Led by JoAn Moses, members of the Seven Lakes Landowners Association's [SLLA] disbanded Lakes & Dams Committee made a concerted effort during the Wednesday, July 28 Open Meeting to have the panel resurrected.
Moses, speaking during the public comment segment of the meeting, recounted the history of the committee and its accomplishments. The group was founded as a ad hoc committee of concerned residents in 2006, in the wake of $250,000 in state-mandated repairs to Echo Dam. It worked with the Board and Association Engineer John Eddy to develop a six point action plan for dam maintenance.
In 2008, Moses explained, the panel became an official committee of the Board of Directors; had a $100,000 line item for dam maintenance added to the budget; and began to work through the items in Eddy's maintenance plan. The committee rewrote the SLLA boating rules and made more than a dozen other recommendations in the areas of dam and lake maintenance, safety, and amenities, many of which were acted on by the Board.
In 2009, the Lakes & Dams Committee was rolled into the Maintenance Committee, Moses said, and, this Spring, that committee was disbanded.
Moses asked who was monitoring the piezometers that test water levels inside the structure of the dams and whether anyone had reviewed the 2010 state dam inspection reports.
"With these facts before you, I strongly urge this Board to reinstate the Lakes & Dams Committee as a Standing Committee," Moses said. This committee should include the past members who have the knowledge, expertise, and interest in being watchdogs of our lakes and dams to make sure they are maintained and inspected on a regular schedule. We must take a proactive approach to our lakes and dams, not only to catch any problems before they become major but also to save in the cost of any repairs."
Others ask for Committee reinstatement
Andy Lowe echoed Moses' remarks, noting that the members of the Lakes & Dams Committee "were interested only in the safety and protection of the dams and the health of the lakes."
"I don't believe that our present management and Debbie can do the job that this committee did without going to an expensive consulting company," he added
"We had piezometers installed twenty years ago, but no one took readings," Lowe added. "It doesn't take an expensive consulting firm to do this. Please reconsider reappointing the Lakes & Dams Committee."
Charlie Oliver said the Lakes & Dams Committee was very active, for example, putting out buoys to control speeding near the dam, which causes erosion. He recounted, after being charged by the Committee with the task of going through Association files on the dams, finding that years of reports were crammed into one big folder, in no particular order.
"We found there were reports indicating concerns about Echo Dam much earlier than when we had to repair it," Oliver said. "The piezometers were never read."
"Previous management did a miserable job on our lakes and dams," he added. "They did nothing other than mow the lawns. There is a real advantage to have a standing committee."
Oliver said he took umbrage at a statement by President Randy Zielsdorf (who was not present at Wednesday's meeting) that committee members “sometimes acted like the lakes were there for their own use.”
Noting that he too was a member of the Lakes & Dams Committee before it was "unceremoniously bumped off," Bill Yarish said, "$500,000 was spent on dam repairs and engineering fees, and, as far as I know, nothing has been followed up on all of those recommendations."
"One of my real concerns is the dams," Ron Erskine said, recounting asking engineer Eddy what would happen if a boat hit the Sequoia spillway -- the concrete structure that carries overflow from the dam to the creek below. "He answered, 'You would lose eight feet of lake immediately and maybe sixteen.' Not too long ago we had someone on the lake that flipped his boat," Erskine reminded the Board, lest they think an accident damaging the spillway is a remote possibility. "We need some kind of protective device."
Members of the Board made no response to those entreaties during the public comment segment of the meeting, but, later, Maintenance Director Bud Shaver said his committee includes former members of the Lakes & Dams Committee, and that he calls on others when their expertise is needed. He noted the Association had received a report on the dams from engineering firm S&ME in February, that included the recommendation of a follow-up video inspection of spillways in 2011.
"We are watching the dams," Shaver said.
Stricter boating rules needed?
During Public Comment, the Board heard from Ron Zwart, who suggested the Board take a look at the Association's regulations on the size of boats and motors, as well as at safety rules on the lake. "Our existing laws about the size of boats and horsepower were fine when they were made," he said. "But you can get a lot more out of a 50HP motor than we used to."
