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OPA Board candidates state their positions on key matters

Bayside Gazette sits down with OPA Board candidates for a question and answer session.


What do you believe is the most important single issue facing Ocean Pines?
The paramount issue is whether the OPA should continue its current level of annual spending on operations, and spending another $8 to $10 million or more on proposed new projects in the next few years – all while the nation’s economy continues to flounder in search for real solutions to restore growth. 
While some of us are financially secure, a growing segment of our population is experiencing diminishing purchasing power, declining returns on investments, increases in real estate taxes, and escalating costs for basic necessities. Those property owners living on fixed incomes are feeling it worse than most, as seen in uncollected OPA assessments that are now approaching an estimated $900,000, which amounts to just over $100 per property.    
I view the increasing cost of the OPA’s operations as an area where the overspending of recent years and the substantial losses in underperforming amenities can and should be curtailed. Budgeted payroll is up some $750,000 in two years. I strongly believe we can freeze annual dues without impacting our lifestyles or jeopardizing the overall quality, safety, and delivery of OPA services to property owners. I further believe we can start to lower assessments in our next budget.
The proposed capital expenditures need to be revisited and, except for absolute essentials, delayed where feasible or trimmed to more manageable proportions. We may want lots of things, but what things we need and can afford merit closer scrutiny.

How has your background qualified you to run for multiple terms on the board?
My one term as an OPA director ended in 2006. Having remained on the sidelines since then, I feel a responsibility today to return to the board, where my background and experience offer different skills and insights to help lead the OPA on a new and fiscally responsible commonsense path for addressing and resolving the membership’s needs.
As an owner and senior executive at several firms during my career – and as a full-time management and marketing consultant and turnaround specialist to over 600 companies during the past 30 years – I deal on a daily basis with both executives and line employees on revitalizing and re-energizing the profitability, productivity, and marketing agendas of their enterprises.
As an OPA director, chairman and liaison to numerous OPA committees, and serving on the Governor’s Economic Development Committee as well as in leadership in several non-profit community and national organizations, I have a broad understanding of how to identify core needs and solutions to a variety of real-world challenges. From a lifetime of varied management experiences, I feel I’d bring something to the table here in my own back yard and at a time when the long-term issues for the OPA need a new level of critical thinking.
The current OPA board’s majority doesn’t, as I view it, work to solve problems. It simply subsidizes them. Those property owners who agree we need a major course correction in the board’s philosophy will find me a dedicated steward of OPA resources and a strong advocate for budget restraint.
What makes you so focused on financial issues?
I see the OPA’s leaders spending money on a variety of budget items – and sometimes unbudgeted items – without focusing on whether their choices are always the most prudent. One glaring example of poor choices is spending an unbudgeted $100,000 to outfit the Java Bay Café without first testing whether the operation would be successful, resulting in a loss of over $190,000.
Yes, our Yacht Club certainly needs attention. But is $4 million to build a bigger building the best or only sensible solution, when there’s general consensus YC operations should be curtailed or closed in the off-season?
Will a new $4 million edifice attract a sufficient number of new patrons who’ll spend significantly more money than now? Will a bigger building – and its upkeep – be equal to erasing escalating annual deficits?  Should the board have committed over $170,000 for plans before a referendum is even approved?  Might the board have offered a revised strategic business model and a cogent marketing plan before asking property owners to approve $4 million? I’d venture that a solid re-do or a smaller replacement building is more suited to our community’s needs.
How many more spending schemes can we endure, much less afford?
How do you plan on decreasing spending?
Limiting the Yacht Club’s months of operations would immediately eliminate that operation’s deficit. But while there are several areas when spending can be moderated, the question is better framed as, “How can we improve revenue generation and limit spending to produce more favorable overall outcomes? Here are a few ideas, among many others, I’ll advance for improving our bottom line on existing resources:
Hire a commissioned salesperson to create and market golf and tennis tournaments and other events ripe for sponsorship from area businesses and organizations. Improve the marketing for hosting events at the Beach Club and invest in heating and air conditioning the building, if feasible, for gaining banquet business and enabling longer hours of operation. Upgrade our liquor license at the Beach Club to attract more patrons. Establish direct relationships with leading area hotels for funneling golfers to our course.
The solutions to a financially healthier association obviously entail both restraints on unnecessary spending and improving sales in key amenities. Realistic and attainable results can indeed be affected through a renewed focus on “selling” Ocean Pines to more patrons, local businesses and organizations, and promoting popular events in the shoulder seasons.
Isn’t this what we should have been doing better all along?
What would you say is your specialty that you bring to the board?
Beyond what I’ve written in the second question, I bring a great love for Ocean Pines as my home and community for over 20 years. I value our special amenities from the beach to the bay and from the wonderful places we offer for recreation to our well maintained roads and landscaping.
While I’m well aware that some of our infrastructure and facilities need serious attention, I’m equally mindful that we can afford only what we can afford and justify. If there’s a specialty I bring to the board, it’s the ability to make commonsense judgments about where we can and should be focusing our resources without being unfair to those who don’t utilize our amenities and don’t live here all year.
That means holding the line against profligate spending, unnecessary increases in annual assessments, the unwarranted growth in our annual budget, and catering to and appeasing special interest groups.
What is the message you are sending to homeowners to get them to vote for you?
My appeal to our property owners is that we need to run the association more effectively. Trying new ideas is great, but ensuring their success through more intelligent planning before we launch them, including input from our own members, who would be happy to offer their talents and expertise to us, is a more promising approach to success on the bottom line.
My message is that property owners who’d like to see a more businesslike emphasis on running and promoting Ocean Pines will find I’d be a willing, energetic, dedicated director. For those property owners frustrated with the current board majority’s policy of expanded secrecy and obfuscation they see in the conduct of OPA affairs, they’ll find me a faithful defender of transparency and an unyielding warrior for sunshine management.
For property owners who are tired of annual million-dollar losses in golf, aquatics, and foodservice and catering operations, they’ll find in me a friend who’s committed to a serious course correction.


