Ray Sohl has resigned as Community Manager of the Seven Lakes Landowners Association [SLLA] to pursue a career opportunity in California.
Sohl announced his resignation during the Thursday, July 23 Work Session of the SLLA Board of Directors. He said he had given notice of his resignation to President Chuck Leach four weeks earlier.
Sohl's final day on the job was Friday, July 24. He told The Times that his family would be relocating to the San Francisco area.
CAS, Inc., SLLA's management company, will provide an interim manager while the search proceeds for a permanent replacement for Sohl. A notice of the opening is posted on the website of the Community Associations Institute, a national trade group for landowners associations.
"I think you will have an easy time filling it," Sohl said of his position. "This is a beautiful community. I have really learned to love it. The lakes and the amenities really make you unique in the state of North Carolina. I'm just really sorry that I can't take this community with me."
"I have appreciated my time serving the Board and this community," Sohl said. "I think you have an excellent Board. I think they are representative of the community. It's a tough job, and I want to say how much I appreciate them, and how difficult this decision has been for me."
"He has been a dedicated, honest, and loyal Community Manager," President Chuck Leach said of Sohl, "with very few people knowing how much he truly cared for Seven Lakes."
"His primary focus has always been on doing what is right, and doing what is in the best interest of this community," Leach said.
"Ray can leave Seven Lakes with pride in his accomplishments and the satisfaction of a job well done. As he looks forward to new challenges in California, he has our respect, appreciation, and our very best wishes."
Pasture fence cost rises
The long-debated pasture fence was back on the agenda of the July 23 Work Session.
In May, the Board approved replacing the existing fence along Seven Lakes Drive, as well as the portion bordering the Seven Lakes Business Village, with a round post fence with three round rails. The price was $21,469.78. However, the vendor who offered that price backed out of the deal for personal reasons.
Two new bids were obtained from other vendors. One bid the same price as the original bidder: $7.16 per linear foot. Though experienced at fence installation, that bidder had never installed a round post, round rail fence, President Leach said.
The second bidder had ample experience, but offered a price of $8.20 per square foot. Leach said he and Director Greg Lishawa had inspected work the vendor had done in Grande Pines and found it to be of excellent quality.
Leach and Community Manager Sohl recommended accepting the bid of the second vendor, which has a total cost of $22,304. The original bid had overestimated the length of the fence section to be replaced, measuring it at 2,970 linear feet. The new bids were based on 2,720 linear feet.
Resident Randy Teske objected that the cost of having the SLLA maintenance crew remove the existing fence posts had not been figured into the overall cost of the project. He also expressed concern that the plan did not include an electric fence.
Treasurer Mark Gyure said he and the Finance Committee would attempt to capture those in-house costs as the work is performed.
The new fence will be installed inside of the old fence, Sohl explained, after which the old fence will be removed.
Board members voted three to two, with Gyure and Racine opposed, to move the matter to the August 13 Open Meeting. Racine had voted against the original fence proposal and Gyure had abstained from that earlier vote.
In a four-to-one vote, the Board moved to the Open Meeting a proposal to rewrite the rules and regulations. The Board will solicit input from its committees and the community, and an attorney specializing in landowners associations will review the draft before a final vote is taken.
Racine was the sole vote against moving the matter to the Open Meeting. His opposition was less about the need to rewrite the rules than about doing the entire job at once. He argued that rules amendments that are already ready for Board action — for example, some that have been drafted by the Architectural Review Board — will be held up until the entire rewrite is completed and blessed by the outside attorney.
"The minute you get it together," Racine said, "folks will pick it apart . . . . You are looking at months of discussion."
"I think we are naïve that this is going to sail through," he said.
"This is not a major rewrite," Director Lishawa said. "This is for clarification for some of the rules, to avoid confusion." He added that his committee would host public meetings to gather input as they redrafted some security regulations.
Assistant Community Manager Leslie Hosterman said public meetings to discuss a rewrite could get members of the community more involved.
"If the entire community reads the paper and understands what the Board is trying to do, that will generate a lot of discussion and interest," she said. "It would bring more people in and give the community more buy-in."
"A lot of people that I talk to really do have strong opinions, and they want to voice them," she added.
"This is going to generate interest," Racine agreed. "This is not going to be quick and simple."
He suggested doing the rules revision by taking one section at a time through the process, rather than rewriting the entire document at once. But the Board's vote instead moved the proposal for a complete rewrite to the Open Meeting for approval.
Bidding Major Projects
The SLLA Board has been working for some time to standardize the way in which major capital improvement projects — like the pasture fence or the recent repairs to the swimming pool — move through the Board and its committees.
During the July 23 Work Session, Directors Leach and Gyure presented an eleven point procedure that would have the Board approve a year's worth of possible projects, which are then defined by the Community Manager, evaluated by the Finance Committee, sent for bids, and given final approval by the Board.
Recommendations for needed projects could come from the Board, its committees, the Community Manager, or Association members.
Once the Board decides which projects to pursue, the Community Manager will develop a Scope of Work describing the project, which can be used to develop rough cost estimates. The Facilities Committee will use those cost estimates to determine which projects can be pursued, given funds available for the fiscal year.
If funding is available, the Community Manager will develop a bid packet and solicit bids, which will be forwarded to the Board for a vote.
"I was virulently against this," Director Racine said, "but it has been well worked over." He added that his chief concern is that committees have ample input into the process.
Board members voted unanimously to move the item to the August 13 Open Meeting.
In other business during the Thursday, July 23 Work Session:
• The Board agreed that work to repair the Northside mailhouse, which was damaged in a single car accident, should begin immediately, before the insurance settlement is completed. The Board is expected to select a contractor before the Open Meeting.
• Manager Sohl reported that a solution has been found to correct unevenness in the new bocce courts, which should be ready for play "very shortly."
• Sohl reported that only one bid was received for planned road repaving — and it exceeded the budget for the project. Working with the engineering firm S&ME, the scope of the project will be scaled back, so that it can be rebid.
• The Board approved a new meeting schedule through March 2016, generally placing Work Sessions on the fourth Thursday of the month and Open Meetings on the second Thursday.
• The Board approved a new agreement with Prancing Horse Center for Therapeutic Riding, which Sohl noted "provides a sizable chunk of the revenue for your stables." "They are a good company to work with and offer good PR for the community," he said.
• Southsider Al Haan read a letter to the Board from his wife Roni, a former Seven Lakes Country Club President, suggesting that the Association had not been welcoming to the new owners of Seven Lakes Golf. However, Directors Leach, Lishawa, and Sackmann, as well as Managers Sohl and Hosterman, all recounted cordial interactions with the new club management.