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The meeting was called to order by Michael Kaney, President, at 10:00 A.M.
Directors in attendance: Pieper, McKnight, Beneke, Faliero, Freeman, Johnson, McCaghren, and Potts.
Staff in attendance: Brown, Gwozdo, and Wyatt.
Upon motion made by Pieper and seconded by Freeman, Minutes of July 17, 2015, were approved.
Board received July 30, 2015, financial report from L. Wyatt.
Wyatt reported that the assessment collection from homes is consistent with last year, while the collection from lots is greater than last year. Expenses are greater due to several flooding events. She called attention to a new line item, Reserve, of $40,000 on the Road budget and the reduced numbers on a number of other line items.
Kaney explained that with the failure of the road proposal and the critical need for new equipment that the Reserve was set up and funded by reducing the budget items for grading, drainage, gravel, paving, and contract labor that was planned for 2015.
Freeman asked if the $263,000 Security budget had been altered. Wyatt said it had not been touched. Freeman explained that he asked because during the current campaign for RMS directors there has been a proposal made to reduce the Security budget by $263,000, which he believes translates to totally defunding the department. He personally went on record as absolutely opposed to defunding security, calling it unconscionable.
Kaney asked if there were any comments on the equipment reserve. With no comments, he went on to say that regretfully there were no funds to put in reserve for the paving of Wolf Laurel Road.
Johnson spoke to fully endorse the comments by Freeman regarding the importance of security. Kaney stated that he felt the entire Board agreed.
Wyatt reminded the Board that in October she would submit a preliminary budget for 2016 after conferring with Brown and Gwozdo.
She has contacted the Madison County Mapping Department regarding the Wolf Laurel properties that are designated as Wolf Ridge and was assured the corrections will appear on their site soon.
Kaney stated that the 2016 budget would be voted on in November. The 5% increase allowed by the Covenants would be voted on in October after review of the preliminary 2016 budget.
Legal – Nat Pieper
- The Board has reviewed the proposal by Mr. Bussey and other owners of the Ski slope 13 lots for payment of outstanding assessments. After careful consideration, the Board proposed a counter that would result in a total payment of $16,850 to become current on assessments through 2015. If no positive response by October 1, 2015, the Board will consider forwarding on to collection counsel to collect from those owners who fail to respond positively.
- Counsel advises us that the Association’s lawsuit against Anthony Martin and others for wrongfully cutting trees on Association property has been set for trial during the October 5 – October 8 time term in Burnsville.
- Seven collection matters have been sent on to Counsel.
- Regarding the Ridges road and assessment issues. McCaghren has been in contact with our attorney regarding the final paperwork. After final review, we should be able to sign the document and put the matter behind us.
Public Relations – Warren Johnson
He will be sending the Board a statement regarding our Webmaster and ask for your questions and comments.
Johnson said: “I am a friend of Wolf Laurel, having served on many of the Boards within the community, and now a full time resident. When I was appointed to the reconstituted RMS Board in 2011, negotiations for the transfer of assets and power from BMDC to RMS was well underway. By 2012 WL RMS was in control and faced many issues: the ARB was in shambles, some property owners felt that the annual assessments were voluntary, and deals and agreements made by BMDC came to light as the Board attempted to move forward.
The ARB was made an effective arm of the RMS, safeguarding our environment; and property owners were made aware that paying an assessment on their property is mandatory. Unfortunately, the Board was forced to take legal action on occasion; but there have been no frivolous lawsuits, each had merit and held up under judicial review.
Today, thanks to the work of Ron Anselmo and Nat Pieper, the vast majority of property owners are paying their fair share and contributing to the welfare of the community. This Board has made much progress under difficult circumstances. I talk with many property owners, and they want the value of their property to increase, not decline. They want to protect this little piece of heaven. The idea of getting rid of the security gate is a step backwards, and I suspect would not be tolerated by the vast majority of property owners.
I’m looking forward to the upcoming election because I think the vote will decide if this mountain will move forward or backward.”
Kaney asked about a website that the WLCC has been asked to help fund. Johnson stated that it was a website started by Cary Monroe, a property owner, which contains links to most of the organizations on the mountain and many realtors. Apparently it has proven to be beneficial in bringing people to the mountain.
Nominating – Ken Faliero
We have a slate of nominees: John Ames, Marjorie Bateman, Sharon Foster, Douglas Olsson, Anthony Martin, and Larry Smith. Three of these will replace Mike Kaney, Nat Pieper, and Brent McCaghren.
A Candidate Forum is scheduled for September 5th at 4:00 P.M. at the Village Pavilion.
Each candidate will have an opportunity to introduce themselves. This will be followed by a question and answer period with the audience after which they may meet one on one with the property owners in attendance.
The ballots will be mailed on September 9, 2015, and the ballots must be received back at the RMS office by 4:00 P.M. on September 30, 2015.
The ballots will be counted either the evening of September 30th or the next day, October 1, 2015. The committee who will tabulate the ballots is still being formed.
