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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.

 

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October 26, 2013 Monthly Open Board Meeting

By Buz Whelan

meeting[1]    With a Town Hall Meeting scheduled for 11 am, this had to be a fast meeting. It was. President Alex Leslie called the meeting to order at 9:33am and after thanking those who turned out and expressing the hope that they would stay for the Town Hall to follow, he turned the floor over to Treasurer Earl Frank. Frank reported that overall, we are under budget by approximately 10%. He stated that administration was under by $18,000, maintenance by $32,000 and the Community Center by $30,000. On the down side the bar and grill are $15,000 over budget. He further stated that the GM was taking measures to stem the bleeding in that area.

GM Allen Roth reported that Fred Spot of Fred Spot Engineering Associates, with whom Emerald Lakes has a long relationship, would be retiring soon. With that known, he said that he has sent out RFPs (Requests for Proposals) to several firms to get specifications and cost estimates for the Pine Tree Lake dam valve repair. He also reported that the paving of the compactor is largely complete but must be given time to cure. He anticipates that it will reopen fully functional on November 5th.under-construction-sign-hi[1]

Under Committee Reports, it was noted that John Avrich has been elected chair of the Finance and Planning Committee, replacing David Pope who recently stepped down. Events Chairperson Stefania Johnson reported that her committee is working on a calendar of events for 2014/2015 and will be workshopping that at their next meeting, November 2nd. She also said there will be a Thanksgiving-style dinner held the Saturday prior to that holiday. Connie Simpson reported that she had been chosen as the new chair of CrimeWatch, lately referred to as the Neighborhood Watch Committee. She also passed out samples of a newly created form labeled “Eyes on Report.” Neighborhood watch  1[1]These will be available at the admin bldg, and it is promised that any filled out will be acted upon. (The Emerald Lakes Free Press will shortly publish an exemplar of the form). It was also noted that Joseph Olall has been elected chairperson of the Communications Committee. There was also a note by the president that there is the possibility that one chairperson, unspecified, is not a member of the association and that a letter of inquiry has been sent.

Old Business had just one item, Clause 15 Properties. These are properties within the boundaries of Emerald Lakes, but whose owners chose not to join the association when it was formed. Board Secretary Carmen Broadnax, assisted by member Pat Galderisi, is currently researching to determine exactly how many of these properties exist, which ones they are and what their current legal status is vis a vis obligations to or privileges allowed by the association. In other words, after the elapsing of time, must they pay for such things as lake use and do they owe any monies for services from which they benefit? The association attorney is researching this.

Under New Business the board approved the aforementioned chairpersons. They also corrected a mathematical error by upping the quarterly late fees to 10% from 2.5%. This matches the 10% late fees charged in other cases. They also passed a resolution that would pass swipe fees, the amount charged by the clearing house for credit card use, to the user, ensuring that the association receives full payment on dues, fines and late fees. Transactions at the Emerald Bar & Grill will be unaffected. Under this new policy, which had been recommended by the Finance and Planning Committee some months ago, those paying dues with a credit card would find the fee added to their bill by the card company. GM Allen Roth found a clearer, Paylease, that would do the processing. Electronic checks would also be affected. Although the GM had explained this in detail at the Friday, October 18th workshop and the next day’s Finance and Planning Committee meeting, Directors Margaret Fitzgerald and June Solla abstained from the vote saying they did not have enough information. This was also true when the rest of the board passed an $11,000 change order on road repair. The change order was necessary when pavers noted severe problems with the base on a section of Clearview while preparing it for paving. The association’s Quality Control/Quality Assurance engineer validated the paver’s finding making the change order necessary as the scope of work had greatly increased. This information was made available to board directors prior to the vote, but Fitzgerald and Solla demurred nevertheless.

During the Public Comments section it was suggested that the board make the agenda of meetings available to the membership via an email blast on the day prior to the meeting. This would give members a chance to decide on attending a meeting based on an item of particular interest to them. President Alex Leslie said he thought this was a good idea and would work to effect it.

