By Lynn Gonzalez
Prior to calling January’s meeting to order, Westchase Community Association President Shawn Yesner held the usual open forum, which gives residents the opportunity to address the board about any issues of concern.
Judy Oliveri, Stonebridge Voting Member (VM), took the floor to ask what transpired at the CDD meeting held earlier in the week in regards to the turkey vulture problem. Matt Lewis, CDD board chairperson, was in attendance and offered to answer her question.
Lewis said that due to negative publicity that resulted from vulture mitigation efforts last year, the USDA is refusing to assist with the problem. He said the USDA recommended using lasers and paint ball guns to deter the birds. CDD staff can’t move forward with mitigation efforts because they’re not certified to do so, and the turkey vultures are a federally protected species, he added.
CDD Office Manager Sonny Whyte has reached out to several outside vendors in an effort to find one that is certified in mitigation efforts, but she has been unsuccessful, continued Lewis. He said he’d also spoken to Yesner and WCA Government Affairs Committee (GAC) Chairperson Eric Holt about the possibility of relaxing restrictions on using spike strips on roofs and imposter owls.
Lewis also said that they were working with a USDA representative out of Gainesville to determine whether CDD staff could somehow obtain the certification necessary to perform mitigation efforts.
Yesner called the meeting to order at 6:18 pm, and asked for a motion to approve the consent agenda. Board Member Michele DelSordo moved to approve, and all board members in attendance voted in favor of her motion. Board Member Jim Brinker was absent.
Yesner then gave the floor to Holt to provide his GAC update. Holt said he feels confident that the CDD would make a good faith effort to address the vulture problem.
The issue was brought up at the VMs meeting earlier in the week, said Yesner, and they asked about the possibility of a lawsuit. He reached out to Shumaker, the WCA’s legal counsel, and they stated that the WCA has to decide whether this is an issue they want to get involved with, since the association does not own the land where the vultures have settled. They also said that the WCA could pay Shumaker to lobby on their behalf at the county, state, and/or federal levels, added Yesner. If those efforts fail, litigation could be a possibility, he said.
DelSordo asked Holt who would pay for the additional parking signage that will eventually be installed in West Park Village (WPV) based upon the recent review of the community by local fire officials. Holt said the CDD would pay for it, then bill WPV. DelSordo said it was vital to communicate to WPV residents that they were going to have to cover the costs, and Holt agreed.
Yesner then reopened the residents’ forum to accommodate a resident who arrived late. Carl Longnecker introduced himself as a Westchase resident and leader of Cub Scout Pack 46. He said that while Pack 46 used to be comprised of approximately 80 percent Westchase residents, that number changed substantially due to the pandemic. Many nearby local units lost significant numbers of members, and Pack 46 absorbed the remaining members, which altered its makeup, he said. Now, Pack 46 has approximately 160 members, of which about 40 to 50 percent are Westchase residents.
As pack leader, Longnecker said it’s his responsibility to find a meeting room for his den, which includes between 20 and 30 children. In the past, he has used the activity room at the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center, but he can’t afford to pay for space and now struggles to meet the 50 percent resident requirement needed to use the space for free. Longnecker said he finds the rules for letting residents use the room very restrictive, despite his impression that the room isn’t used frequently.
Holt asked Longnecker whether he was seeking an exception to the rule for his Cub Scout den. Longnecker said he felt the room rental form needed to be redone and the process streamlined. Board members then debated the residential rule, and ended up asking Longnecker to submit his specific concerns about the form and the process to the board for future review.
The board then turned to the topic of the bathroom renovations at both community pools. Yesner recused himself from the discussion due to his working relationship with Avery, the contractor that the board approved to complete the project, and asked DelSordo, as board vice president, to lead the conversation.
After the WCA voted to use Avery as the contractor at a total cost of $145,000, the association’s attorneys and Avery’s attorneys hammered out the details of the contract prior to it being signed, said DelSordo. The WCA did not want to be responsible for any price increases throughout the construction process, and their attorneys requested a no-escalation clause, she said. Avery’s attorneys agreed to add the clause, but its addition raised the total cost of the project to $198,000, according to DelSordo.
“I can’t make heads or tails of why that number’s gone up so much. It’s clear to me we don’t have the expertise to manage this project. Do we need to hire a project manager?” asked Holt. “We’ve got no hands or eyes on this project, and it’s making me nervous. We need to put the brakes on and go back to rebidding this thing out. This is so far out of the range that we were considering.”
Yesner warned that Avery has likely already incurred some costs, and if the project were to back to bid, the WCA may still owe them some money.
After a lengthy discussion, DelSordo moved to decline the proposed contract with Avery, put the bathroom renovations out for bids once again, and hire a project manager to oversee the entire project. Her motion passed, 3-2, with Board Members Blakley Echeverry and Dale Sells voting in opposition and Yesner recusing himself. Yesner said he would discuss the matter with Shumaker prior to exiting the contract with Avery.
In his Treasurer’s Report, Sells stated a budget is just a best effort to project revenue and expense a year in advance. There were no excess funds from 2022. Capital contributions were down by $39,000, fines were down by $12,000 and summer camp revenue was down by $12,000, resulting in a $63,000 revenue shortage compared to the budget. Expenses also exceeded budgeted amounts in 2022: web and IT costs by $8,000, capital improvements by $21,000, and legal fees by $34,000. Sells said that in five of the past eight years, the budget had ended up in the black, while it was in the red for the remaining three. The WCA still has $205,000 in accumulated excess funds.
Facilities Manager Dwight Kilgore then took the floor to share his report with the board. Holt expressed concern that the cabanas had not been staffed for about three months. Kilgore said he wanted all employees to be certified lifeguards, but that some were minors, which made daytime staffing a challenge. Holt said that Sainz had created a job description and that he felt the position should be filled by non-lifeguards if necessary.