[When a new Board is seated, the nomination and election of officers often moves very quickly -- sometimes too quickly for a recorder of events to keep up with the action. That was the case this morning, when we recorded in our notes that Don Fentzlaff was elected Vice President of the Seven Lakes Landowners Association [SLLA] Board of Directors, and then reported that this evening.

In fact, it was returning Director Melinda Scott who was elected Vice President during the SLLA Board's organizational meeting.

The Times regrets the error and extends our apology to VP Scott; the story below has been amended to reflect Scott's election to the post.]

Three of the four new Directors seated at the Annual Meeting will also fill executive officer positions on the Seven Lakes Landowners Association [SLLA] Board this year, following an Organizational Meeting held Monday, March 28. The meeting was called to order by outgoing President Randy Zielsdorf.

Bob Darr was elected President by a majority vote of four, while votes of acclamation seated Conrad Meyer as Treasurer and Bob Racine as Secretary.

Scott was nominated to the post of President, but failed to secure that seat. Director Bud Shaver declined a nomination to serve as Vice President.

Reserve Study and Finance

When Darr opened the table for discussion of committee assignments in the coming year, two areas of focus quickly ranked as top priorities -- road paving options and the Reserve Study.

“The Reserve Study has to drive a lot of actions the Board will be involved in," Director Scott said. "We need a committee to look at the issues in terms of financial reserves and those needs."

"Bud has done a phenomenal job of looking at this,” she added, recommending Shaver to oversee the effort.

After confirming that his fellow directors agreed that the Reserve Study is in fact the Board’s number one priority, Shaver agreed to serve on one condition: that his fellow directors review his analysis and communicate back to him within the next thirty days.

“I do not wish to be ignored,” he cautioned, alluding to the previous Board’s lack of progress on recommendations he submitted last December that were based on the Reserve Study.

Scott defended the previous Board’s actions, or rather lack thereof, stating they were overwhelmed with a multitude of more urgent matters -- and that they acknowledged the incoming Board would play a much bigger role in determining how to apply the substantial amount of information laid out in the Reserve Study.

In addition to focusing on the Reserve Study, Scott also recommended that the new Board should look at what she described as "global issues."

“Another issue we struggled with is being more accountable," Scott said. As Talis Management began to dig into Association operations, she explained, "the more we looked, the more we found problems buried. And a major flaw we found is that a lot procedures that have been in place for a long time are inappropriate.”

“We need to get more of our required policies formalized in writing," she said.

Continuing the discussion, Darr broadened Shaver’s role, asking him to develop and implement a process that would allow all committees to provide input on the Reserve Study, based on each committee's area of focus, and to ensure that activities are in keeping with set goals.

“The Reserve Study should almost drive everything we do, and all the committees will have to be coordinated through that big picture,” said Darr.

One major concern is how to rank multiple priorities with limited financial resources.

Darr tasked Meyer with overseeing the Finance Committee, a role Meyer accepted, while adding that he preferred to have the Finance Committee focus on the Association's financial operations, rather than serve as a clearinghouse for major project planning. Major project planning, he said, should involve input from all the relevant committees -- and also include more public discussion.

“I don’t want to be in the rubber stamp mode of [saying] ‘no’ to every request," Meyer said. "We will have to balance all these needs.”

“For example, let’s say one wants to repave this road as opposed to that road," he continued. "We’ll have to work out the right answer, and I would like to see that accomplished with input from the community.”

New Board standards and practices

Referring to a flier distributed before the election that offered what amounted to campaign promises on behalf of the four newly seated directors, Darr made a few recommendations.

Specifically, he said a cost-benefit study will be done on all future major expenditures; that critical oversight and evaluation of Talis will be performed; that informal community meetings will be held on a scheduled basis, in addition to work sessions and regular monthly meetings; and that paving options will be researched and presented.

Darr also expressed a desire to move towards a more transparent Board.

“In the campaign and in talking to the community, one of the things they are most upset about was the secrecy of the previous Board,” Darr said.

Mims replied that he took exception to accusations that anything inappropriate had been discussed behind closed doors, sparking a discussion of what amount of information should be announced as the purpose of a closed meeting.

Closed sessions are generally called for one of two reasons: personnel or legal.

Darr argued that the personnel category no longer applies, since SLLA does not have any employees -- all staff currently on-site are either contracted services or Talis employees.

“With a legal discussion, the community should have clarification," Darr said. "For example, if we’re going to be discussing foreclosures.”

Mims argued that too much disclosure was a slippery slope that could encourage more questions and concerns from residents.

“The more information you put out the more questions you get," Mims said. "It will turn even uglier. There are too many people who want to be in the know, and these issues can’t be openly discussed. But these same people are unwilling to run for the Board.”

After discussion, the Board reached the uneasy conclusion that some closed meetings could not be appropriately defined in any more detail than simply as legal matters.

Ironically, they were forced to do just that as the Board was called into Closed Session immediately following the Organizational Meeting to allow Alina Cochran the opportunity to brief the incoming members on a variety of active legal concerns.

Grounds & Maintenance

With a substantial interest and knowledge of SLLA maintenance needs and concerns, Darr volunteered himself to oversee Grounds & Maintenance as a combined unit.

Shaver countered that he was uncomfortable with the term “maintenance,” and recommended Darr's oversight should be limited to grounds. But Darr argued that maintenance was appropriate, because it was more inclusive as related to the exterior and interior needs of Association buildings.

The semantic distinction boiled over into a tense discussion about the recently approved landscape maintenance contract with Davenport Landscaping.

Attempting to clarify the 60-day escape clause included in the contract, Community Manager Alina Cochran explained there must be due cause for termination -- that is, failure by Davenport to meet required criteria as established.

Alarmed at what he viewed as a potential distraction, Shaver reminded the Board that their priority is the Reserve Study.

“The decision to outsource grounds was agreed upon by the previous Board," Shaver said. "They believed it would be cost effective and enhance our community appearance. If you want to get into this fine, but don’t look to me for support. I don’t want to re-address it. I was totally against it; but, right now, I am totally against letting them go.”

Instead, Shaver recommended evaluating Davenport's performance in a year and encouraged the incoming Board to maintain focus on long range planning.

Lakes & Dams and Security

The lakes generate two distinct concerns related to the community at large: boat safety enforcement and ongoing dam and lake maintenance.

In discussion, the Board agreed that both areas are equally important; and ideas were tossed back and forth over whether a combined single committee could offer more effective oversight.

“There are overlapping territories between security on the streets and the lakes, so it would be advantageous to go together on those areas,” said Fentzlaff, who served as a member of the former Lakes & Dams Committee before it was disbanded in 2009. “There is overlap and there should be coordination.”

However, Director Mims noted that security on the lakes is a very different concern than maintenance of the dams and recommended the two should remain separate, with two different committees, each overseeing their own specific focus area.

“I welcome the input from Lakes & Dams," Mims said, "I just think we need to keep them separate."

After going around the table, Darr appointed Fentzlaff to oversee the Lakes & Dams Committee and Mims to continue in his role as Security Director.

Other assignments

President Darr appointed Bob Racine Chair of the Community Standards Committee. Racine said he would immediately resign as an alternate member of the Judicial Committee panel.

In addition, as an active member of the Recreation Committee, Racine was tasked with chairing that group as well.

By a vote of acclamation, Scott will continue as chair of the Architectural Review Board [ARB].

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