Pat Galderisi precipitated an extended conversation on criteria for voting at the annual meeting. Referring to a discussion she viewed on the Emerald Lakes in the Poconos Facebook page (unofficial), she said that posters seemed annoyed that some members with outstanding balances of less than $50 were permitted to vote. Some cited a literal interpretation of the bylaws that describe a member-in-good-standing as one who owed nothing at all to the association. Galderisi contacted several past Judges of Elections, all of whom took a slightly more liberal view. Most indicated that with small amounts, mistakes can occur and if an error is made it should be in favor of the voter. Galderisi read several responses that uniformly pointed to the importance of protecting the voting rights of those whose debts if, in fact, they existed at all, were de minimus, of little consequence. Board Secretary Carmen Broadnax, who served as Judge of Election for the last two cycles, said that was her motivation. Linda Shuey, present as an observer, volunteered that she had been initially refused a ballot based on an erroneous  debt listing and thanked Ms. Broadnax for allowing her vote, to which, it turned out, she was entitled. Most of those in attendance agreed that this (allowing voting with small balances) was a legitimate case of judicial discretion.

September 28, 2013 Monthly Open Board of Directors Meeting

meeting[1]By Buz Whelan

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.

July 27, 2013 Monthly Open Board of Directors Meeting

By Buz Whelan

frankenstein-villagers    Yesterday’s open board meeting was one of the most contentious of the year. After several months of relatively serene and compact meetings, the room exploded on a number of issues.

President’s Comments and Treasurer’s Report

President Alex Leslie called the meeting to order at about 9:35 and the minutes of the previous meeting were approved without corrections. Mr. Leslie then gave an extremely brief President’s Comment thanking the year’s committee members and other volunteers for their efforts on behalf of the community. He then read the Treasurer’s Report for the absent Earl Frank, struggling somewhat with the wording of the report. Revenue is up by $11,000 and expenses are currently $32,000 under budget. Not counting the bar and grill, salaries and benefits are $11,000 under budget. It was not made clear what that position would be if B&G salaries and benefits were included. It was further noted that inventory purchases and the addition of a sous chef had caused the B&G expenses to balloon. In order to control expenses, a meeting between the chef/community center manager and the GM resulted in a hard look at the menu. It may be necessary to shrink the menu to control costs and reduce shrinkage. The assistant (sous chef) is being trained, according to the GM, to provide a backup for Chef Todd, now that he has additional managerial responsibilities and will, at some point, take vacation.  Director Miller pointed out that the Snack Shack lost $1,100 in a single month, an unacceptable amount. Because of the problems with the Pine Tree Lake dam valve, a particular eye will be cast toward building up reserve monies.  It was noted that the Finance and Planning Committee’s recommendation to increase the late fee to 15% has been adopted.

Manager’s Report

The Manager’s report focused on the dam valve problem. It is apparent that the outletDam_break_flood[1] 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.

computer_repair_clipart_2[1][1]     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

Committee reports included a notice that the bylaws and energy committees would not meet again until September, after a new board is installed. Bylaw Chairperson June Solla complained that a Special Meeting was not called to allow for detailed explanation of the suggested changes, especially the one designating the next runner-up in the previous election as the automatic replacement should a board seat become vacant (currently the board names a successor to serve until the next Annual Meeting). Board Secretary Carmen Broadnax responded that Ms. Solla had not made her request for such a meeting in writing to the board, or in any other formal way. After a brief ‘back and forth’ it was agreed that an agenda item could be added, giving the chairperson an opportunity to explain the reason for the change to the membership at the Annual Meeting.

Maintenance and Road Repair

Under Old Business the manager reported that he is looking at used mowers and thCA2E171Xattachments to determine if we could save money without losing significant dependability by going that route.

The manager reported that he had prepared a map of primary, secondary and tertiary road sections, 5 in all, that would cost approximately $590,000 to repair. This would unfold over 3 or more years. Director Miller objected on several grounds. He pointed out that this had not gone through the maintenance committee. He also stated that he had seen a report that in 1986 a conflict of interest was found to exist between Fred Spot Engineering, currently the overseer of road maintenance and proposed contractor Waco, who has performed road repair for the association and is expected to do so in the future. The GM pointed out that this was 27 years ago and no such conflict is known to exist at this time. This exchange could be fairly described as heated. Director Miller went on to point out that recent work on Clearview Drive had deteriorated to the extent that a patch had to be made. Mr. Roth replied that this was temporary and that the paver was returning to redo approximately 25 feet of roadway under warranty. Miller said that labor and material would have been better spent repairing non-warranteed road defects.

