Although I could not attend the HOA meeting on 10/6/15, with the help of a detailed report from my neighbor and postings on the AC411 website, I had a stunning realization. The reason why we as a homeowners association have been stuck in a rut is because nobody really feels responsible. Our Vice President, Robin Rakusin, apparently declared that she is just a volunteer, and does not respond to shareholders. She is correct, that in the legal sense, HOA board members cannot be held accountable, except in the case of malfeasance. Was this statement meant in this narrow sense, or could it be symptomatic for the entire HOA board and boards past?
Jeanne Tarantino stated that the HOA board is managing our employees, but that Associa has been doing annual performance reviews and site visits. If anyone had been doing site visits, there is no way that they could not have discovered over the years that the Residents Club activities director Brenda is never to be found in her office. People don’t even know that someone is supposed to be in this office from 9:00 to 5:00. If they would have done random phone calls to her office, they would have found that it takes an average of 48 hours to get a return call. Repeated inquiries to previous HOA Boards as to what exactly the operations manager, Jeff Anderson’s job is and requests for productivity reviews have been ignored. I don’t know who is responsible for monitoring our grounds, but it takes days for major water leaks along AC parkway to be repaired. If anyone had visited the pool, they could not have missed that the weeds that grew to be waist high this spring are now brown and dead. That is 6 months of neglect. Year after year the Activities Director gets a handsome salary of about $40,000 and the Operations Manager about $90,000 for this kind of service. Last year’s bonuses for our employees were bigger than ever. Who decides on the bonuses and based on what criteria? Years back Jeff Anderson got a bonus of $5000. What warranted that for a management (salaried) position in a non-profit organization?
A good managing company might have assisted our boards to improve our community over the years, and ensure that we make the best use of our money for the benefit of all. Instead, we had to pay for an expensive demographic study to tell us what is important to our community – – the amenities we already have. Doesn’t Associa manage other communities? Shouldn’t Associa consequently have been guiding our boards to better our community based on their years and scope of experience? Or is Ms. Tarantino correct and the board has ignored Associa’s expert advice to the point that Associa now only reacts when approached by the board?
A good managing company should have recognized well before it had gotten to a critical point, years ago, that we were underfunding our reserve funds. Now, the “temporary” increase (about double of what the HOA fee was in 2005-6) established to replenish our reserve funds remains in place 8 years later, and we now routinely have an annual surplus. In fact, because this is an annual occurrence, instead of recalculating the monthly assessment or determining what can be done with these funds to better the life of those living here, the board decided to create a new account into which the annual surplus would be deposited at the end of each year. As the professionals, the managing company should assist those who volunteered to become the HOA treasurer or budget committee members to recognize such things, but instead, business has gone on as usual. One must ask, what all could have been accomplished with our HOA fees and reserve fund surplus over the years to truly enhance the quality of life for all homeowners? Because the board is of a volunteer nature, made up of people with varying backgrounds and skills, direct daily collaboration with a competent and committed professional management company is paramount. It appears as though there has been a serious lack of this between the current managing company and the board, present and past.
Personnel management is a hands-on game, and with past and present boards, the homeowners have been on the losing end of this game. A community cannot be managed reactively, at arm’s length from an outside office. We need a new, more effective approach to managing our staff and our community.
The contract for a managing company is up for renewal/renegotiation. They are paid by us, the shareholders, and should work in our best interest. We are entitled to know the details of what Associa and First Service have to offer, and at what cost prior to a vote by the board. We should then know which company got the contract and, most importantly, why. I support Mr. Unruh’s request to the board to opt for a new management company.
First Service offers to be on site 5 days a week, offers HR services and training as part of their basic, standard contract. First Service Management Company also does perform budget management in 80% of their communities. Would this level of service be an additional cost to our current contract with Associa? Good reason for a change.
We have board elections coming up. Three board positions, including that of the current vice president are up for election. We deserve people who have a sense of responsibility and financial accountability towards us, the homeowners.
It’s time for us to move in a better direction, and moving to a new management company with new ideas and new approaches and demanding an effective collaboration with the management company by our elected board members is a prime place to start. The only good thing about the golf course debacle is that it has made us look at things with a critical eye. Does that mean there actually might be reason to hope for change?