Hello Friends and Family,

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HOA = Full-Time Job

As many of you know, I live in a resort community called the Pointe at South Mountain. On the north side is a resort hotel, previously called by the same name but more recently rechristened the Arizona Grand Resort. It is an all-suite hotel and includes a golf course, workout facility, spa and water park.

My home is in the residential area which includes single family homes, garden-attached homes (most folks call them duplexes) and courthomes (AKA townhouses). To the east of my courthome is the sixth hole of the golf course and beyond that are the Pointe Apartments — which is where I lived when I first moved to Phoenix until HP give me the go-ahead to stay permanently.

The residental area also includes a park (the fountain above is in our park) and four swimming pools with Jacuzzis, kitchen facilities and gas barbecues. As you might expect, we have an HOA to oversee the common interests of the Homeowners.

Before I retired, I did not feel I had the time to get involved with the HOA and only attended the annual meeting held each December. However, once I retired I recognized the need to pay more attention and began attending the monthly Board of Directors meetings.

For quite a while, I merely observed the debates and actions of the Board as I educated myself on the Property and the issues facing us as Homeowners. Eventually I began to speak up from time to time on issues I felt strongly about.

Eventually, I was drawn into some of the battles. The first was an attempt by some of the Directors to spend $221,000 on a no-bid contract for refurbishment of landscaping, primarily in the Courthome area. I felt that the Association did not have the money and, even if we did, there were no concrete plans of the work to be done. After much debate, the motion to approve the expenditure died for lack of a second (recalling your parliamentary procedure).

It became obvious to me that I needed to become more involved and volunteered for several committees and PNP. The latter is the Phoenix Neighborhood Patrol, sponsored and coordinated with the Phoenix Police Department. The volunteers (seen here to the left) are all given six hours of training — to become the remote eyes and ears of the police, extending their ability to provide security to our community.

We are non-confrontational but we do carry cell phones to alert the police to both emergency and non-emergency issues. Personally, I love it because it gives me reason to get out and walk the community, usually with other PNP members. Practically, it gave us the ability to terminate a paid, but largely ineffective security service. Our team has continued to expand and more than three dozen residents have been trained and are patrolling our streets, etc.

As I mentioned above, I also volunteered for a couple of committees plus was asked to serve on a third. This experience really pulled me in and gave me a much better understanding of how any HOA functions but, in particular, how our HOA works — both the good and bad.

In May, one of the Directors resigned and the Board asked for volunteers. I raised my hand and was unanimously appointed to the Board.

I have to observe that the view from a Director's chair is quite a bit different from the view I had as a Homeowner. For one thing, each month I have a huge pile of reading material that I need to digest prior to each Board meeting. Additionally, we have to review the financials down to the detail indicating which Homeowners are not paying their dues — and what are we going to do to try and collect.

Just as I was settling in and starting to feel comfortable in my new role, a huge controversy arose. The accounting specialist from our management company told us that we were running out of money and had to do something quickly. She recommended terminating our TV cable contract which provides us about a 40% discount on the second tier of service.

As I began talking to other Homeowners, I discovered that this might be the third rail of an HOA. It was like residents said that they don't care if the streets are in disrepair or the landscaping is going to pot — don't take away their cable TV.

Further as I took a closer look at the financials, I disagreed with the conclusions from our accounting specialist. So my vote was swayed, both by my fellow Homeowners but by the financials as I saw them.

A special meeting was called to debate and vote on the issue and one result was the biggest turnout I ever recall for a Board meeting. The overwhelming sentiment was to keep the cable and find other ways to balance the budget. However, a majority of the Board voted to terminate the contract (obviously, I voted in the minority).

Immediately upon adjournment, one Homeowner announced that he was starting a recall petition.

Two weeks later at the next regular Board meeting, the recall petitions were submitted. By state law, that starts a process that must be concluded within one month.

Again we had a large turnout of Homeowners who again strongly favored keeping the Cox contract. Therefore, I offered a motion to rescind the previous action and, surprisingly, it passed.

Two Directors (who had supported cancellation of the cable contract) resigned. Regardless, the recall election had to take place since there were still two Directors named in the petition still on the Board.

Because the two who resigned were the President and Treasurer, the Board members had to replace those officers. I was elected President and my friend, Mike, (and fellow minority Director) was elected Treasurer.

The first major thing I had to do as President was oversee the recall election. I met with the management company (since they handle our regular elections) to review the process. The most important thing about the process, I told them, was that they had to do it "by the book", strictly following the law and our Bylaws.

With the oversight of our attorney, the recall election was held and both Directors were removed.

At the next regular Board meeting, we three surviving Directors appointed two new Directors to fill the remaining terms of the two who resigned. The two who were recalled will be filled by a special election.

So the five of us now on the Board are picking up the pieces and moving on. We were already in the process of obtaining bids on a new management contract — which is a daunting task under normal circumstances. We also have the regular election in addition to the special election to conduct — with ballots to be counted in December. The term of the seat to which I was appointed expires then so I am now standing for election. In fact, we have five positions on the seven-member Board to fill.

As you might guess from my narrative, I have been quite busy. So busy, that I have not played golf since February (a little shoulder pain also contributed to that). But, in truth, it almost feels like I have a full-time job. My hope is that after the elections, after the new management contract is awarded, after we move into the new year that the chaos will move towards some semblance of order. At that point, my more normal retirement lifestyle can resume.

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com