Security Vehicle Purchase

UBCCampusSecurityVehicle[1]    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.

New Business

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 existthCAGSQUJC 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.

public-domain-clipart41[1]     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 threethCATSXQGL 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 vote[1]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.

March 16, 2013 Board of Directors Open Meeting

by Buz Whelan

   436978-Royalty-Free-RF-Clipart-Illustration-Of-Employees-Sleeping-During-A-Board-Meeting[1]  Emerald Lakes, Pennsylvania (ELFP) Saturday, March 16th was a busy day for the Emerald Lakes Association Board of Directors. At 9:30 am they met with the Finance and Planning Committee for the presentation of the budget for fiscal year 2013/2014. After a discussion period the directors present agreed to accept the budget as presented and bring it to a vote at the open meeting which would follow. Directors present were President Alex Leslie, Vice President Millie Bishop, Treasurer Earl Frank, Director Joe Miller and Director Dan Glasgow. Secretary Carmen Broadnax and Director Margaret Fitzgerald did not attend. Following the budget discussion it was decided that the next F&P meeting, to be held on Saturday, April 20th would have as the sole agenda item the consideration and arguments for an enhanced revenue stream. This would include several different approaches to dues escalation, possibly tied to the Consumer Price Index. The board-set deadline for the committee to decide on a recommendation had been April 20th, but in consideration of the fact that that is the next meeting date of F&P the board members said they would extend the deadline for a brief, but not indefinite, period to be decided.

     At about 11:00 am the monthly open meeting was called to order by President Alex Leslie with all seven directors in attendance. Mr. Leslie said that there has been a good response to the committee survey sent to committee members, but that he would appreciate those who had not yet returned the survey to do so as soon as possible. He also said that the board is seeking volunteers for the Real Estate Committee, moribund since around September of 2008, with a special eye to establishing a subcommittee to work on problems involving rental properties. He restated his hope that this committee could be made up of residents, landlords and renters, so all sides of the questions could be fully represented and examined. The manager reported that the dues statement mailings had been completed. He also reported that the engineers are completing their road study report and will have recommendations on repair by type and location.  

     Treasurer Earl Frank reported that we are still on track to come in under budget by approximately 10% and went on to report figures on the cost of operating the bar and grill, by his count around $8,000. Director Joe Miller took exception to both the amount and the necessity of the report itself. Mr. Miller’s objection was based on the fact that the bar and grill, taken jointly, is but one of several amenities, and the only one to produce a revenue stream. If there is a report on them, where are the reports on the other amenities? How much did it cost to operate the indoor pool year-to-date, he asked. The matter was eventually left unresolved.

     During committee reports, Sherry Ornitz reported that the Events Committee has 13 events scheduled, with 7 additional events being considered.

    There was a discussion on finding new and creative ways of dealing with delinquent accounts. A proposal from a collection agency has been received and will be studied. The board may then hold a Q&A with a representative of the agency.

     Under New Business the board voted to accept the budget as prepared by the General Manager and submitted to the board by the Finance and Planning Committee. Directors voted in the affirmative with a single director, Margaret Fitzgerald, voting to oppose. No reason was given for her opposition.

     Director Miller raised an objection to the report by Fred Spot Engineering on Quality Assurance/Quality Control citing a lack of specificity on many key elements. Terming the report “a joke”, he made a motion to require the submitter to issue an addendum of sorts that would include the missing and needed data. Following the passage of the motion, Joe agreed to work directly with Spot to ensure they understood and fulfilled association requirements.

     A study is proceeding to produce a plan to upgrade the insulation rating of the indoor pool area, possibly by replacing windows with solid wall, among other possibilities. The outdoor pool shell needs to be sandblasted and cracks filled and then resurfaced.

