WCA Board Declines to Immediately Embrace Management Contract Bid

Responding to a May 10 vote by Westchase Voting Members asking the WCA Board to bid out the WCA management contract, the WCA Board backed what they felt was a reasonable compromise.

The May 13 meeting of the Westchase Community Association (WCA) Board began with resident Robert Mackey praising the board for its recent decision to convert two dual use tennis-pickleball courts into six dedicated pickleball courts. Joking that he had previously shown up to press the board to make the change, Mackey said, “Now I’m here to tell you you did a great job. The courts are pretty much the talk of the pickleball community.”

Supervisors then heard a report from their auditor Mike DeMare of affinityCPA. DeMare went through the association’s 2021 financials and praised the association for its financial management. “There were no material weaknesses identified as the result of the audit,” he stated. DeMare stated that the association did see an uptick in expenses, largely associated with program expenses and legal fees. Ultimately he pegged the 2021 deficit at $60,000, falling to $15,000 after factoring in depreciation.

When asked by WCA Treasurer Dale Sells if he had identified anything the association should do differently, DeMare stated, “Not here, we didn’t…You run a pretty tight ship here.”

Director Eric Holt, however, pointed to DeMare’s documents, which suggested the association lost $40,000 on its programs. “If that is the case, we need to revisit the expenses,” he said. “It’s always meant to be a wash for us.”

WCA Manager Debbie Sainz stated she would look further into the issue.

Holt, also chair of the Government Affairs Committee (GAC), then briefed directors on the current snag with Hillsborough County’s Parks Advisory Board, which has opposed the Glencliff Cell Tower, proposed by the Westchase Community Development District (CDD), which owns the park, and backed by the WCA. Despite the unique circumstances of the park and lack of cell coverage in the area, Holt said, “They’ve taken position from policy standpoint that cell towers have no place in parks.” While stating he had another meeting scheduled with the county to push the issue, Holt added, “The reason why this is not going anywhere still and getting up to the commissioners, is there are a limited number of residents opposed.” Holt said that despite Westchase residents being in favor of the tower by a two to one margin, he observed of county staff who have declined to place it on the agenda for consideration by the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), “They’re afraid they’re going to do something that will cause an uproar and make the commissioner look bad.”

At Holt’s request, the board voted 6-0 to reiterate their support of the CDD’s proposed tower at the park. While Director Keith Heinemann briefly called in for a later portion of the meeting, he was absent for all but one vote.

When Holt inquired whether the board wished to take any position on the Hillsborough County transportation referendum that will be on November’s ballot, the board advised that inviting county staff to make a presentation to VMs on how funds would be used would be appropriate.

With Director Heinemann calling into the meeting, Yesner then switched to the management contract issue. He reminded board members of the May 10 vote by VMs, which was 20-4 in favor of asking the WCA Board to bid out the WCA’s management contract. The contract is currently held by Greenacre Properties and has not been bid out in more than a decade. “I thought this was an important enough vote to have the whole board present,” Yesner stated. Previously the board tied, 3-3, on a vote to bid the management contract out, which has 18 months left. Voting in favor of a bid process were Holt, Yesner and previous Director Michele Del Sordo. Voting in opposition to putting the contract to bid were Directors Jim Brinker, Heinemann and Sells. Director Joaquin Arrillaga was absent and Director Blakely Echeverry subsequently replaced Del Sordo on the board.

“I listened Tuesday night,” Sells said of VM input, adding “It really is the board’s decision whether we go through the exercise.”

While stating he saw some value in finding out what other options existed, Sells argued the board could do that without an RFP. Referring to service levels, Sells concluded, “If we find there is a significant gap…we can always do an RFP.” Sells then made a motion for the board to form a committee to explore services offered by different companies without a formal bid.

Director Echeverry added the committee should also include VMs and could explore what is going well and what gaps existed. “There’s a lot of good Greenacre is doing.”

“I think this is all good and I would like to volunteer myself to head the committee,” said Holt.

Stating VMs might have had a different reaction if the board had taken such an exploratory step instead of voting down the bid, Director Brinker responded, “I think we should have done this before we did some of the other things.” He added. “I think we learned from this. I think we learned a lot from this.”