What do you believe is the most important single issue facing Ocean Pines?
We, as a community, have let some of our facilities get to the point of no return. Some directors have tried [to fix facilities] but they have been stalled by a “vocal minority.” The independent engineering firm that inspected the Yacht Club came to the conclusion and stated in their 20-page report that parts of the Yacht Club are dangerous. We have been put on notice about the safety concerns and we will have to respond to the concerns or put ourselves at risk should something happen. I’m afraid that we will lose the Yacht Club completely. It’s time to stop talking about it and do something. You can only paint over rot so many times.
How has your background with the Baltimore County Police Department qualified you to run on the board?
My experience in police work taught me a valuable lesson and that is to listen to everything folks have to say. In investigating murders, rapes and robberies, I kept my mouth shut and ears open. One little thing said by a victim or witness that may have seemed innocuous at the time has come back to help me solve cases. That is why, when I was thinking about running for the board, I went to and stayed every minute of every meeting, both board and facilities planning meetings, to hear every resident comment.
Why do you believe the OPA must renovate its facilities?
One facility in question, the Yacht Club, shouldn’t be renovated; it should be replaced. The bids for replacing the Yacht Club weren’t substantially higher than simply renovating it – especially if we tried to renovate it and the contractor found other problems as they started to tear it apart. We could conceivably pay more to renovate a 40-year-old building than to build a brand new building. That just doesn’t make sense to me. Our facilities and amenities are our community. They keep our property values up and add to our overall community experience.
How will you keep assessments low?
Continuing the final year of the Five-Year Funding Plan next year is crucial. This should give us enough funds to aggressively attack the problem with our aging facilities. After the Five-Year Plan is exhausted next year, I don’t see the need to raise assessments further. This Five-Year Plan was necessary because we backed ourselves into a corner with previous boards getting voted in by promising to lower assessments.
What they didn’t say was that they would then have to raid our reserves to pay for other things. Paying assessments one year to go into reserves, to pay for needed improvements, and then raiding those same reserves the next year, doesn’t work and has gotten us where we are today with much work that needs to be done. It scores political points but leaves the residents holding the bag.
What would you say is your specialty that you bring to the board?
I believe my strongest assets are common sense and the ability to solve problems. I am able to work with people that I may not care for personally, as long as it is evident that we both have the same goal in mind, which in this case would be the community of Ocean Pines.
I can read people fairly quickly and don’t have time for those who want to be somebody they are not and would rather pander to a certain group and be the star, instead of working hard towards a goal. I am also a huge proponent of research. Seeking facts from professionals and make informed decisions is what we should ask of our board.
What is the message you are sending to homeowners to get them to vote for you?
I am offering a new face and point of view. We shouldn’t keep recycling old faces and old ideas. It’s obvious that they didn’t work in the past, or we wouldn’t still be talking about our falling-down facilities. These facilities should have been taken care of years ago. Unfortunately, we have some who have to carry the conversation and have for years, telling the rest of us what we can’t do. And quite frankly, this isn’t about me, it’s about the community.
I may be too blunt for some folks and that’s fine. Those who can’t vote for me because of my being too blunt, please consider voting for others who are willing to move forward and getting things done.


