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2023 Election April 16th by Kevin Wine, Mar 24, 2024, 4:38 PM, reply, branch, edit

There are several things to report on from the March Board meeting:

April 16th Annual Meeting
The 2023 Annual Meeting WILL FINALLY TAKE PLACE ON APRIL 16TH. But you can still vote! And we need all the votes possible. I am sure this is going to be another very close election.

The Board snuck another bylaw amendment through, with only 13 owners voting NO. This was the one that moved the annual meeting from October to September, and essentially reduced the quorum requirement to 33%. As a result, there will be enough votes to finally hold the 2023 annual meeting on April 16th. If you haven't voted yet, there is still time (but not much!) to request replacement proxy/ballot/envelopes from management. Apparently they are mailing the replacements from the Red Bank NJ office, so if you are not local, allow several days for that, and then you have to mail them back. It's still 20 days to April 16th, but given how long it can take to get the request acknowledged and for round trip mail, there is no extra time, especially if you are out of state.

If you are delinquent, they will disqualify your vote. HOWEVER, if you are delinquent and on a payment plan, and keeping current on that plan, they MUST allow you to vote! By the way, the dryer vent fines were started recently, so if you didn't comply with the Boards dryer vent mandate you will be delinquent unless you pay the fine.

Email or to request replacement proxy/ballot/envelopes. You can also call 732-463-3434, but many owners are still reporting to me that they are having trouble getting a hold of anyone on the phone. I still don't know if that's just coincidence or there really is a problem.

There is some controversy over whether proxy forms can be emailed or not. Title 15A of the NJ State Law says that it IS allowed, but I don't think the Board agrees with this. Three weeks ago I sent a letter to the Board, management, and Association Legal Counsel asking for clarification. I did receive a response on the 25th, but the response isn't clear on this issue. It is safer to use the paper ballot and envelopes, because if you email and are disqualified, the issue would probably have to be litigated. In my January 19th message (see below), I explained all the details on emailing your proxy.

Yet Another Low-Key Bylaw Amendment Coming
The Board voted (unanimously - all their votes were unanimous, with no public discussion) to send another bylaw amendment "rejection proxy". They are going to re-attempt to grab the $200,000+ from the escrow funds to use for operating, just like they tried back in 2021. The escrow is the 3-months of maintenance fees that you have to pay when you purchased your unit, that you get back when you eventually sell. Nothing has changed in why I think this is a bad idea.

These low-key bylaw amendments are formatted in such a way as to not appear to be anything serious, but they are. They look like a letter. They are really a proxy, and should be formatted as such. There should be a place to sign, and date. I also complained about this in my recent letter to the Board. Hopefully they will correct the format, but based on their response, it looks like they think it's good as is. This is not a surprise, because they can count on most owners ignoring it, thus allowing them to change the bylaws at will. In any case, I'm voting NO on this one too. Something of this magnitude should really be decided by more than just a few owners. Voting NO won't necessarily kill the idea - it will just require the Board to put the question on the ballot in the next election.

The main legal problem with their idea is that all the owners who put money in escrow did so with the understanding they would get the money back when they sold. Although it may be possible to change the rules going forward for owners buying after the change, I don't think they can legally get away with this for those who bought before the change. They can cancel the escrow requirement for new buyers, but then I want my escrow money back now. That is the argument I would make.

The Rest of the Meeting
Numerous other motions were made and passed, with no discussion, all in favor. I'm sure the Board is congratulating themselves for how "efficient" their meetings are, and how "united" they are. The downside, though, is that we the owners are not able to see how the individual board members feel on the issues, and are left with no choice but to lump all of them into the same category.

The lawn mowing contractor is back for this season - $4500/visit, for 8 months. Two cuts a month is $72,000. I don't know what our crew's hourly rate is anymore, but my guess is we could do it cheaper. Last year's pool contractor got the boot (the green pool maybe?? lol). $27,000 for the summer. We used to spend half that. I don't know if this is still the 2 lifeguards, or what the hours are, but I'm sure we're paying a premium. The Board is working on quotes to re-surface Hampshire Ct., and replace the retaining wall at the pool. The Board congratulated themselves yet again for removing the hill - if they did it for $200k I would say sure, congratulate yourselves - but remember they spent around $500k. Some of the building 2 units owners will be let back in to their homes soon, and I think I understood it's a few more months to have the rest of the building back together.

