BERLIN — A petition effort, election results and presentations by Ocean Pines Association officials highlighted the homeowners association’s annual meeting Saturday.
Roughly 100 Ocean Pines Association (OPA) members were in attendance at this year’s meeting, which included remarks from General Manager John Viola as well as Doug Parks, president of the OPA board. Much of their discussion focused on the economic turnaround underway at several of the community’s amenities. The association ended the last fiscal year $130,584 better than what was budgeted.
“Without the participation of the membership and belief in the amenities that wouldn’t happen,” Parks said.
In his financial report, Viola pointed out the various categories of the budget that were doing better than projected. He highlighted the Ocean Pines Yacht Club in particular, which he said was seeing the benefits of “the Matt Ortt factor.” The company was hired to run the operation in 2018 and will be taking over the Tern Grille as well. The amenities as a whole are more than $100,000 favorable to budget according to Viola.
“We’re definitely moving in the right direction,” Viola said.
He added that in spite of the increased assessment homeowners faced in the spring, officials were doing what they could to keep costs down.
“We’re bringing down the debt,” he said, “the amenities, departments, are operating on full cylinders.”
Though a malfunctioning fire alarm threatened to derail his general manager remarks, Viola was able to outline his leadership efforts for the residents in attendance. He stressed the importance of teamwork at the management level.
“We have a lot on our plate and that’s fine,” he said. “Honestly it’s all constructive. The only way to get it done is by utilizing the team.”
He said department heads, being aided by a variety of community work groups, were results driven and were working hard to address ongoing problems such as drainage, dredging and roadwork.
“It’s a total team effort,” he said.
Following announcement of this year’s election results, which will add Tom Janasek, Larry Perrone and Camilla Rogers to the board, the public comment portion of the meeting was opened. Former board member Slobodan Trendic used the time to share news of his petition efforts. He said that after leaving the board earlier this year, he and members of START (Strategic planning, Transparency, Accountability, Respect, Trust) had worked to collect signatures of those who wanted to see the board’s spending limit reduced to $1 million and also of those who wanted members to approve OPA’s golf clubhouse project. According to the association’s bylaws, a petition requires signatures representing at least 10% of the maximum number of votes that can be cast.
“START and the team worked very hard on these two petition drives,” Trendic said.
Before submitting them to the association’s secretary Saturday, he said that the petition regarding the board spending had 880 signatures while the petition regarding the clubhouse had 810 signatures.
“I just wanted to say thank you to everybody that took part in this and saw this effort as a not a controversy, as being for or against, but really as a way to engage the community and to allow the homeowners to express their opinions on two very important subjects,” he said.
Other speakers expressed concern about the petitions and potential referendums. Resident Ann Shockley spoke against lowering the board’s current spending limit.
“Yes $1 million sounds like a lot but if you’re building things it’s really not much at all,” she said. If you have to have a referendum every time you want to decide something of this nature it’s going to cost the association at least $4,000 just in postage.”
Resident Pete Gomsak, another former board member, said he respected Trendic’s efforts but asked residents to vote no if the two questions did reach referendum. He said lowering the spending limit would tie the board’s hands.
“In my opinion we have to trust the board we elect,” he said.
As far as a vote on the clubhouse at the golf course, Gomsak said a referendum would impact the already underway project.
“Any effort to curtail, impede, throw up a wall against what’s already in progress would be a very negative thing,” he said.
Former board member Tom Terry didn’t criticize the potential referendums but rather their source. He said not long ago the association had been $1.5 million in debt.
“One of the leaders into that change stood up here a couple minutes ago with a couple referendums in his hand trying to lead the community again,” he said. “I strongly recommend that you remember the decisions that were made and led by certain people led us into that financial disaster that we ended up in.”
Terry said he wasn’t opposed to the concept of referendums.
“I did one for the yacht club,” he said.
He went on to praise the efforts of the board within the last several months.
“Remember we have to trust these people,” he said. “Trust is an important word and when somebody has violated that trust in the past pay very close attention to where they lead you.”