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Pool cards make splash at OPA Town Hall

Board promises no one will lose money on cards

Ocean Pines homeowner Charlie Walker hammers the board of directors during a town hall last Saturday about their handling of a policy change for pool access coupon cards.

By Josh Davis, Associate Editor

(April 4, 2019) Ocean Pines Association leadership several times on Saturday promised to sort through a recent argument about pool access coupon cards.

Apparently, for many years the association offered refillable cards for access to Ocean Pines pools, with balances rolling over each year. Recently, however, some have found their cards will expire.

During Saturday’s town hall meeting, homeowner Maggie Miller asked for a justification.

“It’s been for years that you buy a [pool access] debit card and, if you use it, great, and if you don’t, well, you can use it the next year,” Miller said. “I’m not quite sure why it’s being changed.”

She also asked if the association had contacted its attorney on the matter.

“Essentially, you’re taking people’s money,” she said. “It’s a debit card. I give you $100, it’s my $100 until I use it.”

Association President Doug Parks said an attorney had been contacted and one of the issues was with some of terminology being used.

“It’s not a gift certificate, so … Maryland law about a four-year expiration for a gift certificate doesn’t apply,” Parks said, reading from a legal opinion. “It’s actually a discount card, because there’s a discount associated with you putting money on that card … and coupon cards can expire.

“Now, should that have been said when the coupon card was first given out? Yes,” he added.

According to Parks, the change was being made for accounting purposes.

“We can’t do revenue recognition without an associated transaction on the cost side,” he said. “They’re just trying to align our accounting for all our membership cards and it’s the cleanest way to implement this.”

Parks said most of the cards only had a small balance and it was reasonable to expect cardholders to use that up before the new expiration date, which he said was next April.

For those with a larger balance, Parks said the association would work with cardholders on a one-on-one basis “to come up with a solution that’s fair and equitable.”

“Under no circumstances is OPA going to take the money [and] say, ‘sorry, you didn’t use it before 2020, you’re out of luck,’” he said, adding that Finance Director Steve Phillips was working on contacting people with larger balances.

“At the end of the day, we don’t want to cause a burden and nor do we want to ethically or legally take any money that didn’t provide a value for the reason you invested it in the first place,” Parks added.

Newly appointed General Manager John Viola reiterated Ocean Pines had sought opinions from both an attorney and from Aquatics Director Colby Phillips.

“This board and the management team do not want anybody that has these cards to lose money,” Viola said. “That was never the intent.”

He went on to say some were under the impression the cards expired this April, which at least partly contributed to the objections.

“They will look at them … and they will address it so nobody – me included, since I know there’s a card somewhere in my house with a lot of money on it – will lose money,” Viola said. “Believe me, this board and the management team … doesn’t want that to happen.”

He said setting expiration dates for the cards would help streamline balance sheets and assist association leadership when it comes time to calculate annual assessments.

“That is the reason for that,” Viola said. “The money was there in the balance sheet, not recognized against the assessment … this way it’s timely and it’s recognized. It’s the right way to do it [and] the accounting firm agreed, and it’s better for us.

“If it’s in that balance sheet, [under] a different board or a different treasurer … I can’t guarantee what they’ll do with that money,” he continued. “They may allocate it to something else.”

Viola repeatedly assured people in audience they would not lose any money. Homeowner Charlie Walker, however, was not satisfied.

“I have about $140 [on a pool card] and you’re giving me a gibberish answer,” he said. “Right now, today, am I going to lose any balance on those cards? It’s a yes or no answer.”

“I can tell you that this board and the management team … will make sure nobody loses money with that year,” Viola said.

Walker asked if his cards could be redeemed.

“Not to my knowledge, right now,” Viola said.

“We’re going to have to make a decision on that,” Director Colette Horn said.

“As of now, no,” Viola added.

Walker said he refilled cards every year, primarily for his grandchildren to use, and each year staff assured him the balances would roll over. He held up several receipts that apparently read “no expiration.”

“If you people want to sit there and play Mickey Mouse games and try to finesse with words what’s going on here, then I challenge you … if you don’t stand behind these cards, by the very actions of the staff of OPA, the directors of OPA and the written statements on these receipts, you have created an implied contract with me that these balances are not going to be lost,” Walker said.

“And yet you sit there and you say, ‘We have to talk about this.’ Now is the time to talk,” he continued. “I take it either by your silence you do not care, or by your silence you’re saying these cards will be honored.”

Viola again said no one would lose money on the cards.

“They will do whatever is possible to make sure at the end of the year if you or me or anybody else has money left from that year, you can roll it over or whatever. That’s what we’ve been talking about. Nobody will lose the money from that year,” he said.

“Nobody in Ocean Pines is planning on taking your money, my money, anybody else’s money,” he continued. “They will do what’s needed … if somebody has a balance, bring it in. They will make sure you don’t lose the money that’s described on those receipts. Honestly, I don’t know what else to say.”