jones said he did not know if that would happen, but that they were prepared to modify the plan if it did not work to their expectations.
Darren Johnson said that with the resignation of Chris Tarvin as CC manager, we had an opportunity to mold and develop a leader in a new employee. Jones agreed.
Stefania Johnson suggested a celebration for Mr. Tarvin was in order.
Mary Cavanaugh asked if the delivery of the maintenance building would interfere with compactor hours. Jones said it would not.
Gilda Spiotta re-stated her concern regarding the beavers on her property and suggested that the Game Commission would remove them for free.
Bob Leon complained that the newsletter is still not up on the webpage and that some of the kiosks are empty. He also suggested that the community should do more to advertise the rental availability of the CC.
Louise Leon was concerned that leaving snow on the roads (because of the plow shoes) would result in more accidents.
Kathy Whelan complimented everyone involved in the Cancer Awareness Day event and asked how much money was raised in total. Robert Lauri expressed his concern that a misunderstanding of some sort led to an additional cost to the Bar and Grill of $187. Buz Whelan said that it was a misunderstanding by Chris Tarvin and that it is illegal to have employees volunteering to do their own jobs.
George Haab told the Board that he would be placing a collection bin for Boy Scout Troop 94’s “Scouting for Food” campaign.
New Members
The meeting concluded with the welcoming of new members. There were 5 properties sold, 6 foreclosures sold, and one new foreclosure and one sheriff’s sale.

A Tale of Two Homes

By George Haab
There were two lovely homes in a mountain community called Emerald Lakes. Each was owned by families who used them as vacation homes and visited them at irregular intervals. Both homes had alarm systems. One kept his vital information, such as his up-to-date telephone and cell phone information up to date. The other moved several times, changing his numbers and failing to notify his alarm company. The homeowner who kept his information current also gave a trusted full time neighbor a duplicate house key.
stock-photo-plan-b-strategy-option-alternative-planning-business-symbol-black-board-isolated-113544286[1]One day during a time of extremely low temperatures several transformers blew. Each homeowner lost all power to his vacation home. The power company tried to call each homeowner. They reached the first homeowner and told him he would have to turn off his main breaker before it would be safe to restore power. The homeowner quickly called the trusted neighbor who went to the home and turned the breaker off. He then notified the power company and the power was restored. His furnace, powered by LP by controlled by an electric thermostat immediately went back on – before the house temperature dipped below freezing. But the second homeowner, the one who did not keep his contact information up to date, did not know his heat was off. Soon the temperature dipped very low and all the water in the house froze. The sink traps were split open, toilet tanks cracked, water pipes burst and the water heater was ruptured. Thousands of dollars worth of damage resulted.
The take away from these stories is obvious. Each of these scenarios has occurred many times throughout the Pocono region. Don’t be like the second homeowner. Keep your contact information current with your alarm company and all your suppliers. And think about giving a trusted neighbor a key. That neighbor can look in your home if the alarm goes off or if you’re notified of a power interruption. As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

“I Abstain!” Is It Shirking Responsibility?

Opinion

by Buz Whelan

   QuestionMark[1]  There are occasions when a vote of abstention is appropriate and even mandatory. When minutes of a previous meeting are put up for approval, for example, a member who did not attend that meeting must abstain. When a complicated piece of business has been examined and discussed while a member is ill, that member may not feel qualified to vote in judgment. But when a vote to abstain is cast simply because the voting member does not wish to take a public stand, that is failing to perform one’s duty.

     At the July 21, 2013 meeting of the Finance and Planning Committee a discussion centered on the cost of credit card discounting to the association. Whenever a credit card is used in a transaction there is a discount fee which varies with the card and the merchant’s agreement with the clearing house. If you paid your annual dues with a credit card and the discount rate for that card was 3.5%, the association would receive only $965 rather than the full $1,000. At this meeting it was agreed by the committee members to pass a recommendation to the board that whenever a credit card is used to pay dues, the cost of the transaction should be borne by the payer. General Manager Allan Roth was present at the meeting and soon after began seeking a vendor who would cooperate in the charge back. Eventually, he found several and prepared a packet of detailed information along with a recommendation that the company best suited to association needs was Paylease.

