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Ocean Pines board dissolves racquet sports committee

The Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors voted in a 6-1 majority to dissolve the community’s Racquet Sports Advisory Committee following mold allegations and membership option controversies.

Racquet sports

Multiple games of pickle ball are pictured underway at the Ocean Pines Racquet Center.
File photo

By Tara Fischer, Staff Writer 

At a public meeting on April 20, the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors voted 6-1 to eliminate the Racquet Sports Advisory Committee following mold allegations and membership option controversies.

In the last few months, the RSAC has been mired in disputes with the OPA board. On Feb. 29, the governing body held a special meeting to discuss a racquet membership fee change. Per the approved budget, residents could only purchase a combination of tennis, platform tennis, and pickleball. After receiving negative feedback, the group agreed to maintain the three-sport choice and reinstate single-sport options. 

At a March 23 OPA Board of Directors meeting, RSAC member Suzanne Russell claimed the racquet center building contained mold. The resident used these allegations to urge the association to construct an entirely new facility rather than the approved renovations.  

OPA closed the racquet center the following day to investigate the assertions. The evaluation revealed no mold in the building. Board President Rick Farr said the association spent $10,000 on labor, materials, supplies, and services for the analysis. 

Proponents of the RSAC expressed their disapproval of dissolving the volunteer-based group at the April 20 meeting. 

“I am concerned about the board’s alignment with the strategic plan,” former Strategic Planning Advisory Committee Chair Bernie McGorry said. “We surveyed the community, and the number one issue was the lack of core values in this community. A motion to discontinue a committee is the opposite of what’s in the Strategic Plan.” 

“Work with committees as they represent the association membership,” he continued. “There are five core values, all agreed upon: integrity, collaboration, respect, transparency, and sustainability…As board members, you need to ask yourselves if you demonstrate these core values… Don’t be petty. Don’t be punitive. Be a leader. I urge you to be honest with yourselves. Demonstrate the core values. Reconsider your motion on the agenda today to eliminate the RSAC Committee.”

RSAC Chair Cathryn Noble addressed the board as well. She said mold concerns were recorded in a charging document from March 2023. She also claimed that the racquet center building was closed on March 24 for flooding, rather than the health allegations made by Russell the previous day. 

Noble maintained that the facility contained mold and referred to a statement made by previous Racquet Sports Director Tim Johnson on the Ocean Pines online forum. The former OPA employee said that the building is outdated and too small and floods whenever it rains. He also claimed that water seeps into the carpet behind the front desk and remains damp for days. The RSAC chair stepped down as a volunteer, claiming her time on the committee was “the worst experience.” 

Board members gave their perspectives on the motion to eliminate the RSAC. Director Jeff Heavner said that while he struggled with the decision, he supported the dissolution as the committee had “abandoned its mission.”

“The general manager brought a plan to the board that was approved for a first-class renovated building,” Heavner said. “A building that the racquet sports community welcomes. A building with new bathrooms, new check-in, new merchandise space, new meeting space, and one that does not leak when it rains…I have talked to many in the racquet sports community, and all I have talked to do not want anything more than what we have planned and approved. Nobody wants significantly improved meeting spaces, showers, and kitchens. This manifesto promoted the will of a few.” 

Board Vice President Dr. Stuart Lakernick echoed Heavner’s sentiments, saying the RSAC had “gone rogue.” He also claimed that the committee was invited to the volunteer appreciation dinner on Thursday, April 12, and while 12 members confirmed their attendance, none showed up at $100 a plate. 

Not all directors supported the elimination of the RSAC. Steve Jacobs voted against the motion, noting that while the committee owed General Manager John Viola and the association an apology, the mistake could be forgiven. 

“These people are volunteers,” he said. “For those not at the dinner last week, Rick Farr made excellent comments about the value of homeowners in Ocean Pines committing their time and energy as volunteers. People on the committee may be guilty of being over-enthusiastic at best. They screwed up. None of that is justification in my mind for eliminating the committee.” 

This story appears in the April 25, 2024, print edition of the Bayside Gazette.