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VMs Debate Mailbox Issues

At their May 14 meeting Westchase Votings Members (VM) unanimously gave their initial approval to new mailbox guidelines for Castleford and portions of The Bridges.

Sturbridge, Wakesbridge, Baybridge and Castleford are proposing to adopt black metal mailboxes with gold flags and numbers. If approved by VMs again in June, homeowners in those neighborhoods will have to purchase the new mailboxes.

After the mailbox votes, Westchase Community Association (WCA) President Joaquin Arrillaga read a legal opinion from WCA attorney Jon Ellis regarding Florida’s Sunshine Law and its applicability to Covenants Meetings, which are currently closed to members without businesses before that committee. The Covenants Committee enforces the deed restrictions by levying fines for non-compliance, which can eventually trigger property liens and foreclosure. Ellis’ legal opinion held that Modifications Committee meetings should be open to the public but not the Covenants Committee meetings. He wrote, “For committees organized by the board of directors it is in the best interest to open them to the public to promote transparency but given the interest in protecting the privacy of the individual owners and preserving the integrity of the meeting, we believe the closure is warranted.”

When VM Ruben Collazo (The Shires) asked if a homeowner could bring witnesses to the Covenant Committee meetings, Arrillaga responded, “Yes, they can bring whoever they want. We have never prevented that.”

VMs spent the rest of the meeting discussing issues with the new mailboxes. VM Gerald Pappa (The Greens) stated the door of his mailbox recently fell off and the vendor, Creative Mailboxes, wanted to charge Pappa $500. Arrillaga responded that Creative Mailboxes’ owner had been contacted to set up a meeting to assure that the service in Westchase is “what we expect.”

VM Kathy Carlsen (Glencliff) said, “We have had great difficulty contacting them when we needed some type of repairs.”

VM Nancy Sells (Harbor Links/The Estates) then introduced a resident, Linda Ross, who spoke of her recent experience. Ross said that she was told by Creative Mailboxes that she had to pay $583 to replace her mailbox. She said she had lived in a similar community that had better bronze mailboxes that only cost $142 to replace. Ross volunteered to research other vendors.

Arrillaga responded that residents could seek other options provided the mailbox is the same. “We don’t have a vendor that you have to purchase from. The mailbox just has to meet the requirements.”

Ira Hoffman (Woodbay) said that they had a lot of good luck with Creative Mailboxes. He said the company had recommended waxing them once monthly or bimonthly to extend the life of the paint. Collazo agreed “We have had a lot of good experiences with Creative. When we changed over 200 mailboxes there was only a one percent error rate so for the most part, a good experience. Westchase does not have an official vendor but they are good to work with because they handle collections for you.”

Pappa, however, countered, “We need to stop a monopoly or find another resource that is competitively priced.”

VM Ralph Caputo (Abbotsford) asked the group to remember that at a past meeting, four mailbox vendors had given presentations. When Sells suggested the WCA maintain phone numbers from three to five vendors, Arrillaga responded, “I don’t think it will be a problem to have some phone numbers.”

VM Carlos Quiros (Villas of West Park Village) had two closing comments for attendees. After commentiong on poor VM attendance at board meetings, Quiros addressed attendance at WCA volunteer Gene McArthur’s memorial services.  “Bill Dennis and I were in attendance.  Not any other VMs or directors were in attendance.”

Quiros stated, “Gene had two things in his favor – he always said what he thought and he was always available to work for Westchase.  He was a voting member and participated in committees so I was surprised that only two of us attended.”

VMs adjourned at 7:50 p.m.

By Brenda Bennett

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