This is the independent WEB site for the Society Hill at Piscataway Condominium Association, located in Piscataway, NJ. This site is not sponsored, endorsed, or supported by the Association, the Board of Trutees, or the Managment Company. It is run by a former member of the Board of Trustees.
Much of the content from the prior Association's WEB site has been moved here. However, since this site is not connected to the management systems, it no longer supports on-line service requests, reminders, on-line payments and account history, and owner/tenant/vehicle updating.
If you are looking for the Association's official new WEB site, they don't really have one - it's just a payment portal for the monthly fees.
The Hill is Saved! Sort of.. by Kevin Wine, Dec 23, 2022, 7:50 PM, reply, new topic, edit
December 19th BOT Meeting Executive Summary:
"The Hill" report - current plan is to obtain the necessary approvals to keep it in-place and as-is.
The $1,200 special assessment also remains in-place!??
Board reorganized: Mohiuddin Syed Pres, Nalaka Dias VP, George Tsacnaris Sec/Tres.
BOT meetings 3rd TUESDAY, except Aug and Dec
Clubhouse OPEN and BOT meetings in person. Finally!!!
The Hill is Stayin' but We Still Payin'
Sorry for the delay in getting this out - I've been working on it since last Tuesday, the day after the first meeting of the "partially new" Board. Several things happened at that meeting, and one thing that didn't. Unfortunately, there was no movement on the $1,200 special assessment that was due on December 1st. This was even after it was revealed by Mike Thomas of T&M Associates, Engineer, that the current plan for the hill is to simply leave it in place, as-is, and work with the DEP and the Township of Piscataway to finally obtain the required approvals.
Owners continue to contact me asking about what to do about the $1,200. Given the vastly reduced scope of work relating to the hill issue, it is inconceivable that it will still cost $650,000 to "legalize" the hill as-is. Back around 2016 when I was working with our environmental consultant to landscape and approve the hill, we did all the engineering work for a much more elaborate plan with trails and benches and landscaping and a gazebo and grill area and all the re-claimed irrigation water system, and then revised the plan considerably after a preliminary meeting with the Town, and did all the legal work and additional DEP permit apps and environmental work, all for around $100k I seem to recall. There is no way anyone on this board or elsewhere is going to convince me it will cost $650,000 to re-do a vastly scaled down version of this work. Therefore, I still find it very difficult to be writing a check for $1,200 to this board.
I asked very specifically at the December 19th meeting about the penalties for not paying the $1,200. The last I heard, former President Tong Zhou planned to charge interest if the assessment is not paid. The Board was not able to confirm that this is still the plan, nor did they commit on what other penalties may be applied. Therefore, I will probably just wait and see what happens.
It later became obvious that the board wants to keep the $1,200 and use it for other things. They have yet to formally admit this. In the interest of full transparency, which I seem to recall was one of the election themes, it would seem essential to at least pass a motion at a board meeting to formally re-purpose the $1,200. I don't want to be overly critical at this point, but the special assessment was a hot button issue for hundreds of owners, and playing games with the $1,200 is probably not what they want to see. The only other reason I can see for keeping the $1,200 assessment is that reducing it to what it really should be (maybe $200) would be seen as the final admission of the attempted theft.
By the way, I was reviewing the NJ criminal statutes more closely, as related to attempted crimes and specifically thefts. N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1 is "Criminal Attempt", and 2C:20-4 is "Theft by Deception". It appears to me there is exposure here. Exactly who did what is still being withheld from us, but it is pretty clear on the surface that a number of board, management, and contractor individuals have taken many of the actions identified in the attempt and theft statutes. Even the current board is vulnerable, as they are still charging us $650,000 for what should be no more than $100,000 of work. At the very least, the original assessment should be formally rescinded, and replaced with a new assessment identifying the new purpose.
As I mentioned before, I am appealing the dismissal of the petition lawsuit, MID-C-123-22. I have been in contact with the appeals court and the matter will be forwarded to case management shortly for scheduling. It has been assigned docket number A-1175-22, if you want to go and look it up. The written transcript of the December 1st hearing with Judge Vignuolo is in the process of being transcribed, which has to be submitted along with the appeal. This process has several steps and opportunities for the defendant to respond, so at a minimum the required response deadlines add up to about 3 months. I'm sure the defendant will run out the clock whether they file anything or not. Even though the point of a special election will become less and less relevant as the months pass, the principal of the matter is still very relevant, and I will be satisfied if even only that is addressed. I will also appeal the "decision" on the bylaw amendment petition, as I think the Judge erred on that one too. There are many more amendments that should be made as well, especially if we are keeping the management company arrangement and we need to defend the association against it.
The Great Debate
I guess I should be happy - at least one hill has been saved! As for the other hill, I'm trying very hard balance the positive changes with the inevitable realities. The fact that the $1,200 assessment was not immediately changed, in spite of all the public outcry, suggests that we have just returned to a previously brewing debate from 2018 - how much it should cost to run the place, and is it cheaper to run it ourselves, or bring in outside management and contractors. I'm sure there will be pressure to collect more money, possibly raising the maintenance fees in addition to the $1,200 special assessment. Claims will be made about the reserve fund being too low, and too many things that need to be repaired, and this went up and that went up, and inflation, and the same old arguments from 2018. Unfortunately that debate was cut short when a few owners and board members took a short-cut to end "self-management" by various attacks on me in order to avoid having a debate that they knew they would probably lose.
We have now been through another management company cycle, from early 2019 to 2023. That model of association management should be fresh in everybody's mind. The maintenance fees have gone up 3 times in the last 4 years - from $171 to $185, to $196, and then to $210. The maintenance fees for former affordable units normalized in 2016 when the 30 year agreement expired. The association now has a yearly income of nearly $1,400,000. That's $300,000 a year more than when I was involved. By the time the re-roofing project is done, we will have spent nearly $2,500,000 on it, averaging over $50,000 per building. We almost spent another $1,100,000 to remove the hill, which was eventually reduced to $650,000, and now should have been further reduced to about $100,000 since the hill is staying. There have been numerous other examples of over-priced projects and wastes of money that I have previously enumerated $40k walkway repairs, $100k trash contract, $36k pool contract, $300k+ cancelled projects, equipment "give-aways", destroyed landscaping, and many more. Maybe the management company model should be cheaper or should be more efficient or should provide more value, but in practice that has just not been the case. It wasn't the case prior to 2008, and it hasn't been the case again over the last 4 years. Why are we repeating this same exercise again, getting the same result again (or worse actually), and not doing anything about it? In what other parallel universe can you attempt to rob your employer for $1,100,000, get caught, and still be employed or still be a director? or not be locked up?? This is the kind of thing some people were trying to accuse me of, that I never did, but they actually did. And they are still here!???
If people want to keep the management company model, then fine - it's on them to fix it. They need to be coming up with ideas - now. Maybe there is some way to structure it, monitor it, incentify behaviors, decentify other behaviors, or whatever, but it can't be left like it is. Expecting a group of owners to burn hundreds or thousands of hours of their time and their money to intervene every time this train flies off the rails is not realistic. We are paying people to act in our place, to take some ownership and act "as the owner would", and not quietly try to screw us from behind every time our backs are turned dealing with our own lives. There is a business opportunity here for someone, to create an owner style management solution, that actually runs things as an owner would, rather than as a for-profit thievery operation. The existing management/attorney/contractor condo industry providers seem they would be very vulnerable to such competition.
In the meantime, figure on more drama as no amount of money is ever enough. With the cost of everything at least doubled under the contractor model, be ready for more fee increases. I'm sure it will all be blamed on me, again, but I'm not the one that dismantled the prior setup and threw us back to the wolves.
Election Results, Court Hearing Outcome, Special Meeting Dec. 19th by Kevin Wine, Dec 01, 2022, 11:09 PM, reply, new topic, edit
It's already over a week since the election and the court hearing on the petition lawsuit. I meant to write a message last week, but had to deal with so many other neglected things that I'm just getting to it now. The management finally sent a community announcement on December 9th, so I guess I'm not that late. If you didn't get their email, the election results were:
Mohiuddin Syed - 141
George Tsacnaris - 133
Thomas Lopez - 98
Mary Thomas - 81
Dilip Patel - 41
Mohammed Sharif - 12
Mohiuddin Syed and George Tsacnaris won the two seats. Tong Zhou and Mary Thomas are off the board. The current board member are now Mohiuddin Syed, George Tsacnaris, Doug Sanford, Wendy Zhang, Forest Luu, Patricia Mincarelli, and Nalaka Dias.
Management also announced a Special Meeting of the Board for Monday, December 19th, to reorganize the Board officer positions. Since Tong Zhou and Mary Thomas were the President and Vice President and are no longer on the Board, at the very least those two officer positions need to be reassigned. I was very surprised by the election results, as I had fully expected former President Zhou's favored candidates, Tom Lopez and Mary Thomas, to be handily elected. But it looks Zhou's 4-year election domination streak has finally come to an end.
The election results were the happy news from December 1st, after earlier that day Judge Vignuolo decided in favor of the defendant (the Association) on my "Order to Show Cause" complaint that I had filed back on October 13th. This was very disappointing, as the PREDFDA language was very clear in not disqualifying delinquent owners from signing a petition to remove Board members via a special recall election. But she saw it otherwise, and decided to second-guess the NJ State Legislature's intent. It is common for the court to resolve "legislative ambiguity", either directly in the wording of the law, or indirectly in conflicting statutes. I would not have guessed that there was any such ambiguity in this particular instance. Obviously, I don't agree with her conclusion, and as soon as I have the time, I will be filing an appeal to get her decision reviewed.
On the other petition to amend the Bylaws, Judge Vignuolo again declined to intervene, and in fact agreed with the Association's position that the language of the proposed Bylaw amendment is defective to the point where it needs to be corrected, and approval for the corrected language needs to be sought from all the owners that signed the original petition! This would in effect defeat the petition, because now we will have to re-do the entire mailing, and/or run around/call/txt/email nearly 200 people and nag them to OK the changes. In the meantime, a lot of those original signers have probably become delinquent, so now they can't sign, and on top of that there may be efforts by those opposed to the amendment to solicit prior signers to not sign again. Obviously, I am not happy with this either, and again I don't think this is what the legislature or PREDFDA intended, so I will include this in the appeal as well.
In the course of all the legal activity, I finally got the details on how many owners withdrew their petitions. It turns out 14 units withdrew. One didn't sign petition one (recall election), so that left 13 that withdrew petition one. Therefore, of the 19 petitions disqualified for "other reasons", only 6 were either duplicate, non-owner, or otherwise rejected. We had submitted 9 extras, so even after the 6 rejects, there where still 3 more than needed to call the special 6-seat election. If it was no allowed to withdraw petitions, and if delinquent owners could sign, we were good.
I guess the good news is that we didn't spend tens of thousands of dollars on this. Without a lawyer, this only cost me $250 for filing the original lawsuit, plus $50 for the order to show cause. Serving the papers on the defendant cost $125, so I was in $425 total. It's the lawyer services that make legal matters so expensive. I think the appeal costs another $250 for filing (same as filing a lawsuit), plus another $300 (I believe) to obtain a written transcript of the hearing, which must be attached to the appeal. Appeals usually take several months to a year, so as far as any impact on our immediate situation, it is likely the next election will be in progress by the time the appeal is heard, and of course who knows how the court will decide. An appeal is more a matter of principle, to hopefully correct the record.
The bad news is that while I'm trying to be optimistic, there is still the very real possibility that the 4 trustees leftover from the Tong Zhou regime may not cooperate with the new trustees, and block any further progress on solving the hill problem and the $1,200 robbery. This would once again leave us owners in the lurch, with little or no recourse. The anger level would have to rise again to a point where 51% of owners, and who are not delinquent, are wiling to sign yet another petition to try again to call a special recall election. The chances of that happening at this point are pretty low, even though everyone should still be furious as we are still being robbed. We should get a feel for the new board dynamics at the December 19th meeting. Now that the head of the snake is no longer there, there is some hope.
The other bad news is that "the system" is really stacked against the owners in these associations like ours. Look at all the trouble this board caused us, and all the things it has destroyed, and all the money it has wasted, and at the end of the day, what little recourse we have gets trampled on again. Things have to go to such an extreme before there is any pushback at all, and even then it's a steep uphill battle, with little or no help from the courts. The management companies and condo attorneys know this, and know what they can get away with, and take everything right to that limit, often with the unwitting (or no so unwitting) assistance of a supportive board, leaving us SCREWED. This is the same thing going on with the prior management company/attorney/contractor setup before we got rid of them all in 2008.
I don't know what the new board is going to end up doing with the $1,200 special assessment. The logical thing would be to put that all on hold until the engineering works is complete, the scope of work has been defined, bid documents have been created, and bids have been received. At that point, when we actually know what it is going to cost, create the special assessment. In the meantime, I'm still not donating my $1,200 to this clown show. At least I want to see what happens at the special meeting on December 19th.
Petition Lawsuit Response - Don't Pay Yet!, and Many Other Updates by Kevin Wine, Nov 19, 2022, 10:04 PM, reply, new topic, edit
After a bit of a delay, there is action on the petition lawsuit. The court hearing is still scheduled for Thursday December 1st on the Order to Show Cause that I filed on October 15th. The Association, as per the Order, responded to the complaint on Thursday, November 17th. Interestingly, Ms. Radom, Association Counsel, is not representing the Association anymore on this matter. Instead, an insurance company attorney is handling the matter, which means the Board finally did what it should have done on all these other lawsuits - file a claim and let the insurance company deal with it. Their response is a matter of public record, so here it is:
They are attempting to get the court to dismiss the lawsuit altogether. For the petition calling for a special election to remove the Board members, they are claiming there were not enough petitions after they disqualified 68 of them for various reasons. For the petition to amend the Bylaws, they are admitting that there were enough petitions, however they are claiming the amendment language was technically defective and therefore the entire petition needs to be recirculated after the language is corrected.
Although this may sound alarming, it's not. Their response is trash - they have no defense. All of the points they make were already anticipated and countered in the brief of the original complaint. They fail to present any legal argument as to why the PREDFDA language allowing delinquent owners to sign the special election petition is wrong and should be ignored.
They claim that prohibiting owners from withdrawing their petitions "...makes little practical sense in the context of a condominium election where there are not significant public resources devoted to conducting elections that might be cancelled by a late withdrawal..." They are trying to say that the Board should not be burdened with the inconvenience of having to re-do an election, however they messed up the language. The election would not be cancelled by a member deciding at the last minute to withdraw a petition. The opposite is true - the election might be cancelled by a member NOT withdrawing their petition. That screw up aside, they failed to present a reasonable legal argument why existing NJ caselaw prohibiting the withdrawal of petitions after the petitions are submitted to the reviewing authority should be ignored. They didn't bother because they are relying on disqualifying the delinquent petitioners, thus rendering the petition withdrawal question moot. All their eggs are now in one basket, and they are all going to break because it is very easy to demonstrate to the court that the petitioners do not have to be in good standing. This leaves only the withdrawn petitions to defeat the petition, however they didn't bother presenting a legal defense on that point - claiming only they don't have the resources to re-do the election.
There is still a question of how many of the 19 petitions that were disqualified due to being withdrawn, duplicate, or non-member, were actually withdrawn. While I can't believe there were any duplicate petitions submitted (I thought I pulled out all the duplicates) and I doubt there were many tenants that signed, there may be a few legitimately disqualified petitions. But we submitted 9 extras I believe, so that should fix the problem. I sent a letter to the Association a few weeks ago asking for this breakdown:
And this is the response I received:
So they don't want to answer that question, which suggests that there were probably less than 9 duplicates or non-member petitions. That would be the only way left in which they could defeat the special election petition. And even if they succeeded at that, we could probably get enough replacement signatures and re-submit the petition. I already have 8 more here that arrived after September 8th.
Don't Pay Yet!
After seeing the Association's attempted defense of the petition lawsuit, I would say there is a very reasonable possibility that the Court will rule in our favor. Therefore, I would suggest waiting until after the court hearing on December 1st before sending $1,200 to President Zhou and his contractor pals. Even though they reduced the special assessment by $800, they only reduced The Hill removal contract by $100k, from $750k to $650k. WE ARE STILL BEING RIPPED OFF!!!!!! There is NO WAY it should cost that much to remove the dirt.
The Board recently sent a letter trying to trick everyone on automatic direct debit to authorize the Board to suck the $1,200 straight out of your bank account. If you don't agree, they are going to cancel your automatic direct debit. The easy answer is just let them cancel it. You can just pay by check or credit card for the next few months. After the Board is replaced and the management company is fired, all the direct debit arrangements are going to be cancelled anyway.
As far as voting in the current 2-seat election, I wouldn't bother. It is going to get cancelled. It won't matter anyway, as from what I hear the fix is already in, and Tom Lopez and Mary Thomas will be the winners.
***IMPORTANT*** Petition Lawsuit Evidence Needed
If anyone has still not received the election mailing, please let me know!! Even if you had to contact the office and request a replacement, and they eventually sent it, still let me know. Better yet, if you are willing to provide a sworn statement describing any issues at all you had with the election, getting the proxy/ballot, mistakes on your maintenance fee account which would disqualify you from being able to vote, you were solicited to withdraw your petition, or they ignored or denied your requests for financial documents or ADR, here is a "certification" template which you can customize and sign and I can include it with my response to the Association's response:
The idea is to document all the shady election issues so the court will feel comfortable ordering that the next 6-seat election be conducted by a outside, neutral third-party.
As promised, here is a copy of my response to A-Tech's Cease and Desist letter I received about a month ago:
And haven't heard back from them since. I'm a little disappointed actually - was looking forward to defending my first defamation claim :(
Weekly Zoom Meetings
The weekly zoom meetings have been phasing out for a while, so until it becomes necessary again, I believe the links have been deactivated. However this controversy is far from over, as we are still being screwed out of a lot of our money, so the meetings will come back if needed!
A-Tech Intimidation, Annual Meeting Zoom Monday by Kevin Wine, Oct 23, 2022, 12:00 AM, reply, new topic, edit
This last Thursday, I received an email from management's favorite contractor, A-Tech Landscape Design, demanding that I cease and desist from defaming them here on this website. For your entertainment, the letter from their attorney is available right here:
Clearly this is an attempt to intimidate me and "save face" after they have been exposed. I never accused them of robbing the Association - that is their own interpretation of my words, all of which are still below for you to see for yourself. I have certainly accused the Board of trying to rob us, which they have already admitted to when they finally reduced the special assessment from $2,000 down to $1,200 (and we are still being robbed lol). I cannot be entirely certain of A-Tech's involvement in this disaster, but the evidence certainly suggests they are not entirely innocent in the matter. They had some hand in writing the project specifications, which is an immediate conflict of interest since they also bid on the project, and were awarded the contract. It is very likely they are also the ones that came up with the soil volume estimates, which are still way off and which they apparently made no effort to correct, and which could ultimately expose them to fraud claims. While it is the Boards own fault if they signed an over-priced contract, it becomes the contractors fault if misrepresentations were made by the contractor to the Board. I'm sure that no one currently on this Board, or on the management team, is smart enough to measure the volume of the hill themselves. Even if A-Tech had zero involvement in the hill volume estimation, the Board, management, and A-Tech were made very aware of the error a few weeks after the contract was approved, and had ample time to revise their proposal and revise the contract, but they didn't.
As far as A-Tech's defamation claims, it's going to be an uphill battle for them. I spent a lot of time reviewing the defamation caselaw in NJ three years ago. I'm sure many of you remember some of the false claims the Board, President Zhou, Linda Zhou, some Board members, and a few other residents were making about me. They were all named in a complaint that I ended up not filing. Defamation claims in NJ are tough to win, especially in these circumstances where most of the parties, including me, have the status of "limited public officials". This requires that A-Tech convince the court that my allegedly false statements were made with "actual malice" which is an intentional attempt to harm or cause damage. The first issue is that the statements have to be false. All the things I have said in relation to A-Tech are based on observable facts. The second issue is that in the full context of my comments, it is the Board I have been accusing of the attempted robbery, not A-Tech, and nothing in my comments is a direct, unfounded, or reckless attack on A-Tech. If I were to aim my words in their direction I would make direct comments as to their behind-the-scenes involvement with the Board and the management company, but I didn't, or left it vague.
Some seem to forget, or maybe have erased from their minds, that I was involved directly in the day to day operations of Society Hill for about 8 years. I was already on the Board for about 4 years prior to that, with a management company and all contractors. I know how the "condominium service provider industry" operates, from the inside. I could be speculating in much more detail about what is likely going on right now. I have no direct proof - only indirect evidence based on how the players are acting. I can tell you again, as I already have, that it does not look good. I'm sure the Board or the management will never admit to anything, so we are all left here with an incomplete picture and no hard evidence, but it is very clear that something is up. If I was forbidden to say anything about anyone, then nothing would ever change, and Society Hill would continue to be run as a closed dictatorship forever.
I will try and post my response letter to A-Tech, although I may have to redact a few parts because I will probably go further in calling them out on what they are likely doing, now that they have my direct attention.
Annual Meeting Act I
The first attempt at the 2-seat annual meeting is scheduled for this Monday, October 24, at 7 PM. Town and Country emailed the ZOOM list last week, which I am repeating here in case you missed their email:
Meeting ID: 892 4626 8982
I can't believe they have achieved a quorum already, but once again, there is no mention in the meeting announcement as to how many proxied had been received thus far, so there is no way for us to know. Assuming there is no quorum, the members that attend via ZOOM will have to suggest and vote on a new date to try again. This is the only thing the members are allowed to vote on if there is no quorum (as per Bylaws section 3.08). I guess I'm indifferent on the date this year, but generally I prefer to try again earlier rather than later. Certainly November 30th is a pivotal date (the last day to pay the $1,200 special extortion assessment), and December 1st is another pivotal date (the court hearing on the petitions).
Petition Update, LAWSUIT!!, Election, Hill Cost by Kevin Wine, Oct 15, 2022, 7:24 PM, reply, new topic, edit
To no surprise, the Board's partisan petition inspectors have found ways to reject the petition to call for the special election to remove the Board. Notice was sent via email at 4:21 PM on Friday. In case you missed it:
This letter is to update all members on the status of the Petition One, which was received by the HOA office on September 12, 2022.
President (and/or Secretary) along with the appointed judges have completed their review and validation of the foresaid petitions received. The findings are as follows:
- 288 petitions received;
- 49 petitions, out of total 59, are on delinquent status before the Special Assessment;
- 19 petitions are disqualified as duplicates, withdrawals, and petitioners who are not members.
As a result, the quorum of a Special Meeting to remove trustees has not been met. Therefore, the request of the Special Meeting to remove trustees will not occur in conjunction with the Annual Election Meeting scheduled on October 24, 2022.
The good news is that they were unable to reject enough petitions calling for the special meeting to amend the Bylaws! They rejected 68 petitions, but the threshold for Petition Two was 182, and 279 were submitted, so we have more than enough for Petition Two. However, and again to no surprise, no mention in the inspectors letter about that petition, and no mention from the Board about calling the special meeting to amend the Bylaws.
It is amazing how much trouble this Board has with following the law. With an attorney on retainer and a "professional" management company they should not be making such mistakes. They are not allowed to disqualify delinquent members from Petition One, as per N.J.A.C. 5.26-8.11(d):
(d) Association members may initiate removal of a board member who was elected by the unit owners by submitting to the board a petition signed by 51 percent of association members for removal of that board member.
1. A special election of the association membership shall be held within 60 days of receipt of the petition.
2. When the annual meeting of the association membership is scheduled to occur within 60 days of the submission of the petition, then the election shall be held at the annual meeting.