Kaney asked if a form letter requesting that ballots be held at the office for pick up rather than mailed to permanent addresses would be helpful. Gwozdo replied that she has already received such requests via email or hand written. The emails are answered to notify property owners that their request has been received. The requests are printed and when the ballots are picked up the property owner shows an ID and signs and dates the original request.
Roads – Jason Brown
- Significant rainfall in mid-July caused washouts at 25 locations costing $23,412.98 to repair. All work was completed by the 10th of August with the exception of Buckhouse Rd. at Flame Azalea Lane. This location will require large equipment and a number of pipes. We will keep the area shored up until it can be repaired properly.
- On August 14th we were hit by another rain event impacting 35 locations. While not as severe as the storms in July, the damage will cost about $10,000 to clean up and repair. We have had no time to preform normal maintenance because of the storm damage repairs.
- Our Caterpillar motor grader has been at the Caterpillar repair facility for three weeks, and the cost of repairs would be $7,580. Last year the repairs were $6,800 and in 2013 $10,000. Brown recommended that since the history and cost of repairs has been so great, the equipment should be disposed of, either by applying the trade-in value with Caterpillar or selling from the dealer’s lot.Although the trade in value is $12,000, Caterpillar has a buyer willing to pay $20,000.Brown is going to list on internet and see if he can find a buyer willing to pay more.
- We have not found a replacement bed for the dump truck at a reasonable cost. We rented a dump truck and after 2 days it broke down. We have no dump truck and no means of moving the material we need to move.
- The straight blade used behind the tractor broke in half and was welded back together for the 6th time. The white Dodge is in the garage for manifold rework.
- Proposal to the Board: We have a tractor that we used to push snow and grade roads. We should get another tractor, one that is heavier. A grader is used for pushing snow and grading, but a tractor has many more uses with the various attachments.
- He has seen an excavator costing $52,500 with a 6-month warranty. Since we would need to finance the purchase, he will inquire about the cost of a warranty for the life of the loan. The Mahindra tractor with a 5-year warranty costs $50,500.
- When starting work at RMS, he understood that Ginsing Trail was a private access road. Recently there was storm damage on Ginsing Trail and he did some repairs. He asked if Ginsing was a common road?McKnight answered that it was a common road.
- Kaney asked Potts his thoughts on the equipment. Potts explained that he had talked to Brown previously and the grader is a money pit and more importantly it is, in his view, dangerous. The tractor and excavator are more appropriate equipment and will be more suitable and perform better here than a grader.
- Kaney said he would obtain the purchase price, the financing, interest rate, and monthly cost to enable the Directors to see the impact on the monthly operating budget prior to a vote on purchasing the equipment.
- Potts recommended that yearly depreciation rate based on hourly usage be kept to allow better budgeting.
Securiy – Sandy Gwozdo
- In the past she has been very critical of the Bird Banding Group. They have blocked the gate at Big Bald with vehicles and duplicated the key to the gate. There were confrontations between the Banders and hikers, property owners, and the RMS staff, and frequent complaints of speeding on Big Bald and Wolf Laurel Roads. In the Spring she reported to the Board that the U.S. Forest Service had reviewed the Bird Banding program and reissued a permit with restrictions, including that a vehicle was allowed through the gate only twice per season to deliver and remove equipment, the port-a -john had to be placed in the parking lot not inside the gate, and Rangers would be visiting more frequently. It was hoped that these and other restrictions would provide the basis for a more beneficial operation and improve working relations with this group, which is responsible for invaluable research and educational programs. It’s August and she is pleased to report this has been the best year in a long time. There have been no complaints from property owners or staff. The Gate has been notified in advance of all visitors and volunteers, and the Educational Program has been going just as smoothly.
- Security-wise it has been a very quiet summer until Wednesday when a truck came through the gate hauling equipment and twisted three of the log beams and smashed two lights. Apparently, the boom on the equipment had not been lowered enough to clear the structure. Property owners following the truck have confirmed that both gate arms had been raised by Security Staff on duty. The owner-driver of the truck, Harvey English, promised to repair the damage the next day, going as far as measuring the log beams and notifying Jason Brown to evaluate the situation. The next day a crew arrived at the gate and placed metal straps around every beam where it connects with the support beams and repaired the lights. Brown and Gwozdo agreed that there is no safety issue at this time. Brown has replaced two log beams in previous years, and we continue to watch for any needed structural repairs.Beneke moved that Brown ask a contractor to evaluate the condition of the structure and give an estimate for repairs needed. This was seconded by McKnight and the motion carried.
ARB – Chuck Freeman
- The ARB has processed 8 tree applications this month.
- Entertained an inquiry from Charles Watkins regarding a Del-Tech home and directed him to review the information on our website.
- Richard Schlitt requested a variance for the house he is building on Doubleback Dr., this due to a large rock formation. He was directed to talk to the neighboring lot owner and file the variance with Madison County.
- Road Impact Fees: Pieper reported that he has gathered quite a bit of helpful information from property owners who have obtained information about programs and fee structure from other communities involving road usage restrictions and impact fees. He suggested that this issue might be one better addressed by a committee appointed by the Board. Beneke mentioned the concern expressed by some property owners at the Town Hall Meetings that vehicles from the outside were using the roads and causing damage without monetary contribution. Some of these property owners may be interested in sitting on a committee. Kaney recommended that the new Board form such a committee.