Zwart said he had seen boats pulling tubers and skiers or wakeboarders simultaneously, including one instance in which a boat was pulling two tubes with a wakeboard in the middle, its edge just inches from the faces for the children on the tubes -- a condition he described as obviously unsafe.
He also noted that ski boats, once a skier falls, tend to make the U-Turn to retrieve the person at full speed, instead of slowing down to idle and making the turn. "So now we have four foot waves instead of two foot waves," he said.
Jerrod DeBruin said he had brought to the meeting photographs of misbehavior and rule-breaking on the lake, as had been requested by President Randy Zielsdorf and Security Director Chuck Mims. But Mims dismissed the photos, DeBruin said, because they were shot with a zoom lens. DeBruin also charged that the SLLA Lake Patrol refused to take action against persistent violators of lake rules. "How many ways can you spell ineffective?" Debruin asked.
Boat slips too cheap?
Joanne Debruin suggested during Public Comment that the Board should increase the rental fee for Sequoia Point boat slips before it makes any decision to build more. She noted that Seven Lakes West currently charges $700 per year for slips at Johnson Point and reported that other communities in the area charge $1,000, $2,000 or more per year.
She said the SLLA rate was "well under the market rate," and suggested that raising the price to $700 - $1,000 might significantly reduce the size of the waiting list for slips, making expansion of the existing facility unnecessary. Many slips appear to remain empty all season, rented, but unused, she noted.
What about that agreement with the Club?
Former ARB Director Donna Stephan, speaking during Pubic Comment, urged the Board to complete its three-year-old agreement with the Seven Lakes Country Club [SLCC] that calls for the Club to place covenants on its property and grant the Association an easement on the old driving range along Seven Lakes Drive. The agreement was signed as the resolution to a dispute over the possible sale and development of the old driving range.
Stephan, who is a longtime member of the Club, said, "In view of the fact that these five agreements have never been completed, I feel I am in jeopardy. They have not been completed, and to my mind they have never been discussed."
Without the covenants in place, the possibility exists that the Club's property could be, at some point, developed as something other than a golf course. Without the easement, it may be possible for the club or some future owner to create a second entry into the community off of Seven Lakes Drive.
Noting that she had read the covenants proposed for the Club's property, Stephan told the Board: "If you folks have read them, and I think you have, you should quickly call another meeting."
Asking the Board what they intended to do, Stephan said they should not attempt to punt the problem over to Community Manager Alina Cochran, who was not on board when the agreement was negotiated and signed.
Getting things done
Vice President Kent Droppers, presiding in the absence of President Zielsdorf, opened the meeting with a description of the Association's governing process.
"The vast majority of the work gets done at the committee level," Droppers said, suggesting that landowners who want to participate in running the organization get to know the committees and consider volunteering to serve on one of them.
The work of the committees feeds into the Board's monthly Work Session, where "we work through the issues," Droppers said. The month-end Open Meeting is when the Board actually votes on "things that come out of the work session."
Droppers cited as a good example the recent proposal to add boat slips at Sequoia Point.
"A group of landowners presented that to the Work Session," he said. "We could approve it to come to the General Meeting, deny the request, or defer it." The boat slip proposal was deferred and "will come back later," he explained.
The Board moved quickly to approve action items that were discussed in this month's Work Session, including:
• Approving a $6,080 contract for a reserve study that will survey the community's assets and help develop a financial plan for saving the funds that will be needed to maintain and/or replace them.
• Approving a new copier lease that Director Droppers said would "streamline some operations in the Landowners Office."
Finance. Treasurer Denny Galford reported that the Finance Committee met on July 20 and reviewed the various financial reports. The committee approved moving forward with soliciting estimates for the repair of the roadway over Echo Dam, but delaying consideration of financing for community-wide road repairs until results of the reserve study are available.
Galford said a recent meeting with Talis executives was "very productive," and resulted in Talis sending in a specialist to work with the SLLA on transition issues.
Noting that some had asked why the Association and its new management company were experiencing transition issues, Galford said the Association must collect dues from 1,400 properties, as well as another 500 incidental fees.
