Notes from the 9-6-18 Board Meeting

two person wearing gray and blue suits
GHI’s most recent Board Meeting was held on Thursday, September 6, 2018 at 7:45pm. Read more for highlights of the meeting.

The Executive Session Meeting was held prior to the open board meeting:

  • Approved the minutes of the Executive Session Meeting held on August 2, 2018
  • Considered and approved the proposed contract for the solar panel installation at the administrative building (2nd reading)
  • Considered the terms of the 2018 fall concrete repair contract (1st reading)

Approval of Membership Applications:

  • 5 new membership applications were approved
  • 3 changes to Mutual Ownership Contracts were approved

Long-Range Planning Committee Report (Paul Kapfer):

  • Committee is finalizing their charter and will vote on it September 18
  • The committee is looking for volunteers – positions are appointed by the President
  • If interested in joining the committee, contact the President and provide some background information
  • Board President Skolnik commented that this committee is working towards what we see as the future of the cooperative; the members own the cooperative and can do with it as they choose

Minutes of the Special Open Session Meeting on August 2, 2018

  • Meeting minutes were approved

Minutes of the Regular Open Session on August 2, 2018

  • Meeting minutes were approved

Member Concern Regarding Footbridge Behind 3 Court Laurel Hill Road:

  • Member Aileen Kroll sent an email to the Board and staff on July 30, 2018 expressing concerns over the condition of the bridge
  • General Manager Ralph contacted Ms. Kroll on August 1, 2018 stating that Maintenance Director Bachman inspected it and felt it was stable; he did however notice two posts with wood-rot and completed a maintenance request for replacement
  • Ralph inspected the footbridge himself, after Ms. Kroll stated that she was not satisfied with Bachman’s assessment; Ralph agreed with Bachman’s assessment
  • On August 8, 2018, Ms. Kroll sent four photographs to the Board
  • During Ms. Kroll’s comment period, she stated:
    • She first raised concerns to the Board regarding the bridge two years ago
    • She has concerns over the lack of all warped boards being replaced, the lack of painting to the replaced boards, and the unknown structural integrity of the bridge
  • It was determined that the wood was pressure-treated, therefore there was a time period before it could be painted
  • After some discussion over the responsibility to maintain the footbridge, Ralph determined that it should be staff responsibility, and it would be entered into the maintenance management system for routine inspections
  • Erosion of the path itself was also discussed and it was suggested to use the wood chips, which GHI has in large quantities at the administrative building

Proposed Replacement Fence in a Member’s Serviceside Yard:

  • Diane Oberg submitted a permit request to replace her current serviceside fence with a flat-topped picket fence
  • Staff replied that a serviceside fence is not allowed under GHI rule VII.B.1.c
  • As discussed at the August 18, 2018 Architectural Review Committee (ARC) meeting, Ms. Oberg chose the style to match the fence style of a neighbor, she wanted to replace her fence in the same location, and she originally fenced in her serviceside yard to remedy people cutting through her yard
  • The ARC recommended that the Board grant an exception to allow Ms. Oberg to replace her fence
  • After some discussion, Ms. Oberg’s requested was voted on and the motion carried

Proposed Replacement Fence in a Member’s Gardenside Yard:

  • Jackie McFarland submitted a permit request to install a green chain link fence in her gardenside yard with one side approximately two feet from the yardline
  • Staff replied that this was in violation of GHI rules VII.B.1.c and VII.B.9
  • As discussed at the August 18, 2018 ARC meeting, due to adjacent screened-in porches, there was a difficult-to-reach space between them, there was concern that there could be future problems were the fence or porches ever to be removed, and the ARC preferred the fence to be installed on the yardline
  • Ms. McFarland revised her proposal to place the fence on the yardline
  • The ARC also discussed whether or not the chain link fence was harmonious: a neighbor on one side has a split-rail fence, which would remain in place, and a neighbor on the opposite side has a chain link fence; a split-rail fence was discussed as an alternative
  • The ARC recommended that the proposed chain link or horizontal-board fence style would be harmonious
  • Ms. McFarland revised her proposal to request a black chain link fence
  • During Ms. McFarland’s comment period, she explained that she preferred the chain link fence as she is a dog-owner
  • After some discussion, Ms. McFarland’s request was voted on and the motion carried