     Approximately one week before the October 18th board work session, the packets of information were distributed to each director’s mailbox so that they would have time to prepare for the discussion and have any questions ready for the GM to answer. At that meeting, Mr. Roth made a comprehensive presentation, explaining how the new system would work and why he felt Paylease was our best choice. At the conclusion of his presentation a discussion period ensued, with the GM answering all the directors’ questions and concerns. When no further questions were forthcoming, it was decided that a resolution would be prepared for a vote at the next weekend’s open meeting. The meeting then moved on to the next topic.

     The following day, Saturday, October 19th the Finance and Planning Committee met in the same conference room. Present as observers were several board members including President Alex Leslie and Directors June Solla and Margaret Fitzgerald. By sheer coincidence, committee member  Walter O’Neill asked the GM what had become of the credit card recommendation. Mr. Roth repeated his presentation from the day before for the benefit of the committee members. He again took questions and, as at the previous day’s meeting, the topic was exhausted and the meeting moved on.

     We now come to the October 26th open meeting. Secretary Carmen Broadnax reads the resolution regarding the new credit card policy, the chair gets a second and a vote is called. Earl Frank, Millie Bishop, Carmen Broadnax and Dan Glasgow vote in the affirmative. It is now Director Margaret Fitzgerald’s turn. She says she is abstaining because she does not have enough information. The chair calls on Director June Solla who says she is abstaining for the same reason as Ms. Fitzgerald.

     To recap, a packet of information has been given to each of these directors. They attended two successive meeting in which the change was discussed in detail. They knew the vote was coming and had a week to seek out any additional information they felt they needed. And they abstained.

     The very next vote was to endorse a change order in the amount of $11,000 for additional work needed to resolve foundational problems discovered during road paving. Again, this issue had been previously discussed, again the vote was scheduled a week in advance and again both Ms. Fitzgerald and Ms. Solla abstained.

     This is an opinion piece. It is labeled as such, and it is my opinion that these directors have failed to perform their duty. Perhaps they have an explanation that I have yet to fathom. But when detailed information is provided and sufficient time elapses without any effort to obtain whatever clarification the directors feel they need, then they are not acting responsibly.

     We elect directors to make decisions. That’s what they are supposed to do. It is their main job. Anyone can make the easy decisions that have little effect on the way the association does business. It is when difficult decisions on complex issues must be made that we separate the strong performers from the weak ones. Here are two examples of very weak performance.

December 14, 2013 Monthly Open Board Meeting

by Buz Whelan

meeting[1]     It was a short and sweet board meeting last Saturday. President Alex Leslie called the meeting to order at 9:30 and announced that the proceedings would be recorded due to the absence of the recording secretary Roxanne Chumacas. Present were the GM, the President, Vice President Dan Glasgow, Treasure Earl Frank, and Directors Millie Bishop and June Solla. Absent were Secretary Carmen Broadnax and Director Margaret Fitzgerald. Leslie also pointed out that since the recording device being used had a one hour capacity, the meeting would have to be limited to that time.

     As he made the President’s Comments, Leslie thanked June Solla for her work in organizing the Veterans’ Day ceremony. He also thanked the GM for his and the maintenance staff’s efforts in keeping the roads drivable during the late Fall storms we’ve had. This was accomplished in spite of equipment problems that presented challenges in addition to the snow and ice.

     Treasurer Earl Frank also kept his remarks brief stating that revenue exceeded projections by about $34,000 while the overall budget was under by approximately 10%. This in spite of the fact that the bar and grill are approximately $14,000 over costs. We have collected in total $1,093,000 in dues and other income which is on a par with the previous year. The reserve fund stands at $262,000, with new capital reserve at $10,000 after the paying of the paving for the compactor.

     General Manager Allen Roth reported that with the current snowfall expected to be substantial, he had a shift that would continue to midnight and then would be relieved by a shift beginning then and continuing into the next day. All equipment is (was) currently operational. He also reported that he had put out an RFP for a new auditor. In response to a question from the November meeting, he told the room the association currently bills 1,633 improved lots (homes) and 349 unimproved. He also announced that the Emerald News would be delivered to the community on Friday, December 20th.

