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WCA Board Changes Management Contract; Debates Permitting Alcohol on Pool Decks

The July 11 meeting of the Westchase Community Association saw directors approve a change in the association management contract and debate allowing the consumption of alcohol at the community pools.

The meeting began with a resident appealing a fine for failure to screen playground equipment in his yard. “The house came with a swing set and they charged us more to keep it,” he said. The resident added that they had previously screened it by planting palms, which died, he stated, because the neighbor’s yard was draining into his. The resident added that he had purchased a magnolia for planting in the coming week but was discussing with the nursery how to change the slope of the yard to ensure the new tree also doesn’t die.

“What do you want from us?” asked WCA President Ruben Collazo.

“Give us more time,” the resident responded. “I promise you the situation is being fixed.”

Citing the residents’ history of continual communication to the association manager about the matter, directors unanimously voted to table the fine for a month to permit the resident to finish the project.

WCA Treasurer Shawn Yesner stated he was working with Association Manager Debbie Sainz to prepare the budget for the WCA’s annual budget workshop, likely either Tuesday, Aug. 27, or Wednesday, Aug. 28, at 6 p.m.

Government Affairs Committee Chair Rick Goldstein then honored Detective Hugh Alter, who served as Westchase’s Community Resource Officer in the past and was recently promoted. The board awarded Alter for his service to the community with a Westchase medallion. “Everyday there are very special people who provide a cocoon of protection,” said Goldstein, thanking Alter for his service.

Goldstein added the GAC, working with Hillsborough County Code Enforcement, has virtually eliminated the West Park Village problem with vultures raiding open commercial dumpsters.

Deb Guerino of the GAC’s Transportation Steering Committee stated they were successfully getting feedback from their survey, which will be posted again in August on Westchase Neighborhood News to maximize resident participation. Guerino said they would report results in September.

WCA Director Joaquin Arrillaga, chair of the Landscaping Committee, stated he had recently met with Westchase Community Development District (CDD) Field Manager Doug Mays to discuss coordinating with the district by creating a new WCA tree list that incorporates the CDD’s new street-tree plan. Arrillaga stated the committee was working on other tweaks to improve the WCA’s tree rules, including a review of the WCA’s current list of acceptable trees for yards. Directors approved the committee spending up to $2,000 to hire the same arborist as the CDD to assist with the work.

Making her report, Association Manager Debbie Sainz stated she was working on getting a refund from TECO after the utility recently over-debited the WCA’s account by over $10,000. Along with Director Shawn Yesner, Sainz said the WCA’s recent survey of swim team parents saw solid participation and positive feedback. “According to what we got back,” observed Yesner, “Pipeline is doing a great job.”

Following directors’ unanimous approval of a document detailing fines for homeowners’ unresolved deed restriction violations, the board briefly discussed approval of a bid to clean the WCA office building for $200 monthly (with a weekly cleaning). Stating his old office was cleaned less expensively, Yesner suggested acquiring more bids. A motion directing Sainz to seek and accept a lower bid but, failing that, hire the $200 per month bidder passed 6-1 with Director Keith Heinemann opposed.

Sainz then requested directors expand the hours worked by a part-time manager by eight hours weekly. Currently the management office is staffed by two full-time managers, Sainz and Charlotte Adams, and a part-time assistant, Cyndi Moses. Under the original contract, Moses worked 16 hours weekly and Sainz requested that the board add the hours to enable Adams and Sainz to leave the office and drive the community to check for violations. “Charlotte and I need to be out there more.”

Directors unanimously approved amending the management contract with Greenacre Properties at a cost of $750 per month.

WCA President Ruben Collazo then turned to recent resident feedback from an informal survey on the WCA’s Facebook group about additional services. Of the group’s roughly 500 members, 63 indicated support for establishing a social committee to organize three or four events annually; 52 supported upgrading the existing water slide in West Park Village; and 48 indicated support for adding a cash bar and security at a Westchase pool. Meanwhile 46 stated they wanted no HOA assessment increase while 31 homeowners indicated they would support an increase of $100-$200.

Collazo kicked off a discussion of permitting alcohol at the pools by stating, “As much as I would love to do that, I cannot.”

“I’m going to be opposed to it as well,” stated Director Arrillaga, citing the WCA attorney’s previous advice to restrict alcohol use at resident events in the pool’s activity room. “Alcohol and water don’t mix.” Arrillaga added that the association managers and Facility Manager Kelly Shires were experts and all advised against permitting alcohol use.

During the conversation, both he and Collazo cited potential problems with alcohol fueling belligerent residents, with Collazo asking what would happen if a group of rowdy young men got drunk and began to fight.

“We are a family-oriented association,” said Director Keith Heinemann. “I like a beer as much as the next guy but I don’t think we need to have it on the commons.”

Director Goldstein concurred, encouraging the board to also consider the health risks of combining alcohol, humidity and a hot sun.

“I’m going an opposite direction,” countered Director Michele Del Sordo, emphasizing the importance of the board carefully considering residents’ suggestions after they requested input. “I would want to continue the conversation to figure out a way we can do it.” Referring to some directors’ anecdotes of previous residents’ misbehavior, Del Sordo added she was concerned about penalizing well-behaved folks. “I struggle with making rules for the lowest common denominator.”

“I’m with you,” Director Yesner said to Del Sordo. He added that not all residents would bring a few beers onto the pool deck and handle it irresponsibly. “Let’s look at it,” he said, adding, “Is there some compromise in there?”

Director Ashley Wait also wished to explore the matter further, adding that the West Park Village apartment complex permitted alcohol at their pool. “For the most part, everyone plays nice in the sandbox,” she added.

As part of the discussion, directors also weighed resident suggestions to get rid of all lifeguards, an idea which all who spoke but Wait opposed. Wait, however, also encouraged directors to explore residents’ regular social media complaints about resident difficulties accessing Westchase facilities due to strict enforcement by staff. Suggesting that staff sets aside too much of the pool for lap swimmers at the expense of swimming families and that the water is kept too chilly for recreational swimmers, Wait suggested resident use of the facilities would increase if some of the pool policies changed.

Facilities Manager Kelly Shires then weighed in. “We have a lot of families who are happy with the pool,” he said, adding that the pools were chilled to 82 degrees.

Shires stated that staff began checking residents’ coolers for alcohol beginning this year and stated he had one group of young men playing inappropriate music and kickboxing at the pool who initially refused to stop because it wasn’t explicitly banned in pool rules. He stated that after reading on Facebook that some residents were piggybacking into the West Park apartments’ pool due to their more permissive alcohol rules, he reported the matter to the apartments’ management as he is a resident there.

When directors decided to table a decision on permitting alcohol use to permit greater research into how other associations handle it, Shires stated, “I’ve been working in facility management for 30 years and I think this is the wrong way to go.”

Collazo and Del Sordo concluded by stating that at least residents will know the board is listening to and acting upon their suggestions.

Directors adjourned at 8:17 p.m.

By Chris Barrett, Publisher

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