- Fire Prevention Meeting: Beneke reported that at the meeting the U.S. Forest Service referred to making homes and Wolf Laurel Fire Wise. This means creating a defensive 30 foot zone around the home. They do not suggest cutting the canopy or clear cutting but rather cutting and controlling the fine fuels, which are the grasses, shrubbery, and debris around the home. The meeting was attended by about 50 property owners representing various Associations, Rangers, and Ebbs Chapel Fire Department personnel. The Fire Wise Program calls for a committee and outlines a 5-year plan. Two items of the plan are replacing wooden road signs with metal signs and installing green reflective 911 house numbers to better direct the responding fire crews or EMS.Beneke stressed the importance of the formation of a Fire Wise Committee made up of representatives of as many Associations as possible. He mentioned additional tasks of locating a landing zone for a helicopter and possible alert system. Due to his enthusiasm and because no other organization has stepped forward, Beneke was asked to head up this project, form the committee, and proceed.
- Reaffirm the WL RMS Mission Statement: Pieper moved that the Mission Statement be reaffirmed by the Board. This was seconded by Freeman and passed unanimously.
- American Chestnut Tree Foundation – Larry Smith
After a brief presentation of the work of the Foundation to bring back the American Chestnut Tree once so prevalent in our area, Smith explained that the Foundation based in Asheville was looking for land 2000 to 4500 feet in elevation, which will never be developed, as this is a long-range project. The Foundation is attempting to raise through cross pollination American chestnut trees, with the goal being a true American Chestnut orchard in a couple of generations. RMS owns lots in reserve that may provide a good location for the Foundation’s project.Smith requested that one or two Board members join with one or two POA Board members to meet with Foundation representatives. He is looking to RMS to provide the land and the POA to provide the volunteers and fund raisers.Kaney said it sounded like a no brainer, noting that the Foundation has had some success in New England. RMS has the lots, and if they meet the needs of the Foundation, should be made available. Freeman asked if the Foundation required cleared land. Smith replied that he did not know and would make inquiry of the Foundation. Faliero and Freeman volunteered to meet with the Foundation.
- Pieper advised that a property owner reported being bitten by a leashed dog on the Nature Trail. Pieper suggested to the property owner that the incident should be reported to the Sheriff’s Department. Since the dog owner was present, R&S would not be involved in tracking down the owner and giving notice of the complaint. However, R&S will receive the complaint and keep it on file in the event another incident occurs.
- Kaney reported that he had received a letter from a property owner objecting to any vehicular access to Big Bald. The property owner claimed to be representing numerous other un-named property owners. Kaney stated that he was very surprised because for years he received complaints from property owners that they no longer could access the Big Bald by vehicle, especially from those who could no longer hike to the summit. After much conversation and negotiation with the U.S. Forest Service to allow limited access to Big Bald, the Board felt they had succeeded in meeting the requests from most property owners.Beneke said that no matter what we do there will be arguments on both sides of this issue. Unfettered access to drive up to Big Bald is inappropriate. He understood that the Board and the U.S. Forest Service arrived at an agreement to allow limited access to drive to the Bald.Gwozdo explained that Board Members and the U.S. Forest Service formulated the new guidelines for obtaining the key to the gate and driving to the summit of Big Bald. The guidelines are more restrictive than when BMDC held the rights. There will be no parties with tables and radios. Keys may only be issued for a period of 4 hours and must be signed out by a property owner driving a four-wheel drive vehicle. The property owner must actually accompany his/her party. Guest or renters do not qualify. If the rules are not followed, the privilege is revoked.
Brown explained that due to the road budget the road to the summit will not be completed until August of 2016 at the earliest. He added that the Forest Service wants a grass-covered roadway, which may take additional time.
- Kaney explained to the Board that the list of recommended standing committees he had sent out was for the 2016 Board and is an attempt to involve more interested property owners.
Next meeting scheduled for September 18, 2015, at 10:00 A.M.
Kaney asked for any questions or comments from the audience.
Amelia Woolf mentioned that she had received the Board’s mission statement and inquired about an executive session of the Board. She suggested that the Board conduct a survey. Her questions concerning whether there are various categories of directors and whether the Board could remove a director are covered in the current bylaws.
Anthony Martin commented about the nominating process and bylaws pertaining thereto. He declined to divulge the names of the anonymous persons he purports to represent and although mentioning a survey, he did not bring the survey results for the Board to review.
Dick Moeller stated he supported the right of the Board to remove a Director by a 2/3 vote because if there is a disruptive director on the Board who doesn’t want to get anything done he should be removed.
Johnson reminded all that the U.S. Constitution provides for the impeachment of the President of the United States. But he added there is no way 6 people on this Board are going to just arbitrarily vote to remove someone from the Board.
Gene Woolf commended the Board for the work they do and that as we go forward the previous perception of the property owners that they are controlled be changed to a reality that as property owners they are in control.