     Under old business a report on Clause 15 properties was postponed due to the absence of Secretary Broadnax. In response to a question, the president explained that these are properties that are within the borders of Emerald Lakes but whose owners opted out when the association was established. According to preliminary opinion of counsel, these properties may be obligated to join the association and pay dues since they enjoy many of the services provided. More on this will be revealed next month.

     Only one engineering firm has so far expressed interest in the Pine Tree Dam Valve and evacuation pipe repair project. Ace Engineering has offered to provide divers to determine the precise scope of work. According to GM Roth, the current leak may not be as severe as previously believed and, therefore, the time frame for repair may be more like five years than two or three.

     There was a third and final reading of Resolution #24 which will restore the late fee charged on dues from 2 1/2% to 10%. When the association went to quarterly payments, some math-challenged individuals changed the late fee to two and one-half per cent on the mistaken notion that four quarters of that would equal 10% annually, which, of course, it does not. It equals two and one-half per cent. This is now corrected.

     There was also a third and final reading of Resolution #25 which will put the burden of credit card transaction discount on the member using a card. (When a credit card is accepted, the accepting party receives less than 100% of the total charge. Generally they are charged a fee of 2 to 4% by the clearing house. This is referred to as the discount fee.) The new rule will be effective with the 2014/2015 billing, generally mailed around the 22nd to 24th of February.

     Under New Business the GM reported that he has an appointment scheduled with an engineering firm to examine what needs to be done to bring the community center up to snuff. Among the repairs and improvements needed are a new HVAC system and improved insulation. The condition of the roof and underpinnings will also be examined.

     President Leslie announced that the new Committee Chair Council will be meeting at a time and date TBD, probably January or February. The purpose of the committee is to improve communication between the committees, with an eye toward greater cooperation on common projects. The president also said that he will allow the council to brainstorm at its first meeting to set its own goals and objectives.

     It was announced that the newly renovated conference room in the administration building has had new chairs delivered. A new conference table is also expected soon.

     After a motion to welcome new members, three of which are repossessing banks, the meeting was adjourned at 10:22am.

November 23, 2013 Monthly Open Board Meeting

by Buz Whelan

 public-domain-clipart41[1]    The November open meeting was called to order by President Alex Leslie at 9:30am sharp. After a fast approval of the October minutes, Leslie opened his comments with a cryptic statement regarding the September meeting, saying the comments made then were his own and that he was not speaking for the board. He apologized for any confusion this may have caused. He then went on to say that the recent seminar on committee/board relations and procedures had produced a recommendation for a Committee Chair Council, and the board was prepared to act on this. He also mentioned that the bog removal project for East and West Emerald Lakes had been completed.

     Treasurer Earl Frank commenced his report by stating that the upcoming issue of the Emerald News will contain new information. Along with showing the actual dollars and variances from the budget items, readers will see the % of each major line item of expense by department to the total operating expense. A graphic chart will reflect expenses incurred by department through Oct. 31, 2013. This is intended to give members a better insight into the state of our finances.

     Frank continued that our current year-to-date revenue of $960,000 exceeds budget expectations by $29,000. This is primarily due to increased collections on code violations of $15,000 and fees for rentals, resale certificates and permits by another $10,000. In addition to these monies, our attorney has collected $96,000 year-to-date as opposed to $51,000 for the same period last year. Our total operating expenses of $825,000, excluding depreciation, is under budget by $70,000 or 8%.

     1. Administration costs are under budget by $25,000, with salaries and benefits under $17,000.

     2. Public Safety is under budget by $6,000.

     3. Maintenance is under budget by $37,000 due to a favorable variance in salaries and benefits of $18,000, $10,000 in lake maintenance and vehicle expenses of $8,000.

     4. The Community Center is under budget by $33,000 due to favorable variances in salaries and benefits of $22,000 and related items in the maintenance of our outdoor pool by $10,000 and the heating cost by $5,000.

     5. The Bar & Grill is over budget by $12,000. Revenue year-to-date is $38,000, while expense is $50,000 for a shortfall of $12,000. (editor’s note: this shortfall is an average of $2,000/mo for the first half year, down significantly from the $3,000/mo reported for the first three months)

     Regarding the total annual budget, we expect to be under by 10% which should offset any reduction in dues collected.

