Monday, May 27, 2013


"The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor."        "The Myth of Sisyphus" by Albert Camus.


Like the average American I don’t get involved much with politics, but I try hard to stay abreast of what our leaders in Washington are doing, even if there’s not much I can do to change their behavior.  And I have zero control of how they spend the thousands in taxes I give them every year. So I cast my vote and hope for the best.

On the other hand, like many Farmington Woods residents I spent the first thirteen years of my time here paying little or no attention to what was going on politically with our little community and never really got involved with the process.

But when the District Board presented us with what they called a $4M “investment opportunity" in January of 2012 my curiosity got the best of me and I attended the Public Hearing to find out what they had in store for us. My wife had attended one of the informational meetings and told me I'd be shocked  to hear the comments from the residents  in attendance. 

Prior to going I did voluminous research, talked to a lot of people in the golf business and came away convinced that what was proposed was not in the best interests of the majority of Farmington Woods residents. On the night of the meeting I stepped up to the lectern and voiced my disapproval as did many, many other residents, some more passionate and informed than me. It was so far from the norm it felt almost surreal to me. 

Later in the meeting the Chair of the committee, Dirk Aube, took a question from a resident who was concerned that she did not have enough information to vote on the issue and as a result was going to have to vote "no" on the bonds. In his answer to her he addressed the entire audience, telling us that he was impressed by their participation in the democratic process. He also made it very clear that “they” had enough votes to win.

That self-assured attitude rubbed me the wrong way and after the meeting my wife and I approached Irene Loretto, then President of both boards. We asked her how the board intended to disseminate the information we had just been given: that if both bonds passed it would mean an 18% increase in District Taxes.

Her response had the same self-assured tone. She told us that they had held two informational hearings and now this Public Hearing on the matter and that they had done all they needed to do to get the information out. Besides, she said "If residents were interested they could have attended the meeting." End of story.

Since it didn’t seem like enough of an effort to either of us, my wife asked her if it would be OK for us to get the information out. Her response was “Go right ahead”, as if she knew this sisyphean task could not be accomplished by two individual residents. How would you get the information out to 1,084 unit owners, let alone convince them to vote down a budget at Farmington Woods, something that had probably never happened before.

We took her challenge and started on a mission which included the creation of Residents for Fiscal Responsibility, an eight member committee that paid for the mailing of flyers to each unit owner not once but twice. These people, very concerned owners at Farmington Woods, saw no benefit to either proposal. My wife convinced me to create this blog as a way to inform and educate residents and I spent the next two months doing what I had never done before: I got involved with politics.


I spent countless hours writing articles for just about every print media that gets delivered to Farmington Woods. I wrote articles for Avon Patch and several for that got picked up by many Connecticut newspapers and sent letters to every local television station asking for their help. In the end Fox61 News was the only one  to respond but they showed up twice at Farmington Woods, including the added Public Hearing and got the word out so that this community could make an informed decision. 

The results of all this hard work were gratifying. With a record turnout of over 1,000 votes cast, the bonds were overwhelmingly rejected. This was not like most district votes where 70 to 90 "yes" votes can pass a District budget. This was a message from the great majority of residents. The people had spoken.

The next week I attended the annual budget vote at the Clubhouse and since they contained virtually no increase at all, both the District and Association budgets passed with ease. There were actually 33 "no" votes to 77 "yes" votes, but I learned later that compared to earlier years the no’s had increased dramatically.

Earlier this month on May 14th my wife and I attended this years budget vote, again held at the clubhouse. As I looked around the room I saw some familiar faces, but missing were a number of faces that I would have expected to see. For all the struggles they went through leading up to the actual budget vote I saw only two Mom’s and missing were some of the people who had worked hard to defeat the budget last year. In the end both budgets passed with ease.

After the bond victory and the increased turnout last year I was surprised to see both budgets pass so easily: the District budget 98-32 and the Association budget 179-46. I found myself, as they say on the internet, SMH, (shaking my head) and asking how this could happen. How could a budget with almost no increase garner more "no" votes than one that had nearly a five percent increase? And where were all the potential "no" voters?

Then I recalled what I had seen during the voting process: individuals voting against their own interests, many afraid to raise their “no” vote for fear of being singled out by the glaring group in the front three rows, heads twisted to see who the traitors were. They were of course those 32 brave souls who stood by their convictions and voted "no", which took courage considering the transparent manner in which the vote was held.

