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OPA board talks format, tax-exemption and municipality

9/19/13 | By Sheila R. Cherry, Associate Editor

OCEAN PINES—The only vote taken during the Ocean Pines Board of Director’s first work session on Sept. 10 was on a policy that would establish how the OPA’s work sessions would operate, approved by a vote of 4-2-1.

The work sessions will be considered special meetings, allowing directors to discuss board matters informally, ParliamentarianDan Stachurski said. They are subject to the Maryland Homeowner’s Association Act and OPA’s by-laws and required to be conducted in public, except for issues subject to nondisclosure under the HOA, he said.

The work sessions will be announced three before meetings with an agenda provided in advance, Stachurski said.

Vice President Sharyn O’Hare said OPA members can participate in the work sessions within a certain structure of discussion: Once a proposal is presented for discussion, board members can make a round of comments, followed by a round of discussion from the public.

Director Marty Clarke took issue with a provision to suspend the OPA by-laws upon being recognized by the chair of the work session.

O’Hare began the first discussion session with the issue of the Budget and Finance Committee possibly establishing an Internal Revenue Code Sec. 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, which could receive charitable trusts, grants and donations. Unlike the OPA, which is a Sec. 501(c)(4) private-owned entity, the tax-exempt organization would be able to receive funds for hardship cases, special projects like recreational activities or even recreational equipment, O’Hare said. She said she wanted to hear from members of the board before raising it as an issue at the regular meeting.

OPA President Tom Terry clarified that the OPA would have to have no control over the entity and would have to operate at an “arm’s length” distance with its operations. The only thing that the board should have to do, he said, would be vote to be willing to accept money the organization might offer and provide guidance on how that money is spent. While he was adamant the board should not be involved with the proposal, he left the matter open to someone else who might want to create it.

Director Bill Cordwell pointed out that the idea was Budget and Finance Chairman Dennis Hudson’s and was not officially proposed by the committee.

Director Jack Collins asked why not allow a task force or committee to form outside the OP system. “It would be arm’s length. If it comes from the membership rather than the board I think it would have a heck of a lot more strength,” he said.

Secretary Terri Mohr explained the idea originated when Hudson determined that the OPA’s  Sec. 501(c)(4) private-owned entity status barred it from receiving grants and endowments. She suggested taking the idea to the community, creating more distance between the OPA and the proposal.

Stachurski said he wants to see the pros and cons of the proposal from the board’s financial advisors, auditors and attorney “before this board sits down and starts considering this. This is not a simple procedure. It’s a tough one.”

He also stressed the opinion that no OPA revenue should be used to set up the proposed organization. “Let’s be very clear about that,” he said.

During public comment, resident Joe Reynolds told the board, “Essentially what you are talking about is setting up a charitable program, even though it may be independent.” He questioned why the board would have to be involved since the proposal does not require the board’s participation. “We have enough to do,” he said.

Resident Chip Bertino offered the Worcester County Veterans Memorial at Ocean Pines Foundation and the Friends of the Ocean Pines Library as two examples of separate entities formed for the type of functions proposed. The directors of those organizations might be a source of information when considering the proposal, he said.

Cordwell told the board the Budget and Finance Committee will request board approval to send a letter to the Worcester County Commissioners seeking feedback on their potential position if the OPA was to pursue the possibility of becoming a municipality. Cordwell was a member of the committee before being elected to the board and now serves as the board liaison to the committee. He said the committee wants to assess whether the county’s response would be support or rejection before it made a formal request.

Mohr said the motion might be premature now. “It just doesn’t seem like it is quite ready for this step yet,” she said.

Stachurski said he would be bringing a proposed resolution relating to recruiting for elective office in Ocean Pines before the board at to the regular meeting on Sept. 18. Terry said he wanted to get clarity on how to proceed with three change orders submitted by Harkins Builders and provide an update to homeowners on negotiations with Sandpiper Energy.

Terry also told the board that Collins would be the point person at meetings of the Worcester County Commissioners, where the board is working to establish more consistent precense.

The board recognized Outgoing Vice President Ray Unger and Director David Stevens for their years of community service as members of the OPA Board of Directors. President Tom Terry listed several significant events that occurred during their terms, including the beginning of the renovation of the Ocean Pines’ new yacht club and yacht club pool; the opening of the dog park; the revision of bylaws and resolution; the opening of the community center; Ocean Pines’ 40th and 45th anniversaries; the community selling non-ethanol fuel; the influx of casino money; drainage work; establishing golf greens; the opening of a skate park; the start of curbside recycling; upgrading tennis facilities; and the winning second at AGH penguin swim.  

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