     Finally, our reserves balance is $389,000 and the new capital fund balance is $72,000. Road paving will eat up $224,000 of the reserves while compactor paving will reduce new capital by $65,000.

     GM Allen Roth repeated the news that the bog removal had been completed in his Manager’s Report, and added that the removed material had been dried and stored and will be used as fertilizer. He also informed the room that the road paving project had been completed and that a punch list developed after completion had also been completely addressed. He stated that RFPs have been put out for the Pine Tree Lake dam valve and pipe repair, but that as of now only two firms have expressed interest.

     In a sad addendum, Roth reported the recent death of Fred Spott, long time engineering consultant for Emerald Lakes and a friend of the association.

     During the committee chair reports, ad hoc Committee to Revise the Bylaws chair Buz Whelan reported that the singular task of developing a complete protocol for absentee voting was well underway. The committee’s goal is to present the finished product to the board in time for the February open meeting. Committee members have agreed to hold extra meetings, if necessary, in order to meet this self-imposed deadline.

     Whelan also reported on the Property Management Committee in place of ailing chair Bob Leon. There was some discussion about the name of the committee, several board members maintaining that the bylaws specify that we have a Maintenance Committee, not a Property Management one. Whelan argued that we do, in fact, have a maintenance committee in that Property management performs all appropriate maintenance committee tasks. But the committee has also taken on those tasks of the moribund Architectural Review Committee, also specified by the bylaws. By working under the title of Property Management, but functioning as both ARC and Maintenance, the bylaw requirements are met. Whelan’s point was that it wasn’t about the name, but the function.

     Moving on to committee work, the committee is working on a signage project, intended to bring community signage up to date. It was also mentioned that the one way signs on Emerald Blvd. are missing. A car was observed traveling the wrong way on this past Friday. The committee is also working on obtaining a surveillance system. One that has been researched would provide a 17 camera system with recording capability. Cost would be about $3,500.

     Stephania Johnson, Events Committee chair reported on a full schedule of events for the coming year. Highlights include Santa for the kids, a New Year’s Eve party, a murder-mystery night for Valentine’s Day with a jilted lover theme, a St. Patrick’s Day bash with the Gallagher Dancers, a May comedy show, and a return to Cabaret ’35 in the early Fall. Watch the website and Emerald News for a more complete list with dates and details.

     Earl Frank reported on a Finance & Planning Committee recommendation that the board consider requesting a special assessment from the membership. This would be $199/per property/per annum for a total of $398. According to calculations, at the current compliance rate, this would bring in approximately $550,000. The figure is meant to match the estimated cost of replacing the HVAC system in the Community Center (about $250,000) and repairing the Pine Tree Lake dam valve and leaking pipe (about $300,000). Membership approval would be required.

     Under Old Business, Secretary Carmen Broadnax read the two resolutions, passed in October, on shifting the credit card discount burden to the member when paying dues, and raising the late fee on dues from 2.5% to 10%. This is the second reading. A third will be made next month to complete the public notice. The credit card charge of 3.5% on dues payment will be effective February 24, or in time for next year’s dues payments. Fourth quarter payments for 2013/2014 dues made on time (Feb 1, 2014) will be unaffected.

     Under New Business, the board voted to accept the donation of Lot 4918, located on Clearview Drive opposite the skating pond. The area could be used as a small parking lot. The board also voted to approve Buz Whelan as Bylaw Committee chair and Sherri Ornitz as Rules and Regulations Committee Chair. Finally, the board authorized the establishment of a Committee Chair Council, with organizational details to be worked out later.

     During the Public Comments section, member Buz Whelan thanked Flo Mauri for a well run seminar on committee to committee and committee/board communication and function. The Committee Chair Council is a result of that event. A round of applause was given to Ms. Mauri.

     Whelan went on to comment on the special assessment suggestion calling it a “band-aid on a sucking chest wound.” We have serious problems with operational fund shortfalls. While some on Finance & Planning have pointed to our balanced budget and the fact that we are under in almost all areas, this is a fool’s paradise. In 2007 we had 17 full time employees. We now have 9. The beaches were both open 7 days a week. Now they alternate weekdays, with only one or the other open. The outdoor pool was open 7 days a week in season; now it is open 4. The Community Center was open 7 days a week; now it is open 3½. The compactor was open 5 days; now it operates 4. We had a Youth Activities Program with a full time Youth Activities Director; that has been completely eliminated. As for being currently under budget, for instance, we are $10,000 under in lake maintenance because we haven’t done any. We are living and operating on reduced services and deferred maintenance. There is a huge difference between having a balanced budget and having sufficient funds to properly maintain this community.