The language clearly says "...a petition signed by 51 percent of association members for the removal...". It does NOT say "...a petition signed by 51 percent of association members IN GOOD STANDING for the removal...". There are multiple other clauses in N.J.A.C. 5:36 in which the NJ legislature qualifies association members with the suffix "in good standing", but this is not one of them! If the legislature intended to exclude delinquent owners from signing the petition, they would have said so.
Allowing petitioners to withdraw their petitions after they were submitted on September 8, 2022 is also not allowed. There is case law in NJ on this matter for public office petitions, which should be applicable here as well. One such case is Mocco v. Picone, 203 N.J. Super. 443 (App. Div. 1985), in which the court said:
While there is no statutory provision in this State for the withdrawing of a signature from a recall petition, it is beyond dispute that case law has established such a right providing it is exercised prior to filing. See Bachman v. Phillipsburg, 68 N.J.L. 552, 555 (Sup.Ct. 1902); Ford v. Gilbert, 89 N.J.L. 482, 485-86 (Sup.Ct. 1916).
Adoption of Appellant's position could serve to protract unduly the entire recall process by permitting systematic and planned obstruction of the petition process through the soliciting of withdrawals by personal confrontation or even coercion of the signators to the filed petitions. Such a result would be unfair to both the general electorate and the individual signers of the recall petitions. The recall campaign is best directed to obtaining votes which can be exercised freely in the secrecy of the voting booth. We have not been made aware of any public policy which would favor allowing withdrawals at all stages of the recall process. We are convinced that the democratic process of free election is best served by limiting withdrawals to the period prior to the filing of the recall petitions. The trial judge was correct in his ruling on this issue. He has not defeated the rights of those parties desiring to change their position on recalling any incumbent as such persons can both campaign and vote as they choose at the recall election.
Even if the Board is allowed to let members withdraw their petitions after submission, the Court would likely agree that in fairness to all parties, new petitioners would have to be allowed to sign. Over the course of a few weeks I'm sure we could find another 11 people to sign the petitions (I already have 8 more here that arrived shortly after September 8), so really what is the point of playing this game?
On Thursday morning, September 13th, I filed yet another lawsuit against the Association, to force the Board to honor both petitions and call the special election and the special meeting. There is still an on-going effort amongst dozens of owners to obtain legal counsel and sue the Association over the same matter. That effort is still very important as the stakes are high in this litigation and help from an attorney may be needed very soon. In the meantime, and out of principle, there is no way I could let this Board ignore the very clear message from nearly 300 owners who signed the petitions. Ignoring the petitions and then finally rejecting them for invalid reasons is mad disrespectful to us owners. Add to this all the resistance we encountered when trying to get the Board to properly administer the Hill removal project, which is STILL not being handled properly, and we have a Board that shouldn't be left in power for even one more day.
About 2 hours after filing the lawsuit, I receive a call from the Court. Due to the extent of the relief I requested, and the Thanksgiving holiday, the best we could do for the hearing in front of the Judge is December 1st. The Association has to be given 35 days to respond to the complaint (November 17th), and then I have to be given a week to respond to the response, if necessary, so that gets us to December 1st.
The case is MID-C-123-22, which can be looked up on NJCourts:
Even though the lawsuit was filed before the Board sent the petition inspection results, I already knew what games they were going to play so the lawsuit was written to already address all the possible reasons for petition rejection. This Board is very predictable, although I'm sure their paranoia will be kicking in.
Now for the 4th year in a row, we are AGAIN hearing from several owners claiming they didn't receive the election mailing. This just keeps happening - ever single year. We also have a lot of owners who are delinquent and didn't even realize it. It also seems some delinquent owners weren't even sent the election mailing in the first place - this is ILLEGAL - the Board must send the election mailing to all owners, regardless of status (PREDFDA 5:26-8.9(l)(1)(iii)).
If anyone still didn't get the election mailing, which was supposedly mailed out on September 23rd, please respond to this email and let me know. Also, if you didn't get the mailing and had to request it, let me know too, even if it eventually arrived. Also let me know if you are delinquent and you didn't receive the election mailing - that will really get the Board in trouble. We urgently need to document all these situations for the litigation, because I am trying to get the court to order that the special election be conducted by an outside, unaffiliated, third-party.
If anyone is delinquent keep in mind you can request "Alternate Dispute Resolution" or ADR, to dispute your delinquency with the Board. I have already been contacted by multiple owners who have found discrepancies in the Board's accounting of their unit's fees. Once you have requested ADR, and while you are in ADR, they have to let you vote!
Even if you are not currently delinquent, we should all keep this in mind because at some point, a lot of owners what refuse to pay (myself included) the $1,200 extortion fee to this Board, are going to be flagged as delinquent and thus disqualified from voting! If it comes to that, you can formally request ADR. And by the way, it IS ALLOWED to request ADR to dispute a special assessment. Town & Country Management will deny you ADR claiming you can't dispute special assessments, but they are WRONG, again! Where is the Board's attorney and her $12,000/year retainer she is paid to catch these things??. See Glens at Pompton Plains Condo. Ass'n, Inc. v. Van Kleeff, No. A-0418-13T4 (App. Div. May 7, 2015).
As far as the current 2-seat election is concerned, I am sitting this one out, which it seems is what some people wanted me to do anyway. I am confident it is going to get cancelled and replaced by the 6-seat election. If you do vote I would NOT suggest voting for Tom Lopez (very hostile towards me lately) or Mary Thomas (in way over her head and fully supported the $2,000 assessment). I'm sure these are going to be President Zhou's and his wife's and management's suggested candidates. Mohammed Sharif withdrew from the election (but late - so he is still on the ballot), so don't bother voting for him. Pick 2 from the remaining 3 I guess..
It might also be a good idea to appoint a proxy holder (put someone you trust in the second blank at the top), in case other matters come up at the annual meeting, and the Board so graciously decides to allow us to exercise our legislated right to vote on motions at our annual meeting (that's another violation of our rights the Board should be sued over too).
Front-Steps Maintenance Fees
I don't know how many of you are logging in to Front-Steps, the Town & Country homeowner fee payment portal. Many people have pointed out that their accounts still indicate a balance due of $2,000. It has not been reduced to $1,200, as voted by the Board at the September 29th special meeting, 17 days ago. The T&C payment portal has a note saying that the data is current as of October 5th, which is 10 days ago, and 6 days since the September 29th special meeting. I see for my account in particular, my October maintenance fee payment has still not posted, even though my bank shows the check was processed on October 6th. I guess our "professional management company" is having trouble updating their website. Hummmm....
I can only speculate - I would guess that the special assessment, the (illegal) early-payment discounts, and then the change in the special assessment, have broken the property management software used by Town & Country. The system we had before would not have had this problem, because I would have fixed it on September 30th. They seem to be making a lot of mistakes, from the phone calls I have been receiving, so if anything is odd on you maintenance fee bill, you might want to investigate it. Ask T&C for a copy of your account history.
Even though the special assessment has been reduced by $800, the estimated cost to remove the Hill has only dropped by $104,000, from $758,000 to $654,000. WE ARE STILL BEING RIPPED OFF!!! My base cost calculations for the removal of the Hill from months ago hasn't changed:
Exact Hill volume still unknown, but from my measurements I'll give them 3,000 tons (one-third of their original over-estimate)
Disposal of soil at MCUA Edgeboro landfill, at $11/ton = $33,000
Each truckload is about 25 tons, so that's 120 truckloads.
Edgeboro is 10 miles away, so figure 5 round trips per day so that's 24 days.
Truck and driver is $100/hr (confirmed - KLK Trucking), so that's 24 x 8 x $100 = $19,200
Large excavator rental is probably around $12,000/month (would be less with multiple dump trucks working)
Need someone to operate the excavator for 24 days. $45/hr (overheads incl.) is $8,600 (less if multiple dump trucks)
Need silt fence and other erosion control measures, and installation - $2,000 (we did this for the pond dredging - no big deal)
Have to plant grass when it's all done - $1,000
Dirt work sub-total is $33,000 + $19,200 + $12,000 + $8,600 + $2,000 + $1,000 = $75,800
Even if the engineering and permit cost gets up to $20,000 or $30,000, WE ARE STILL ONLY AROUND $100,000 IN BASE COST!!!
$654,000 is WAY MORE than we should pay, and we are still being taken for around HALF A MILLION DOLLARS!!
This is why they are attacking me - because I know what this work should cost, and they don't like that because then they can't rob us. This is also why Board candidate Tom Lopez was attacking me at the prior ZOOM meetings - because he is behind the revised Hill removal estimate of $654,000, and I am interfering with the second attempted theft.
It is not time to throw in the towel and let them have your money, especially since most of it will just go in the pockets of a different over-priced contractor. I realize there will always be some level of corruption in the management company and contractor configuration, but this is still way over the top. They already got away with robbing us on the walkway repairs in 2019, then the roofs, and now the Hill. The pattern should be obvious, and if they aren't stopped, they will keep doing this again and again for bigger and bigger amounts. This is way beyond what anyone should be willing to accept as "the cost of doing business".
Amongst the several bad things the Board did at the September 29th special meeting, they decided it would be a good idea to mandate background checks on all Board candidates going forward. Again, they don't care a bit about what the law says, they are just going to do whatever they want.
After multiple inquires from one of the Board candidates, Town & Country finally responded with the statement that the new background checks for Board candidates is "under legal review". LOL I guess our $12,000/year attorney on retainer finally came to her senses so that's the end of that, for now.
I don't know if there are going to be any ZOOM meetings this week. In case there are, the same weekly links should still work. The Tuesday at 7PM link is:
And the Wednesday at 6PM link is:
Great Hill Robbery Act II, Meeting Report, Meet the Candidates this WED 10/5 7PM by Kevin Wine, Oct 04, 2022, 9:59 AM, reply, new topic, edit
As expected, the Board made several unanimous motions at their September 29th Special Meeting:
The Board voted to reduce the $2,000 special assessment to $1,200. So now they are trying to raise $654,000 ($1,200 x 545) to remove the hill. This is only $104,000 less than their original proposal from A-Tech for $758,000. This is still way more than it should cost! The Board admitted that they still haven't finished the engineering to properly define the scope of work and get a reliable estimate of the cost. After taking a first guess of $1,090,000, without doing the engineering work, they are taking a second guess of $654,000, with engineering work barely started.
After all the advice they have been given from numerous sources, the Board is still struggling to understand how this should work. The normal way is to hire an engineer, who is totally independent of any contractor (or management company) that is or may be performing the construction work, and have that engineer draw up the plans, the scope of work, and the bid documents, and come up with an estimated cost. Instead, this Board is still jumping immediately ahead to approving large special assessments, based entirely off of contractor estimates, with no engineering work behind any of the estimates.
In parallel with whatever engineering work is already underway with Insite Engineering (supposedly hired by the Board last month), they approved a motion to hire a second engineer, for an undisclosed amount, to apparently come up with alternative solutions. It also turns out this second engineering firm, T&M Associates, is connected to one of the Board candidates, Thomas Lopez - a relative of his, Mike Thomas, works for T&M Associates. It also turns out that Mike Thomas is the Board President of a Society Hill at Somerset, which happens to also be managed by Town and Country Management, with Radom & Wetter as their attorney. Nice.
If this board can't remove that hill for less than $200,000, then it's time to consider just leaving it in place and going with the original plan to obtain site plan approval to landscape the hill in place. All the engineering work was already done back in 2017, but this Board stiffed the engineer for several thousand dollars so those plans are not available anymore. In what has become characteristic of this Board, they would rather burn another $100,000 on new engineering work rather than pay what they owe to the last engineer and continue with those plans, since anything I did is considered "contaminated".
Although the $800 reduction is a step in the right direction, it does not erase the fact that the Board just made a $436,000 ($800 x 545) "mistake". I don't think the Board fully understands the gravity of its responsibility. $436,000 is not a trivial "mistake". If all the owners would have just rolled over and paid the $2,000, we would have been taken by $436,000. On top of that, my last base cost estimate of $75,000 to remove the hill is still valid - nothing has changed there. $654,000 is still a total rip-off. A reasonable contractor would charge us $150,000 - maybe $200,000 tops. NOTHING HAS CHANGED. WE ARE STILL BEING ROBBED, BY AT LEAST ANOTHER $400,000!!
Candidate Background Checks
In another move which will guarantee future lawsuits against the association, the Board unanimously passed a motion to require background checks for all candidates running for election. One of the NJ laws governing condominium boards clearly specifies that the only criteria for board candidacy is to be in good-standing - PREDFDA Section 5:26-8.9(l)(1)(ii)(1) "Good standing shall be the sole criterion for the eligibility of a nominee."
As is also characteristic of this Board, they don't seem to care much about what the laws say - they will just do whatever they want, and "if you don't like it, sue us". It is highly unlikely the court would allow the Board to impose additional qualification on board candidacy, beyond what is specified in the legislation whose language is clear - "...the sole criterion...". While it is understandable that there might be some concerns with a board candidate with a criminal history, it is not the role of the Board to be conducting, collecting, and distributing such checks. Not only are they barred from doing this as noted above, public offices requiring background checks conduct those checks after the winners have been elected. The county clerk or election administrators are barred from disqualifying candidates based on any non-legislated criteria. Empowering election administrators to randomly impose additional qualifications could quickly lead to abuse. As an immediate example of such potential abuse, I'm sure this idea was directed towards me.
During the public portion of the meeting, one resident proposed that as long as board candidates are now required to have background checks, shouldn't the existing board members be subjected to background checks as well?? Our Board President Tong Zhou did not like this suggestion (shocker). Also during the public portion I pointed out that it is illegal to impose additional candidate qualifications, and was attacked by Thomas Lopez for "wanting bank robbers on the board". Guess he doesn't care about what the law says either.
It turns out that you can lookup municipal court cases for yourself or anyone else. The site is:
You can search on me to find all the horrible things I have done! But don't get too excited - there is another person with a similar name that comes up. You might want to enter a DOB to narrow the results - 01/11/1967. You can also look up our Board President, but on one of the summons they botched his name so you have to search on "Tong Chou". I wonder if there is anything interesting on any other board members? Hummmm...
As of the special board meeting on the 29th, three weeks had already passed since the petitions were submitted to the Board on September 8th. Finally the Board decided to do something with the petitions - delay them even further! The Board voted to appoint several owners as inspectors to review the petitions to determine their validity. Of course, all or almost all the inspectors are know "Kevin haters", so this will be interesting. The Board failed to specify any timetable or schedule for this inspection to take place, and President Zhou refused to further specify any timetable either.
In the meantime, it was revealed at the meeting by Board candidate Thomas Lopez that he and at least one other candidate that had signed the petition were now "withdrawing" their petition. Mr. Lopez declared that the "petition has served its purpose", and should be stopped. I'm pretty sure that the Board's revised special assessment of $654,000 is based on a proposal submitted by a contractor solicited by Mr. Lopez. Maybe he is just trying to help out but $654,000 is still a total rip-off, as previously mentioned. Mr. Lopez also went after me, for the second meeting now, this time accusing me of "environmental crimes" and requesting that I be prosecuted. He appears to be the new mouthpiece of President Zhou, who I know is working hard behind the scenes to manipulate everyone he can. I will leave it to you to connect the dots here - but it's clear to me what is going on, and I cannot support Mr. Lopez as a Board candidate.
Fortunately, it turns out that once petitions are submitted, they can no longer be revoked. Since this board likes to ignore the law, this might have to be litigated to get them to follow the law. I have now sent the Board two formal "demand letters", demanding that they call both meetings as directed by the petitions. The Board has to resend the "call for nominations" letter, for 6 candidates, and now they will also have to re-send the election mailing. There are specific mailing deadlines they must follow, and as for today, it will be impossible for them to comply with the mailing deadlines for the October 24th Annual Meeting. Therefore, if they honor the petitions, they are going to have to postpone the Annual Meeting. I'm sure this is one of their tactics, as at any meting after October 30th there will likely be hundreds of owners delinquent who refuse to pay even the reduced $1,200 special assessment. We will see how that works out though, as likely the court would intervene at that point since the Board's delays created a situation in which owners are being disqualified from voting in the election they demanded by petition.
The Great Re-roofing Robbery
A few years ago, as a Board member, I requested a copy of the re-roofing contract, but never received it. I'm sure there is some reason they didn't want me to see it. In all probability the Board signed a multi-phase contract to replace every roof, so this year they had do do a few more "building blocks". And sure enough, they approved 3 more buildings for this year. This is not the best time of year to be doing roofs, but they don't care.
Since it keeps coming up, I have to address the ongoing comments by President Zhou that the Association would not be able to get property insurance if the roofs are not fixed. This is total BS. The insurance company doesn't care about the roofs - they care about claims. Roof leaks rarely generate claims. Water damage claims were all from pipe leaks for the 10 years I was involved. However, it makes a great story, and "insurance" is commonly used as a justification to spend large amounts of money on various repairs. I'm not saying the roofs don't have any problems. I'm saying that we are being sold an over-priced re-roofing project (average is over $50,000 per building), by the same bunch of ignorant/arrogant/corrupt clowns that don't know how to handle large projects and just tried to jam a $2,000 special assessment down our throats. They know I know what they are up to, so they attack me relentlessly to prevent interference with their plans. They got away with it - until now.
The Board voted to contract with Town and Country Management for another year, at a 5% cost increase. They did not disclose the total cost in the motion, but I think the prior re-negotiated contract was for $110,000, so now it would be $115,500. Apparently they negotiated some deal that the price will not increase again for 5 years, as long as we stay with T&C. I assume the contract is still for the "Covid mode" with a manager in the office only 2 times a week. Oddly, their prior contract expired this past April, but the Board did not renew it until just now - 5 months later.
I assume it is no surprise that if the Board is removed, T&C will be removed as well. I hear a lot of complaints about them, and they were also entwined in the $2,000 hill assessment, so in my mind they already shouldn't be here.
The final Board motion was to formally keep the Board meetings in remote format indefinitely. I'm sure they like this format, especially with all the recent controversy, because they can control the audience with the mute button. Of course they don't mute the Board, so Ms. Mincarelli can continue to disrespect the owners with her sidebar comments, while we all have to wait in line for our single turn to speak.
Meet the Candidates
The Board is still declining to host a "Meet the Candidates" night for the current 2-seat election, so once again, some owners are organizing a candidates night by themselves. All the current candidates have been invited as far as I know, and the event is scheduled for this Wednesday, October 5th, at 7PM. The ZOOM link is:
Meet the Candidates Wed 6PM??, Special Board Meeting Thurs 7PM by Kevin Wine, Sep 27, 2022, 10:28 PM, reply, new topic, edit
It sounds like there will be some form of a "Meet the Candidates" event at the weekly community Zoom meeting. This is the meeting organized and run by community members. I do not know how many of the current Board candidates will be attending. The meeting is Wednesday at 6PM, via ZOOM:
Another September Special Board Meeting
After cancelling the regular September Board meeting last Thursday, the Board then decided that they needed another September meeting after all, and scheduled a special meeting for this Thursday. In case you missed the announcement, here is the ZOOM link for the 29th at 7PM:
I guess there is suddenly a lot of work to be done, as this is the most agenda items we've seen in years:
I see they are going to appoint "inspectors" to review the petitions for their removal, further delaying the whole process. I'm not sure what they hope to achieve by further delays, other than maybe buying more time to figure out some trick to ignore the petitions altogether. We will see how that works out for them - there are dozens of owners who have committed to suing the Board to get the petitions enforced, so maybe it will come to that.
Also I see on the agenda that the Board may finally be re-evaluating their $2,000 special assessment. I am not going to hold my breath though, because any reduction in the assessment would be admitting they were wrong, which is too much for our Board President to swallow.
2022 Annual Meeting and Election
In spite of the fact that the Board has petitions signed by over 51% of all the homeowners for a special election with 6 open seats, and in spite of the law, the Board is charging ahead with its 2-seat election plans. There are 6 candidates for the 2 seats:
The law is very clear - the Board is legally obligated to combine the special and annual meeting when the petitions are presented within 60 days of the annual meeting/election. This is found in PREDFDA section 5:28-8.11(d), which states:
"2. When the annual meeting of the association membership is scheduled to occur within 60 days of the
submission of the petition, then the [special] election shall be held at the annual meeting."
The petitions were received by the Board on September 8, 2022. The annual meeting/election is scheduled for October 24, 2022. From September 8 to October 24 is 46 days, which is less than 60 days. They seem to have a lot of trouble with math. Although the petitions were delivered after the 2022 annual meeting mailing was sent out in late August, the Board had the petitions 11 days before the September 19th candidate nomination deadline, and 15 days before they planned to send the 2022 election mailing on September 23rd. They had a reasonable amount of time to redo the call for nominations mailing for 6 seats instead of 2.
By the way, they keep insisting that the petitions were received on September 12th, when in fact they were received on September 8th:
As I'm sure you have noticed from the candidate profiles, our Board President Tong Zhou is not one of the candidates. I don't communicate with him so I don't know exactly why he decided not to run. You may have also noticed that I am not one of the candidates either. I am still very conflicted on this decision, as my instinct would be to run. In my mind, there is a lot of unfinished business here, and I am not one to give up easily on things. I know there were and still are many owners that supported the way the Association was run in the past, and the vision we shared for where it was going. There were always a few that had other visions or plans, and for a while now they have had the upper hand. Based on the petition response, it is pretty clear that a majority of owners would rather have the Association run by logical, rational, benevolent leaders. We are on the opposite end of that spectrum right now, but I think there is finally some light in the darkness and this rather ugly chapter will soon some to a close.
As to my role going forward - the honest answer is that I really don't know. I guess I will see how things play out in the near term, and like with many thing I've worked on or projects I've done, the answers and the paths will develop in time. I have long since compartmentalized all the personal attacks on me over the years. They are an annoyance, and they burn my time, but I do find some entertainment in debating issues with others. What bothers me more is the systems-level failures that create the environment in which people in leadership positions fail those they lead. Humans in general seem to struggle with decision making - maybe they get it right more times than they get it wrong, but it's a very bumpy process.
As far as my thoughts on the immediate issue of this 2-seat election, my thought is to wait. I think that one way or another, this election is going to get cancelled and replaced by the 6-seat election. They can't ignore all those petitions. And only replacing two trustees this year is not enough to get control of the Board and control of the situation. If there is any justice, the 6 Board members that have created all this friction and heat and burned by now a thousand hours of our collective time will not be on that board anymore.
Petition Submitted, BOT Hill Meeting Today 5PM, Wed Community ZOOM by Kevin Wine, Sep 12, 2022, 9:16 PM, reply, new topic, edit
The petitions have been submitted to the Board, along with a copy to the Board's attorney, and were confirmed to have been received by them last Thursday, September 9th. We are now waiting on the Board to do what they are legislatively required to do, as per PREDFDA.
Tonight, Tuesday September 13th, at 5 PM, is the Board's "Special Meeting" with all their Hill removal "experts" at taking our money.
Here is their link, in case you missed (or didn't receive) their email on September 6th:
Meeting ID: 841 0703 3000
You may remember that several owners who were trying to help the Board find other cheaper solutions to the Hill problem were asking the Board to call a special meeting to present their finding. The Board resisted the request, and now that they have finally called a special Board meeting (over a month later!), it is clear from the agenda that they are snubbing those owners that were trying to help out:
Many of us will either still be at work at 5PM, or driving home from work. I will still attend, but I will probably be interrupted multiple times since I usually work till about 6PM.
