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Dramatic exit marks Pines budget meeting

(Feb. 12, 2015) Down two directors at the beginning of the meeting and three at the end, the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors on Saturday soldiered on during an impassioned budget session that saw one director walk out in frustration.
Still, progress was made as the board met for the first time to suggest specific changes to General Manager Bob Thompson’s proposed $10.9 million fiscal year 2016 budget.
Treasurer Jack Collins and Director Bill Cordwell were out of town during the meeting, and the remaining five directors reviewed dozens of alterations.
“The most rationales to go down were [Vice President] Marty’s [Clarke], along with some of mine and some of [Parliamentarian] Tom’s [Terry]” Board President Dave Stevens said. “We’re still at, I wouldn’t say in impasse, but we’re still considering some things.”
Terry did say that the board “got a lot of things settled.”
“I think we stayed focused on maintaining the capital reserves that this organization needs,” he said. “I’m glad we did that. That’s the essence of it as far as I’m concerned.”
Vice President Marty Clarke proposed the board drastically lower assessments by adding $314,068 for road depreciation and $350,000 of golf drainage, among other things, and then remove the so-called “five-year plan,” essentially cutting $1 million from the budget.
Thompson’s projected budget sees the assessment increasing $25 over the previous year to $934. Under Clarke’s plan, that number drops to $827.65.
The additions appeared to stick, but the subtraction became a sticking point.
Stevens countered by suggesting the board eliminate the five-year plan, in name, “now and forever,” and rechristen it “legacy assets.”
“I have a feeling that the five-year plan was never a five-year plan, because it was an unending plan to collect money,” he said, adding that the original purpose of the funding tool was to “play catch-up” on a number of facilities in the community that needed to be repaired or replaced.
“All of that stuff was never really defined and it kind of went as we went along,” Stevens said.  
Clarke, meanwhile, balked at the suggestion, cutting Stevens off as he began to discuss a possible end date for the five-year plan.
“Can I tell you my end date?” he said. “My end date is right now. I’m announcing to the press that I’m not running [for reelection].”
“Do whatever you need to do,” Stevens said during the meeting.
“I’ll do what makes me happy and it sure isn’t doing stupid budgets,” Clarke said.
Clarke packed his things and walked out of the meeting, while the four remaining directors continued the discussion.
After the meeting Clarke said, simply, “I got sick of it.”
“It’s the same s—- over and over and over and over,” he said. “If [Director] Sharyn [O’Hare] asks a question once, she asks it 30 times. I feel like I’m in a fourth-grade class talking about sex. It’s just unbelievable.
“I was done after five hours of listening to the same crap,” Clarke continued. “Dave Stevens didn’t get it. He was wearing sunglasses. I’m not sure he didn’t have a funnel of pot on his way to the meeting. Between him and Sharyn one and one is how much?”
Clarke is unsure if he will continue his current term, which ends in August.
“I’ve done all I can do,” he said. “I called a couple of my supporters yesterday and said, ‘I can only carry the torch so go———-d far.’ We get a majority and then they turn around and then knock the torch into the dirt. I’m done.
“I just want to gouge my eyes out when I’m at these meetings,” Clarke added.
For his part, Stevens said he hoped Clarke would return.
“I think I can point out a few obvious things that would incline him to remain until the end of the term, and maybe – it’s a long time between now and August – maybe even run again,” he said.
“People say, ‘Dave, why don’t you just reduce the assessment and do what Marty says?’ but I’m still looking at those deficits,” Stevens continued. “I’m looking at what we’ve done before and I can’t erase that. I can’t build a smaller yacht club; I can’t do any of that. All I can do is take what we have.”
Stevens speculated that Clarke was upset that the community is “continually operating in the hole, collecting money for something that you don’t know what you’re collecting for.”
“Marty’s solution to it is not acceptable to me, so we part ways,” he said. “My proposal, and it’s on the table, is we continue to collect [the five-year plan] through next year, and possibly somewhat into the year after that. We’ll rename it and we’ll call it ‘legacy assets’ or something like that, because that goes back to its original purpose and, arguably, its current purpose.”
Stevens would use the funding to “exclusively” pay off the debt from the yacht club, golf drainage and road depreciation, saying it would take “no more than two years” to accomplish.
The “exact mechanics aren’t laid out,” Stevens said, adding that Terry requested additional information.
Still, the two sides appear close.
“We settled a lot of issues on Saturday, some of which with passion,” Terry said. “There’s just no need to have someone representing our members to do what happened. You need to win the day with the right information and the right decision and have the ability to share your vision with other folks on the board and in the community.
“Clearly the majority of the board that was there sided with Dave Stevens at this point to continue to gather the $130 to pay down some of the columns that have debts in them,” Terry continued. “The concept of maintaining a fund for future needs has to continue to be funded at a reasonable level, and you certainly do not get rid of capital funding just to artificially keep the assessment down. That’s just too shortsighted for the community.”
The next step in the budget process, Stevens said, is to provide answers to all the questions raised during the exhaustive four-and-a-half hour meeting.
“I’m going to put out a paper on what we agreed on and what we didn’t agree on and see if I can put that together so we’ll all be looking at the same thing,” he said. “I’m reasonably convinced in my own mind that this is what we have to do to back off where we were and to normalize it and get rid of all those deficits.”
 “To me the big message was were are going to stay dedicated to making sure we have the appropriate capital to remove our debts and leave in place the methods to have the money for future needs,” Terry said.
Still at odds is the issue of payroll at the yacht club, which the board could tackle as soon as this week.
The assessment figure also remains fluid, although Terry expects the final number to be in the $930-$950 range.
“As much as we’d like to lower the dues, like we did last year, that’s just not doable every year,” Terry said. “The reality is we have a very good deal when it comes to Ocean Pines. There are other communities nearby us who pay $1,200 a year and don’t have anywhere near the amount of facilities and space and things that have to be taken care of and their dues are above ours.
“That doesn’t give you an excuse to raise the assessment, but I think some understanding of the scope of this community and how big it is and the budgets that we use to run this place – it’s pretty phenomenal the amount of amenities and the amount of work our staff does with the levels of support that we give them,” Terry added.