     During public comments member Heidi Castro stated that she has observed members bringing personal alcoholic beverages into the Community Center to be consumed with a purchased meal or snack. She further stated that on at least one occasion the person bringing the beverage was underage. The GM will alert staff to this, and a sign will be posted forbidding importation of personal alcoholic beverages into the center. It is against both association rules and Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board regulations and is considered a major violation by the LCB.

     Melanie Balzano suggested that employees wear identification badges that they might be easily located when needed, and to be visible as employees when entering employee-only spaces such as behind the bar.

January 26, 2013 Open Board Meeting

News-Cartoon-1471285[1]
By Buz Whelan
EMERALD LAKES, Pennsylvania (ELFP) The Emerald Lakes Board of Directors today held its January open meeting. President Alex Leslie called the meeting to order at 9:35 with Vice President Millie Bishop, Treasurer Earl Frank, and Directors Margaret Fitzgerald and Daniel Glasgow present. Also present were General Manager Allen Roth and Recording Secretary Roxanne Chumacha. Director Joe Miller was able to attend due to suffering flu-like symptoms. Board Secretary Carmen Broadnax joined the assembly about 10 minutes in.

President Leslie spoke on the need to assist committees in carrying out their mission and especially to help new committee members, of which there are presently quite a few, in understanding what their roles are and how they can operate most effectively. He suggested that an ad hoc committee might be formed by previous board members, with orientation sessions conducted with the previously stated aims in mind.
Among the highlights of the meeting was a resolution to restrict drinking in the game room to adults of legal age. This would bring Emerald Lakes into harmony with state alcohol regulations that pretty much restrict drinking anywhere to adults of legal age. The vote was 3 for, 1 against and 1 abstention.

The most contentious agenda item concerned the ad hoc Renewable Energy renewable-energy-illustration-1c2863c[1]Committee. The president pointed out that the initial meeting by the committee was not conducted by normal procedures in that all interested members, those that had formally expressed a desire to join the committee, were not notified of the meeting and therefore the election of a chairperson and secretary should not be considered valid. Both Ms. Bishop and Ms. Broadnax opined that the deed was done, mistakes were made in the past, so why not one more? Neither saw any great importance in the failure to advise all concerned parties of the meeting. Ms. Fitzgerald stated that she was upset by the hostility she sees in various committee meetings and was apparently distressed at this example of a cavalier attitude toward our committee rules and bylaws. Ms. Broadnax countered that the committee had done some fine work, so it was a waste of time to start over. Then Daniel Glasgow had his turn. Mr. Glasgow thanked the committee for their good work, expressed his pleasure that they were moving forward. Then came the ‘but.’ He went on to say that all that was really beside the point. We must have procedures that are followed, no one should be allowed to treat committees as their own, going their own way and doing whatever was convenient. If the board were to be respected, it must follow its own rules. After much back and forth by both directors and members in attendance the board decided that, indeed, the initial election of a chair and secretary was not in accord with established procedure and that a meeting should be called, all concerned properly notified and a chair and secretary selected at that meeting. During this discussion, member David Pope strongly suggested that a procedure for starting and running ad hoc committees be made both detailed and explicit so that we do not find ourselves having this same argument over and over.
Perhaps to lithCA24ADC2ghten the mood in the room, the president turned to the agendum regarding the resurfacing of the compactor/recycling area. The board followed by authorizing a study by the Fred Spot Engineering Firm to study the best method and cost for resurfacing the area. This was greeted by enthusiastic applause from the gallery.
The other important matter considered was a schedule for the production, analysis, discussion, review by membership and final approval of the 2013/2014 budget. The GM said he will present the initial budget to the Finance and Planning Committee at a special meeting convened for that purpose on Saturday, March 2nd. The committee will consider and discuss the budget, make their suggestions and be prepared for a March 16th joint meeting with the Emerald Lakes Board of Directors. Out of that meeting should come a form of the budget approved for comment by the membership. The board can formally approve this at their March 23rd open meeting, giving the membership until the April 27th open meeting to voice their comments. The board will then vote to give final approval to the budget at that April meeting, having it in place for the May 1st beginning of the new fiscal year as required by law.