Director Heinemann, however, backed an actual bid process. While stating he had every confidence in Greenacre, he added, “After 10 years, it’s probably time we did take a look.”

Sells’ motion to simply discuss service levels with other management companies passed 6-1, with Heinemann opposed.

Brinker again emphasized, “We’re not doing an RFP, we’re going to research…companies.” Describing himself as the most experienced person in the room on the topic (his West Park subassociation has changed management companies), Brinker then volunteered to be on committee.

Sells added, “I’m not averse to doing a search, but there’s time to do it properly.”

Yesner stated that the discussion was never about replacing Greenacre. “This was about we don’t know what we don’t know.” He added, “And I think that’s where we ended up.”

Directors, however, then disagreed over whether the committee could also explore with the management companies what they would generally charge for their services.

Brinker again emphasized that the new committee’s intention was to fact-find, not get quotes.

“I think financials need to come into play,” countered Holt.

“No,” Echeverry countered, “this is fact-finding.”

Holt, however, insisted the committee couldn’t ignore creating a “marketplace baseline.”

“That would come after,” responded Sells, stating the board was simply in its questionnaire phase, with a potential RFP phase coming later.

Brinker then invited Stockbridge Alternate Joe Odda, who was present in the audience and who made the VMs’ May 10 motion to ask the board to bid out the contract, to join the committee. Odda agreed to do so.

With Director Heinemann ending his call, the board returned to committee matters, voting 6-0 to appoint Ashley Dietz to the GAC. “She’s very civic minded and very interested in getting involved and engaged with the WCA,” said Holt.

The board also reappointed JoAnn Gratt, Cynthia Hutton and Steve Splaine to two year terms on the Modifications Committee and replaced retiring committee member Dan Hagy with alternate Bradley Lloyd.

Director Arrillaga, chair of the Facilities Improvements Committee, then gave a detailed update on the committee’s recommendations for improvements. He began by recommending the board hire Avery Construction, which offered the lower bid of two interviewed companies for the complete renovation of restrooms at both WCA pools. Arrillaga requested the bid be enhanced to roughly $156,000 to cover some additional items such as tile, storage cubbies, plumbing fixtures and benches. He stated they hoped to start of work in September after the summer’s rush, allowing them time to have all supplies on hand before the start. The board approved the bid 5-0, with WCA President Shawn Yesner abstaining because Avery’s owner was a friend with some business referral ties.

Arrillaga then stated his committee had explored improvements to the existing slide, which, he stated, is often not open for use because of its 48” height requirement for its ladder and the need to have an extra lifeguard on hand. Bigger slides, Arrillaga said, were prohibitively expensive, costing $75,000 to $100,000. When Jim Brinker inquired if the board, given the limitations and added lifeguard costs, considered just removing the slide – an idea backed by Director Holt and Facilities Manager Kelly Shires – Arrillaga stated he recommended simply spending $15,000 to build a new slide access that would alleviate the height requirement. “It will cut the price by a lot and parents can still enjoy it,” he said. He also said the association could also set specific times for its opening.

“We rarely are using that slide. We don’t have the staffing for it,” argued Holt. “It will cost a lot more in the long run because we need to have a lifeguard sitting there.”

Arrillaga, however, countered that the slide was one of the top recommendations that came out of a previous homeowner poll and contest to come up with the best idea for improving Westchase’s facilities. “What people want are more activities, not less,” he said, adding that summer staffing levels meant they did not have to hire an extra guard for the slide.

When WOW inquired if the board had considered a key fob entry system, which would remove the need for having a guard at the entrances, allowing that guard to watch the slide, the suggestion received no board response.

Nancy Sells, Harbor Links VM, stated she was on the WCA board when the slide was approved. “For me it would be a nice compromise to approve the stairs.”

Ultimately the board leaned toward that solution.

Arrillaga stated he had asked two companies to come to offer bids for adding music speakers to the pools, but neither showed. He stated the committee was also exploring the purchase of nicer pool furniture, which Association Manager Debbie Sainz would cost about $44,000 for both facilities.