There is a Q&A session on the agenda, so I assume owners in attendance will have some chance to ask questions, however it's at the end of the meeting and there is a good chance the "experts" will have been dismissed from the call by that point. This is a trick they have played before - we will see.
I just noticed a few days ago that the Board has finally charged the $2,000 special assessment to our maintenance fee accounts. So if it wasn't already clear, it should be crystal clear by now that they are not going to voluntarily change their plan to rob us of nearly $700,000. WE ARE URGING ALL OWNERS TO NOT PAY THIS UNTIL THE LAST POSSIBLE MINUTE (LATE OCTOBER). If the Board doesn't have the money to make the down payment to A-Tech ($400,000!!!), they won't be able to really begin the work. Hopefully that will delay things enough to get this board replaced.
If the board was smart, they would at least modify the proposal to accurately reflect the actual volume of soil in the hill (which is one-quarter to one-third what they estimate), but it is clear they are not even going to do that.
Several owners have been asking the Board for the monthly financial statements, but so far the Board has ignored the requests! The Board is REQUIRED to provide a "statement of receipts and expenditures" to any owners requesting such, so yet again the Board is operating beyond its authority in ignoring/denying these requests. If anyone has been successful in obtaining any monthly financial information since last October, please let me know. The last monthly financial statement we have is from September 2021:
September 2021 Financials
Again this week there is little point in having the regular Tuesday community zoom meeting, so we will instead focus on the Wednesday community meeting at 6PM. Link is the same as last Wednesday:
See you all there!
**Petition Threshold Reached**, Wednesday ZOOM 6PM, Boards Special Meeting by Kevin Wine, Sep 05, 2022, 3:15 PM, reply, new topic, edit
As of September 5th, we just crossed the 278 petition threshold needed to order the Board to call a Special Election within 60 days!
There are still several petitions promised and in-bound in the the mail, which are critical to have in case the Board tries to reject some petitions. This fight is not over yet and we need as many backup petitions as we can get.
At the same time, we also have plenty of signatures on the second petition, which was to call a special meeting to amend the By-Laws to allow for electronic voting in the annual elections, and to appoint an oversight committee with specific powers to oversee the entire annual election process start to finish.
The next step will be to make backup copies of all the petitions and submit them to the Board, via the Association's legal counsel. The Board is then legally obligated to call a Special Election meeting within 60 days, but since the regular annual election is less than 60 days away, they have to combine the two election meetings. This means there will be 6 board seats up for election this fall - not just two.
For anyone interested in the legal details behind the removal petition, it is covered in section 5:28-8.11(d) of the PREDFDA amendment (page 100 in the pdf):
For the procedure to amend the By-Laws, the relevant laws are PREDFDA section 5:26-8.13 (page 105 in the pdf above), and the Association's By-Laws, section 11.00 (page 16 in the pdf) and 3.04 and 3.05 (page 2 in the pdf):
Note that the 75% affirmative vote requirement was over-ruled by PREDFDA 5:26-8.13(c), requiring a majority affirmative vote of the entire eligible membership. This is still a considerable threshold, but much more feasible than 75%. This means about 240 owners would have to vote in favor of the amendments. Presumably if around 280 people signed the petitions, we should be able to pass this amendment.
I do want to thank everyone who took the time to respond to the petitions, and the numerous owners that rose to the occasion and helped with the petitions by reaching out to their neighbors and other owners, investigate "The Hill" story, analyze the situation, meet with the Township of Piscataway, propose other solutions, participate in numerous ZOOM meetings, and reason with the current Board members. This was by far the largest multi-pronged owner-driven effort in our history. It has had the positive effect of networking many owners together working toward a common goal. The fight is not yet over - we will have more forms to sign and ballots to return shortly, so hang in there and stay in the loop!
The Wednesday Tuesday Meeting
There will be another ZOOM update meeting on Wednesday at 6PM, just like last week, so there isn't much point in having the regular Tuesday Zoom. The full invite was emailed to all owners on the savethehill community email distribution.
Topic: Society Hill Home Owners - Special Assessment
Time: This is a recurring meeting to Meet upcoming Wednesday
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Meeting ID: 827 6230 3583
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Meeting ID: 827 6230 3583
The topic are:
-HOA Special Meeting (Sept. 13) prep and questions for that meeting
The Board's Possible September 13 Special Propaganda Meeting
On August 31st, the management emailed a tentative announcement for a Tuesday September 13 Special Board Meeting. You might recall that about a month ago several owners were asking the Board to call a special meeting so those owners could present their independent findings concerning the Hill, and other approaches and solutions to the problem. The Board declined to call such a special meeting, and instead has now called an alternative special meeting in which they plan to:
"...invite engineering experts, legal, contractor as well as Township inspector and/or representative to speak directly to our homeowners."
Hopefully "engineering experts" is meant to include more than just the Board's engineering experts. Several owners, including ones with engineering backgrounds, spent a lot of time researching the Hill issue, and it seems the Board should at least extend them the courtesy of allowing them to present their findings and suggestions to the Board and any owners in attendance. There are also several issues of material fact, such as the volume estimate of the Hill (way over-estimated), and the level of soil contamination (not serious), which need to be sorted out by cross-examination of the Board's "experts". If none of this is allowed to happen at the September 13th meeting, it should leave no remaining doubt as to the current Board's true intentions.
Town/Board ZOOM Update 8/31 6PM, Another Petition, Direct-Debit Trickery by Kevin Wine, Aug 30, 2022, 12:04 AM, reply, new topic, edit
There is a community meeting scheduled for this Wednesday, August 31, starting at 6 PM. The meeting will be hosted by the owners who were working with the Town and the Board to reach a compromise solution to the Hill remediation problem. The agenda is:
-Progress from Township Meeting
The full link to the meeting is here:
Society Hill Special Assessment Meeting
Wednesday Aug 31, 2022, 6pm - 7:30pm (Eastern Time - New York)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 874 5698 1924
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Meeting ID: 874 5698 1924
Find your local number: https://us06web.zoom.us/u/kc019UwAem
Weekly Community Meeting
Since there will be a meeting this Wednesday, there is probably not too much point in having the Tuesday community ZOOM as well. However, in case anyone tries to connect, I will be on around 7PM. The same link is still active:
On-Line Special Board Meeting Petition
There is an on-line petition circulating to request that the Board call a special Board meeting so the owners who have been working with the Town on alternative solutions can present their work thus far. At this point it appears the Board President, or two other Board members, are not going to call such a special meeting. If they are presented with another petition showing a lot of support for the special meeting, perhaps they can be persuaded. The link to "sign" is:
The petition is hosted by change.org, which provides this service for free. There are a few ads during the process, and they may ask for a donation, just so you are aware. Please take a moment to sign - it seems this is the least the Board could do, to listen to several owners who have spent a considerable amount of time and effort to research the problem in good faith.
Several owners who are on the recurring direct-debit system for their monthly maintenance fees just reported that they received a certified letter from Town & Country. The letter presents the owner with two choices:
1-Cancel the recurring direct-debit, and pay by check (or manually on-line I assume).
2-Agree to continue recurring direct-debit, and at the same time agree to allow the Association to deduct the $2,000 special assessment from their bank account.
There is no option to continue recurring direct debit WITHOUT agreeing to automatically deduct the special assessment. Although I assume that if you did nothing, they will continue to pull the monthly maintenance fees from your bank account, but not the $2,000 special assessment. I'm not certain though because they don't say this, but it certainly looks like they are trying to trick everyone in to re-authorizing the direct debit to include the $2,000 special assessment deduction.
In any case, the Board and T&C are once again doing a good job of creating confusion, which I'm sure will prompt owners to call the office, at which point I'm also sure the arm-twisting and lying will begin.
I assume the best solution is to do do nothing. I certainly wouldn't send $2,000 until the last possible minute (October 30). If no one sends any money, that would put the brakes on the whole project or delay it at least.
"Removal" Petition Update
After the second petition mailing 2 weeks ago, we have over 250 of the 278 petitions needed to order the Board to call a special election. At this point in time, since it is now almost September, the special election (if we get enough petitions) will be combined with the regular annual meeting/election. This petition needs to be submitted to the Board asap, so if you plan on signing one please do so soon!
We are already well past the number of petitions required to call a special meeting of the Association in order to amend the by-laws to allow electronic voting and appoint a committee to over-see the annual election process.
Finally, I received a certified letter from the Association's attorney today, Susan Radom, asking me to "cease and desist" from representing myself as the association. I think they are still mad about the $11/ton soil disposal cost confirmation from the MCUA. I can understand why - it has exposed their plan to steal nearly $700,000 from us!
The Board Blows it Again, Board Mtg. Petition, Tuesday ZOOM Reminder by Kevin Wine, Aug 22, 2022, 10:51 AM, reply, new topic, edit
After I showed the Board how to get rid of the Hill for just $11/ton, guess what your Board and Management went and did?
They are good at one thing - destroying everything. Apparently Trustee Mary Thomas, and Manager Stacey Cole, both called the MCUA on August 16th, and said something that has resulted in the soil acceptance letter being revoked! Good job ladies.
Why would they do this, you ask? The best case answer is that in their paranoid/delusional/alternate reality world, they were probably concerned that I would somehow start hauling the Hill to the dump, and the Association would get the bill. The worst case answer is that they all have some ulterior motive for sticking with their current plan to rob us for $1,090,000.
Following the meeting with the Township of Piscataway on August 8th, some of the owners trying to help the Board remediate the Hill for much less than $1,090,000 tried to get the Board to call a special meeting of the Board in order to present what they had determined thus far. After it was realized that President Zhou was not willing to call a special meeting, two Board members were approached. It turns out that as per Section 5.08 of our By-Laws, any two Trustees can request a special Board meeting:
5.08 Special Meetings. Special meetings of the Board of Trustees may be called by the President of the Association on three days [PREDFDA recently over-rode this to 7 days] written notice to each Trustee, given in the same manner as provided in Section 7 of this Article. Special meetings of the Board shall be called by the President or the Secretary in like manner upon the written request of any two Trustees.
From what I heard, there were two members willing to request a special board meeting, however Management is somehow of the belief that four trustees are required to request the meeting, when the By-Laws (repeated verbatim above) clearly say just two are required. So once again, the Board just can't get anything right, and once again, some people are still hell bent on the original plan. If President Zhou is dominating the decisions, the rest of the Board can easily call a special Board meeting without him, and do whatever they want as long as four Trustees show up. They still have to formally notice him, but it doesn't matter if he shows up or not. It's that easy, but they either have no spine or don't want to do it. In either case, they all got to go.
Following the second mailing last Sunday, petitions started coming back with 14 received thus far. This brings the total count to 240. We have just 38 to go! The petition is still available for download here:
If necessary, you can download, print, complete, scan, and email back to us (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you didn't receive a printed copy in the mail. Page 6 was updated to reflect recent developments, including the $11/ton soil disposal cost (until it was cancelled), and the permits that Councilman Steven Cahn still claims I didn't have. The letter clearly says there were no permits ever - that's how everyone here I've talked to has interpreted the letter. Mr. Cahn had to know that is false, but said it anyway, planning to hide behind the ambiguity in his wording. It is amazing the Town has been pulled into this fight in order to justify taking money from us.
Special Board Meeting Petition
As a show of force, another resident created an on-line petition to try and convince the board to hold a special Board meeting as soon as possible, to present the Board with a professional assessment of the Hill remediation project. You can "sign" the petition here:
The petition is hosted by change.org, so at one point in the signing process it will ask you for a donation. That's not us asking - that's the change.org hosting service asking, as I'm sure it costs them something to run their website. There are also opportunities to share the petition with your contacts. To limit Board objection to the petition, it is probably best to just share with other Society Hill owners for now. There is no legally binding mechanism with which to force the Board to call a special meeting of itself, however if a significant percentage of owners ask for this meeting and the Board ignores them, it's another data point on the chart of the Board's true allegiances.
Tuesday ZOOM Meeting
We are still doing the Tuesday 7PM weekly ZOOM meeting. The same link from last week still works:
The Board's attorney filed her response to my second amended complaint on Thursday August 18th, one day before the deadline. Once again, she is trying to get my complaint dismissed entirely with nonsense and irrelevant arguments. She is fixated on NJ Court Rule 4:32-3, which specifies certain requirements for "derivative claims" such as the ones I have filed. New Jersey allows you to sue on behalf of an entire group of "similarly situated" shareholders, such as all of us here with this $2,000 special assessment ripoff. It's very clear to me that Rule 4:32-3 does not apply in this case, but the Board's attorney still tries to come up with something to keep those legal fees coming to her and delay the case as much as possible. I am not asking the Board to do something they haven't done, I'm asking the board to not do something they have already done.
If somehow it becomes necessary to fix the complaint, I might need to amend it again to add 5% of the unit owners as plaintiffs (another 27 owners) to satisfy another alleged deficiency. I assume it will not be difficult to find 27 more owners to add to the complaint.
I am still waiting for a hearing date on my motion for preliminary injunctive relief. This is the motion, which if granted, would stop the Hill remediation project dead in its tracks.
We have about 5 owners who have specifically expressed interest in a separate legal filing to try and stop the Board's $2,000 special assessment operation.
The Jig Is Up, Tuesday 7PM ZOOM, Town Meeting Recap by Kevin Wine, Aug 15, 2022, 11:04 AM, reply, new topic, edit
Over 2 weeks ago, I contacted the MCUA Edgeboro Facility (the Middlesex County dump) to see if they would accept contaminated soil. They said they would need to review the lab reports, so I sent them the ANS summary report that the Board had released since that was all I had. Last Thursday I heard back from the MCUA and was advised that the acceptance letter was ready for pickup, so I drove down to the Edgeboro facility and picked up the letter, along with a stack of weigh tickets. Here is the letter:
Note specifically the cost of $11/ton. Although I will measure the hill more precisely this week, I still estimate there are about 2,500 tons of soil in the Hill. The dumping cost would therefore be $27,500. The cost of hiring a trucking company to haul the hill to the dump is about $16,000. Therefore, my original estimate of $50,000 base cost to remove the hill is confirmed.
What is also confirmed is that we are being robbed. The Board approved a contract from A-Tech Landscape Design for $758,000. That is over 15 times the base cost. In other words, A-Tech is getting $700,000 more than it is costing them to haul away the hill. At this juncture, our Board of Trustees, President Tong Zhou, and Town and Country Management have some serious explaining to do. How do we get from a base removal cost of around $50,000 to a contract of $758,000 and then to a special assessment of $1,090,000?? Is the Board really that naive? And the management as well? Were they both just conned by A-Tech? Or is there more going on here? Is there something wrong with my estimates? I have the soil acceptance letter in hand, and a stack of weigh tickets - if we had a truck and permits, we could have hauled dirt to the dump starting last Friday, so I'm very confident the disposal cost is accurate.
Tuesday ZOOM Meeting
The weekly Hill Zoom meeting is still on for Tuesday evening. The same link from last week still works, but here it is again for convenience:
Township of Piscataway Meeting Recap
Several members of the community, including 2 board members (Mincarelli and Thomas), met with Township of Piscataway officials on Monday to discuss the Hill. I was not in attendance (3PM on a workday, and I sensed they didn't want me there anyway), but I was on the zoom meeting Monday evening where the Township meeting was discussed. A more detailed report will probably be available soon, but to summarize my understanding for you now, it seems like the Town is agreeable to a deadline extension beyond November, provided that within the next 60 days the Board makes some positive progress towards hiring a professional engineer to properly manage the project.
Every indication is that the soil, although testing above-threshold for at least one substance, is not above any threshold as far as the NJ DEP contaminated soil standards are concerned. Therefore, the soil does not require any special handling or processing, and can be discarded at reasonable cost. Trustee Sanford's story about how the Hill has to be hauled to a special facility and de-contaminated is apparently false. The soil acceptance letter from the MCUA confirms this as well.
The next step is to request a special Board Meeting, during which the Board will be presented with the same information that was presented to the Town, and asked to engage an engineering firm to properly manage the project. As far as I understand, Board President Tong Zhou has already rejected the recommendation to hire an engineer, however he may reconsider this as pressure is clearly mounting. At the very least, this Board needs to answer to the owners over what appears to be brazen day-light robbery of over $700,000.
As of now, we have about 220 signed petitions. 278 are required to formally demand the special election. A second petition mailing just went out over the weekend to the 310 owners that have not yet responded to the petition. With only a 20% return on the second mailing (half of the return percentage on the first mailing), we will have enough petitions.
If successful, the petition will not immediately remove the entire Board. There is a different procedure for that which requires 66% of the owners to vote for removal. The procedure we are following now with the petitions requires 51% of the owners to sign the petition, which would then require the Board to call a special meeting within 60 days. In that special election, the 6 trustees on the petition would have to run for their seats, against whatever other candidates are also nominated to run against them. This procedure is a "polite removal" in that is offers the named Trustees a second chance to explain themselves to the owners, and lets the owners decide if they should remain on the board or not. You could, for example, sign the petition, and then vote the same 6 trustees right back on to the Board.
As far as I'm concerned, even if this Board comes to its senses and resolves this crisis in a reasonable way, the very fact that they handled it the way they did, and continue to handle it, totally disqualifies them from leadership positions in this Association. Even if this is all just an innocent mistake, and they were somehow duped by the contractors or management, the fact that this even happened shows their total lack of experience and sophistication in operating a $1.3M maintenance, landscaping, and construction operation (this is the team that can't even water the grass). Add to that the fact that after the initial public outcry over a month ago, the Board did not immediately reconsider its decision, and further add the fact that President Zhou is still resisting efforts to consider alternative solutions, one has to begin considering there is more afoot here than mere innocence.
Keep in mind that this is not the first time we are being ripped off - it is just the first time it is this obvious and in our face. Your Board has already committed approximately $2,500,000 to their re-roofing project, at an average cost per building of $50k to $60k. Since they wiped up so much paranoia about the roofs (and yes there were issues with the roof), everyone seemed to be OK with that robbery. But that doesn't change the fact we were over-charged by at least 30%. Then there was the other A-Tech contract to replace some sidewalks 3 years ago - $40,000 for about $10,000 of work. Then there was the pool bonding/ground robbery - another $7k or $9k I forget - long story. Then they sold a $20,000+ loader for $4,000 to another contractor friend of management. And while all this was going on, they were busy trashing me and trashing my reputation to distract everyone from what they were actually doing. And they got away with it - until now.
Township Meeting Recap - 6:30 Monday by Kevin Wine, Aug 09, 2022, 6:58 PM, reply, new topic, edit
Good Morning all, Please see below meeting invite for Monday. Agenda for the meeting will be to provide a summary of what was discussed with mayor by a select group of homeowners.
Syed Mohiuddin will lead the meeting.
Farhad Ahmad is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Topic: Update on Meeting with Mayor
Time: Aug 15, 2022 06:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 755 1310 0920
The Great Hill Robbery by Kevin Wine, Aug 04, 2022, 11:57 PM, reply, new topic, edit
Earlier this week, the much-anticipated letter from the Township of Piscataway arrived in all our mailboxes. For anyone that was deprived the pleasure of receiving such a masterpiece, you may engorge yourself via the following link:
Ward 3 Representative Steven Cahn Letter, and Board Letter
Some of the main permits authorizing the pond dredging work, that Mr. Cahn says I failed to obtain, are available here:
Dredging Permit Drawing
Township SESC Permit
By the Township's own admission, in response to a recent OPRA request, there was a Soil Erosion and Sediment Control (SESC) permit for the pond project. They knew this prior to Mr. Cahn's letter. The entire OPRA response from July 29th can be seen here (notice they only included the first page of the SESC permit):
Township OPRA Response
There were other DEP Permits submitted and issued, relating to the pond project, such as a water lowering permit, and an aquatic life collection permit, that I can't find copies of. There were also other DEP permit applications that were in process from 2016 to 2018, before the current Board cancelled all projects, including the pond.
It is misleading for Mr. Cahn to be stating that no permits were obtained for any of this work, as that is clearly not the case. It is also misleading to claim a past board is responsible for the current problems, as it is the current board that "unsolved" all the problems that I had already solved, when they illegally cancelled the pond and other membership approved capital improvement projects in 2018. Funny how he forgot to mention that in his letter.
It is pretty clear to me that the Board, and specifically President Zhou, asked the Township to send this letter and likely suggested most of its content. Regardless of the past, the current Board, lead by President Zhou, is now the Board faced with solving this problem in some reasonable way. To all but maybe 15 of our 545 owners, it is painfully obvious how the Board has bumbled this project and is more focused on blaming others for its own failures and pushing responsibility back on us, than it is on actually fixing the problem.
As for Mr. Cahn, his willingness to bend the truth, and to allow himself to be used by President Zhou, seems typical of our elected representatives these days, at all levels. There was no contractor doing the dredging work - that was done literally by me and other Society Hill employees at the time, so he is wrong there too. It's a minor point, but if I was writing a letter to 545 people, I would make every effort to get my facts straight before pushing send. The Township still has a role to play in resolving this problem, so time will tell if Mr. Chan means any of what he says or continues to instead act as President Zhou's puppet. At the moment though, it sounds more like he is feigning concern as WE ARE BEING ROBBED OF OVER ONE MILLION DOLLARS.
No more than 24 hours after the Township's letter, our brilliant Board of Problem Solvers delivered its follow-up letter. Neither letter makes any forward progress toward a reasonable solution to the problem, instead blaming others and denying and offloading responsibility. I noticed quite a few errors in the Board's letter, so I couldn't help editing it for them. Here is my marked-up copy (corrections are in red):
Boards Letter Edited
Realize THIS IS ALL JUST A DISTRACTION, to draw your attention away from the fact that the Board contracted for the removal of 4 times the amount of soil that is actually in the hill and we are being scammed. The Board STILL HAS NOT RELEASED THE SOIL LAB REPORTS, making it impossible to get solid numbers on the soil disposal costs. I'm sure this is intentional, because releasing the labs would establish the hard evidence that we are being robbed of at least $700,000. They don't want that getting out I'm sure. Even though I don't have the soil lab reports, it is becoming very obvious that there is no serious contamination involved and the disposal costs are around $11/ton, which totals to $50,000 at the most for complete remediation. And we are being charged $758,000. Plus another $332,000 on top of that.
The board "removal" petition has over 200 signatures as of August 6, 2022, which is only 16 days since it was received in the mail!!
THE SOLUTION TO OUR POLLUTION IS DISSOLUTION!
Next ZOOM meeting is Tuesday, August 9th, 7PM:
If anyone is interested in pursuing legal action against the Board, I have had a few owners approach me and I would like to connect them all together. Please let me know asap if you are interested - it will cost some money, but this is another way of stopping the $2,000 assessment, and going after the thieves that are taking our money. Contact me at email@example.com, 201-401-6129.
Regarding the current lawsuit against the Board, the Court finally ruled on my motion to amend the existing complaint to include the issue with all the previously approved capital expenditures that the Board illegally cancelled, including the pond landscaping project and "the Hill". I am told the order will be signed early this week. Motions to amend are generally granted, but I won't know for sure until then. My second motion asking the court to intervene and temporarily halt all efforts to remove the hill, so a reasonable effort can be made to resolve the problem, is still on track and the Judge has not yet decided on when to schedule a hearing. Efforts are underway to obtain an accurate measurement of the volume of the hill, and obtain other proposals for its removal, that will be useful in my argument for a temporary injunction.
Emergency Daily ZOOM for Hill by Kevin Wine, Aug 02, 2022, 9:33 PM, reply, new topic, edit
Topic: Daily ZOOM updates for Hill
Time: Aug 3, 2022 8:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Every day, until Aug 24, 2022, 22 occurrence(s)
Please download and import the following iCalendar (.ics) files to your calendar system.