George did his financial presentation. For me, the main take-away was that this Board is totally unable to come up with any other ideas for reducing the fee burden on all of us, and will be defaulting to the only option in their mind, which is massive fee increases. Remember that due to the recent changes in the capital reserve funding laws, the Board needs to collect whatever is recommended in the reserve study. At the February non-meeting, it looked like they were suggesting another $1M a year, which would be $30M. However, adding up the best-case funding needs in "Annual Contribution" column on page 12-2 of the study, I get $54,000,000!! The thing I don't understand is why they are trying to leave a $36,000,000 balance at the end of 30 years. Adding up the "Disbursements" column, I get $23,000,000, which I assume is what is needed to make all the anticipated replacements. So I guess the answer is somewhere between $23M and $54M. But apparently it doesn't matter, and the law now is that we have to collect whatever the engineer puts in that study, so if it says $54,000,000, then that's what it is.

It was quite disappointing, and illuminating, to see the intentionally blank slide in the presentation, which sarcastically was supposed to be a list of all the other suggestions that have been sent to the Board on how to increase revenues or save money. I have made several serious large-scale suggestions in the past, and was in the middle of implementing several of them, none of which were on the list. This only confirms what I have been saying- the Board is incapable of understanding what I was trying to do. They don't understand it, and they don't want to understand it. They want to impose their "we're going to take a whole bunch of money from you, because we can, and you can't do anything about it" model on all of us. By pooling resources together as an association, we have many options available to us for reducing costs and increasing revenues. You would think the Board would embrace that - but no, they just want to destroy it. Is it just a lack of understanding? Psychological factors? Arrogance? Ignorance? Distrust? Whatever it is, it is painfully clear that's not going to change, until they are changed.

All of George's and the Board's penny pinching in the world will never make even a dent in the tens of millions of dollars they are throwing around now. In fact, the penny pinching will make the problem WORSE by undermining the crew's maintenance and repair efforts, leading to faster deterioration and more cost. Not fixing the equipment, not replacing broken equipment, not buying simple tools, and short-staffing, will only cost us more in the longer run. It is still amazing to me how much two people can have such totally opposite versions of the same reality. And reconciling that has been made essentially impossible, because they don't want to talk about it, and our Board president just sits and laughs at us when I start to get into the topic in the 3 minutes they let me speak every 2 months.

I assume/hope most of you reading this have voted by now, but if you haven't, please keep in mind that this situation is going to get a LOT WORSE if things aren't changed now. I know it's discouraging with what they are doing, and I know that most people want to run the other way from these situation, but as I've said in the past, people need to be handled differently when they are in positions of power and control. This isn't like walking away from the crazy relative or neighbor or whoever, and being done with them. Maybe that works on a personal level. This is not that. These are people you CAN'T just walk away from - they will follow you - they have control, directly or indirectly, over pieces of your life. For example, your money. They have to be confronted. Too many people getting pissed off and dropping out of the process is what allows these train wrecks to continue - not just here locally, but all the way up - state, country, world. If the feedback isn't there, if the owners are not "inputting corrections", the system will constantly swing back and forth between the extremes. "Letting it rot", or "Letting it burn" in disgust is an understandable reaction, but it's not the most productive or efficient solution and it does nothing to really stick it to the source(s) of the problem. They will be just fine if everything rots or burns, it's you and I that will suffer.

Appellate Court Decision
The appeal to the December 1, 2022 trial court decision, dismissing the lawsuit to force the Board to honor the two petitions, has finally come to a decision 15 months after it was filed. The appellate court HAS SIDED WITH THE TRIAL JUDGE! I should not be surprised, but I guess I am. This means the courts are all but useless, and the outcome is no different than gambling. It's a statistics game - sue 10 time, win once. Sue 100 times, win 10. Unbelievably, the courts sees nothing wrong with ignoring the law that was in place at the time of the petitions, allowing people to withdraw petitions after they are submitted, and requiring the petitioners to re-do the entire petition because the amendment language was "defective" in their mind. The opinion is public record, and you can see it here:

When I have time, I will figure out how to fix the election oversight bylaw amendment and the on-line voting amendment. I guess the Board has to approve any amendments we wish to petition them on - how is that going to work out?? What is to prevent them from always finding something wrong with it?? We also need an amendment to mandate a vote of all the owners on future large special assessments, to prevent them from trying that again on us.

Finally, Hampshire Court is not falling apart because we cut a trench down the middle of it - it is falling apart because the last time it was resurfaced, we were likely cheated by the paving contractor, and a very thin overlay was applied. I remember being told it was supposed to be 2", but when we cut that trench I could see a profile of the layers for the entire length of the road, and it was not 2". I'm sure the Board at that time did not know they needed to put language in the contract holding the contractor to the correct overlay thickness. This is done by randomly core sampling the road after it is re-surfaced, to confirm the correct thickness. Will this board be smart enough to ask for that??? This time, it really should be milled down about 3", to clear off all the thin layers of asphalt from the prior resurfacings. Leaving all those thin layers underneath is contributing to the deterioration. Also, at the March meeting I was trying to tell the board about another method of resurfacing that is more economical (although not very popular for some reason), but I was cutoff by the Board Pres.


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