Review of the 2nd Quarter GHI Financial Statements:

  • The Finance Committee reviewed the statement on August 23, 2018
  • Director of Finance Joe Perry highlighted a number of points, including:
    • An increase in Hiring and Training due to advertising for vacant positions
    • An increase in Temp and Professional Help due to temporary staffing of the Executive Assistant Position (which is now filled)
    • A decrease in Contract Work due to asbestos remediation projects that are currently being worked on and not yet started (this will increase as the project continues)
    • An increase in Dumpsters due to cleanup of wood chips and trees
  • For the full report provided in the meeting, including all of Director of Finance Perry’s highlights, it is recommended to contact the Finance Department

Review of Investment Committee’s Semi-Annual Report:

  • The corporate bond investments on the report were discussed
  • Audit Committee Chair Molly Lester stated that she has commented since 2014 that the format of the report does not capture the performance of GHI’s bond ladder, and she suggested GHI consider use of one of the reports that can be provided by GHI’s broker, Lafayette Investments, to obtain the rate of return
  • Director and Investment Committee Chair Chuck Hess said that he would take the recommendations under advisement
  • Director of Finance Perry commented that it would be important to ensure the report does not use market value, as GHI uses book value
  • President Skolnik asked Hess and Perry to look into the suggested report
  • A motion was presented to accept the Report, and the motion carried
  • For the full Investment Committee Report, it is recommended to contact the GHI Office

Review of GHI’s Current Investment Procedures:

  • On May 5, 2018, the Board reviewed a legal opinion on the applicability of the Prudent Person or Prudent Investor Rule to GHI
  • The legal firm stated that GHI is governed by the Prudent Person Rule
  • The legal firm recommended that certain investment types, such as hedge funds or speculative stock, are viewed as “intrinsically speculative” and considered inappropriate
  • Based on current policy, GHI’s current investments follow the rule, but it is advised to review the investment and committee policies to clarify the Investment Committee not do anything that binds the corporation and that it only makes recommendations
  • The legal opinion stated such recommendations would then be more appropriately addressed by a licensed financial investor
  • It was also recommended for GHI to contact their insurance carrier to ensure that actions as investments on behalf of GHI are covered under the D&O policy
  • Director Kapfer expressed concerns over the legal opinion due to incorrect grammar (incomplete sentences) and lack of legal citations
  • Discussion went back and forth between Ralph and Kapfer regarding if there would be an additional charge for a revised document, and Kapfer thought that it was not too much to ask for professionalism and proofreading

Consideration of Further Directives to Consultant Regarding GHI Replacement Reserves’ Study:

  • The Finance Committee presented recommendations to the Board on August 8, 2018 regarding the GHI Replacement Reserve Study by DMA
  • At that meeting, the Board passed a motion to base contribution amounts for each category of homes on a zero threshold with constant annual fee increases for each category
  • Director Bill Jones had further recommendations to reduce the increase to member fees:
    • a. Delay half of the 2024-2028 plumbing project for frame homes by 2 years to 2028-2030
    • b. Delay the 2034 part of the 5 year plumbing project for masonry homes until 2036
    • c. Delay half of the 2036 drainage project for larger homes until 2037
  • After some discussion among the Board and staff, it was determined:
    • It is not possible to delay part of the drainage project for larger homes since it is one contiguous project, but the entire project could be delayed
    • Frame homes have galvanized pipes which can be more difficult to repair; delaying the project leaves GHI with uncertainty on inflation and costs
    • The same is true of inflation and cost in masonry homes, even though they have copper pipes with are more durable
    • There is a reasonably constant trend of plumbing failures throughout all GHI homes
    • Replacements should be done as late as possible, but it is wise to have the funding as early as possible
  • The motion was revised to ask the Board to direct the Manager to request DMA to incorporate the suggestions into the reserve analysis
    • a. Spread the 2024-2028 plumbing project for frame home over 6 years from 2024-2029
    • b. Delay the 2030-2034 plumbing project for masonry homes for one year from 2031-2035
    • c. Delay the 2036 drainage project for larger homes to 2037
  • During discussion, GHI staff did not feel it was wise to delay items (a) and (b) since the pipes will be nearly 100 years old by the time of the replacement project
  • The Board voted, and the motion failed 2-6
  • Another motion was suggested to delay the 2036 drainage project for larger homes until 2037
  • The Board voted, and the motion carried 8-0
  • An additional motion which was on the agenda to arrange a meeting with DMA and the Board/Finance Committee was determined to be no longer necessary