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 857 2986 1424
One tap mobile
+13017158592,,85729861424#,,,,*078217# US (Washington DC)
+13126266799,,85729861424#,,,,*078217# US (Chicago)
Dial by your location
+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 646 558 8656 US (New York)
+1 646 931 3860 US
+1 669 444 9171 US
+1 669 900 9128 US (San Jose)
+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
+1 386 347 5053 US
+1 564 217 2000 US
Meeting ID: 857 2986 1424
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kGZvLPoyk
In case you missed the 8/2/2022 meeting, you can catch it here:
Another ZOOM Meeting Tue Aug 2, 7 PM, 160+ Petitions Received by Kevin Wine, Aug 01, 2022, 12:10 AM, reply, new topic, edit
There will be another community ZOOM meeting, again regarding the $2,000 special assessment, scheduled for Tuesday August 2 at 7 PM:
If the link doesn't work, the full meeting invitation is:
Topic: $2,000 Special Assessment Meeting
Time: Aug 2, 2022 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Every week on Tue, 8 occurrence(s)
Aug 2, 2022 07:00 PM
Aug 9, 2022 07:00 PM
Aug 16, 2022 07:00 PM
Aug 23, 2022 07:00 PM
Aug 30, 2022 07:00 PM
Sep 6, 2022 07:00 PM
Sep 13, 2022 07:00 PM
Sep 20, 2022 07:00 PM
Please download and import the following iCalendar (.ics) files to your calendar system.
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 897 9179 7896
One tap mobile
+13017158592,,89791797896#,,,,*467994# US (Washington DC)
+13126266799,,89791797896#,,,,*467994# US (Chicago)
Dial by your location
+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington DC)
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 646 558 8656 US (New York)
+1 646 931 3860 US
+1 669 444 9171 US
+1 669 900 9128 US (San Jose)
+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
+1 386 347 5053 US
+1 564 217 2000 US
Meeting ID: 897 9179 7896
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kM9EOOvUA
If you missed the July 26, 2022 Community ZOOM meeting, also about the $2,000 special assessment, you can watch the entire meeting here:
And here are the public chat messages from during the meeting:
The meeting was a bit chaotic, which was not a surprise as there have not been any open community meetings for a couple years now, and there are a lot of residents who are not happy with the surprise $2,000 special assessment due in 4 months. Yes, there have been Board meetings, but they are tightly controlled and it is very difficult to interact. One brave Board member showed up, Ms. Mincarelli, but that was it. None of the other 5 members that also voted in favor of the $2,000 special assessment were able to make it. There were at least 75 residents on the call - at least as many as were on the Board's July 21st "Q&A" meeting.
The outcome of the meeting was that Ms. Mincarelli said she would try to get the Board to release the laboratory report of the soil samples taken from the Hill last year, the other bids submitted for the remediation of the Hill, and the contract signed with A-Tech Landscape Design. On Thursday, July 28, the management released some documents relating to the pond remediation project, including proposals submitted all three bidders on the project, a letter from the consultant that took the soil samples, and other documents, but no laboratory reports of the soil samples. The information is available below:
There was further discussion about efforts to find alternatives to the current plan to spend $758,000 to remove the hill, but much of that work requires the laboratory reports. To the best of my understanding, more laboratory information was released to one owner with a civil engineering background, who is working on other solutions. Hopefully there will be some updates at this Tuesday's meeting.
There is still no letter from the Township of Piscataway. I have no idea what would be the point of such a letter, but I assume it is about the Hill and will probably be used to justify the Board's actions and the $2,000 special assessment.
On Monday of last week, I called the Edgeboro landfill and asked about soil disposal. They do take soil, as long as it's not seriously contaminated, for $11/ton. They need the laboratory reports, which I still don't have. If the soil can be dumped for only $11/ton, my removal estimate needs to be seriously revised downward as soil disposal would cost only $26,000 (not $214,000). I also called a trucking company, and they will rent out a truck with a driver for $100/hr, so that part of my earlier estimate is confirmed. If we can dispose of soil at $11/ton, then the total removal cost is under $50k. That's $708,000 less than the contract the Board signed with A-Tech. So the robbery may be even worse - are we paying $1,090,000 for $50,000 of work??
As far as I know, the Board is not taking any further action by itself to solicit further bids to remove the Hill. All three proposals they already have were based on the same erroneous volume calculations of the Hill. You would think they would be making an effort to at least fix that, since it's off by a factor of 4. The Board seems to be happy to push off the burden of finding other solutions or contractors onto the owners. It is unlikely anything will change, and again this is just the most obnoxious of the blunders in a long series of blunders. The "removal" petition for the special election has over 160 signers thus far, after only 12 days of circulation. It is critical to keep the pressure on the Board, and return the petition if you haven't done so already. If you didn't get a copy in the mail, you can download it here:
I continue to accumulate pond and Hill related documents here on this website, under the Information tab, which you can go to directly from this link:
ZOOM Tuesday, 7 PM, July Board Meeting Recap, WhatsApp Group by Kevin Wine, Jul 25, 2022, 10:51 AM, reply, new topic, edit
I am looking forward to our Tuesday 7 PM meeting, in which I will be able to freely answer everyone's questions and say what needs to be said. There will be no limit on the number of attendees and the chat will be enabled. The meeting link is:
If the link doesn't work, the meeting information is:
Meeting ID: 843 2779 9743
July Board Meeting Recap
There were 75 people on the Board's zoom call for the July 21 Board Meeting - by far the highest attendance of any meeting since I became involved in 2004. The next highest attendance I remember was a Board meeting around 2005 when a past Board kept raising the maintenance fees while services continued to decline, where we had about 40 residents in the clubhouse. That Board did not survive their fee increases.
The Board did not make any changes to its $2,000 special assessment plans at last Thursday's meeting, as it seems the meeting was more intended as a venting session to "defuse the bomb" they lit on June 27th. There were a few owners on the call that have engineering backgrounds who offered some good suggestions on how this problem might be solved for less than $1.1 million. Several owners suggested setting up a meeting with the Township to see if they can help. While the Board may be receptive to help, at the same time it sounded like they were pushing what should be their responsibilities back on the owners. Aside from the Board members, I don't recall anyone else defending the $2,000 special assessment.
There was some misinformation and lack of information that I tried to help clear up but much more interaction with the owners was needed. The drainage issues that keep getting blamed on the Hill are actually not related to the Hill at all - the drainage problems are behind a few units on Harwick. When the pond was dredged, the muck was piled up in large corrals behind Harwick and Hampshire. When the muck finally dried out (which took several months) it was moved over to the Hill pile, and we didn't get exactly back to the original grade behind a few units on Harwick. A few more inches of soil needed to be scraped off. The problem would have been easily fixed when the final landscaping was done and the trail system was built, but the project got "cancelled" by you-know-who before that could happen.
I remember at least one new owner mentioning that the management office said their was no pending litigation on their condo questionnaire. If the condo questionnaire was completed between June 14, 2021 and now, that is not true because there was at least one pending claim - the one I filed. It would be useful to document this - if anyone has a copy of a questionnaire in this time-frame that claims no pending litigation, please let me know.
I am still working on gathering up all the pond and hill related documents I can find. I have located a few and put them on savethehill.org. The pond information is at the bottom of the page:
A lot of the pond history is also captured in count 6 of the lawsuit against the Board and the motion for injunctive relief (asking the court to temporarily put the whole thing on hold):
The Dirt Rip-Off
I did some calculating and cost estimating on removing the Hill. I posted the results on savethehill.org, and I will summarize here. The Board keeps saying there are about 10,000 tons of dirt in the Hill. I eventually double checked that calculation and discovered they are way off. I calculate more like 2,500 tons - one quarter of what they are saying! The Board was asked where this number came from, and we were told it was determined by the contractors that bid on the job and the Township. Unfortunately there is no one currently on the Board that has the background necessary to double check what they are being told, so as a result, we are all being ripped off if the contract is to remove 10,000 tons of dirt but there is only 2,500 tons in the pile.
Then I decided to go a step further, and estimate how much a contractor would have to spend to remove the pile. I come up with about $250,000 - calculations are on savethehill. Recall that the Board approved a contract for $758,000. That's $500,000 above cost! In other words, the contractor is going to net half a million dollars on this job. HALF A MILLION!!!! All of which is coming straight out of our pockets. So we are being ripped off by the contractor for $500,000, and then ripped off by the Board for another $330,000 above the actual price of the contract. Nice.
As crazy as this is, what is even crazier is that the Board, and you-know-who, thought they could get away with this. Everyone is just going to roll over and cough up $2,000! This exposes an astonishing level of disconnection from reality on behalf of our Board. This is their best solution? With all the "experts" that should be at their disposal? It's a great solution for the contractors - that's for sure - and that seems to be what dominated the decision. It's a horrible solution for us.
The final irony is that all the money that our Board President has "saved" by turning off the sprinklers and firing crew and cutting back their hours and not fixing things and selling critical equipment and scrutinizing ever little expenditure has, in a final colossal blunder, been entirely un-saved!
If we still had all our crew, and all our equipment, we could have hauled away the hill ourselves for even less money! We could still do this - the Board would just have to rent a big dump truck and find a driver. If I can save $2,000 for myself and everyone else, I will volunteer to take a month off from my day job and drive the truck bank and forth, since the Board has made no effort to get CDL's for any of the crew after I was pushed out (there is no one left with the license to drive the big truck).
Since it looks like the Board is going to stay with the Zoom Board meetings forever, and since they disable the Zoom chat during their meetings and they really want to limit meaningful discourse, there is now a WhatsApp chat group to solve this problem. If you would like to join, here is the link:
I will be in this group during any Board meetings, to answer questions and comment on what the Board is saying or doing in real time. There are many points that need to be made during these meetings, but it is difficult to get them out. When I resort to typing a message on my screen and pointing my camera back at the message, they boot me out of the zoom. That's fine - this is 2022, and there are a LOT of other ways of communicating on-line, so we will see who has the final say on this one.. haha.
So far we have 45 petitions received, before any have arrived in the mail. I'm sure there will be a large number that will start coming back since the petition was delivered to most owners 5 days ago.
See you all Tuesday evening!
Mass of the Hill by Kevin Wine, Jul 22, 2022, 10:26 PM, reply, new topic, edit
Here is my calculation of the weight of the soil in the hill. I get one fourth of the amount that has been announced at the last two Board meetings. Can anyone else confirm this? I'm using a soil density of 2,500 pounds per cubic yard, which is probably on the high side.
In order to have 10,000 tons in the pile of the volume I calculated, the soil density would have to be 10,500 pounds per cubic yard!
I also did some calculating on the base cost of hauling away the hill:
Landfill dumping cost used to be about $90/ton. There are 2,375 tons by my estimation, so that's $213,750.
A large dump truck can haul about 26 tons, so that's 91 loads of dirt. Round this to 100 to keep things simple and because most drivers are worried about going over weight so they under-load when there is no scale.
The nearest landfill in Edgeboro, about 10 miles away, so 100 round trips to the dump is 2 x 100 x 10 miles = 2,000 miles
The big dump truck gets about 6 miles to the gallon of diesel, so 2,000 miles will burn 333 gallons.
Diesel is about $6/gallon, so that's $6 x 333 = $2,000 for fuel.
Assume truck can do 5 round trips in an 8 hour work day, so that's going to take 20 days with one truck to make 100 trips.
Working 8 hours/day, is 160 hours of truck/driver at $100/hr (needs to be checked), or $16,000.
Need a loader or an excavator at the hill to load the truck. Monthly rental on a 2 yard loader is probably about $8,000 (need to check - big excavator cost $12,000/month in 2013)
Need someone here to operate the loader (unless driver does it, which is a possibility). 160 hours at $25/hr is $4,000 for the month.
Adding this all up:
Dumping fees: $213,750
Loader Rental: $8,000
Loader Operator: $4,000
So the approved contract was $758,000, which means they are charging us THREE TIMES COST to remove the hill. That's a nice profit of $514,000. Oh, I left out the permits, which are maybe thousand dollars.. so not worth mentioning.
Petition Available, Zoom Tuesday 7/26, Board Meeting Thursday!? by Kevin Wine, Jul 19, 2022, 11:25 PM, reply, new topic, edit
The petition to remove the 6 Board of Trustees members that mismanaged the pond project and thought it would be a good idea to charge everyone $2,000 is available here:
I have run in to a few owners that somehow still have not received the Board's letter from last week announcing the $2,000 special assessment, and have no idea what is going on. Here it is:
The petition, along with a second petition, is in the mail and should arrive Wednesday or Thursday of this week (for local owners). If you don't receive it for some reason, you can download it from the link above, print, complete, scan, and email back to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The second petition is to order the Board to call a special meeting of all the members to consider an amendment to the By-Laws to allow for electronic voting, and also to provide the Board with transparency and oversight rules they must follow when running the annual elections.
To my slight surprise, it looks like the Board is going ahead with the July Board meeting as originally scheduled, for July 21, 2022, 7 PM. The single agenda item: "Special Assessment Review - Q&A". This will be the most interesting Board meeting ever! On Zoom of course - because of Covid I'm sure (or maybe because President Zhou fled the state). Stacey emailed a Zoom link today. Since I don't know if everyone gets her emails, and I'm sure no one is going to want to miss this show, here is the link:
I hope they bought the enterprise Zoom license that supports 500+ attendees for more than 3 hours :)
The suspense is killing me - so will they retract the special assessment?? Will they double-down and keep it!?? Or maybe double it to $4,000 as punishment for complaining!!!? My guess - nothing changes. They are in a jam of epic proportion, and the Board's systemic structural failures prevent it from finding out-of-the-box solutions beneficial to the owners. Specifically, the Board suffers from:
1 - Reliance on external profit-driven actors
2 - A severe lack of technical expertise
3 - A total lack of experience
4 - Autocratic, abusive, vindictive, closed leadership structure
These problems have been there since 2018 - nothing has changed - the only difference is that circumstances have finally conspired to fully expose the depths of the inherent failures.
This can be fixed, by returning the petitions. Fast!
We have our own meeting planned for next Tuesday, July 26, 7 PM also via Zoom. The link for that meeting, in case I don't get another reminder email out, is:
There is a reminder included in the petition mailing. The Tuesday community Zoom meeting is on regardless of what happens at the Thursday Board meeting. There is another petition that is very important to discuss, plus this Board should not be let off the hook even if they cancel the special assessment. Just the fact that they would come up with such a preposterous solution, approve it, and announce it, is grounds enough for their removal. None of the 6 Board members realized this might be a bad idea? Really?? If they are able to go this far with no concern for the owners, I'm sure they will have no problems when it comes to raising maintenance fees for 2023. Maybe there are some submissive owners that are accustomed to being beaten into compliance, but I'll bet most aren't cool with that.
If anyone is looking for me - 201-401-6129, email@example.com, 345 Lancaster Ct.
See you all Thursday!
$2,000 Assessment, Removal Petition, and Lawsuit by Kevin Wine, Jul 13, 2022, 3:59 PM, reply, new topic, edit
As I assume most of you have heard by now, our Board of Trustees has lost its mind.
At the June 27th, 2022 Special Meeting of the Board, the Board approved three motions. The meeting minutes are not out yet, so I will summarize for everyone here:
Mary Thomas moved and Doug Sanford seconded a motion to approve a $2,000 special assessment per unit, to pay for remediation of the dirt pile ("the Hill"), which will cost $800,000 to remove. Tong Zhou, Mary Thomas, Doug Sanford, Wendy Zhang, Forest Luu, and Patricia Mincarelli all voted in favor.
Mary Thomas moved to award the soil remediation contract to A-Tech Landscaping (I assume in the bid amount of $758,000). Tong Zhou, Mary Thomas, Doug Sanford, Wendy Zhang, Forest Luu, and Patricia Mincarelli all voted in favor.
Tong Zhou moved to offer a 5% discount on the $2,000 special assessment for owners paying by August 30, a 3% discount for owners paying by September 30, and a 1% discount for owners paying by October 30. Tong Zhou, Mary Thomas, Doug Sanford, Wendy Zhang, Forest Luu, and Patricia Mincarelli all voted in favor.
Amazing. Everything is more expensive, fuel is $5 to $6 a gallon, 50% of Americans can't cover an unexpected $1,000 expense:
And 64% of Americans are living from paycheck to paycheck:
I guess the Board is in better shape than most of us, or maybe they are thinking to exempt themselves from the $2,000 special assessment!? This is another classic example of people in leadership positions that have totally lost touch with reality. Maybe $2,000 isn't a big deal to them, but I'm sure it's a big deal to everyone else.
Worse yet, most or all of that $1,090,000 they are extracting from us is GOING TO BE WASTED - given to one of the Management Company's favored contractors (A-Tech - the ones that did the $40,000 sidewalk repairs, which should have cost $15k max), to haul away four times the amount of dirt than is actually in the Hill!! I checked their calculations, and it appears that they are off by a factor of four on the amount of dirt to be removed. So we are just being ripped off every which way, and the Board is either clueless, or in on the deal, neither of which is good.
These people are delusional and the situation isn't going to magically improve all by itself. All the brown grass, dead trees, and destroyed roads are just the outward symptoms of an inner disease. It is time to remove the disease. A removal petition will be circulated over the next several days for all 6 Board members that are supporting this insanity. It is a "polite removal", because it only needs 51% of the owners to sign, and it forces the "removed" trustees to run for their seats in a special election (or the October election, if the petition is completed by August 20). Direct removal requires 66% vote of all the owners - which may be feasible given how crazy this Board is acting.
In parallel with the removal petition, I am still involved in on-going litigation with this Board over several of their improper or outright illegal actions over the last 3+ years. Last Friday, I amended my existing complaint to include the issue with the Hill, and just yesterday I filed another motion for preliminary injunctive relief, which is asking for the court to intervene and put a temporary hold on the Boards actions. This will take time to work through the court, and this is a big ask of the court with no guarantees, so it is still critical to have both plans in action at the same time. This lawsuit, like most, is a matter of public record, so the proposed amended complaint, and the injunctive relief motion are just a click away:
Count six of the proposed amended complaint (first link, pages 35 to 41) is the one about all the capital improvement projects, including the pond and the Hill, and history of events from 2011 to current.
Pages 6 to 13 of the second link is specific to the request for relief on the Board's pond related actions.
As explained in the Court documents, this whole problem is created by Chairman Zhou, who is responsible for indefinitely suspending the pond improvement project, and all the other capital improvements projects, in August 2018. If the pond project was allowed to go forward as planned, the Hill would have been landscaped in-place, to the satisfaction of the Township Zoning Board, at far less cost. We had the equipment, the crew, and the in-house expertise to handle the job within the original pond improvement capital expenditure of $200,000, approved by the Membership way back at the 2011 Annual Meeting. That approval is technically still valid - the Board, and Chairman Zhou, have NO AUTHORITY to cancel any of those plans. Only the Membership can rescind the approval, and they haven't. Of course they blame me instead, when in reality it's Chairman Zhou's fault, but his personality prevents him from ever admitting he has made a mistake (or mistakes plural).
Attempts were made to dispose of the Hill between 2014 and 2016, but nothing ever materialized. During that time, I was advised that it is probably best to seek approval to keep the hill, as removing that quantity of dirt can end up getting expensive if it doesn't qualify as "clean fill". A permit from the Township is required to remove dirt from the property, and part of that permitting process requires that the dirt be tested for contamination. The required dirt tests check for hundreds and hundreds of potential contaminants - so many that there is a pretty good chance that one or more is going to come back over the threshold - causing the dirt to be deemed "contaminated". It used to cost about $95/ton to dispose of contaminated soil. I warned the Board about this at the November 2021 Board Meeting, but obviously they didn't listen. And guess what happened...
All this could still be solved just by going with the original plan to landscape the Hill!! Admit you screwed up, re-submit the site plan application, and landscape the damn thing for WAY LESS than $1,090,000. But no, someone's ego is too large to do it the way Kevin planned, and too public an admission of guilt for him to swallow.
As is typically the case, the letter we all received on Monday is not that well worded, and implies the $1,090,000 they are collecting is to pay for the fines imposed by the Township. That is not true - most or all of the $1,090,000 will be spent/wasted on removing the dirt. The Township has fined the Association about $2,000 so far. You can look it up:
Search by name, and enter Tong Chou (they spelled his name wrong - maybe on purpose!?). It won't come up under Tong Zhou (other stuff will come up by the way under the proper spelling, but most of it is not him - different people with same name)
The "improper drainage" they are talking about was not in the Lancaster Court area near the Hill. It was behind a few units on Harwick Court, where the dirt behind the units was just a little higher than it should have been after the pond dredging. The situation would have been corrected if the pond project was completed and the trail system around the pond was implemented. It was an easy fix, but once again the Board managed to turn it in to an $8,000 expense. There have been no drainage issues near the Hill itself, as it's just an extension of a much lower bump that was already there, so the water drains the same way still.
Needless to say, I have been contacted by dozens of owners over the last few days - calls, emails, text, in person - and I can report that there are a lot of angry people out there. I hope more residents are able to make it to the next Board meeting, which is supposed to be next week on July 21st. Via Zoom, of course. My guess - they will cancel it. I am getting reports that Chairman Zhou has already left the state - not confirmed - but wouldn't be a surprise. I'm sure he doesn't want to face his constituents after what he has done. He doesn't even want to show his face at the Zoom meetings. I also hear he has not one, but two houses in Florida - guess he won't have any trouble coming up with the $2,000. Maybe he is hiding out there - running the hill by remote control after administering his "punishment" on everyone.
By the way, their "early payment discount scheme" is illegal. The maintenance fess and special assessments must be evenly divided amongst the members, as per our by-laws. It's also somewhat unfair, in that owners that are able to pay early receive a benefit, while owners that a not able to pay early and probably need the benefit more don't get it.
I'm sure there will be more updates on this matter in the near future.
$2,000 per unit? by Anthony Blanco, Jul 14, 2022, 10:59 PM, reply, branch, edit
$2,000 per unit? This is appalling and unacceptable. This board is mismanaging our money, running the association into the ground, and will eventually negatively affect the value of our homes. We all work hard for our money, too hard to see it mismanaged by a bunch of inexperienced people claiming to know how to run a Home Owners Association. If you’re in agreement, please respond to this post, let’s band together and stop them from throwing away more of our hard earned money!
Hay Anyone? by Kevin Wine, Jul 15, 2022, 2:50 PM, reply, branch, edit
Several residents have been asking me what is going on with the sprinkler system. I think the answer is obvious - NOTHING!
A couple of days ago, it finally filtered back to me, as I already suspected, that Chairman Zhou had ordered the crew to not turn on the sprinklers. So while he is away in Florida I assume, we are all up here looking out our windows at this. For those owners that don't live here, you should know that most of the complex looks like this after no water for several weeks!
What Chairman Zhou doesn't realize is that turning off, closing, canceling, or otherwise disabling various Association amenities and systems is not something he or the Board has authority over. The Board's job is to maintain these systems. It is not "optional", to save a buck or two. But this is typical of Zhou's thinking - he single-handedly does whatever he wants to do, regardless of the rules/laws/etc.
Forgetting about the Board's maintenance obligations, there is still the technical side of turning off the water. This is severely stressing the grass, which will lead to more dead patches and weeds, which don't care as much about no water. And as if we don't already have enough dead trees in the complex, this will only make it worse. At this point, there is no point in turning the sprinklers back on. Once the grass has gone dormant like this, it's done. The only way to bring it back is if it rains for a couple of weeks straight and the temperature drops. But now the whole place looks terrible, so he figures he has to do something, and whatever in his twisted logic he "saved", is quickly being "un-saved".