     In welcoming new members to the community, 6 properties changed hands, one a foreclosure and 3 were purchases of Classic Quality Homes.

Not Your Gramma’s Cranberry Sauce

By Buz Whelan

Not actually this recipe, but it is a nice picture, isn't it?

Not actually this recipe, but it is a nice picture, isn’t it?

     Throughout my childhood and a few years beyond, a turkey dinner, Thanksgiving or otherwise, always called for cranberry sauce. And that sauce was Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce. It was good enough, traditional and a comfort. No one in my family, or my wife’s for that matter, ever suggested we try something different. Then four years ago, I came across this recipe. I’d like to credit it, but I cannot remember the source. I wrote it down on a 3 x 5 card. I made it in 2009. We loved it, our company loved it, so my wife asked me to make it again the next year. Alas, try as we might, we couldn’t find the card with the recipe. So back to Ocean Spray we went. Then during the next year, during one of those clean-ups where you empty boxes you’ve ignored for a long time, the recipe turned up. I made it and it was as good as ever. It’s a very simple recipe, and it keeps for months in the refrigerator, especially if you put it in a mason jar or one of those glass jars with the wire locking lids. So, here it is. I bet if you make it, you’ll make it again.

Cranberry-Apricot Relish

Ingredients:

24 oz whole cranberries (2 12 oz packages)

12 oz jar of apricot preserves

4 oz finely chopped dried apricots

¾ Cup of sugar

1 Cup of orange juice (fresh or a not-from-concentrate type like Tropicana)

½ Teaspoon ground ginger

Method:

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan, bring to boil, reduce

Not nearly as pretty, eh?

Not nearly as pretty, eh?

heat and simmer 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cranberries will pop open and soften as they simmer. Allow to cool, put in container and refrigerate for a few days to a week to

allow flavors to blend.

Not Your Gramma’s Cranberry Sauce

By Buz Whelan

Not actually this recipe, but it is a nice picture, isn't it?

Not actually this recipe, but it is a nice picture, isn’t it?

     Throughout my childhood and a few years beyond, a turkey dinner, Thanksgiving or otherwise, always called for cranberry sauce. And that sauce was Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce. It was good enough, traditional and a comfort. No one in my family, or my wife’s for that matter, ever suggested we try something different. Then four years ago, I came across this recipe. I’d like to credit it, but I cannot remember the source. I wrote it down on a 3 x 5 card. I made it in 2009. We loved it, our company loved it, so my wife asked me to make it again the next year. Alas, try as we might, we couldn’t find the card with the recipe. So back to Ocean Spray we went. Then during the next year, during one of those clean-ups where you empty boxes you’ve ignored for a long time, the recipe turned up. I made it and it was as good as ever. It’s a very simple recipe, and it keeps for months in the refrigerator, especially if you put it in a mason jar or one of those glass jars with the wire locking lids. So, here it is. I bet if you make it, you’ll make it again.

Cranberry-Apricot Relish

Ingredients:

24 oz whole cranberries (2 12 oz packages)

12 oz jar of apricot preserves

4 oz finely chopped dried apricots

¾ Cup of sugar

1 Cup of orange juice (fresh or a not-from-concentrate type like Tropicana)

½ Teaspoon ground ginger

Method:

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan, bring to boil, reduce

Not nearly as pretty, eh?

Not nearly as pretty, eh?

heat and simmer 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cranberries will pop open and soften as they simmer. Allow to cool, put in container and refrigerate for a few days to a week to

allow flavors to blend.

Absentee Ballot Proposal Underway

By Buz Whelan

vote[1]     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.

 

Town Hall Meeting Draws a Crowd

by Buz Whelan

The Town Hall meeting held on Saturday, October 26th drew a full house.waterdrop[1] 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 beatcrime[1]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 djones@pmrpd.com or (570)895-2400.

thCAR4GP2N    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.

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