What do you believe is the most important single issue facing Ocean Pines?
The major issue facing Ocean Pines is coming to the realization that our facilities have been neglected for several years and have reached a point where they are in need of major repairs. This issue must be supported in a fiscally responsible manner.
How has your background as an educator and principal qualified you to run for multiple terms on the board?
My experiences as a professional educator have helped me to develop the ability to analyze issues and come to meaningful conclusions in a timely manner. It has also given me the opportunity to work with people; to put their philosophical differences aside, and to come to a consensus on important issues.
Do you feel you accomplished much during your one year on the board?
During my year of service as a member of the Board of Directors, I have monitored the board goal-setting process with special emphasis on expanding the use of technology. This has allowed the community to operate more efficiently, as well as, to make it easier for OPA members to be better informed.
Also, I moved for the General Manager to proceed with plans for the Yacht Club and Country Club, which required him to seek input from the OPA membership. This resulted in three Town Hall meetings, which pushed management to proceed with the Yacht Club.
To deal with the beach parking tax liability, I made my fellow board members aware that there is already a model in place for resident and non-resident membership to our amenities. When this was brought to the attention of our lawyer and independent auditors, it was concluded that if we included beach parking with this model it would relieve OPA from future beach parking tax liability.
What makes you want to have a second term on the board?
 My one year on the board has been a great learning experience. I would like the opportunity to use this knowledge to take a larger leadership role in developing policies that serve the best interest of the community.
 What would you say is your specialty that you bring to the board?
The most important thing I bring to the board is professionalism. I listen to everyone’s opinion on issues with respect and try to assist my fellow board members to come to respectful conclusions when there is disagreement.
What is the message you are sending to homeowners to get them to vote for you?
The major task facing us today is maintaining the 34 million dollars of community-owned assets and property. These assets and properties must be supported in a fiscally responsible manner that recognizes the economic diversity of our community.


What do you believe is the most important single issue facing Ocean Pines?
The most important issue facing Ocean Pines is balancing the need to replace aging infrastructure without unreasonable annual assessment increases. Is the budget realistic? Can we hold the line on the assessments? This is not an easy task.
In my last six weeks of campaigning, I have spoken with many of you. You are asking for better communication from management to the residents. You don’t want the [homeowners] fees to be increased, but at the same time you want the facilities to be fixed up and more services to be offered to residents. Based on my personal experience, I don’t think that we really understand how and where our fees are being spent.
Just one example: many residents don’t realize that the money from the State of Maryland, funneled through Worcester County to Ocean Pines to resurface our roads, has dropped from approximately $500,000 in 2008 to just more than $10,000 in 2011.
The need to maintain our streets and roads has not been similarly reduced or eliminated. How do we make up that loss? Our fire department is in need of members. Will we have to go a combination volunteer and paid fire company? What services do we keep and what services do we eliminate? We need common sense on the board. We are facing some tough choices but so is every community in the country.
How much of an impact does your 38-plus years of residency have on your ability to work on the board?
I know the Pines. I moved here in 1975 as a young wife and mother, and have raised my family here. I have had over 33 years of experience selling property in the Pines. I know why people choose to move here, and why they leave. I also know that this is one of the best kept secrets on the East Coast. I challenge you to find a community that offers what we have, for only $873 a year … and that includes five pools, a Robert Trent Jones-designed golf course, tennis courts, numerous parks, a full-time recreation department, our own emergency services, and an ocean-front location too!
Why do you support the continuation of the Five-Year Funding Plan?
As facilities age, they need maintenance, periodic updating and eventual replacement. With the Fire-Year Funding Plan, there should be ample funds to address our major structures: the Beach and Country Club, and the Yacht Club.
How will you keep assessments from getting out of control?
It is the General Manager’s responsibility to propose budgets and control costs. It is the [OPA] board’s responsibility to provide direction and to monitor compliance to approved plans and budgets. Controlling assessments involves eliminating operating losses, increasing revenues from outside sources and reducing costs wherever possible. Sometimes the only reasonable alternative is to say ‘no,’ and mean it.
I would like to see our major amenities, including the Yacht Club and Golf Club, come closer to a “break even” point and maybe join the Beach Club and marina operation as a profit center, and I think that is doable with the right management.
However, even with the losses that our amenities experienced in the 2011-12 fiscal year, the actual cost per household was $5 a year, or less than 50 cents a month. The actual operating costs for the amenities are less than one percent of your annual assessment. This needs to be put in perspective.
Operating costs for the day-to-day running of Ocean Pines are 59 percent of your annual assessment and the reserves are 40 percent. Once again, the amenities only cost each household less than one percent last year. And what is the benefit? It is estimated to be a 15 percent increase in value for your home because you chose to buy in [Ocean] Pines. That is a pretty good trade off, no matter how you look at it.
What would you say is your specialty that you bring to the board?
I am a business woman who has lived here since 1975, who has the ability to listen, search out answers to questions, and make decisions. I know the history of this community perhaps more than anyone on the board.
What is the message you are sending to homeowners to get them to vote for you?
My track record of leadership and experience in the community stands for itself. I was co-chairman of the project to create the Veterans Memorial in Ocean Pines and have been general chairman of the 35th Anniversary. I know how to organize and get things done. Both efforts required involving numerous residents and businesses to work together as a team.
This is not a one-person job. We are all part of Ocean Pines. If elected, my job is to represent you and to preserve the OPA Mission, which is to, “provide the governance, administration, facilities, services and amenities that are necessary to making Ocean Pines an attractive, affordable, safe and enjoyable place to live and work.”
I would like to make it clear that I don’t need another job or to enhance my resume. I am offering to volunteer my time and energy to make a positive difference. I am running for the board because of my desire to preserve and improve the community for all of us.