I should also mention, that if the Board hadn't illegally cancelled the reclaimed irrigation water system, we would be able to irrigate the grass without having to spend up to $50,000 a year on water, and a medium sized solar array could have been used to run the pumps at low or zero electricity cost.
Imagine if I turned the sprinklers off on purpose when I was running them!!!!??? Oh the hypocrisy...
It can't be allowed by James Kolb, Jul 16, 2022, 12:08 PM, reply, branch, edit
Did any other owners here see this weighed ? I didn't. We're just supposed to believe this is legit and pay up ? No. Why the rush on it all ? the letter just arrived from town and country. Not the board, town and country management. The board decided this ? I was not asked how I felt about it. I'm an owner.
So, we just get the letter and it's like a sales flyer. PAY NOW AND GET 5% OFF BY AUGUST !
Something like that. And it goes down in increments if you pay later.
Sounds very fishy to me. Why need to grab that cash so quickly on such short notice ?
It's also cute how the certain language from by-laws are mentioned to favor this idiotic request.
It reminds me of scams I've read about.
Yes, We have to all get together and shut this down.
BTW - the board and this TC management group need to be dismissed asap
Pool summer 2022 by James Kolb, Apr 18, 2022, 9:17 AM, reply, new topic, edit
Is the pool going to be open ? Or is management going to use covid as a excuse not to open ? Maintenance fee should be lower if not opened.
Yes - Finally! by Kevin Wine, Jul 13, 2022, 4:10 PM, reply, branch, edit
It's open for the 2022 season, at a cost of about $35,000 I believe. We used to spend around $10,000 for the lifeguard pay (1000 hours at $10 hour), and a couple thousand on chemicals. Once again, the Board has done a brilliant job of controlling expenses. lol
They changed the pool passes system. I've been asking what I need to do to get a new pass since July 3rd and so far no reply. I guess they don't want me at the pool - oh well another lawsuit! :)
Election Results by Kevin Wine, Dec 19, 2021, 12:08 PM, reply, new topic, edit
I emailed this to everyone a few days ago, and forgot to also post it here on the website. In case you haven't already heard, the 2021 election results were:
Nalaka Dias - 152
Atif Nazir - 127
Dilip Patel - 120
Doug Sanford - 148
Kevin Wine - 123
Wendy Zhang - 141
To no surprise, our current board leadership has finally managed to get me off the board, and the two candidates I was running with lost as well. Doesn't really matter - I was already "frozen off" the board for the last three years, so this will make little difference, and even in the best of cases, the current leadership would still have had a majority for this year.
We continue to receive numerous reports of owners not receiving the election mailing back in October, intense campaigning by office staff over the last three months at the clubhouse, and a total lack of transparency with the election process. I still don't even know who has voted in the last three elections, and I have not been allowed to review any of the proxy forms, which seriously undermines my confidence in the election process. Maybe it's all on the up and up, however if it was, it would seem that people would not have such a problem allowing the various documents to be be reviewed.
It turns out I sued the association several months ago over access to election and other records, and the case if finally scheduled for trial in May of 2022. The board has certain statutory obligations to make various records available to the owners, so I don't know how they are going to wiggle out of this one, but I'm sure they will try.
I do want to thank all the owners that have supported our mission and our candidates for this election. It was close as predicted - another 15 votes would have changed the outcome, and another 26 votes would have changed everything. Even with enough votes, I doubt the result would ever be any different, as I'm sure chairman Zhou and his wife will use their strategic and tactical advantage to make sure we never win (except for my accidental win last year by one vote.. lol).
In any case, this is still far from over in my mind. I have no patience left for people that do things which make no sense, who manipulate and violate the processes, and make up stories and spread lies to achieve their goals. Apparently I am now being accused of trying to convert the association in to a co-op!?? I have no idea where that is coming from - first I'm hearing. Do they even know what a co-op is? Do they have any concept at all of what that would entail? Obviously not, because if they did, they would see how ridiculous they are.
Get ready for the fee increases! The reserve fund is finally depleted, with 29 buildings left to re-roof, Hampshire court to repave, "the hill" to remove, and equipment to buy. They are going to need at least another $2,000,000 over the next few years, and guess where that is going to come from! And I'm sure they will blame it all on me, after they destroyed everything and changed all the plans.
Hopefully the pandemic will be over soon - if the association doesn't do the community picnic event this coming summer, then I will do it myself, just like I did way back in 2006. Let them try to shut it down - show their true face. Events like these are important and need to resume. The pool needs to be reopened too. It should have been open this year! They are just being cheap!! (and still managed to spend $10k on the pool!!!!)
I still have hope that in the end, logic will prevail, and people that shouldn't be running things will eventually not be running things. I have learned a lot about human behavior in the last 15 years, and more and more my thoughts turn to ways of improving our group decision making process, not just at this level, but all the way up. I may have more time to work on this and other projects soon - as some of you know I ended up working at Rutgers after things blew up here in 2018, but now Rutgers is enforcing the vaccine mandate executive order, so there is a good chance I will be "retiring" soon. Having had covid very early on (fortunately mild), and multiple re-exposures (no reaction), I see little point in the additional risk of taking the vaccine. They see otherwise (no logic again). Thus I will probably be separated from Rutgers on January 4th. It's just as well - three jobs ago I had promised myself not to get another job, and still somehow I ended up working for someone again instead of pursing my own things. I can't put that off any longer, as I'm not getting any younger, and although I've done it for most of my life, my personality does not fit well with working for other people.
I would like to wish everyone a happy holidays and new year (including my enemies lol)!
Election Thursday!!! VOTE! by admin, Dec 04, 2021, 1:55 PM, reply, new topic, edit
The Annual Meeting and Election is scheduled for this Thursday, December 9th. I assume it will be 7PM, but the November 1st newsletter sent by the board President failed to mention the time. I further assume that a quorum has been achieved, but nothing official has been announced.
The deadline for submitting your ballot is noon on Wednesday, December 8th. It also appears that the board is ONLY accepting election proxies and ballots in the "official" envelopes. If you misplaced your proxy/ballot/envelopes, you will have to contact the office for replacements (email to firstname.lastname@example.org).
If there isn't time to request, receive, and return the ballot, you can email a completed proxy form to management (email@example.com), appointing someone else to vote for you (put their name in second blank and check box 2) and let the association reject it. I don't think they can legally reject a valid, signed, proxy form, so if necessary and if it would end up making a difference, this issue could be decided after the fact.
The 2018 and 2020 elections were VERY CLOSE!!! Only a few ballots separated the winners and losers! I have no doubt the same thing will happen this year. Every vote matters.
I would include the Zoom link to the Thursday meeting but either I accidentally erased that email or it wasn't sent yet.
Since this is not an Association endorsed communication, I can let everyone know that I am running in this year's election along with Atif Nazir and Dilip Patel. I am sure Chairman Zhou is pushing his two supporters, Doug Sanford and Wendy Zhou, who have voted along with him on every single motion over the last 3 years. I don't know who he is supporting as his third candidate.
I Found the Baffles
You may recall me complaining a few times about how the re-roofing contractor was not properly installing the ventilation baffles in the attics. I looked in several attics a few months ago and confirmed this in a couple of buildings. Just a few days ago, I discovered two un-used boxes of baffles under a pile of junk in the Hampshire Ct. parking lot, as you can see in the picture above. The baffles are the pink things - one box is open, the other box is still closed to the left (and yes, that is a bathtub).
Since they bought them they will show up on the invoices so it will look like they installed them, when in fact they didn't. Of course, there may be more to this story, but on the surface it doesn't look good..
I'm sure it was with great pain, but Chairman Zhou finally had to relent and spend some money on a replacement leaf vacuum so the crew could clean up all the leaves. However, since he no longer has anyone that can drive the dump truck to the dump, he has to have a dumpster brought to the property so the crew can dispose of the leaves. From the financial statements, I can see that the 30 cubic yard dumpster costs about $1,000. We used to spend about $100 per trip to dump the leaves at the local recycling yard. The 30 cubic yard dumpster holds three dump truck loads of leaves. Therefore, Chairman Zhou has managed once again to turn a $300 expense in to a $1,000 expense. We used to have 15 to 20 truck loads of leaves every fall, so that's another several thousand dollars down the toilet, but I guess it makes sense to him.
November Board Meeting Report
Not much happened at the November meeting. The meeting was actually cut short during the open-forum part, since the property manager indicated she was under the weather and wanted to end the meeting as soon as possible, which is understandable. However, this was a Zoom meeting, and it is very easy to hand over the moderator role to another person on the call. I suggested this, so we could hear the remaining homeowner concerns, but Chairman Zhou had no interest in doing this, so the meeting was ended in the middle of a homeowner complaint about how the roofing contractor damaged their air conditioning system (the third time this happened!). My question about the leak in the new roof on building 42 didn't get answered either.
The purchase of the leaf vacuum was ratified (about $9,000). Due to waiting till the last minute (as usual), the vacuum had to be bought a few days prior to the meeting since it was apparently the only one left in stock.
It was also revealed that Chairman Zhou has decided, by himself as again usual, to have the "hill" at the end of Lancaster hauled away. The town is after him because he single-handedly cancelled the planning board application I had prepared in 2018 to landscape the hill and incorporate it in to the site plan. Now he has to spend several thousand dollars to get the soil tested, and I'm sure he will be spending tens of thousands of dollars to then have it all trucked away. That's assuming there is no significant contamination - if there is, then it's going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to have it removed or remediated. In the end, most likely it would be cheaper/better to go with the original plan, but he doesn't understand anything about construction, landscaping, environmental, etc., so he is learning all this at our expense. Anyway, his court date is Thursday December 9th, 9 AM, Piscataway Municipal Court, via ZOOM (same as election day lol).
It turns out that the original court summons was way back in April of this year, and the case kept getting postponed at the request of the association's attorney. The town was finally out of patience and December 9th is the last chance. Of course, Chairman Zhou dropped all this on the board at the November meeting, and now after wasting 7 months, and with the board's back to the wall, insisted that the board vote to approve his request to have the hill hauled away as the only choice.
Finally, I found out a few months ago that Chairman Zhou sold his other house where he was living (single-family house on Dunbar Ave., very close to Society Hill)! He still owns a unit here in Society Hill (rented I believe), but now I don't know what the plan is?? Maybe he is moving!!!????
The Election Newsletter by Kevin Wine, Nov 13, 2021, 12:51 PM, reply, new topic, edit
The first attempt at the 2021 Annual Meeting and Election took place on October 25th, and as expected, we didn't have enough proxy/ballots to meet the quorum requirement. I was told about 115 have been received, and typically we need about 240. Therefore, the owners in attendance voted to postpone the Annual Meeting and Election to Thursday December 9th. At the peak we had about 25 owners on the Zoom call, whom I want to thank for taking the time to connect in.
If you haven't received the election mailing about 2 months ago, please contact the office (firstname.lastname@example.org) to request a replacement. I did post scanned copies of all the election documents here on this WEB site, but they will probably give you trouble if you don't use the original documents and envelopes (although legally I bet they have to accept them anyway). If you have problems getting the election documents please let me know! (email@example.com).
YOU MIGHT WANT TO CHECK YOUR MAINTENANCE FEE ACCOUNT BALANCE!! SEVERAL OWNERS MAY NOT REALIZE THEY HAVE RESIDUAL BALANCES (LIKE LATE FEES), AND YOUR VOTE WILL BE DISQUALIFIED!!
For the Board Meeting portion of the event, the board approved the 2020 audit report, moved $52,000 from the operating fund to the capital fund, and approved/ratified 2 more buildings for re-roofing this year. Several owners made a variety of comments in the public session from pipe leaks, the WEB site, reaching the office, and ADR.
The Yearly "Association Newsletter"
To no surprise, the Board (without the knowledge, review, or approval of the rest of the board, of course), published its annual election newsletter, in which they just can't resist taking their standard jabs at me. I guess I'm the only news-worthy topic for the entire year.
I see they are very proud of their financial skills, as they impose drastic spending restrictions on the maintenance/grounds operation, while at the same time throwing nearly $1,000,000 to re-roofing just one-third of the buildings. This is so typical of past boards here in Society Hill, and now this one, as Chairman Zhou is busy "counting the ants as the elephants walk by".
The "undisciplined spending" Chairman Zhou refers to is a result of his total lack of maintenance/repair/construction experience, where every expense he doesn't understand is immediately assumed to be a waste. I have already explained this before - he hasn't gotten any smarter over the last 3 years, and through his ignorance and arrogance it is he that ACTUALLY IS wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. These outside contractors will take advantage of naive boards whenever they can. They are very clever, and I have seen this many times, which is why we didn't use any of them for 10 years!!! Yes, we spent some money when I was in the office, but at least it went into the property as bricks and repairs and equipment and improvements, and not in to the profits of the contractors. Handing the shop over to the thieves is not leadership!
I was just looking through the August 2021 financial statement. Projecting to the end of the year, we will have spent about $450k on personnel and the property management contract. Under the prior configuration, we were spending about $550k a year on personnel, and our personnel was doing all the maintenance, repair, capital projects, grounds, office, and swimming pool. So Chairman Zhou has managed to reduce the yearly personnel expenses by maybe around $100k, but at the same time has drastically reduced the services. No more capital repairs/improvement work. He doesn't want the crew touching the trees. They don't fix the equipment. The pool is contracted out ($35k/year! if it ever reopens - add that to the $450k by the way), and on-going reports that it is very difficult to reach anyone in the office.
The crew has basically been reduced to mowing the lawn, and on the side, trimming bushes, mulching (but not last year), blowing the leaves (but not collecting the piles!?), some irrigation repairs, and handling the snow as best they can with half the equipment. So wow - all that turmoil to save $100k/year in labor - less actually because we used to do the pool, so maybe he's "saving" $65k/year in labor. So for another $65k, I used to have 2 more full-time project/grounds crew from April to November, 2 full-year maintenance crew instead of 1, lifeguards, summer part-time help, and 2 to 3 people in the office all day. You can double check my numbers in the financial statements - all on savethehill.org. I guess that's why he admits he needs to "improve operational efficiency". lol
The "Clean" Audit
I'm sure I've mentioned this before - When I was in the office, the financials were primarily handled by Linda Zhou and an external accountant. I was not involved in the day-to-day book-keeping and financial reporting. The only thing I did was the code for the WEB site to handle the maintenance fee payments, and the accounts payable. As Chairman Zhou also doesn't know anything about WEB development, coding, and payment gateways/processors, his paranoia got the better of him. Apparently he still hasn't figured it out after over 3 years, with full access to all the payment processing records and internal WEB site files. If he really knew how all that worked, he would immediately realize it is impossible to divert or alter any of the on-line payments. The payment processing code has zero control over any of that.
He is still talking about his "Forensic Audit", which I'm 99% sure is just fake news (there has never been any payments to any other auditors) so he can continue to cast doubt on me. By the way, he's the one that caused the prior audits to be "dirty", because of all his speculation and unfounded accusations against me with ZERO EVIDENCE! Our prior auditor eventually quit after Chairman Zhou refused to let him speak with me or any other board members to try and resolve the problems. In a letter dated March 11, 2019, our former auditor said:
"...he [Tong Zhou] told me that I was unable to have contact with any other board members. I have enclosed a copy of his email. At this moment my firm decided to terminate our relationship with Society Hill."
The letter also echoed several concerns, however most of them were inaccurate characterizations of the situation, as I'm sure the auditor was intentionally mislead by Mr. Zhou and others. The reason Mr. Zhou didn't want me (or anyone) talking to the auditor was that those problems would have been straightened out and Mr. Zhou would not have been able to use them as a convenient way of attacking me.
The Real Roofing Project Update
The roof invoices still haven't hit the latest financial statements (August), with the exception of one invoice for $108,000. I assume this was the down-payment on the contract for the 9 buildings this year. That would about cover the materials for 9 buildings, which gives you some idea of the labor cost and profit. The base contract price was $402,000. I am sticking to my prediction that the total cost for these 9 buildings, plus 2 more they tacked on this year, plus the 6 buildings last year, will come to around $1,000,000.
There are a total of 47 buildings in the complex. This means there are still 30 buildings to re-roof, which is about two-thirds. With the current roofing contractor, projecting out the cost for the remaining buildings the bill is going to be around $2,500,000. This is way more than we should be paying for what we are getting - they aren't fixing the attic ventilation properly (the "baffles"), they are re-using some of the old roof components (chimney caps, b-vents, flashings), and they aren't fixing any of the satellite dish/CATV wiring. They can't even match the original trim color (the aluminum behind the gutters and at the step-walls), or at least use beige - they made them all white - how lazy. The gutters on at least three of the condo buildings are waterfalls when it rains (I have video!), and I just heard this week that there is a leak in the new roof on Norwich Court. I am in the process of trying to find out exactly what happened.
Had Chairman Zhou not interfered with the original plans in 2018, the maintenance building would be built by now, the property would be cleaned up and all the materials and equipment would be stored in that building, Hampshire Court would be re-surfaced, and we would be back to the roof project ourselves, done right and at far less cost.
Annual Meeting Monday 10/25! by Kevin Wine, Oct 24, 2021, 12:13 PM, reply, new topic, edit
The first attempt at the 2021 Annual Meeting and Election is Monday, October 25th, 7 PM via ZOOM:
SHP - Annual Election/ OPEN Meeting
Time: Oct 25, 2021 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 883 3821 8050
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Meeting ID: 883 3821 8050
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As expected, we don't have enough proxies/ballots to meet the quorum requirement for the Annual Meeting, so the members present at the meeting on Monday (via ZOOM) will have to vote on a postponement date. PLEASE STILL TRY TO JOIN THE ZOOM MEETING AND VOTE ON A POSTPONEMENT DATE IN NOVEMBER! IF ONLY THE BOARD MEMBERS ARE ON THIS ZOOM, THEY WILL POSTPONE ALL THE WAY TO LATE DECEMBER, WHICH IS UN-NECESSARY, AND LEAVES WAY TOO MUCH TIME
The board is also planning to conduct board business during this meeting, which they are not supposed to do but they don't care about the rules (again) and will do it anyway. The conflated Annual Meeting/Board Meeting agenda is available at:
October 25 Annual/Board Meeting Agenda
Minutes from the September 23, 2021 Board Meeting are not available yet, or somehow I missed them. The August 2021 financial statement has no been released either.
The only item on this agenda for the board is voting to ratify the additional $95k they spent to do another two roofs on two more townhouse buildings. This brings the total contract price for this year to $527k. Since I still haven't seen the actual invoices (they refuse to let me see them) or the latest financial statement, I can't tell exactly how much was actually spent. If it is anything like last year, it will be considerably higher than the contract price due to "extras" that pop up. Last year the total ended up being $378k, off a base contract price of $260k. That is how I arrive at the ~$1M they will spend on the roofs: $378k + $527k = $905 plus another ~$100k extra that will pop up for warranty, tax, extras, and other things that may or may not already be in the figures. That will be an average of $59k/building, at $1M total.
The Meet the Candidates Night on October 13th went well, with about 10 residents attending. After not doing this for so many years, it will take a few election cycles to re-build the prior participation levels. I did find out that some inaccurate information is being spread about the one building that the crew and I re-roofed back in 2015. Apparently we spent 10 months on that one roof, and over $300k! Both of which are a complete fabrication. We did not work from February to November on that roof - I was there. July/August maybe, as we did it in several sections, and we replaced everything on the roof, to a much higher specification prepared by an engineer, and we neatened up all the cable TV and satellite dish mounting and wiring. Plus we had to buy several pieces of equipment to do the job, so there was some startup cost, but it sure wasn't $300k!
"Meet the Candidates Night" Returns!!! And Recent Updates by Kevin Wine, Oct 08, 2021, 9:52 PM, reply, new topic, edit
During the 2018 and 2019 elections (PRIOR TO COVID!), the Board failed to hold a "Meet the Candidates" night. Last year, they had no candidates night either, so this year, some of the candidates and I (Atif Nazir, Dilip Patel, and Kevin Wine) are going to host a candidates night ourselves. The current board leadership clearly has no interest in any community involvement and interaction, although they are certainly invited to our event and I truly hope they make some effort to be there - this coming Wednesday night, October 13th, 7 PM, via ZOOM.
Topic: 2021 Meet the Candidates Night
Time: Oct 13, 2021 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
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Meet the Candidates Night Zoom Link
Meeting ID: 882 7756 0515
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Meeting ID: 882 7756 0515
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kd52jAIa5T
IF YOU DID NOT RECEIVE YOUR ANNUAL ELECTION PROXY AND BALLOT, PLEASE LET US KNOW!! Every year, multiple owners report not receiving the election mailing. If you own more than one unit, you should get a proxy and ballot for EACH UNIT!
CHECK YOUR MAINTENANCE FEE ACCOUNT!!! THERE ARE SERVERAL OWNERS ON THERE THAT PROBABLY DON'T REALIZE THEY HAVE A SMALL OUTSTANDING BALANCE. YOU WILL BE DISQUALIFIED!
In the meantime, to catch everyone up on recent meetings - there was only one in the last 3 months! The July BOT meeting was cancelled, and the August BOT meeting was not planned in the first place (Summer break I guess). The June Minutes and the September agenda were:
September 23, 2021 Agenda
June 17, 2021 Minutes
As you can see, the Board meetings are almost nothing, with typically only one substantial agenda item, if that. Any votes that do end up getting taken at the meetings are obviously lined up ahead of time amongst the other trustees. They make an effort to humor me with some "debate", but I can tell how it is going to end before it even starts. I know there is much more actually going on - having sat in the middle of it for several years. They are just hiding 95% of the operation from the board - or at least from me. It is not the way the association was intended to run.
Notable items from the September meetings were:
-No mention at all about the 2021 elections, and no one asked.
-One homeowner was alerting the board about various collections practices by Radom and Wetter, the associations collections attorney. Apparently this owner had tried to email the board via the management but of course none of that was forwarded to me. The collections is a long and complicated story, that I won't get in to now, other than to say watch out - if you owe anything besides maintenance fees (like a late fee, fine, or a legal fee) and don't realize it and keep sending just your monthly payment, they do NOT apply that towards your maintenance fee balance first!! They are applying it to all the other things first, which of course means that you don't get credit for the full maintenance fee amount, which causes you to be "late" again, which triggers another late fee, and possibly more legal fees, and so on. This is an old trick the prior management company and collections attorney used to play as well.
-Another homeowner was on explaining how the roofing contractor drove a nail through the pipe to his air conditioning unit on the porch. The management/board had been giving him a hard time when he asked for reimbursement, so he came to the meeting. This is (of course) the first time I heard about it. There are at least 4 owners I'm aware of over the past few years who have been in similar situations where the association was clearly responsible for the damage and refused to reimburse the homeowner for the repair.
-Two homeowners were asking for various association documents and information that the board is statutorily required to provide, and thus far has not. No surprise there.
-Chairman Zhou went on for a while about the 2020 financial audit, and the board voted to contract with the same auditor for the next two years. It should be mentioned that the subject of grabbing the roughly quarter million dollar escrow fund came up again at a "board member only" audit presentation in July. There is a good chance the board is going to make a second attempt at getting the by-laws amended to grab this money! You may recall that their prior attempt was rejected by the homeowners in April of this year.