December 15, 2012 Open Board Meeting

Customized-Recycle-Sticker-S-3311[1]By Buz Whelan

EMERALD LAKES, Pennsylvania (ELFP) The December 2012 monthly open meeting of the Emerald Lakes Board of Directors was one of the briefest in memory. Called to order at 9:40am and adjourned at 10:29, it was a masterpiece of efficiency and, believe this, courtesy. It was also sparsely attended, perhaps due to the looming and ongoing holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. President Al Leslie, Vice-President Millie Bishop, Treasurer Earl Frank and Directors Dan Glasgow and Margaret Fitzgerald were present along with GM Allen Roth and the recording secretary Roxanne Chumacha. Absent were Secretary Carmen Broadnax and Director Joe Miller.

President Al Leslie reported that some irregularities with the new ad hoc committees would be corrected by the January open meeting. He then turned the meeting over to Treasurer Earl Frank who reported that reserves are now at $330,000. In other significant financial news Mr. Frank said that the Emerald Bar & Grill are $4,000 over budget, with the bulk of the shortfall in the restaurant operations. While the bar was $8,000 over in revenue, the grill fell short by $12,000, thus the $4,000 combined shortfall.

Following the treasurer’s report GM Allen Roth announced that single-stream recycling has begun. This means that all recyclables, glass, plastic, metal, cardboard, newspaper and magazines/office paper are now to be deposited in any one of five bins provided. Plastic bags used to bring the recyclables to the center are to be deposited in the nearby trash cans provided for that purpose. This new system and provider are expected to cut recycling costs by a third.

There were few committee reports but one development reported was the bifurcation of the Finance and Planning Committee. The committee has been divided into a finance subcommittee and a planning subcommittee. Beginning with the November meeting the subcommittees each meet for a period and then join for a full committee wrap-up. Appeals Committee Chairperson Paul Capozzoli reported that no appeal was upheld and that one appellant had tried to use the same excuse as used for a previous citation. His appeal was denied.

Under old business it was reported that a generator to provide emergency power to the Community Center (for full operation) would cost between 35 and 40 thousand dollars. This will be further discussed. Vice-President Bishop feels strongly that this is necessary, while Director Margaret Fitzgerald expressed doubts because of the high cost. The board appears divided on the issue at this time. There was also a no-decision on the main entrance LED sign estimated at $7,100 by the GM. There was also discussion requiring the ongoing effort to acquire the property containing part of the Mountaintop Lake Dam. It is non-buildable property and the owner is currently asking $47,500, deemed excessive by the GM.

Under new business the board passed a fee structure for rental property owners to reflect increasing operating costs. The resolution:

NOW BE IT RESOLVED the Board of Directors changes the Association membership fees and member intent to rent fee to the following:

–          Yearly amenities fee to $200/year

–          Monthly fee for both amenities & compactor to $50 or $25.00 for amenities only or compactor only

–          Daily fee of $5.00/person for amenities only and $15.00/person for 3-7days

–          Member intent to rent fee of $25.00 for every rental period.

This resolution was passed unanimously.

The board also affirmed the Game Room Policy of no alcoholic beverages allowed in the Game Room. There was some discussion on whether this was consistent with the policy of alcoholic beverages being allowed in the main restaurant room and the bingo room. If the intent was of the policy was to prevent unattended drinks to be consumed by underage drinkers, it was argued, then all areas outside the bar should be treated the same. This argument was rejected by the board.

With appropriate season’s greetings the meeting was adjourned.

A Turn in the Barrel

Opinion

by Buz Whelan

 

     Combative. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I think back on the Town Hall Meeting of Saturday, August 11. The subject was by-laws, specifically a group of revisions and amendments intended to modernize and streamline our antiquated, cumbersome and even contradictive current document. You would have thought we were unveiling plans to load people onto freight cars and ship them to ‘resettlement’ camps. I can only hope that the attendees at the meeting are not a representative sample of those who will attend and vote at the Annual Meeting on the 25th.

