The Feb. 10 meeting kicked off with President Shawn Yesner opening the floor to residents.
Several in attendance were there to continue the pickleball discussion from the January meeting, and Yesner noted it was not on the agenda for February. One resident, however, used his allotted three minutes of speaking time to present the board with a study of court usage he had pulled together based upon numbers from the reservation system that Director Eric Holt had presented at the January meeting. His findings pointed to a pickleball use rate of roughly 25 percent. He also pointed out that tennis reservations are declining while pickleball reservations remain steady, consistently filling their allotted courts.
When Holt inquired how he was able to come up with such specific numbers, the resident noted he went day by day through nearly 365 days of reservation data to cull the numbers.
“I think having the courts as permanent [pickleball] courts would definitely help the community,” the resident concluded.
After a brief discussion of the bids that still needed to be gathered in order to make an informed vote, Yesner asked that the pickleball discussion be added to the March agenda.
Yesner then had the honor of presenting the Nathan Lafer Community Service Award to Chelmsford resident Charles Stephens. Stephens, who has been a Westchase resident for 23 years, has served on several committees over the years and is currently the Chelmsford Voting Member. His nomination stated, “Charles is known for his calm demeanor and for always being willing to help in any way to benefit Westchase.”
Greens resident and Director Joaquin Arrillaga was also a recipient of this year’s award, but he was not able to attend the meeting.
Following the award presentation, the floor opened up to residents for fine appeals. Residents from two different households attended and both had completed the work to remedy their respective violations. Director Jim Brinker made a motion for both fines to be reduced by 90 percent to $100. Both motions passed unanimously. Brinker noted there was a third fine and the work had also been completed, but the homeowner was not present. He made a motion to also reduce that fine to $100 and it passed unanimously.
Moving on to the ongoing vulture discussion, Holt stated that the Westchase Community Development District (CDD) is currently working with the USDA to create a contract for vulture mitigation.
Holt then gave an update for the bathroom renovation committee, stating that they had narrowed the choice from three vendors to one, and that vendor would be presenting to the board at an upcoming meeting. Yesner, noting that he wanted to be completely transparent in the fact that he had recommended one of the three vendors and inquired why only one vendor would be presenting. Holt noted that one bid was extremely high, the other was suspiciously low and the third came in at the sweet spot. “They are the lead horse right now,” Holt stated.
Yesner countered that he knew the one he recommended would come in high but stated that they are extremely accurate and expressed concern that the vendor that came in lower might actually end being higher in the end. Holt noted, also citing transparency, that Arrillaga had experience working with frontrunner in the past and was confident that they would be able to complete the work as stated.
Sells then took the floor for a Document Review Committee update. “We’re getting close,” he said. He added the committee will give a presentation of its proposed revised Westchase deed restrictions/guidelines at the Voting Member meeting in March.
In her manager’s report, Debbie Sainz stated that 535 late notices for HOA fees have gone out, adding that the annual average ran 515 to 550, so this was not unusual. She also gave an update on a heater at the Countryway pool that was in need of repair and out for bid, as well as the progress in working with an engineering firm to understand the scope of work required to convert the sand volleyball courts into additional pickleball courts in order for the board to explore all options.
The topic then moved to suspension of use rights for three residents caught drinking alcohol on the tennis courts on New Year’s Eve. Two of them had been caught the previous summer and had been given a week’s suspension of use. After a lengthy back and forth. Brinker made a motion to suspend all three for 30 days and have the matter go to the Covenants Committee for review. Holt seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.
Directors then discussed a proposal to have Dominic Swain, a current lifeguard and Pipeline Swimming coach, take over lifeguard certifications and renewals since Facility Manager Kelly Shires is no longer certified to train lifeguards. Sainz stated that after doing some research, she found that one could get certified for around $100. Swain, however, was requesting $250 per lifeguard. Shires was skeptical of Sainz’s numbers, stating, “Normally it’s $225-$325 and sometimes it is difficult to get into a class. Dominic is willing to do it as needed within a couple days of hire. That’s the advantage of having it in house.” Shires also added that he had personally certified almost every lifeguard over the past 11 years and it is a 28-hour course.
Yesner asked how many people per month Shires typically certified. “If you’re certifying one new guard a month, we’re talking about three grand; that’s peanuts in the budget. And to provide it is a perk, plus we may bump into issues again with staffing,” he said.
Shires noted he currently needs to hire one and will probably hire four to five for the summer.
Sells noted that Sainz had expressed concerns in her manager’s report about certifying new lifeguards and then having them leave for another job. Shires countered that turnover is low.
Based on Shires’ comment that Swain’s proposed price was within reason, Sells made a motion to accept his proposal to provide the certification of new lifeguards. Shires noted that he would discuss with Swain the possibility of reducing the fee to $150. Brinker seconded Sells’ motion and it passed unanimously.
Yesner then brought up topic that proved to be a bit contentious. “I want to make something completely clear: I love working with Greenacre,” Yesner began. “I love working with Debbie and Charlotte and Cindy. I think our property managers do a tremendous job and are very valuable to us. I have no designs to make any kind of a motion to terminate Greenacre; however, I don’t know that anyone can recall the last time we had a bid for the property manager contract, and it comes up for renewal in 2023.”