The June "Non-Meeting" by Kevin Wine, Jun 16, 2021, 9:42 PM, reply, new topic, edit
It doesn't feel like 4 weeks already, but here we are to the June meeting this Thursday, at the standard time of 7PM. There is only one item on the agenda, so I guess that means everything is perfect in Society Hill:
And the minutes of the May 20th meeting are at:
May 20, 2021 Meeting Minutes
The lone agenda item appears to be to delegate authority to the management company to negotiate settlement agreements with delinquent homeowners. No written proposal or specific procedure was presented to the board for the management company to follow, so this is going to be interesting. I'm voting no.
When I was in the office, the monthly board packages were typically around 100 pages of information, so the board members knew what was going on, and in addition, they had access to the on-line financial systems. Now, they have none of that. The monthly financial statements are delayed over 6 weeks. Where are all the people that used to complain about the 3 week delay!? Where are you George? Brian??
Maybe it's just me they are keeping in the dark... which brings me to the next topic. I have been asking for numerous election and financial document over the past 2+ years, and the board has ignored almost every request. These are things that any homeowner should be allowed to see, nevermind a trustee. They had to allow me to see the 2018 election documents, because they were ordered to do so by the court. After a lot of asking, they let me see the ballots from the 2020 election, but literally just the ballots, so I couldn't investigate any of the possible fraud issues. And that's been it. I filed multiple complaints with the DCA, and did eventually hear back, but they are overwhelmed. So I sued the board, again. This time, for breaching their fiduciary duty. The board has acted in bad-faith, and contrary to our governing documents in so many ways, some pushback on their behavior was long overdue. The place is being run as a dictatorship by a "Cluster B" personality (Google that - it's not good).
Most lawsuits are a matter of public record. Mine is MID-C-78-21, which can be looked up on:
First change "Docket Type" to "Chancery (C)", then you can select "MIDDLESEX" in "Case County". Docket number is 78, and docket year is 21. A bunch of documents will come up, click on the one called "Amended Complaint". So we will see if the court will allow Chairman Zhou to keep running things like he is - I doubt it.
You may recall that at the May meeting the board talked about the next phase of the re-roofing project. I thought they were doing 6 more roofs this year, but it turns out I missed another page of the proposal so it's actually 9 roofs. So that's $392,000 they are planning to spend, base contract price, plus another $10,000 in extended warranty, plus permits, plus "extras". Last year, there were "extras" of $111,000, on a base contract of $183,000. Assuming the same percentage this year, we're looking at another $200,000 at least in extras, bringing the total price tag to $600,000 for 9 roofs. So that's $66k per roof. Crazy.
The surprise guest at the May meeting was two representative from The Accent Group, which is the contractor doing the roof replacement work. I did have an opportunity to ask questions, but as things were getting technical, it was decided that one of the roof people would come to the property one day and meet with me so we could discuss my questions. To no surprise at all, that meeting never happened. So I decided I better check what they did, and again to no surprise at all, there are serious issues.
As I had suspected, they aren't doing the attic ventilation correctly. Building 5 has NO BAFFLES! I wasn't able to get in building 2 yet, but I suspect it will have no baffles either, because building 3 didn't have any when we did that roof, and all the Canterbury buildings were built at the same time. The warranty that Chairman Zhou is so proud of requires that the attic ventilation be done properly, and it is not. So here we go again - clowns overseeing a construction project.
There are no ridge vents either. Again, the GAF shingle warranty specifications require ridge vent, unless it can't be installed due to a structures architecture. The crew and I managed to install ridge vent on building 3 with no problem, as per the Roof Maintenance Systems (RMS) re-roofing specification (that the current board is IGNORING), so guess what - it's possible to install ridge vent on the condo buildings. Strike two.
There is no ventilation at all on the dormers. This was the source of roof leaks in the distant past, and addressed in the RMS specification, but again being totally ignored by the board. We installed dormer ventilation on building 3 - it's not that difficult.
Some of the old roof components are not being replaced - specifically, the original rusted furnace chimneys are being left in place. They are "B-Vent", so there are two walls, so if one rusts through the vent will still work, but that is not how it was intended to be operated. All the fireplace chimney chases are being left in place, which were another source of past leaks. All the old and tattered rake flashings are being left in place. After every major wind storm a few of these blow off somewhere in the complex, because the are too thin and attached with tiny nails in to wood that is often rotting, which is not being replaced either. The fascia boards were probably not replaced (can't see this visually), so the brand new gutters are most likely screwed in to more rotting lumber and will still be falling off the buildings in the ice storms.
If we were paying $30k a building, I wouldn't say much. But we are paying TOP DOLLAR for this work - more than $60k/building - so these roofs should be perfect. They are not.
Anyone remember all the panic about the financial crisis and "Kevin spent all the reserve fund" and we are bankrupt!?? Funny how that's not mentioned anymore. I see in the April 2021 financial statement a reserve fund balance of $621k. After the $600k of roof work this year, that balance is going to be way down. "Bankrupt" by some people's definition. Where's the outrage now??
May BOT Meeting THURSDAY 7PM, and How to Waste Money by Kevin Wine, May 20, 2021, 8:49 AM, reply, new topic, edit
Just in case you missed the community email that the board sent on Monday, the May Board of Trustees meeting is Thursday May 20th, and back at the regular time of 7PM. The agenda can be found at:
Minutes of the prior April meeting are at:
The board is continuing with its roof obsession, with plans to spend at least another $250,000 on 6 more buildings this year. That's the base price, on to which taxes, warranty, and "extras" will be added, bringing it to $300k+ I'm sure before all is said and done. This will be in addition to the $378k already spent last year on the prior 6 buildings, or $63k per building (which again, is insane).
The board is still totally ignoring all the chronic ventilation issues there were pointed out and addressed in the re-roofing specification and bid document from 2011, which they are also ignoring. It's too much detail to get in to here, so I will summarize it as "not good".
I am not saying the roofs shouldn't be replaced - I'm saying it's not a "drop everything else and spend whatever is necessary" level of crisis. After we tore apart and put back together the roof on building 3, I was able to see exactly the condition of a typical roof since I was up there with the crew through that entire project. There were issues, but again, not to the level of the current obsession. Had the new board leadership not interfered with the plan, by now the maintenance building would have been up, and we would be back to the re-roofing project this year. We would be doing a much more thorough job, fixing the ventilation issues and all the other flashings and things that should also be replaced, at a far lower cost.
As decided at the April board meeting, the pool will be closed again for this season. It's still going to cost us $10k to not open it, which is crazy again - we used to spend about that to actually run the pool for the whole season! And here they are somehow spending $10k to NOT run the pool. They just need to turn on the filter and buy some chemicals. No inspections, no lifeguards. It should cost maybe $500 - $1000. I mention these things because this is some of the same squad that was very critical of me "wasting money", but just look at them go. They thought I was wasting money because they didn't understand the details of maintenance and construction work, and now that they are in charge, they haven't magically gotten any smarter, so now they ACTUALLY ARE wasting money, and by the hundreds of thousands of dollars!
I see our President Mr. Zhou has also "negotiated" an increase in the trash contract of $17k/year, probably each year for the next 3 years. This relates back to his debacle with trying to change the trash contract last year. It's a bit of a story, but bottom line is we will be paying a lot more for trash removal. Another one of his brilliant cost-saving moves I guess.
Then the loader was broken for a few weeks I found out, in the middle of the mulch project, which had to be put on hold. Chairman Zhou sold (or "gave away" is more the word) the other two loaders, so now he had no spare machines for when one breaks. He obviously doesn't know the concept of reliability and redundancy. It looks like the $3100 repair has already been completed - to replace the starter motor I found out (cost $500 maybe). It's three bolts and a cable. So another $2600 down the drain. That's $2,600 + $17,000 + $9,000 = $28,600 total waste for May, plus the overcharge for the re-roofing - another $100k+ in the toilet. Good job.
I hope some more residents will be able to tune in to this Zoom meeting to see what is going on and ask some questions, now that it's back to 7PM. I still don't have answers to many financial questions I emailed the board over the last few months. What's up with the additional $78k for the roofs last fall? What's up with the additional $4k that was removed from escrow? Where's the back-up documentation for the $4k of Linda's expenses from last winter? Where are the invoices for their phantom forensic auditor? Why are several lines redacted from the March escrow fund statement!?
I am very close to mailing out the proposed election security by-law amendment petition, along with another petition to remove a certain someone from the board. Hopefully that will be out in a week or so.
Board Meeting Thursday, 2PM !!?, and Election Security By-Law Proposal by Kevin Wine, Apr 13, 2021, 9:50 PM, reply, new topic, edit
Following the rejection of the proposed by-law amendments on March 30th, I have drafted my own proposed amendments dealing specifically with election security. Although I could think of about 20 more amendments, I am going to focus only on this one for now, as the integrity of the voting process is most critical, especially in light of what happened with the by-law amendment vote, and what has likely been happening with the annual election voting as well. Here is the text of the proposed amendment:
Proposed Voting Security By-Law Amendments
Shortly after the vote a few weeks ago, it was further discovered that the votes from at least 9 units were somehow missing from the list of units that voted. I can't believe that many voters would incorrectly recall if they voted or not, so more likely those votes went "missing". Several homeowners took the time to complete the voting survey I posted (see past message below for the link), which was very helpful in documenting various issues with the voting process. That survey remains open, if you still want to respond. A few owners said they emailed their vote in prior to the deadline, but still didn't appear in the voting list, and as with all these votes and elections, several owners reported that they did not receive the mailing in the first place.
I asked to have my proposed amendment on the agenda for this weeks Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, April 15th, and they have been placed on the agenda. HOWEVER, in the last minute the meeting has been rescheduled from the evening to 2 PM in the afternoon! This is the second time Chairman Zhou has scheduled a meeting in the middle of a workday. Although I'm sure he will have a good cover story, you can be certain why I think this was done, as he is about to face some uncomfortable questions at this meeting, and I have an item on the agenda that he would rather not see. Due to the time change, a new meeting notice had to go out, however it was sent on Monday, which is only 4 days prior to the meeting. Recent changes to PREDFDA now require a 7-day notice of Board of Trustee meetings, which means the board is in violation of the open meetings regulations. If they really go forward with this meeting, I will be filing yet another complaint with the DCA, as it seems Chairman Zhou and his board expect everyone else to follow the rules while they don't follow the rules themselves. Any owner can file such a complaint too - it is not difficult, and I have made the forms and instructions available here:
NJ Department of Community Affairs Complaint Package and Form
The meeting agenda was already sent to everyone by the management office, but in case you didn't get it, I've posted it here too, along with the March 18th meeting minutes:
April 15, 2021 Agenda
March 18, 2021 Meeting Minutes
As is usual, the agenda is very minimal, with just the pool opening decision, the trash contract, and the voting security amendment. There are two sections to the amendment - 3.13 and 3.14. The first section is the proposed rules for when the Association conducts the election internally, like they have been doing, and the second section is for when the Association hires an external third-party to conduct the election. The procedure in 3.13 envisions the appointment of election inspectors at the very start of the process, who are then responsible for running the election all the way through. Also envisioned are election observers, separate from the inspectors, which can be any interested parties and that are watching over the entire process. Voting on by-law amendments would also be covered by these same rules, as that vote can be just as critical as candidate votes. I'm sure I will be criticized for over-complicating things, but if we really want some measure of security, I don't see too many simplifications. Even handing it off to a third-party needs several protections, as you will see in 3.14. If anyone has comments, please post them here preferably, or at least email me.
I still have no response from the board on several questions I've posed to them over the last few weeks, including why $32k was already pulled from the escrow fund in January, and now I see another $4k was pulled on February 9th, in a check payable to Linda Zhou (employee and wife of Chairman Zhou), with a note "pending backup to support withdrawal". I'm a little surprised that the documentation still hasn't come through, as it's now two months later. I assume this is for a legitimate out-of-pocket expense of some sort, but again given all the criticism of me over the past 3 years, I'm surprised the current board leadership would do anything like this. Also no word on the state of their "forensic audit" witch-hunt, which is coming up on year three. You can be sure if there was anything damning in there, it would have been splashed all over a special edition of the Society Hill News, and used against me in the election last year. My strong suspicion is that the audit has already concluded, a while ago, and with no findings, but Chairman Zhou doesn't want to release it because that conclusion doesn't fit his narrative, so he's sitting on it intentionally to leave this cloud over my head. Anyway, I will be asking about both of these issues at the meeting, and it would be good if some other owners that are able to attend a 2 PM workday meeting press them as well.
I will also be asking point-blank how it is that Chairman Zhou was calling residents prior to the March 30th by-law amendment voting deadline, trying to get them to change their vote on the proposed amendments. I certainly had no knowledge of who voted, or how they voted - why should he? This voting should really have been conducted by secret ballot just like the candidate voting.
Meeting "After-Math", Pool Closed, and Questions "Answered" by Kevin Wine, Apr 16, 2021, 7:59 PM, reply, branch, edit
The 2 PM workday meeting actually took place, so I filed my 5th complaint with the NJ State Department of Community Affairs, this time regarding the deficient meeting notice. The February Board of Trustees meeting was also at 2 PM on a workday, so it looks like this habit is going to continue. It is just one more example of how the current board leadership wants to keep everything on the low, and keep us all in the dark. Only 3 or 4 homeowners were able to attend as a result of the mid-week mid-day meeting time. The more owners that complain to the state about this the better. Complaint form are available here:
NJ Department of Community Affairs Complaint Package and Form
And a copy of the complaint I just sent is here, to give an example of how to fill it out:
Sample Complaint for Meeting Notice
The surprise guest for this meeting, I assume to justify the 2 PM meeting time, was Ginger Pitaccio, Executive Vice President and Owner of Town and Country, our current management company. She chimed in on a couple of issues, mostly the swimming pool, and then some comments at the end but due to a conflicting meeting for work, I had to switch to another meeting so I don't know what else she said.
As no surprise at all, the pool will be closed for the 2021 season, and given this boards eclectic risk threshold profile, it will probably be closed for a few more years as it is unlikely that COVID will completely vanish anytime soon. Apparently the insurance policy excludes infectious diseases (I requested a copy of the policy to double check this), which has everyone spooked in to keeping the pool closed. There is some additional costs of COVID compliance as well. They have zero risk tolerance for opening the pool, and yet at the same time they have no problem leaving a gaping hole in the curb on Hampshire Ct. for other a month now (see message further below - it's still not fixed!).
They are still trying to replace the current trash contractor, with a much more expensive one, which we are told will come up for final approval at the May meeting.
My proposed voting security by-law amendment went no where, as expected. I did make a motion to refer the proposal to counsel, as Chairman Zhou himself suggested at the meeting, but it didn't receive a second so no action was taken. That's fine - I gave them their chance. I had already planned to mail this out myself, so there is some assurance votes don't go "missing", and that's what I will do. There will probably be another petition in the same mailing for something else :)
I was given the opportunity to question the board and Chairman Zhou on the issues I mentioned, and here are his responses:
On the forensic audit, he read from a prepared statement, saying I'm under investigation by a number of agencies (lol), and the forensic audit is ongoing. The audit was started in February 2020, so its been a little over a year, and coming up on 3 years that they have been on their witch-hunt. I can't find any payments to the forensic auditor in the recent financial statements, so either the audit is dormant, or Chairman Zhou is paying them off the books (which should be very alarming).
On the escrow funds question, Chairman Zhou said the auditor authorized him to remove $31k from the escrow fund, and indeed in one of the recent audits, the auditor points out that there may be $31k extra in the escrow account that could be transferred out. The $31k number relies on an accurate tracking of the refunds to the seller from the escrow fund and the collection of a new escrow deposit from the buyer, over a 35 year period and thousands of sales. I would not put a lot of faith in that number - it might be close, but it really should be double checked by adding up the maintenance fees at the time of the last sale for all 545 units, which I highly doubt the auditor or anyone else has taken the time to do.
In any case, I thought I better add up all the recent withdrawals from the escrow fund, just to double check, and guess what? They add to $35,997. Hummmm, a little more than $31k! So while he has temporary backup for the $31k withdrawal, I don't know how he explains the additional $4k, which by the way was was in the form of a check to Linda Zhou, his wife and association employee. I assume/hope this was for a legitimate purpose, but you would think by now, with all the criticism thrown at me over the last few years, that he would avoid the optics of such a situation, but I guess he assumed no one would notice or bother doing the math. Doesn't she have to report this as income!?
The more alarming thing about the money recently removed from the escrow account is that the funds are being directly removed from the account via checks written against it, which means that all the disbursements are essentially "off the books". In other words, these payments to employees and vendors do not appear in the general ledger expense accounts, which is causing some of those accounts to under-state the actual expenses, and making it very difficult to keep track of how escrow money is being spent, unless that is the intent.
The board was never told about the actual removal of the $31k from escrow, and was left to find it out for themselves in the financial statements. Ordinarily, a non-recurring transfer such as this would be at least acknowledged by the board at a meeting, or more likely, the transfer would be made by motion of the board. Currently none of these disbursements from escrow appear on the revenue side of the operating account, including a check on January 22 for $24,627.28 with only a note "Move funds to operating". I find it as a deposit in the operating account bank statement, but no where in the operating revenue!? So where did that money end up?
So you say well, what's few thousands amongst homeowner friends? Is it really that big a deal? Well, let's move on the reserve account - where they are doing the same thing. But now it's HUNDREDS of thousands, disbursed directly from the reserve fund, to pay for, among other things, the recent roofing project. All essentially "off the books". I had to manually go through several financial statements to extract all the money spent on the re-roofing project, and add up all the amounts manually, to find out the total actually spent. Why isn't the roof expense recorded in the general ledger!!?? Expecting the board to pick though multiple financial statements and manually create an expense account is a bit much. We shouldn't have to be doing that, especially on a large project like this, taking place over a number of years. No one is going to know what we are spending. Unless that is the intent.
Anyway, there was another little surprise waiting for me - the total comes to $378,175! Gee - that's a little more that the $300k we were told about a few meetings ago. This means we spent an average of $63,000 per roof, for 6 buildings!! For those not familiar with construction, that's *insane*. At that rate, the roofing project will be costing us another two and half million dollars! I sent an email to the board asking about the extra $78k... we will see what they say (probably nothing).
Everything I'm talking about relating to the finances is independently verifiable by any homeowner. You all have the right to see the monthly financial statements, and much more. They are right here on this site, under "Financial" above. To restrict it to homeowners, you will have to log in. You can confirm everything I've said - or let me know what I'm missing!
Finally, on the questions about the by-law amendment voting, and specifically how it was that Chairman Zhou seemingly knew who voted and how, and was calling them, PRIOR to the voting deadline, he admitted nothing, and instead said all those people called him, and then went on with a ludicrous story about how I called some homeowner 7 times, and that he has "picture proof" of my calls. Well he knows my phone number, so that should be pretty easy to check out. I can assure him it wasn't my number, because I don't recall calling anyone about the by-law amendment voting, although I did send a few emails and postcards. And no explanation of the votes that went "missing".
Caught Red-Handed! by Kevin Wine, Apr 01, 2021, 9:29 AM, reply, new topic, edit
I was waiting to post a message, assuming the official by-law amendment vote would be available shortly after the deadline of March 30th, but so far *NOTHING*. It is now Thursday morning. How long does it take to count to 54? lol
On Tuesday, prior to the voting deadline, I received word from multiple owners that Chairman Zhou had called them and proceeded to try and convince them to change their vote from "Disapprove" to "Approve"!!! He is certainly entitled to do whatever campaigning he wants, HOWEVER, how does he know to call these specific owners?? Prior to the voting deadline!? He is certainly NOT entitled to obtain and use privileged information.
This confirms one of my suspicions regarding the elections in general. The office, and specifically Chairman Zhou, has access to information that the rest of the board, the candidates, and the homeowners are denied access to. For example, they know who has voted thus far, and based on prior voting data that I'm 99% certain they have harvested, they can get some idea of how the voting is going. They also have physical access to all the returned ballots, and physical access to all the election materials (envelopes, ballots, seal, etc.). This has to stop.
I guess Chairman Zhou needs a few more days to twist a few more arms. I will update this post as soon as the results are officially released. By the way, still no answer to my email from over a week ago about why $32k has already been removed from the Escrow fund.
*UPDATE* 10:47AM 64 Total responses received as of the Tuesday deadline. More than 10% of the total units voted "Disapprove", so the proposed amendments FAIL. I don't know by exactly how much, but it must have been close. I will somehow communicate the list of who voted, so everyone can check to make sure their ballot was received. I know it doesn't really matter for this vote, however we need to implement as many external fraud detection systems as possible. I also created a "survey" feature on this WEB site, and the first survey is available and asks about your experience with the by-laws amendment vote:
Voting Process Survey
Voting Deadline SOON!, and March 18th Meeting Report by Kevin Wine, Mar 22, 2021, 11:13 PM, reply, new topic, edit
IMPORTANT - Registering on This WEB Site
If you are already receiving email from savethehill, it means you are already partially registered on this site. You do NOT need to register from scratch, and in fact doing so will create two of you. Your username is your email address (can be changed later). To complete your registration you just need to setup your password using this link:
Enter your username (which is your email address), and an email will be sent to you with a temporary password. Login with that, click on the "Profile" menu in the upper-right, and you can change your username if you want, and your password. There have been occasional reports of the password reset emails not coming through, so if that happens email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will fix it manually.
By-Law Amendment Deadline
There is less than one week left to mail back the "ballot" for the proposed by-law amendments!! Don't let them steal our security/escrow deposits! (and do other bad things) Be sure to mail the ballot to the Red Bank, NJ management company address. Letters can still take a while, so DON'T DELAY!
Executive Summary of March 18th Meeting
This is short - it was over 2 hours long - zero motions. Everything is done behind-the-scenes. End of summary.
Wait - there was one motion - they did approve the minutes of the prior meeting (February). Which, incidentally had no motions either, except to approve the January minutes. Most everything is handled behind-the-scenes now. The February meeting was when the board "approved" the proposed by-laws amendments to be mailed out, but they never actually voted on a motion. Chairman Zhou claimed the board had voted on the amendments at a prior meeting. That's not quite the whole story - the board voted on the concept of proposed amendment 6 (removal of 20% rule) at the January 2021 meeting, but not on any specific language. He claims the board also voted on the confiscation of the escrow funds at a prior meeting (I would have to search - definitely no specific language). However, I'm 100% sure the board never voted on any of the 5 other amendments at any prior meetings. So here is yet another example of action taken by one board member without the full authority of the board.
I still can't find where the meeting minutes are posted on the association's official WEB site, so I'm still going through the trouble of posting them here. I added a few prior missing ones (check Legal menu above), and January and February 2021:
January 21, 2021 Minutes
February 28, 2021 Minutes
Detailed Summary of March 18th Meeting
It was good to see more people zooming in than usual at the March meeting. It is good for the board to get some input from outside its bubble. This is part of the solution - the more people contributing the better.
Much of the meeting was spent discussing what to do about the pool. Trustee Sanford wanted to ban anyone that had not received the COVID vaccine (good luck with that). Chairman Zhou's attorney provided the board with her written opinion on the situation. Vice President Thomas suggested trying to open for July 4th. The final conclusion was to do nothing this month, and push the decision to the April meeting. If the pool season is disrupted again, this would be the 4th consecutive year.
There is a considerable amount of preparation that has to be done to get the pool open, which generally required about 2 months to complete. In other words, to open June 20th, we used to start the process in early April. I would usually have the pool uncovered and the filter running late March or early April to prevent the water from turning green, and find out about any issues as soon as possible in the season. We're going to miss that window again. Recall last year that Chairman Zhou delayed and delayed on getting the pool uncovered until it was completely taken over by algae. Obviously he never managed a pool before. I am sticking to my prediction that the ~$30k cost saving is just too big a prize for Chairman Zhou to resist, and he will push the board to close it again for this season, and blame it on the virus and liability concerns.