Arrillaga also said the committee had priced ice machines, requested by tennis players. The board ultimately approved, 5-1 (with Director Holt opposed) installing water and drainage lines and making the $7,000 purchase of one ice machine for the Westchase Swim and Tennis Center on Countryway Boulevard. They also voted unanimously to ask Arrillaga to run lines for a potential second ice machine at the West Park Village pool during its restroom renovations.

Arrillaga also announced that wifi service had been improved at the Tennis Cabana at the Swim and Tennis Center.

Arrillaga then pointed to the Tennis Cabana, which he had acknowledged the association originally built incorrectly by classifying the building as a storage facility rather than a structure that would be occupied by tennis players and parents waiting for kids to finish lessons. The storage facility designation prompted the county to permit the structure to be built; its lack of restrooms, a requirement for occupied structures, however, caused the county to impose a limit of eight people in the building at any time. “That’s why it’s never been furnished,” said Arrillaga. He stated that he was working with Yesner and Holt to approach the county with a request that the building be reclassified for occupancy, stating users would have accessibility to the nearby pool’s restrooms.

Arrillaga also discussed the possibility of constructing another building for youth activities in the area of the sand volleyball court. To keep costs low, he stated the association could also not run plumbing to the area or install bathrooms but it might run into the same county code problem.

Director Sells, however, stated he had concerns about having a second building prove not as useful as expected. “If we’re going to do it, do it right,” he advised.

Arrillaga stated he could get quotes for the new structure from Avery and the WCA could potentially incorporate its construction costs into future budgets.

Arrillaga then pitched hiring a part-time social director to enhance the association’s programs and event planning. “We’ve talked about this ad nauseam,” he stated. He stated a committee member was writing up a potential job description.

“I’d like to move slowly on this,” countered Director Holt, stating he’d like to see the job description before creating a potentially unclear position.

Arrillaga committed to bringing the board the completed job description.

Arrillaga’s report concluded with directors approving a motion 6-0 directing Association Manager Sainz to draft guidelines for the hanging of tennis league championship banners at the tennis courts.

Yesner then stated that Director Holt, chair of the Budget Committee, and he sat down with Ryan Greenacre and a member of Greenacre’s financial team to discuss a $5,000 annual fee Greenacre was charging the association for iCloud storage the WCA actually didn’t use. “They got Eric some more information that he’s digging through,” observed Yesner.

Holt described it as a productive meeting and stated confusion existed in the line-item description. He added Greenacre credited the association $2,200. “They felt like it was going to be a wash at the end of the day,” he said. Holt added he had asked for specific descriptions and service agreements regarding such additional fees, stating that after his review, he would have a clearer idea of what services were provided and whether the board would wish to continue them.

WOW’s reporter then observed that he had reviewed the Greenacre contract and could find no information about additional fees. He added that while he could recall a motion to approve the original contract, he could recall no subsequent board motions approving additional fees or services. He suggested the board approve such additions by motion so that future boards could follow their actions in the board minutes.

Holt concurred that the management contract was too generic and needed improvement.

Following directors’ discussions of plans for the May 21 Westchase 30th anniversary party, Documents Chair Dale Sells stated proposed guideline amendments had received their first VM vote earlier in the week and would face their second in June. He added CCRs and Bylaws amendments would see VM votes in July. He acknowledged the work of all members of the Documents Committee, which included Brinker, Holt, Michele Del Sordo, Ken Cellupica, Rachel Comella, Rick Goldstein and Kurt Mehl.

Making her report, Association Manager Sainz stated the association’s new website at www.westchasewca.com was up and running and allowed residents to opt-in for WCA email and text notifications.

Directors then approved recommended fines for deed restriction violations, waived all but $100 of a homeowner’s appealed fine because the homeowner had resolved the violations and tabled until July another fine appeal regarding a roof.

Closing the meeting, directors ratified an email decision to approve an estate sale and authorized the association manager to approve future sales provided they follow association guidelines. The board concluded by granting permission for an anniversary party sponsor to incorporate the Westchase W logo into a birthday banner he had printed.

Directors adjourned at 8:53 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

Editor’s note: The original story above has been edited to correct some information regarding the board’s handling of homeowner fines for violations. WOW’s editor regrets the error.

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