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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.

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The Hill is Saved! Sort of.. by Kevin Wine, Dec 23, 2022, 7:50 PM, reply, branch, 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.

The Appeal
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.


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