It sounds like the trash removal contract is going out for bid again, after the fiasco last spring. I don't remember if I wrote about this before. Chairman Zhou and his board approved a proposal from Waste Management last spring, after too many complaints about Grand Sanitation. Shortly after the new Waste Management contract was signed, Grand Sanitation came back with a new proposal he couldn't refuse, so Chairman Zhou decided we should stay with Grand Sanitation and terminate the new contract with Waste Management. The only slight problem was that the exit language in the Waste Management contract required the association to pay $46k to exit the agreement!
Somehow he managed to wiggle out of this, however it is looking like we are going to end up with Waste Management soon, so I suspect that may have been part of the deal when they let him off the hook for the $46k. I'm only speculating - the board (or certainly me) is kept in the dark on all these high-level behind-the-scenes negotiations. By the way, the signed Waste Management contract was for $94,800 for the first year, which is about $30k MORE than Grand Sanitation. This was another of Chairman Zhou's brilliant cost-savings plans I guess. It worked out in the end - Grand Sanitation gave us an even better price to keep the business - but I'm curious to see what will happen this year with Waste Management.
The last major topic was the re-roofing project. I finally found the payments to the re-roofing contractor, "Accent Group", in the January 2021 financial statement. I found $299,668 in payments. That was for 2 townhouse buildings and four condo buildings. The base contract was $183k, and permits were $6k. All the rest - another $111k - was extras and change-orders. That's more than half of the base contract! Time to re-write that contract.
I warned them about this at the August 17th, 2020 meeting. I found my notes - warned twice about how the contractors will exploit the "surprises" if you aren't real careful about how the contract is worded. Chairman Zhou had no interest in what I was saying. He started to get upset at the meeting when I raised this point in one of the few short moments I was granted permission from him to speak. It is good that he was getting upset because he got screwed - I would be upset too. If the rest of the project has 64% overhead in extras and change-orders, this project is going to end up costing us plenty.
I ended up posting the entire roofing consultants specification under the "Info" menu above. At the very bottom of the page is links to the numerous sections. From an engineering perspective, it is absurd to be completely ignoring this specification. They probably don't like it because it's attached to me. Well, I didn't write it. A roofing consultant did.
Escrow Money Already Moving?
All the financial statements are here on this site under the "Financial" tab above (you will have to log in). Any owner can go and check out this information themselves. If the financial statements are on the association's official WEB site, I have still not been able to find them. As an owner, you have full access to all the association's financial information. If there is any doubt about this, or the association gives you trouble when you request to see something, check out this document from the DCA:
DCA Association Packet
Take a look at the bank statement for the escrow account, near the end of the December and January statements. They have already started to pull money from that fund. In October it was $249k. At the end of January it was $217k. I wonder what it is by now - the end of March. The board was not advised of any withdrawals from escrow. It looks like they even tried to pull $52k more out but for some reason that got intercepted. The "steal the escrow fund" by-law amendment has not yet been approved. They are allowed to pull out the interest, but I can't find anything in the financial statements to document that, and the interest income these last several years has been very low, probably well below the $32k that was removed.
What the Pool Looked Like Last Summer by Kevin Wine, Mar 24, 2021, 12:44 AM, reply, branch, edit
This is what happens when you uncover your pool in July! By the way, it is not good to let it get to this point. The algae grows in to the walls and is very difficult to clean out. All the debris is hard on the filter as it will clog quickly, and with no one around to keep an eye on it and do frequent back-washes, the pump will be stressed. But hey, more money for the pool company to just replace everything. If the pool needs to be drained and re-filled, it's about $1000 of water. Then the salt for the chlorinator is another couple hundred. It is cheaper to not let it get to this point!
Crickets by Kevin Wine, Mar 26, 2021, 6:48 PM, reply, branch, edit
As of Friday, March 26th, no word from Chairman Zhou or his management company on what is going on with the escrow fund. I sent them an email on Tuesday the 23rd. I guess they need more than 3 days to put their story together. Interesting... Imagine if I had started pulling money out of escrow without at least telling the board about it??? Seems all their internal controls concerns have gone out the window. They are writing checks directly against escrow and operating, bypassing all the safeguards that the management company was supposed to provide. How is this all suddenly OK? Oh I see - it's only a problem when they're not in charge.
I Would Never Do This by Kevin Wine, Mar 20, 2021, 8:10 PM, reply, new topic, edit
Going on two weeks at least - catch basin on Hampshire Court. I would have fixed this immediately. Somewhere in the clubhouse should be a stash of stainless steel bolts, washers, and nuts that I used to use to fix these, unless they threw them away (probably). You think Mr. Zhou will buy $30 of bolts from Fastenal? You think he knows what a bolt is?? Or is he going to hire an outside contractor and pay $500 to have this fixed? At the very least this should be covered and marked with some cones. Two weeks and counting, tick-tong, tick-tong...
Update by Kevin Wine, Mar 26, 2021, 6:37 PM, reply, branch, edit
As of the morning of Friday, March 26, this is still the same. Nothing has been done. Seems they have plenty of time for destroying the landscaping, but no time for this. I see this all the time - people in charge of things that have various "issues" which makes it difficult or impossible for them to prioritize. They are about to close the pool for this season because they are so worried about liability exposure, and yet they have no problem with this hole in the ground.
Still the Same... by Kevin Wine, Oct 08, 2021, 10:04 PM, reply, branch, edit
Seven months later.
What Happens When You Clear Snow With A 2-Yard Loader by Kevin Wine, Mar 20, 2021, 7:47 PM, reply, new topic, edit
Both of the Association's snow blowers had issues this season, but apparently Mr. Zhou decided not to get them fixed - he didn't want to spend the money. Funny though, at the meeting on Thursday, he was bragging about how there was a surplus in 2020 - $144k it looks like? (See December 2020 Financial Statement) And he couldn't come up with a couple thousand to fix the blowers?
This is probably what delayed the clearing of the walks and bikepath in the last large storm. With no other practical solution, the crew resorted to using the loader to clear some sections of the paver walks. As the pictures show, this was not a good idea. This is just a small sampling of the damaged walks. It is impossible not to damage them, no matter how careful you are - I wouldn't even attempt this. I know, because I've spent hundreds of hours in a loader. All Mr. Zhou knows about loaders is how to sell them for a fraction of their value. I post this as another example of an inexperienced person running a maintenance operation. I guess he thinks he is doing the right thing, but look..
Community Email Returns! March Meeting, and By-Law Amendment Voting by Kevin Wine, Mar 18, 2021, 8:41 AM, reply, new topic, edit
I had mentioned to many owners late last year that I was working to get the community emails going again. I am sorry that it took so long, but I think everything is finally straightened out and working. Apologies also to anyone who is receiving this and has moved out or otherwise does not need or want these announcements. Just reply to this email and I will promptly remove you from the distribution.
To say that a lot has happened since my last mass-email in November 2019 is a gross understatement. I found all the drama on the national level over the last year to be very troubling. I was heartened at least a little to see that our diverse community, and much of NJ as well, was spared from the worst of the upheaval, but at the same time I was disheartened as some of the division trickled down locally. As I see it, there does indeed remain some serious systemic flaws in our country. This is not new to me, and over the years that I was in the position to make positive change, I did what I could, and continue to do what I can, to understand the source of our flaws and find ways to improve. As I've gotten older, solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems become clearer. The antidote to division is to do things that bring people together. Nothing is going to get solved if there is no interaction and no discussion. Alternate versions of reality will not be reconciled with waring factions hunkered in their corners. I am hoping that in some small way, these community emails and the new website and the public forum will get that critical interaction going again.
There is a picture posted with this message on savethehill.org, which perfectly epitomizes the contrast between the current and past leadership. Yet another one of the community berry plantings behind the retaining walls has been systematically ripped up - the special dirt removed and the drip irrigation hacked up (instead of a little maintenance). As I have mentioned before, the point of those plantings was to create gathering spaces by giving people things to do in the community. There was another plan to landscape "the hill" by the pond with a trail and seating area, and construct additional walking paths around the pond. Again, the point being to create gathering spaces. We also used to do an annual community event, now cancelled along with the trails. In the face of division, this is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what the leadership should be doing. This point needs to be made to them, and if they don't take the point, then you have to decide which path we should go down as a community.
I realize there is a natural tendency to disengage from contentious situations, avoid confrontation, and retract. On top of it, the virus is amplifying that tendency. But it is the exact OPPOSITE of what needs to happen. We need everyone to remain involved and engaged, so sensible decisions get made and things are prevented from going even further south.
March Board Meeting
As to immediate business, the March Board of Trustees meeting is March 18th, 7 PM. I assume everyone received the meeting announcement, agenda, and Zoom link from management. I understand the continuing roof project and the swimming pool are the main topics. I assume that the 2021 pool season will be on the chopping block, since $35k can be saved and conveniently blamed on the virus. By the way, the pool used to cost us less than $15k a year. I realize there might need to be a second attendant at the pool, but even then it would be $25k tops, still $10k less than what it would cost us now.
The board is still charging forward with its version of the re-roofing project, and is trying to do at least another 5 buildings this spring/summer. My comments on the re-roofing are covered in another post here on www.savethehill.org. I remain very concerned about the total disregard for the ventilation deficiencies identified and corrected in the re-roofing spec we used for building 3, which is now being completely ignored. Ineffective ventilation design shortens the life of the roofing components.
A few years ago, when all the in-house capital improvement and repair projects were cancelled by the current board, I warned that the cost of all those projects was just doubled. As a case in point, the in-house cost of roof replacements would be around $25k/building, and we are currently averaging $50k/building contracted out. So there you go - double like I said. My cost calculations are in the re-roofing post if you want the details.
Proposed By-Law Amendments
There is also the matter of several proposed amendments to the Society Hill by-laws. I commented on those in a previous post, the final conclusion of which was a "DISAPPROVE" from me. The show-stopper for me was the $250,000 confiscation of the escrow funds, all of which would be immediately re-allocated to re-roofing, for which we are over-paying by $20k or more per building.
There is a rapidly approaching deadline for that vote - March 30th. There is still time but barely, given ongoing postal delays, so mail that soon! It should be sent to the Red Bank office of Town and Country Management, which is safer than dropping it here at the clubhouse, for what I assume are obvious reasons.
There is one CORRECTION I need to make in some earlier correspondence. I previously stated that the board received the proposed by-law amendments only a few hours before the February 18th meeting. There was another email sent 3 days earlier with the amendments attached, but I didn't look closely at it and deleted it to help clear my over-quota email box. I did save a copy locally first but didn't find the copy till it was too late. Apologies to those mentioned, as the board actually had three days, not 3 hours, to review the amendment proposal before they were voted on and approved for mailing to the members for their vote.
Under the new state laws for amending association by-laws, the proposed changes will be automatically approved if less than 10% of the owners vote NO in the first 30 days after the proposed amendments are mailed out. In other words, if less than 54 owners vote no, the amendments are approved. Conversely, if more than 54 owners vote no, then the amendments are rejected. However, that is not necessarily the end of the amendments, but then a majority of the members in good standing (usually about 240 members for us) would have to vote to approve the changes.
After re-reading the new state laws regarding by-law amendments last night, I see there is a serious technical flaw in the mailing. Section 5:26-8.13(h) of PRDFDA states:
1. The board's proposed amendment shall include a notice that the amendment will fail only if at least 10 percent of the association members in good standing vote to reject the amendment.
Their letter contained no such statement. This is the second flaw in the letter - the first being the major wording/grammatical error in the text of proposed amendment 6. I can't resist to point out that these amendments and this letter was presumably prepared by professional legal counsel, for which we pay $12k a year. For a firm engaged in condominium law, you would think they wouldn't make such a mistake. Unless of course, the condominium law practice is just the "foot in the door" so they can get to the collections work, where the real money is. I see from the financial statements Radom and Wetter invoiced the association almost $39k for collections work in 2020. The financial statement says we recovered $30k in legal fees from delinquent owners (I have yet to verify this), so we spent $39k to collect $30k, which means we LOST another $9k on collections for 2020. I guess they consider this a "success" lol. Do you want me to guess where this number is headed if there is no 20% cap... To be fair, they did recover some of the outstanding maintenance fees, exactly how much I don't know but I believe it's more than $9k. I see the total paid to Radom and Wetter was $64k for 2020, which included their $12k/year retainer and other extra legal work. Our legal expenses used to be a few thousand a year (except for the affordable housing litigation, most of which was reimbursed). This is right back to the situation we had with Stark and Stark in the early 2000's - nothing has changed - just the name of the firm - same tactics, same business model.
Finally, I also just noticed this in PREDFDA:
(j)An executive board shall not amend the bylaws without a vote open to all association members or as detailed above except to the extent necessary to render the bylaws consistent with State, Federal, or local law.
So they don't even have to put some of these amendments to a vote! Any of the ones which update the by-laws to conform with the new state laws can just be made, no questions asked. So that story in the letter about how we have to do this to "reduce confusion" is just being used as the sugar coating on the pill they want us to swallow.
Some will say I complain too much, but you have a right to know how your money is being spent. And I was heavily accused of "wasting money" LOL!
I disapprove of the By-Law Amendments by Anthony Blanco, Mar 21, 2021, 11:22 AM, reply, branch, edit
I disapprove of the By-Law Amendments and have dropped my vote it in the mail. This board is completely irresponsible and unorganized, and they will ruin our community if we let them. Who's with me? Looks like all we need is 54 disapproval votes, we can do it.
The Proposed By Law Amendments by Kevin Wine, Mar 13, 2021, 2:21 PM, reply, new topic, edit
I have been busy with work and very distracted with other large-scale projects for the past few months, but I see that there is an urgent issue here which needs to be addressed. About 2 weeks ago, the Board of Trustees sent out a letter with several proposed amendments to the Association's by-laws. The by-laws are the legal rules which govern how the association is run, a copy of which is available here on this site at:
Unbelievably, the by-laws are STILL NOT available on the association's official WEB site (another example of how they try and keep information away from us). Also available is a copy of the proposed amendment letter, which incidentally is ALSO NOT on the association's official WEB site:
A couple years ago, the NJ State Legislature changed another set of rules, the "Planned Real Estate Development Full Disclosure Act" (PREDFDA), which govern condo associations like ours, to make it easier for their Boards to amend their by-laws. Previous to this change, it was usually very difficult to impossible to make changes. The new rules allow for proposed amendments to be sent to the owners for review, and if less than 54 owners (10% of the total) vote against the changes in 30 days, the amendments automatically pass! The 30-day window for these amendments CLOSES ON MARCH 30TH. The amendments can still end up getting approved even if initially rejected, but then they need the usual majority approval vote of the membership to be approved (which is probably a fairer way anyhow).
Before I get in to the details of each amendment, my "executive summary" of the proposed amendments is that most of the changes are bad or incomplete, and thus the changes should be rejected, and sent back to the board for considerably more work.
CORRECTION - Previously I had mentioned that the board received the proposed amendments on February 18th, only hours prior to the 2 PM meeting, however I later discovered that a prior copy was also sent 3 days prior to the meeting, in an email I had deleted (mailbox full) but saved locally, and didn't find and look at until after I made the comment.
For those that want the gory details, here are my comments on the proposed amendments. If anything isn't clear or there are questions, anyone can post a follow up message and we can have a "covid-compliant" discussion!
Proposed Amendment 7
I begin with the last one, because this is the one they probably don't want to advertise. Plain and simple, they are going to outright take the $250,000 maintenance fee escrow fund, and use if for general operating purposes. Specifically, they want to use it to pay their roofing contractor for more roof replacements. The roof replacement project is the subject of another editorial I will post later, in which I talk about how much it should cost, compared to what we are actually paying, and how we are being screwed... again. So not only are they grabbing all this money, they are turning around wasting a lot of it.
The full text of paragraph 14.00, all of which would be deleted (and was curiously omitted from the letter), is available on the original by-laws link above. Thus, the current funds in escrow would NOT be refunded to the owners when they sell. When you bought your unit, you had to put 3 months worth of maintenance fee payments (at whatever the monthly fee was at that time) in the escrow fund (this is similar in concept to a security deposit when you rent). For recent buyers, that would be $588 (3 x $196). They are planning to apply this change to all buyers RETROACTIVELY, not just owners who buy after the amendment goes in to effect. It is unlikely their position would hold up in court, as they are trying to change the obligation of a "contract" - the original agreement between you and the association at the time of purchase. The Township of Piscataway tried to do a similar thing to all the former affordable unit owners, and lost big time. As a practical matter, the board knows (or at least its President Mr. Zhou, and his attorney Ms. Radom must know) that it is unlikely anyone is going to litigate this while they are in the middle of trying to sell and close on their unit, so the Board will probably get away with this confiscation. The take-away here is this attitude they have of "we are going to do whatever we want, and if you don't like it, sue us". However, this can all be pre-empted by simply voting to DISAPPROVE OF AMENDMENTS!! LOL.
Proposed Amendment 1
One of the biggest complaints I used to hear in the mid 2000's, under a prior management firm (Taylor Management), was that there was often no one in the management office. We made very sure that after reconfiguring things in 2008, there was always someone in that office. But it looks like we are headed right back to the old mode with no one there. We may already be back to that now, from some stories I hear. This amendment is clearly setting the stage for officially closing the on-site office, and relocating it completely off-site. While I'm sure there will be reassurances to the contrary, you can bet this configuration will ultimately lead to the same complaint I was hearing 15 years ago. So much for progress..
Proposed Amendment 6
Skipping ahead again, this change involves the complicated matter of collections of delinquent maintenance fee accounts. Specifically, the amendment proposes to delete the "20% rule", which placed a cap on the legal fees that can be charged back to a delinquent owner. The cap was 20% of the amount outstanding. So if you owed $10,000, the most the association can charge you back in legal fees is $2000. There is some nuance over what is formally considered a legal fee and what isn't, but for the most part, the bulk of collections related legal expenses are limited by the 20% rule.
The rule is there to prevent abuse of both the delinquent owners, as well as the association funds. With no limit, the board and its collections attorney (currently the same firm representing the association, Radom and Wetter), could charge back whatever legal collections expenses they wanted, with no limit. From past history with a former association attorney (Stark and Stark), who simply ignored the 20% rule altogether, things can quickly get out of control. In no time, a unit could have several thousand dollars of legal collection fees, even if they only owed $1000. The attorney gets paid up front by the association for all the collections work, so they have no incentive to limit their collections work (in fact, have the opposite incentive). The association then depends on recovering those legal costs by billing them back to the delinquent owners. While this sounds like a brilliant idea, in practice is does not work out that well. What often ends up happening (maybe 80 to 90% of cases), is that the delinquent owner just can't pay - they owe the association, they owe property tax, they owe the bank - there is just no money. You can post back all the legal fees you want, get all the judgements you want - you're just not going to ever collect them. In the end, the association not only gets stuck with the delinquent amount, but now it also gets stuck with all the un-recoverable legal fees! Thus, the 20% rule also protects the association by preventing the board and attorney from going wild and racking up tens of thousands of dollars of legal fees that, as a practical matter, will never be recovered.
By the way, I guess nobody proof-read this amendment in the letter. I assume the text in bold is supposed to replace all the text that appears after it, but they screwed up the formatting. It's kind of funny that with professional management and professional counsel, they can still make these kind of mistakes. There is still more to the collections story and how the situation often ends up getting exploited, but this is the part of it relevant to the proposed change, and the reason I would say DISSAPROVE OF AMENDMENTS!
Proposed Amendments 2
This change would allow you to vote for candidates in the annual election without having to send in a proxy form. The proxy form has always caused some confusion, and it is not entirely clear to many why it is there in the first place. This is another lengthy explanation, but suffice it to say that it goes back to the fact that all condo associations in NJ are setup up as non-profit corporations under Title 15A (there is a link on the "Legal" page of this site to 15A, if you would like to see it). This is similar to a for-profit corporation, with which many are familiar, with shareholders and annual meetings and board of directors and voting - and proxies! That's where it comes from, and the reason we have it here.
The proposed amendment would eliminate the need to send in a proxy form with a ballot for the annual meeting. While this may seem innocuous at first, and a welcome simplification, the reality is again quite different. The point of the proxy form was that it allows an owner to exercise their full voting rights as an owner (a shareholder of the corporation) at the annual meetings. This included not just voting on candidates for the Board of Trustees (the board of directors) but also other issues that come up at the annual meetings. Boards and their attorneys are scared to death of this homeowner power, and do what they can to minimize and undermine it. This is yet another assault on homeowner rights. What I am concerned about is that, as a practical matter, it will become all but impossible to ever vote on other matters at an annual meeting, since everyone will vote by absentee ballot. Furthermore, other matters, which legally could still be brought up at an annual meeting (although I'm sure this right will be down-played, as it has been for the last 3 annual meetings), will now be decided by an even smaller number of owners (probably just the "in-the-know" board members) since very few people will know what a proxy is anymore and will all vote by absentee ballot. Therefore, another DISSAPROVE OF AMENDMENTS!
Proposed Amendment 4
This change seeks to clarify the "good standing" requirements for participation in the annual meeting, as modified by PREDFDA mentioned at the beginning of this editorial. I assume it is consistent with that legislation. However, and yet again as a practical matter, I wish it was more specific about the timing in relation to the annual meetings and its adjournments. We used to consider an owner delinquent and not in good standing if they owed more than one month's worth of fees. This covered the situations where the annual meeting date or adjourned date fell after the first of the month but before the 15th, or the owner had a different monthly due date. If we are making amendments, this would seem to be an excellent opportunity to pin this down.
Proposed Amendment 5
This is the introduction of "electronic voting", and another can of worms. Yes, it would be great to have some easy on-line way to vote. However, not at the expense of our rights, or the introduction of a whole new level of possible corruption. It is not clear as to exactly what they mean by electronic voting. If it is just intended to allow owners to scan and email their proxy and/or ballot or absentee ballot, then it's not much different than what is already allowed. However, if they intend this to mean you go on a website and click a button, I would be very concerned because I know way too much about how delicate and vulnerable such systems are. This needs to be clarified before I would be comfortable voting one way or another on this change, so again, it's another thumbs-down DISSAPROVE OF AMENDMENTS from me.
Proposed Amendment 3
This change updates portions of the annual meeting and election procedure to again reflect recent legislative changes in PREFFDA. You would be able to opt-in for electronic delivery (email) of association meeting notices. This is the only amendment of the seven that I would agree with in it's current form! But we can't vote on individual amendments - so this one will go down with all the rest.
It was disappointing to see that while several election-related amendments were proposed, the opportunity was missed to implement some other critical election related protections:
1-There is currently no requirement for the association to validate the signatures of the owners voting in the annual elections. After a lot of energy and expense, the court ordered that I was allowed to inspect the election documents from the 2018 election (which I should have been allowed to see without having to litigate, but that's another matter, which still isn't concluded by the way). During the course of that inspection, it was discovered that at least 50 of the signatures on the proxy forms did not match to one degree or another, with the public-record copy of that owner's signature. While some of these mismatches could be legitimate, it is suspicious, and you would think that mandating a signature check would be a good thing to include in any election related amendments. The fact that it was not included raises another concern as to why. Comparing signatures is common practice in elections at the local, state, and federal level.