Woodlands Committee Recommendation Regarding the Reforestation of a Former Landfill Site:

  • In 1991, GHI was required by various agencies to regrade an old landfill, build and maintain a storm water management system, and reforest part of the area
  • There was no reforestation as directed
  • On July 5, 2018, the Board directed the Woodlands Committee to assess what had been completed in regards to reforestation and recommend next steps to be in compliance with the requirements of reforestation
  • Director Kapfer provided a memo to the Board stating that GHI does not know enough about what needs to be planted:
    • It is recommended to get advice about the soil quality
    • It is possible that there were trees planted, and the soil was too thin or not the right quality/acidity
  • A list of possible trees was provided, and a further recommendation may be necessary after learning about soil quality
  • A change of species from the original list may need to be shared with the county before proceeding
  • President Skolnik stated that there was some anecdotal evidence that trees may have been planted and mowed down
  • A motion was presented for the Board to accept the Woodlands Committee report regarding the recommendations to the former landfill and direct the manager to implement the recommendations
  • Audit Committee Chair Lester reminded the Board of the Audit Committee’s recommendation to consider how the stormwater management system is working in regards to the overall use of the land
  • GHI member Debbie McKinley, an expert in the area, was able to meet with the Audit Committee, and she was present at the meeting:
    • Ms. McKinley reviewed a drawing of the storm water inlet structure, the pipe from the structure to a rock-filled infiltration base
    • There is grading to facilitate water-flow to the structure
    • Ms. McKinley had the opportunity to review the storm-water inlet structure after heavy rains and believes it to be completely overwhelmed
    • The infiltration basin has ponding
    • When reviewed 24-hours later, only the top of the structure could be seen above the water
    • It is unclear, but very possible, that the system was not working as designed
    • The reforestation is part of a whole system; it may take care of part of the problem, but not all of it
    • There are piles of mulch and stone in the area that run toward the structure; the area could have changed from the time of the original design to the extent that the area now is not designed to handle the current system
  • The Board thanked Ms.McKinley for the information provided, but did not discuss it further before voting on the motion
  • The Board voted to accept the report, and the motion carried
  • President Skolnik commented that if General Manager Ralph felt the storm water management system was not working correctly he had the authority to look into it further

Authorizing GHI’s Representatives to Negotiate with WSSC Regarding Replacement of Pipes for Masonry Homes:

  • On October 5, 2018, GHI, the City of Greenbelt, and WSSC will continue to negotiate the proposed plan to replace underground water supply and sewer pipes for masonry homes
  • The question of who would represent GHI other than GHI’s attorney James McCollum
  • President Skolnik and General Manager Ralph proposed that they should be representatives along with Director Linda Seely and Assistant General Manager Tom Sporney
  • The motion was voted on, and it carried

Items of Information – the following items were on the agenda:

  • National Association of Housing Cooperatives (NAHC) has benefits available to members
    • Members will receive more information about this in the next e-newsletter
  • Letter received from PG County regarding entering GHI property to conduct a topographic survey in conjunction with a storm drainage improvement project
  • Letter received from the MD Department of Transportation, State Highway Administration regarding entering GHI property to conduct surveys relating to MDOT’s Traffic Relief Plan to reduce congestion
  • The Board 12 month action plan
  • Monthly GHI and City of Greenbelt Calendars
  • Items from the President, Board Members, Audit Committee, and Manager
  • For more information on the details of these items, it is recommended to contact the GHI office

Author: Lauren Wisniewski

Lauren is a lifelong Greenbelter. She grew up in GHI as a child and returned to GHI as an owner in 2009.

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