WCA Board Addresses COVID-Impacted Homeowner Violations

During the December Westchase Community Association (WCA) Board of Directors meeting Treasurer Dale Sells reported that COVID-19 had not had a negative financial impact on the association.

“Overall revenue is down quite a bit, but so are expenses,” he stated. “There were lots of programs that did not take place. Overall for revenue we are down $131,000 but expenses are down $254,000. “

The pandemic has, however, impacted residents, several of whom received violations while they were stuck out of the country or were having difficulty finding contractors to complete work. Directors heard from residents of The Bridges who had traveled to Denmark in March to renew their visas only to get stuck there until travel restrictions were lifted in mid-November. They said that they knew the violations were justified and that while their neighbors had pitched in by mowing the lawn, they had not been opening the mail. Thus, they were unaware of the violations until they returned to Tampa but now the violations for weeding and pressure washing had been corrected. All directors voted in favor of Board Vice President Heather Greeley-Hessefort’s motion to waive 90 percent of the fine with the remaining 10 percent due by the WCA’s January meeting.

A woman joined the Zoom meeting from California on behalf of her sister who lives in The Bridges and is was very sick in the hospital. She said that one violation had been corrected and that she had been able to hire landscapers to plant plants to shield the air conditioning and trim a palm tree and the work should be completed within a week. She said that if it were not for COVID, she would have travelled to Tampa to take care of everything personally. All voted in favor of Sells’ motion to table all violations until the February meeting to give her time to get the violations corrected.

A Fords resident said that after his normal power washer contractor cancelled twice due illness, he decided to buy a power washer and clean it himself, but the power washer that was delivered, did not work and that now he was waiting for the vendor to send him a new one. All voted in favor of Greeley-Hessefort’s motion to table the violation for 30 days to give him more time to correct it.

For a Greens homeowner, the delay in correcting his violation for bare spots in his grass was not due to COVID but instead a mystery of what was happening to the grass. He said he had an area in his yard where the grass was disappearing all the time and that he had planted about 150 plugs before he and his wife realized the culprits were deer enjoying an evening snack. So then they put down repellent pellets, which got washed away in a bad rainstorm and the deer came back. He said that he had now replaced the whole area with new sod. All voted in favor of Greeley-Hessefort’s motion to waive 90 percent of the fine.

Westchase resident Drew Lewis, captain of the Westchase Men’s 3.5 tennis team, asked the board to waive the Westchase resident requirement so that the team could play in the upcoming USTA season. He said that the team typically met the 50 percent Westchase resident rule but that due to COVID, player injuries and improved players moving up a level, only five of the 11 players on the current team were Westchase residents. Sells asked Lewis how long the team had been in place and what the percentage of residents typically was. Lewis responded that the team had been in place nine years, typically played three seasons each year and that with the exception of one time, the team had been made up of 50-60 percent Westchase residents. Initially Director Joaquin Arrillaga said he was opposed to Greeley-Hessefort’s motion to make an exception for the team because the board had previously told another team that they would not waive the 50 percent rule for them, but he ultimately decided to vote in favor of the motion since it was a one-time exception. All other directors also voted in favor.

Government Affairs Committee Chair Eric Holt reported that he had applied for a mini grant to cover part of the costs of purchasing and installing handless water bottle fountains at both the West Park Village Swim and Tennis Club and the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center on Countryway and that he should have a response by Jan. 18.

Community Association Manager Debbie Sainz said that the electronic voting had been unexpectedly time consuming but that now she had a better understanding of how it worked so could tweak things to make it smoother for the next time. She went on to say that the electronic voting did not save the association any money as they still had to include a self-addressed stamped envelope but that it was provided as a convenience for homeowners. Holt said, “From my standpoint, one of the reasons we’re doing this is to increase participation of the homeowners. When it’s done for the year, it would be interesting to see how many, if any, it increased.”

Sainz said that many people who signed up for e-voting, did not participate in the e-vote.

Directors then turned to a discussion of year end gifts for staff and non-staff. Holt asked how the gifts were determined and if there was a line item for them in the budget. Sainz reported that there was a line item in the budget for the year-end gifts and that the amounts were historically based on how many hours the employees work, what duties they perform and how long they’ve worked for the association. She pointed out that there a code at the bottom of the report that show how the amounts were determined. Greeley-Hessefort said that she was opposed to the gifts because of how the amounts were determined. “I’m opposed to just because you’ve been her another year, you get more money. I think it should be determined based on performance.”

Holt said, “I agree and would love to entertain evaluating how we do it for next year.”

Sells said that he did not disagree with re-evaluating the process but suggested now was not the time to do so. All voted in favor of his motion to approve the proposed year end gifts for the facilities staff as presented by management.

Holt and Greeley-Hessefort expressed the same reservations about year-end gifts to non-staff with Greeley-Hessefort adding, “I’m concerned that by giving thank you gifts to non-employees that we are potentially treating GPI employees like our own. I’m concerned about tax implications. In HR, I was always told not to treat contractors like employees.”

Arrillaga said that the issue had been brought up before and it was not a problem but that since tax codes changed all the time, it might be a good idea to revisit it. Directors voted 6-1 in favor of Sells’ motion to approve the year end gifts with Greeley-Hessefort casting the dissenting vote.

The meeting adjourned at 9:13 p.m. The next meeting will be Thursday, January 15, 7 p.m.

By Marcy Sanford



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