Sainz clarified the contract comes up for renewal on Dec. 31, 2023.
“Does the board want to see what else is out there? I’m not saying do we want to replace Greenacre, because I would not vote for that right now,” Yesner continued.
Nancy Sells chimed in from the audience, “As a former board member, my feeling is if it ain’t broke, you don’t need to fix it.”
Brinker agreed, adding, “I have replaced a property manager. You don’t know how hard it is to get that new property manager to get up to speed. It takes a lot of time. It’s not a short-term commitment. My opinion is—because I know what it says in the docs—is if there’s a problem with a certain property manager, you give them an opportunity to fix it.”
“I do not believe that Greenacre needs to be replaced in any way at all,” Brinker continued. “Nothing’s broken. I think they are doing a great job. I think it is a disservice to look at other property management companies.”
“I am not saying Greenacre is doing a bad job. To the contrary, Greenacre and Debbie and Charlotte and Cindy are doing a tremendous job,” Yesner clarified. “I think you are six steps and two years ahead of what I’m suggesting. If someone made a motion to replace Greenacre right now, I would vote no.”
“I’m not suggesting that at all. I’m suggesting that we shouldn’t even entertain another property manager,” Brinker said.
“If that’s the decision of the board, then that is the decision of the board and I’m OK with that,” Yesner said. “We review Pipeline, we review AB Tennis, we review all of the other pieces that make Westchase Westchase. Is this a piece we want to review?”
“I think it makes sense to get quotes on paper and plumbing projects and tennis courts, but what we have is a relationship and what we didn’t like as a vendor was to be put through an exercise just to be put through an exercise. If there are things that need fixing, you make adjustments and talk about money and all of that,” Director Dale Sells said. “The biggest benefit we have is the institutional memory. I don’t know how many times I have a question and I ask Debbie and she’ll either give me the answer or look at her computer and in about 60 seconds give me an answer.”
“To your point, Dale, if you don’t have a comparison, you may not know what needs tweaking,” Holt said. “The only reason to be against this idea of evaluating, comparing the competitive marketplace and what GPI has to offer versus what others have to offer, is to say after six or 10 years that we don’t care to know what other services are being provided, what other fees are being charged and what we might want to ask GPI to consider in their contract.” Holt added, “There shouldn’t be any implication that we are unhappy with GPI, but I feel strongly that if we don’t go through this exercise we are failing our homeowners.”
Holt continued, “We get three bids on a $5,000 contract but here we have a $300,000 contract and we’re potentially saying we don’t even care to consider what other fee structures we might have for our association? We’re just going to say, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?’”
“We have a company that is solid and I think what you do is negotiate with the company that is solid,” Brinker countered.
Yesner again pointed out that he is not unhappy with Greenacre and values the relationship. “My question to the board is simply, do we want to?” Yesner added.
Holt added that he felt it was the board’s duty to at least take a look. “We’ll be able to say to our homeowners that we did our duty and we evaluated the largest contract we have with the association and we’ve got no question about it. This is the property management we stick with,” Holt said. “It’s completely appropriate to do this. We have to at least do some due diligence for the homeowners.”
Joe Odda spoke up from the audience, pointing out that the staff would have to recuse themselves from the whole bidding process because they would be a potential candidate, which would mean hiring someone or getting volunteers to manage the process. “I just want to add that into the consideration,” Odda said.
After a bit more back and forth, Sells made a motion that until such time that the relationship is broken that we do not go through the exercise of soliciting RFPs for the replacement and we focus on negotiating whatever needs to be changed with Greenacre. Brinker seconded the motion. It failed in a 3-3 tie.
Holt made a motion that to create a committee to identify potential property management bidders, invite them to present services, evaluate them and present to the board of directors for consideration. Yesner seconded. It also failed in a 3-3 tie.
Discussion then turned to the WCA Vice President position that would be open as of Feb. 17, when current vice president and director, Michele Del Sordo, would officially no longer be a homeowner in Westchase. Yesner noted it is the job of the remaining board to select a replacement. One candidate had currently expressed interest. Sainz stated if Yesner would put together an email, she would send it to the voting members.
The final discussion of the evening came from Director Sells regarding sod violations in Harbor Links. “In full disclosure, I live in Harbor Links and Nancy is the voting member,” Sells began. He then added that a number of violations were issued on Feb 2. “After the fact, it became clear that most of the yard issues were probably due to the frost that we had a couple of days before,” Sells stated.
Sells added that Sainz didn’t have the authority to recall the violations, but she did issue a blanket extension until April 15. He then made two motions. The first was to move that all first notices for grass related violations issued in Harbor Links/The Estates on Feb. 2, 2022 be rescinded. The second postponed the issuing of new grass related violations in Westchase until after April 15, 2022. After a brief discussion, both motions passed.
Directors adjourned at 8:29 p.m.
By Karen Ring