What do you believe is the most important single issue facing Ocean Pines?
To lowering our assessments by first returning to a sensible and conservative zero-based budget incorporating reasonable and common sense reserves. Our yearly assessments have increased by 60 percent in seven years. We currently have more than $7.5 million in our reserve accounts, which is ludicrous.
In spite of these bloated reserves, the Board of Directors has yet to accomplish even one budgeted capital improvement since 2010. The board has voted, outside of any approved budget, to spend $1.3 million to purchase another golf course and $900,000 to fix our existing greens. It sounds like this money from our hard-earned assessments are being used more as a slush fund then a reserve account.
Second, stop the fifth-year contribution to the so-called and never-approved Five-Year Funding Plan. With this move alone, we could cut our assessments by $150 each.
Third, lower the absurd $900,000 balance of our delinquent assessments by a one-third through an aggressive collection program. This could help lower our assessments another $35 each.
Fourth, cut our losses at the big three amenities – golf, aquatics and the Yacht Club – by one-third and that would give each member another $25.
How has your background as a developer and builder qualified you to run for multiple terms on the board?
I am not sure that it does, but I think it helps. I have a proven business track record and my company, Caliban Realty Corporation, enjoys an enviable reputation as a successful and fair-dealing real estate and construction company operating right here in Ocean Pines for over 25 years. I would like to think that my construction experience was instrumental in the development of our new community hall. I believe that I can do the same for our other amenities which are suffering from long deferred maintenance.
Why is the Yacht Club so important to Ocean Pines?
Judging from the bottom line performance, it isn’t. Our Yacht Club lost more than $170,000 last year in operational costs alone. Trying to keep a 200-seat venue open in the off-season makes absolutely no sense. If closed in the off-season, our Yacht Club would have come close to break even or even a profit last year.
Management admits to having no business plan and their performance proves it. Unfortunately, the maintenance at our Yacht Club has been grossly neglected for years. Some of our directors want to spend well over $4 million to build a new facility. The existing facility’s deferred maintenance can be accomplished for one-third of that cost and still provide the membership many years of service during the season. The problem at the Yacht Club is not the facility and it seems everybody except our board knows it.
What makes you want to have a second term on the board?
Since I left the board in 2010, our Yacht Club losses are up by $150,000. Our aquatics department losses are up $34,000, and the losses at our golf operation have increased by $46,000 for a total loss before audit in 2011 of $630,000.
Unbudgeted capital expenses have been approved for our golf of $900,000, and next year we have budgeted capital expense of more than $1 million. We are even borrowing $450,000 to resume the drainage program. Think about that. With more than $7.8 in the bank, we are borrowing $450,000.
Our delinquent accounts have gone from $380,000 in February of 2010 to $730.000 in February 2012, and that does not include the addition of $223,000 in new delinquent accounts for 2012 assessments. Our payroll budget is up over $1 million over the same time frame that our property values have plummeted. I want to help fix these problems by bringing some common sense business experience to the board.
What would you say is your specialty that you bring to the board?
Experience. I served as a director from 2007 to 2010 and have been actively involved in the OPA governance for many years. As the chairman of Stop Taxing Ocean Pines, I brought about the action that put an end to the ill-conceived plan for a new $6 million community hall in front of the Veterans Memorial at the Sports Core Pool. I co-chaired the OPA Marina Group, whose petition brought about the defeat of the proposed commercial marina at the Swim & Racquet Club.
What is the message you are sending to homeowners to get them to vote for you?
To the best of my knowledge, I have not solicited anyone to vote for me. I have submitted the requested paper work and participated in the process. I will stand on my record of service and let the membership decide. I am not promising to lower assessments in order to be elected. I am running to be elected in order to lower the assessments.