"We are very happy with the way transition problems are being resolved," he added.
Because most SLLA accounting is now done in Raleigh, Galford said, the Finance Committee needs to write new internal control procedures. But that project will be placed on the back burner for thirty to sixty days while the panel works on revising the current years budget.
Security. Director Chuck Mims reported that a a break-in and burglary at the maintenance shed were being investigated by the Moore County Sheriff's department. Community Manager Cochran reported later in the meeting that detectives had a suspect, but were unable to develop sufficient evidence to bring charges or recover the equipment that was stolen.
Community Standards. Director Droppers said the Community Standards Committee continues to "generate a fair number of situations that we are asking management to look into." He noted that chasing the same rule-breakers over and over can become frustrating at times.
Droppers thanked those who participated in a recent clean up day that involved picking up fallen branches and pinecones along Longleaf Drive near the gates. A "neighbor-helping-neighbor" work day is being planned for September that will organize volunteers to assist some residents who are unable to keep their properties in tip-top shape. Pickups, trailers, and manpower will all be needed.
The Community Standards committee highlighted two issues that it asked Droppers to bring to the Board for discussion and action. First, parking along the roadways near Sequoia Point "has gotten out of hand," he said, and alternatives need to be found. Second, there are a number of apparently inoperable or unlicensed vehicles that have been parked in neighborhood driveways on a very long-term basis.
"We don't want to be too onerous, but I don't really want people's driveways to become junkyards for cars that never get used, so we will try to come up with some language that addresses that in an evenhanded sort of way."
Architectural Review. Melinda Scott reported that the Architectural Review Board [ARB] had met twice in July and approved a fence, a vinyl siding installation, a porch, three roof replacements, on new construction and two decks. The committee members continue to review projects to make sure work is proceeding according to schedule. She noted that the weather had unavoidably delayed a couple of projects.
Recreation. Day Camp is going well and "the kids are having a lot of fun," Director Bruce Keyser, Jr. reported, "thought we haven't had the turnout that we would have liked."
"We will tweak it for next year -- if we get to do it next year," Keyser continued.
He noted that he and the office had received a number of compliments regarding this year's pool manager and lifeguards -- as well as the new pool umbrellas.
Maintenance. Dirctor Shaver said his committee didn't meet in July. "We are waiting on the reserve study," he explained. "We are really going to learn a heck of a lot from the study."
With regard to the excellent suggestion regarding the docks and the beach," Shaver said, "[Manager] Alina [Cochran] is looking at what it will cost to move the beach area over to the other side -- if we are going to make one side of Sequoia Point strictly dock area and one side strictly swimming. . . .It's still within our agenda, but we're not ready to deal with it yet."
Manager. Cochran directed members' attention to a balance sheet and income statement available for pickup at the meeting and reported that has $1.38 million in its cash accounts and $313,550 in accounts receivable, which includes, delinquent dues, late fees, and payment plans. She said more than one hundred members had elected to make payments rather than paying their entire 2010-2011 dues at the beginning of the year.
Turning to the income statement, Cochran said the Association had over $10,000 in unbudgeted pool expenses, including $4,500 to bring the drains in compliance with new regulations; $4,100 for paint, tile, and other repairs; and $2,500 for repairs to the filters. "The equipment is very old," she said. "As we move forward, we will need to budget for unexpected repairs associated with having an aging pool."
Cochran said the SLLA section of the Talis Management website is now available and residents can register at talismanagement.com to gain access to their accounts. The staff is working to add forms and other documents to the site.
During the Public Comment segment of the meeting:
• Joanne DeBruin asked the Board what they and Talis Managment planned to do about the burgeoning population of Canada Geese, which are leaving their droppings all over the community. "We really need to see whether there is a way to reduce the goose population before they outnumber the residents or we have a health problem," DeBruin said.
• Bill Yarish said he had attempted to volunteer to serve on the Security Committee, but found it no longer exists. "Absent a security committee, can we not have an incident report of what has been happening out in our community?" Yarish asked "There is plenty happening. We should be advised in more detail as to what is happening in the community."