     I’ve never quite come to grips with why people who attend our most important meetings, Town Hall, Special and Annual, are so angry with their elected officials and others who try to work to improve the community. If you’ve never been on the dais at one of these meetings, it may be difficult to grasp the depth of contempt and distrust attendees have for whoever is putting on the presentation. Many are repeaters, ones you can count on to raise the same standard objections at meeting after meeting. The best example would probably be David Pope. David’s complaint is always the same: you’re not prepared; you don’t have a plan. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard these same tired, clichéd rants. It’s all so disingenuous.

     David was invited by me on no fewer than three occasions going back to February to help with the preparations. Evidently he had other priorities. Yet, there he was, fuming and fussing and saying that it was obvious we were unprepared. He went further. He went on about how we only had a financial plan, but no physical one. (I didn’t get it either.)  

     Now, David sits on the Finance and Planning Committee. He is well aware that we commissioned a reserve study by the Kipcon Engineering Co. He is well aware that we on the committee agreed unanimously (see, that includes David) to wait for the final document from Kipcon to use as an important source document in the preparation of a comprehensive 5-year plan. To bluster on about there not being a plan in place was intellectually dishonest. But Mr. Pope has been at this for a very long time. I wrote about this very thing in my Sept. ’09 President’s Message. As a candidate running for the board in 1998, Mr. Pope wrote in the Emerald News that the most pressing problem facing the community was the lack of a long range plan. If elected, he would make it his number one priority to develop such a plan. And still we wait.

     There seemed to be great confusion regarding the amendment that would allow some form of mail-in balloting. The major complaint was that it was not specific or detailed enough. But the purpose of the amendment was not to prescribe the precise manner of voting but rather to remove the argument that our by-laws forbid any form of mail or absentee voting. Once that hurdle is overcome, a satisfactory method could be developed. To present a detailed plan is to invite those who may support the concept of non-attendee voting to object to a particular detail, thus making the passage of the amendment that much more difficult. The more the presenters tried to explain this, the angrier and louder the protests became. I can only hope that those who come to the Annual Meeting are a little more open-minded about this proposal.

     Then there was the usual hand-wringing over the dastardly plot to tie Emerald Lakes finances to the area economy through a cost-of-living escalator. No one could claim the proposal wasn’t detailed. We would use Department of Labor/Bureau of Labor Statistics data, published online. Anyone could check it; there could be no fudging. We specified the quad-state (NY, NJ, Pa, Conn) Consumer Price Index (CPI) which is published monthly. We specified the figures presented for the previous calendar year, published mid-January would be our standard. We made it clear that the board could not, on its own, change this. We capped it at 4%. We explained that this would ensure that the purchasing power of our total income would remain constant, that it would greatly facilitate long-range planning, and that the ugly politics that characterize our dues increase meetings would be eliminated. It was all in vain.

     One major objection was that dues amount was the only control the membership has on the board. But that’s just the problem, isn’t it? Time after time, people who have no idea how our association finances work get to decide how much we need to run this complex organization. They throw platitudes at the board saying, “Tighten your belts,” and, “Make the same sacrifices we have to make.” Silly stuff like that. They have no clue that for at least 10 years we’ve been existing on deferred maintenance, cancelled programs and scheduling cutbacks. There is no fat left in our budget. We are down to cutting meat and bone. But those who rail the loudest don’t know or understand this, so they cheer each other’s ignorance. So, little by little the community deteriorates, and with that go your property values.

     I’ve worked, along with others, on the by-law revisions and amendments for 33 months. Everybody involved, at least in my judgment, wanted to do this for the betterment of our community. The response so far has been incredibly negative, as if those who protest believe there is true evil afoot. There was even a complaint that the amendments don’t appear until the end of the document, suggesting we are trying to hide them. Can you imagine? (Okay guys, let’s put them on the last page so no one sees them.) How absurd. Has any one of these folks ever read a constitution? First, you have a statement of purpose. Then you have the body of the constitution, how things are arranged and actions carried out. Lastly, you have the amendments. But don’t take my word for it; read the United States Constitution. Look for the amendments. There are 27 of them. And they come at the end.

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