2-When I was involved, all the proxies and ballots were stored in a locked drop-box style mailbox, with multiple locks. All of the key holders had to be present in order to open the mailbox. This guaranteed the security of the ballots. This procedure was dropped a few years ago, and as far as I understand there is only one lock and one key and one person with that key. This is not to question the integrity of the person with the key - that is missing the point. The point is that when designing as system to guarantee the security of the ballots, that system should not rely on the integrity of any single individual. It was disappointing that this was not also addressed in the proposed amendments. It seems like a simple rule that no one would object to. The same procedure should also be used for voting on proposed by-law amendments! PREDFDA also now requires that the ballots must be secure.
3-When I was involved, a list of who-voted was constantly made available to the owners. We did this because it was a way for owners to confirm that their ballot was actually received (and wasn't "disappeared"). The "who-voted" list has always been a matter of public record in every other election at the local, state, and federal level, for this very reason. It provides some reassurance that ballots don't get conveniently lost. We also released the list during the election because if such a list existed, there was a strategic value to having that list, and if it is available to one person, as a matter of fairness, it should be available to all. Obviously that is no longer the thinking, but should be, and thus this should be mandated in our by-laws.
4-If they are really envisioning electronic voting as voting on a website, then any such system needs significant rules to prevent its inevitable abuse.
Last thing - take a look at paragraph 6.02, Total Destruction, in the original by-laws. It still mentions the township of East Brunswick. Again, if we're making changes to the by-laws, seems this would be something to fix. Or at least give the board members time to comment, so they can mention this before it's railroaded through.
So that's why I recommend voting "DISAPPROVE OF AMENDMENTS". Comment below if you have questions..
The Re-Roofing Story by Kevin Wine, Mar 14, 2021, 9:52 PM, reply, branch, edit
As promised, here are my comments on the roof issues, and specifically the current re-roofing project.
The relevant background is that in 1993/4, all the roof shingles had to be removed and replaced because the plywood underneath the shingles was deteriorating (long story). I still have a copy of the contract - it was $562,467, dated March 1993. In spite of the brand new roof, there were still issues (wow, and another long story), and in 1999, the roofs on all the 3-story condo buildings were replaced again! It is a mystery as to what that cost. So the roofs on the townhouse buildings are 28 years old, and the roofs on the condo buildings are 22 years old. Over the years, there have been a lot of roof issues, mostly relating to leaks around the penetrations - the pipe boots, the vents, the skylights, the stacks, and the chimneys, and some leaks at the step flashings. The number of these leaks understandably created a perception that the roofs were in bad shape.
Around 2011, we hired a professional roofing consultant to come up with a bid specification for the roof replacement project. This was an extensive and very thorough spec that gave all the details on how the roof should be replaced and addressed some design issues with the current roofs relating to ventilation.
In 2014 (or maybe 2015?), with the re-roofing specification in hand, we decided to replace the roof on building 3 with in-house staff. There were a variety of reasons for this, one of which was to get a first-hand look at any concealed damage, and another was to test out the specification, and the internal cableTV/satellite/internet re-wiring we wanted to do at the same time. The board approved this plan for two buildings (one condo, and one townhouse). I should post the spec here sometime so everyone can see exactly how extensive it was.
Here are the drawings from the spec, to at least give some idea: RMS Spec Drawings
Building 3 was quite a project, as we had to gear up with a lot of equipment to make it possible (gutter machine, bending brake, shear, scaffolding), but we got through it. I was up on that roof almost every day. I saw everything that was going on under the shingles, first hand. And I was there with the crew as we put it all back together. From that experience, I was able to accurately assess the roof situation, as all the buildings are similar in construction. While there were issues, and eventually a replacement would be necessary, it just wasn't a "drop everything and spend all the money" level priority. The roofs were not going to collapse - that's total paranoia. The focus then shifted to getting our maintenance facility constructed, as it was very difficult to organize such a large scale project from under a tent. Following that, we would get back to the roofs. All these plans were blown up in 2018, and the priorities upended.
Last year, the board leadership decided that it was time to begin their version of the re-roofing project, so they eventually contracted the replacement of 6 roofs. I'm told the average cost was about $50,000/building, so a total of around $300k. I know that included at least 2 condo buildings. I also know it did NOT involve the detailed bid specification that we had from 2011, which was used for building 3. It was a minimal replacement job - just the shingles, drip edge, pipe boots, vents, and gutters. The 2011 spec was far more extensive, and addressed all the ventilation deficiencies, replaced ALL the roof penetrations, and replaced ALL the flashings. It is very unfortunate the 2011 spec was not used now, because we are spending top dollar and still not getting the ventilation problems fixed, which is the primary cause of premature roof deterioration ("cook the shingles").
If the average cost per building is $50k, the total cost of this project is going to be $2.3M. There are 35 townhouse buildings and only 12 condo buildings, so hopefully it doesn't end up $50k/building, because that's high. Real high. At 3% inflation over 28 years, the 1993 price of $600k would be $1.37M today. Looking at it from a materials perspective, roof singles ("Timberline" brand) at retail prices (we would get a better price) are $34/bundle at HD. A bundle does 33.3 sq/ft. The condo roofs are about 10,000 sq/ft, so that's $10k of shingles (again, at retail price). Underlay, ice and water shield, coil stock (for gutters), leaders, drip edge, some vents, some plywood - maybe another $4k?? say $5k. We're still below $15k in materials. Labor is 10 workers for 2 days, but let's worst case that - 10 workers for a whole week. Each costs about $1k/week ($25/hr total cost incl. overheads), so that's another $10k. Very generous - they were doing the condo buildings in about 2 days. That's still below $25k total. And we're being charged $50k. That's over three times the materials cost - a nice profit for someone - real nice.
And herein lies the problem with inexperienced people running things. They just don't know what stuff should cost, how long it should take, what is likely to go wrong, what is easy and what is hard. You could sell them almost anything. They don't have the experience, the background, the practice, the training, or the hands on knowledge to know what they are looking at and to assess what they are being told and pick through the inevitable BS and sales pitches. Sure they will get some version of a new roof, but not at minimal cost for the maximal result.
Even if they could get access to the $250,000 escrow funds, it's a drop in the bucket, as they will still be at least $1.5M short on this project. Where is that money going to eventually come from?? I assume everyone knows the answer - your wallet. It would be one thing if we got $2M of roof for $2M but it's not. For the level of work that is being done, I wouldn't want to pay more than about $30k a building - that would be "reasonable" (however doesn't address some critical flaws that really should be addressed, so I still wouldn't go for it). In the end, hundreds of thousands of dollars are going to be wasted, and this by the same little clique of people that were criticizing me endlessly for "wasting" money.
Dec 28 Special Meeting Report by Kevin Wine, Dec 29, 2020, 11:37 AM, reply, new topic, edit
I was going to send a community email before yesterday's meeting, but I assumed everyone received the official meeting notice and agenda from the management so instead I am sending this message after the meeting, which will be much more interesting anyway.
Originally there wasn't going to be another meeting until January, in spite of two major year-end items still up in the air - the 2021 budget and the insurance renewals. But then late last week, a special meeting notice went out, so I guess the plan changed.
The board meeting package for yesterday included the 2021 budget proposal, similar to the proposal presented a month ago (and available to owners on this site). The proposal still includes the plan to take all the escrow funds and use them for capital work, specifically the re-roofing project. The by-laws currently prohibit the use of escrow funds for this purpose. I asked if the board plans to amend the by-laws, or just go ahead and do this anyway, and Mr. Zhou refused to answer the question. Instead, he started quoting from the by-laws where it says the interest earned on the escrow fund can be used for general operating purposes, which is true, but it does not say the entire fund can be used for general operating purposes! I know he is not that clueless, so this was just a shallow attempt at covering yet another one of his illegal actions. As I mentioned here previously, there were a handful of owners and some board members who were deeply offended at even the hint of a past suggestion that money could be borrowed from the escrow fund, and here we are with some of those same people finding no problem at all with just TAKING the entire escrow fund (about $250,000). I voted no on the budget in protest, to protect myself from personal liability if the board actually goes through with this plan as seems to be their plan. The 6 other members voted yes.
The good news is they are leaving the fees alone for 2021. I guess they have no choice really, since I have to run again this fall in the elections, and of course they don't want to give me any "I told you so" campaign points.
The board meeting package also included one insurance proposal, from Brown and Brown, with no indication that there were any other proposals sought or received. At the meeting, it eventually became apparent that there was a last-minute proposal from another agent, the MacCormack Agency. It was so last-minute the proposal had to be emailed to the board during the meeting, with no time to review. It also shortly became apparent that a sub-set of the board had agreed to accept the MacCormack proposal prior to the board meeting, so of course it passed. I voted no, as I was being asked to vote on a ~$250,000 proposal that I had zero time to review. If I did this to the board when I was chairman, I would have been heavily criticized. Somehow the management company had time to review and compare the proposals and make a recommendation - for MacCormack of course.
There are at least two significant changes to the insurance coverages, as the current board is so desperate for money they are cutting anywhere they can. The water damage deductible is now $25,000!! So watch out - if you don't have an HO-6 policy on your unit with at least that amount of coverage, you will end up with a large bill if your unit suffers a large leak. We have had many pipe leaks of this magnitude here in the past, so don't think this can't happen. This change will save the association a whopping $13,000, lol. Every single owner will now have to contact their HO-6 carrier to make sure they have sufficient coverage, and if not, increase their coverage. While the yearly cost of the additional coverage is probably not that much ($20 to $30 was mentioned at the meeting), when you multiply that cost over 545 owners it's still more than the $13,000 that was "saved", so again it's another attempt at saving money that really isn't saving money in the big picture.
The second change is that Mr. Zhou (our self-proclaimed insurance expert as he said at the meeting) decided to remove the terrorism coverage from the the master policy. This saves another $17k in premium for the year. It is fascinating for as radically conservative as he is, he just keeps rolling the dice like this. I don't know if this is the best time to be deleting terrorism coverage, but whatever - not my call. I have not had time yet to decipher exactly what this means in terms of policy coverage, but on the surface it means that if someone blows up a couple buildings, the repair/replacement cost is entirely on the association. What are the chances??
The first proposal from Brown and Brown did not entirely match the deductibles proposed by the second agent, and although it was suggested to give Brown and Brown an opportunity to update their proposal, Mr. Zhou and the management railroaded the MacCormack proposal through for $232,000. This could still change in the next few days, as the policy doesn't expire till Dec 31, and this may be another one of Mr. Zhou's "negotiation techniques".
In other news, I am still waiting on an election document review session for the 2020 election, as well as the 2019 election. Recent changes to the NJ state law relating to condo associations requires the board to allow owners to review the election documents for up to 90 days following the election. If you recall for the 2018 election, I actually had to file a complaint in superior court to obtain inspection access to the 2018 election documents. The judge ruled that of course I should have had access, and now that right has been formalized in state legislation. This is another example though, of how lawyers and management companies do everything they can to keep the information away from the owners, which is exactly the opposite of how we ran things until the coup in 2018.
By the way, there was another recent change to the state legislation making it much riskier for boards to be conducting routine "executive session" closed-door meetings. Condo lawyers and management companies (including this one!!) strongly encouraged such a practice, in spite of it being clearly contrary to the intent of the 1994 open meetings act for condo associations. But they got away with it for 26 years, until finally it has been essentially outlawed. There are still things the board can discuss in private, but they can no longer abuse it like they used to. Have you noticed there have not been an more executive session since May of this year??
Finally Some Snow!! by Kevin Wine, Dec 16, 2020, 3:13 PM, reply, new topic, edit
So this will be the first major snowfall in over two years. I assume Mr. Zhou is running the crew for this one. It will be interesting. I see we are at 11 to 17" predicted, wind, and cold afterwards.
Mr. Zhou sold two of the loaders earlier this year (for around $4k each - one was worth at least $20k), leaving us with just one machine and two plows. I know they have been itching to sell one of the plows too (the larger one). This tells me that someone has no idea what they are doing, but whatever.. everyone is working from home so we don't need to plow the snow in the first place lol!
I feel bad for the crew, as they are probably not being supported too much and are going in to this storm with a serious equipment handicap. With all this snow, it will take a lot of people to shovel everything. We were through two major snow events over the last 10 years, and all the equipment we had was for very good reason. It's a shame we have re-learn all those lessons again, at everyone's expense.
Hopefully everything will work out, and none of the remaining equipment will break. It will be very difficult to do the job with no loader!
Collection Practices by Kevin Wine, Dec 14, 2020, 11:36 PM, reply, new topic, edit
A homeowner asked me to post the following email. It is from him, to a person at the management office:
As I stated in my previous emails and was promised, I paid off my full balance last month through the online payment site for the management fees.
The late fees were waived on my account for the months it was promised to me by Linda's email. The remaining $60 late fees were there and I paid them not to get into any further discussion with the management (hence you don't respond to my past emails).
I logged into my account today to pay this month's management fees and saw $690 attorney fees posted to my account.
I have contacted with the law office for the legal charges and late fees, they sent me an email confirming the late fees were waived and the attorney fees are $527.50 for the case that was not even sent to court.
Now the legal charges were posted as $690 to my account.
I am really shocked that I am being robbed here by the management, the community I am part of it, the community I never had an issue in the last 15 years.
I really wonder if the management is being run by a mob or an organization of gangsters who steals from the residents. Why am I being charged $690 since it was confirmed by the law office that they were only asking for $527.50?
My late fees and no payment file was at the management for over 10 months and it was sent to the attorney after I sent an email to Stacey showing that I was not going to vote for the current management.
It would be absurdly stupid to think that I would vote for the people who ignores my emails.
I think the residents should also know that the current management's way of running the community. I am so disgusted of your actions and craziness.
I will sue the management if the legal charges will not removed from my account.
I have the email from the law office for the charges.
I will also make sure to ask the court if there are any other charges being posted differently on the books.
I have one proof that can assure them to move forward.
Mehmet Tugrul Diri
How's Your Cable Bill? by Kevin Wine, Dec 14, 2020, 6:45 PM, reply, new topic, edit
I guess some promotion expired, and my cable bill just jumped up again. For internet, the slightly upgraded one (300 Mbps), I am now paying $108 a month! No TV. No Phone. Many of you will recall a plan which was in the works for years, and partially implemented, to provide internet service ourselves at a fraction of this price. The monthly recurring cost has continued to drop, and is probably in the $5/unit/month price range by now.
This was one of the very positive projects that could have saved all of us a lot of money every year, but unfortunately, our current board leadership, Mr. Zhou, has declared that fiber optic delivery of internet service is dead and has been replaced by 5G wireless. He then single-handedly cancelled the project.
Now his claim is not completely without merit. It is possible that at some point in the future, there will be some form of high-speed fixed-point wireless service available on a large scale. However, there are several technical and economic considerations that he is not factoring in to his prediction, and is likely reacting to the 5G hype which has been circulating for the last few years.
Without getting in to all the technical arguments here (which I am more than happy to do, if anyone is interested), I will say that the largest oversight is the simple fact that 90% of the difficult work has already been done. An extensive network of conduit has already be installed throughout the entire complex, up to every single building. This is what cost all the money - digging trenches. If this infrastructure did not already exist, then the additional cost of high-speed wireless, when and if it finally becomes available, might be worth it. However, given that it is now an almost trivial exercise to string fiber to all the buildings, it is now far simpler, more reliable, and cheaper to stay with the original plan and run fiber.
I am very interested in hearing what others are paying for internet these days.
Association Documents Sold at Auction by Kevin Wine, Dec 14, 2020, 6:31 PM, reply, new topic, edit
It's a bit of a story, but the end of the story is that all of the association's documents that were in storage at the New Brunswick Road Life Storage facility, were sold to the highest bidder on November 27th. I understand the high bid was $10, which was probably a fair price for 60 boxes of no value. Hopefully someone from the association went through everything and properly disposed of any sensitive material, but I doubt it. When I asked the board about this last week, no one from the board was able to make any such assurance.
Those boxes contained the past association financial records, board packages, meeting minutes, copies of homeowner check payments, executive session board minutes, collections correspondence, and probably a few staff medical bills. Some of the more recent records are still in the clubhouse, but at the very least someone should have gone through everything before it was handed over to a complete stranger... who is hopefully not an identify thief.
I assume I don't need to go on about how potentially reckless this was.
ANNUAL MEETING DEC 10 by Kevin Wine, Dec 09, 2020, 10:52 AM, reply, new topic, edit
I see that the official reminder went out yesterday for the annual meeting tomorrow. In past years we would put something on the three red signs, but this year they have been blank. In a way this reflects comments I have received from many owners this fall - the general lack of information.
There will be a Thursday afternoon proxy/ballot processing session from 1 pm to 4 pm, and then another session starting at 7 pm which is the actual annual meeting. Both events are viewable on Zoom. Since the ballot counting portion is in the afternoon on a workday, it is going to awkward for many owners (including me) to be watching. I'm sure it will be impossible to really see what is going on anyway.
We have also heard from dozens of owners claiming they never received the election mailing. This has always been a problem over the years, but usually it was just a handful that either got lost in the mail or otherwise somehow misplaced. This year, the number of allegedly missing election envelopes is well beyond the usual number from years ago.
If you missed the announcement emails, I will try to post the links privately. If you login, you will be able to see them.
Election Results by Kevin Wine, Dec 10, 2020, 8:18 PM, reply, branch, edit
Forest Luu 158
Patricia Mincarelli 133
Kevin Wine 124
Brian Timper 119
Atif Nazir 110
Dilip Patel 67
Mahesh Patel 55
Forest Luu and Patricia Mincarelli win the 3-year seats, and Kevin Wine (me) gets the 1 year seat.
Election Meeting in 1 Week by Kevin Wine, Dec 03, 2020, 1:49 PM, reply, new topic, edit
The 2020 Election is in 7 days! If you have not voted yet, time is running out. Your proxy/ballot must be returned in the original envelopes (green and yellow). Your vote will be rejected if it is not in the green envelope - I confirmed this with the board a few weeks ago (whether this policy would hold up in court is questionable, but that's another story).
If you never received the election mailing, or lost it, you will have to contact the management office ASAP to get replacement forms and envelopes, and ask what to do if you live far away. Their phone is still the same 732-463-3434, but the email is now email@example.com. Several owners have mentioned that they did not recall receiving the election mailing. It was in a windowed #10 envelope again this year. NOT the 9x12 envelope we used to use.
The election profile statements for this year can be found on this site under the "Election" menu above.
Meeting Minutes by Kevin Wine, Dec 01, 2020, 11:54 PM, reply, new topic, edit
I just spent hours going through emails and board packages from the last 2 years to collect up all the past agendas, meeting minutes, and financial statements I could find. Most of the 2019/2020 meeting minutes are now posted. You will have to login to see them though. I noticed there are a lot of minutes from 2014 and 2015 that never got posted. I will try to collect those up at some point. These are all things that really should be on the official Society Hill web site, but for some reason there is nothing there, except a button to pay $196 and see your account history. lol
2021 Budget by Kevin Wine, Nov 29, 2020, 5:56 PM, reply, new topic, edit
So what will the maintenance fees be for next year??? At the October annual meeting, a proposed budget was presented for 2021, which, to no surprise, sets the maintenance fees at $196 for 2021. Given the election dynamics this year, there is no way they are going to give me any campaign points, like a large fee increase (they will save that for next year, or even this year if their team wins election). The board then attempted to push the proposed budget through on the first presentation, having clearly already decided behind the scenes. However, they were trying to take action as a board at a meeting that had been advertised as an annual meeting. These are two different things, and as proper notice was not given for a board meeting on that date, the whole issue was postponed.
I should post the proposed budget here. Some people will probably flip out, as I am sure they would prefer no interference or input on their proposal.
No attempt was made this fall to solicit budget proposals from other board members or the finance committee (which was terminated a few years ago), to have a workshop budget meeting, or to have a budget presentation from the management company.
Their proposal envisions spending another $600k of reserve money, in addition to the $300k spent this fall, on roof replacements. It should be noted that they plan to raid the escrow fund to finance some of this work, which is 100% illegal under our current by-laws. They will have to amend the by-laws first, or just do it anyway, since they don't seem to be phased by illegal actions.
It is worth highlighting an incident about 4 or 5 years ago at a meeting where we were talking about funding for some of the planned capital improvement projects. At one point I mentioned that in the past, prior boards had taken an internal loan from the escrow fund, and later paid it back. There were a few people present at that meeting who took objection to the mere suggestion that the association consider borrowing any money from an source, even internal, as though it was somehow morally reprehensible and I was a horrible person to speak such words.
Well guess what - not only is the current board leadership planning to take ALL the escrow funds, which is about $250,000, they aren't going to pay them back!! Now that's quite a change of tune.. lol. I would like to hear from the individuals that took moral objection to the concept of taking out a loan. They are still around... very much around...
It's Posted by Kevin Wine, Nov 29, 2020, 8:07 PM, reply, branch, edit
I posted the proposed budget. It is in the "Financial" menu above. Then click on "Budget Proposals" near the beginning.
The monthly financial statements have also been posted under "Financial". There are a few missing ones, including some from this year that I will try and obtain. You will have to log in to see the budget and the financial statements.
Dead Trees by Kevin Wine, Nov 29, 2020, 12:05 AM, reply, new topic, edit
I remember when we took over the maintenance and landscaping in 2008, there were dozens of dying and dead trees throughout the complex. Many of them had been dead for several years. We spent a lot of time taking care of the trees, including cleanup from two major hurricanes and an early snow storm one year. It is disheartening to see a slow but inevitable slide back to the situation where glaringly obvious things that need to be done, don't get done.
So what's the excuses this time? For one thing, the current board leadership sold one of the machines that we used to use to dig up the stumps. The loader/backhoe that the association bought for $38,000 back in 2008 was sold this summer for $4,500. Despite this, they could still take out the stumps, but will now have to rent a machine. While this is a lot less convenient than driving over with our machine and digging it out, it still isn't that difficult. Beyond this problem, I don't know what the excuse is.
I count 3 dead trees over in my area, and two stumps. There are probably others around the complex that I haven't noticed yet. In the past, these are things that me and the crew would have taken care of within days.
2020 Election Update by Kevin Wine, Nov 28, 2020, 8:12 PM, reply, new topic, edit
As of the November 19th Board of Trustees meeting, the board was advised by management that 200 proxies have been received. The next attempt to hold the 2020 annual meeting and election is December 10th. It looks like the plan is that the meeting will start in the afternoon with preliminary proxy/ballot processing, with the formal annual meeting planned for the evening. All portions of the meeting are supposed to be viewable via Zoom, since it sounds like only a very limited number of people will be allowed in the clubhouse.
Launch by admin, Nov 28, 2020, 4:55 PM, reply, new topic, edit
Even though this site is far from done, enough features are working that it is good enough for now. If you wish to receive occasional community emails, you will have to go through the registration process (click the Register button in the upper right corner), and check the box to receive community emails in your personal profile after registering. Unfortunately, it was not possible to port all the prior login IDs and passwords from the old WEBsite, as password encoding standards have changed since 2004.
Central to this new WEBsite is a community discussion forum. After registering, you may post messages and pictures and engage is discussion with other association members. After taking over in 2018, the current board leadership has very intentionally shut down any community discussion and information, aside from a few vindictive "newsletters" directed toward a specific individual. This WEBsite will fill the current information vacuum and keep you up to date on what is really going on in your association.
The association is supposed to be run by a 7-member board of trustees. The best decisions come from a process of constructive discussion between those 7 board members, at board meetings. That is not what we currently have. Society Hill is run by a single individual, who excludes other opinions and other board members from the process, while the community suffers as a result. This is another "systemic political problem" which hopefully this WEBsite will help to address in some small way.
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