By Greg Ellison
OP directors consider options as pandemic changes everything
(March 26, 2020) With gatherings to be avoided during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors held a special “virtual” meeting on Friday to evaluate assessment fee collections, while also approving several capital purchases.
OPA President Doug Parks, speaking to a room restricted to board members and staff, said further work remains to permit real time public comments.
“This is our first foray into a virtual meeting environment,” he said. “It’s still in its testing stages right now.”
While the board did read and address two emailed questions from community members, Parks said refinements to that approach would be sought for the next scheduled meeting on April 1.
“We’re looking at ways of being creative with regard to making sure that, going forward, whatever virtual meeting that we hold that we will be able to have public comments and have the audience interact,” he said.
Parks also noted meetings would be live-streamed on the OPA Facebook page, with comments monitored and addressed during the public portion.
Shifting gears, Parks said the OPA Yacht Club, and a number of local eateries, have shifted to delivery or carryout service due to virus-related business restrictions.
“Whatever we can do to patronize our local restaurants, if you have the opportunity to do so, I ask that you do that,” he said.
During the public comment portion, Parks responded to one resident who asked about pending assessment dues for those suddenly unemployed due to mandated business closures.
“That’s the whole reason we are meeting today to look at potential options with regards to the assessment and the impact it has on folks in our community,” he said.
Board Secretary Dr. Colette Horn said the decision was made during the group’s previous meeting to record public comments, including a name, address and topic of interest.
“That’s a change in protocol which, I think, increases our transparency,” she said.
Parks said the approach is a return to past practice.
“We had done that in past and got away from it for various reasons,” he said.
The board unanimously approved two capital purchase requests, including a pair of replacement drainage pipes for 173 Teal Circle and 80 Teal Circle.
General Manager John Viola said finding a contractor to address both locations has been challenging.
“It was not an easy task to get a contractor who was available to do the work,” he said. “Everybody is busy [and] they don’t have the free time.”
Fixing a broken pipe at the first location was remedied after Berlin-based Goody Hill Sand and Gravel began work in the Borderlinks region.
“Now that they are on Ocean Pines soil, they have given us a bid at 173 [Teal Circle] for $16,650,” he said.
In the same light, Goody Hill also submitted a bid of $18,975 to replace a failed drainage pipe at 80 Teal Circle.
“I can’t get bids from the other ones or they’re going to be consistent with this,” he said. “We did do the work on this and that would be the lowest bid.”
The third capital purchase request for a generator for the expanded police and administration building, at a cost of $42,500, was approved by a 6-1 vote with Director Tom Janasek opposed.
Parks said the additional expense would be to replace the generator currently in use at the police station in conjunction with the new construction underway.
“Why wasn’t the generator included in the price for the police building in the first place?” Janasek said.
Viola said the current generator was previously believed to be worthwhile retaining.
Janasek questioned an apparent $11,000 pricing discrepancy, with initial bid requests for generator prices later increased to include installation.
“I have no idea what their charge is for installation,” he said.
Janasek said the generator is sold online for roughly $30,000.
While acknowledging Janasek’s pricing was correct, Viola said the seemingly higher cost from Tri-County Electric includes other assurances.
“The main thing is this, you have an electrician in there who’s doing the work,” he said. “It’s warrantied [and] it’s guaranteed.”
Horn asked what relative value could be associated with the work being warrantied.
Viola said the project general contractor, Whayland, has to guarantee any aspects of the its work and any performed by subcontractors.
“In order for Whayland to warranty and guarantee that work in their piece, I can’t just bring in somebody. I can, but then they’re not going to guarantee it,” he said.
Director Larry Perrone said product liability issues could arise if the association bought the generator directly.
“It gives us the opportunity should something go wrong to go back to Whayland, who we know has insurance,” he said. “We assume Tri County has it, and if they don’t, Whayland is responsible.”
The board then voted to enter closed session to discuss potential adjustments to assessment collections in reaction to the current pandemic.
Parks issued a statement following the closed session to evaluate payment options for me
mbers concerned regarding lost incomes.
“Options regarding pushing back the due date, establishing payment plans and other possibilities are currently being evaluated,” Parks said. “While these approaches seem simple in concept, we do need to consider the effect any option has on our ability to meet existing financial obligations both in the short and long term.”
Parks said in addition to meeting membership needs, OPA employees, services and amenities also must be considered.
Since the association still needs to maintain operations, although not at full steam, members who have the ability to pay assessments on time are requested to do so.
“This approach will lessen the burden on determining an alternate funding source during these times,” he said. “Paying on time also allows additional options to be considered to help our neighbors who are more severely impacted by the pandemic.”
The board plans to unveil more concrete plans regarding assessment collections during its next regularly scheduled meeting on April 1.