As a result, even though the bonds were voted down last year, the plan continues to replace the irrigation system, renovate the clubhouse and add the clubhouse elevators that got voted down in last year’s historic vote. The restaurant still needs it’s fix from residents in the form of a monthly assessment and the golf club itself is still losing in excess of  a hundred grand again for the fifth year in a row but you’d never no it by the voting results of that evening.


I left the meeting a little disgusted by the lack of progress in the past year. It seemed that the momentum built up last year had hit a wall and ground to a sudden halt. I felt like we failed.

But then I thought of all we accomplished in the last year: voting down $4M of indebtedness for a sport in decline worldwide and following that cleaning house both at the board and management levels.  We actually did a lot more than we set out to do.

Put in terms of real world politics, we won the battle but lost the war. And in real world politics there are essentially two kinds of people (with some crossover in the middle): those who want change and those who resist it and will continue to resist it until their dying breath.

The problem is those who resist change know exactly how they want things to be: just as they are now (or were in some golden era that exists only in their minds). The people who want change? Their interests are usually so varied that it’s like herding cats. It’s a nearly impossible task. Almost, Sisyphean.

In the end politics is a lot like sports. The people who want it more usually win. In this case the group that voted yes to the budget got what they wanted. Good for them. At least they showed up.

As for me, I’m no Sisyphus. I can only take the rock rolling back on me so long before I decide to step aside and watch what happens when I let it go. After all, Sisyphus was serving a sentence from the Gods. I'm not.

I’ll  be here, but for now I’m back to following politics and not participating. Besides, I've got my own boulder to push.

*Title and subheadings inspired by Adam Carter, better known as A-Plus, from his CD "My Last Good Deed".

Saturday, May 4, 2013


I have been a season ticket holder since 1999 at CCSU for both basketball and football. I love sports and have played many of them. The MA Board Meeting this past Monday was like watching a good game and there certainly were upsets. In the end it looked a little like both sports; the Mom’s Group had a last minute touchdown, and slam dunk if you'll pardon the mixed metaphors.

There was only one comment at the beginning of the meeting and that had to do with water aerobics. Apparently the program is changing days, times and routines. A live instructor as will be taking over the activity as opposed to the old tape recorder. It sounded like a cost may be involved which is why there was a comment about it. Ultimately the discussion was taken off line and there was no mention in the minutes of it. So for those who enjoy water aerobics, I encourage you to contact Jim Samia, Chair of the Pool Committee to get answers.

The pools will be opened for Memorial Day weekend with the exception of the Mallard pool which probably will not open until June 15th at the latest. Seems it needs quite a bit of work and no one is sure how long it will take to complete. They would like it to take only two weeks but have allocated three weeks just in case.

The Greenwich pool now has solar panels on the roof of the bath house. I found this to be most interesting and fascinating because it was mentioned at a prior meeting. In fact, Farmington Woods received a grant award from the Clean Energy Finance & Investment
Authority. We were all told this was the first grant ever given to a condo association but unfortunately it was less than the amount needed, and the project will not be going forward. I didn’t think the project was for solar panels on the pool bath house which would heat the water in the pool, but it sounds like that’s what happened. The pool would have been my last choice for solar panels; the clubhouse or MA seems more deserving.

The meeting opened with discord about the minutes. One board member refused to accept the minutes because her corrections were not reflected. When she pressed our president, Sarah Harrigan for answers, sighting Roberts Rules of Order she got the same answer we all get, “We’ll have to check with our attorneys”. Why are we spending money on questions to attorneys that seem like they could be solved within the group? Clearly, there is a rub here.

Our general manager,Bob Elwood, said the clubhouse is making some improvements in sales and changes in the menu. It sounded positive. Seems residents really like the flatbread pizza. There has also been some networking with the outside community in an effort to bring in private parties and functions. But access to the club house continues to be an issue. Sarah really wants the two elevators, but for now the wheelchair lift will have to suffice. They are looking to replace the present one and would like a “more elegant” one in its place. It was also noted that Bob is really trying hard to make a go of a troubled community. He can be seen working around the community, painting and apparently as one employee put it, “he’s here all the time”. He should be, he works and rents a condo here. But Bob, you are doing a good job and we are happy to see you and your family about the Woods.

The budget was once again a large discussion item. It seems employee’s raises for employees is an issue. At the town hall meeting last month our GM made a statement something like this, “The employee’s did not receive a raise last year and are budgeted this year for a 3% increase.”  The Board members took offense to this statement saying it wasn’t true. The employees did receive bonuses which were distributed at the discretion of our previous GM. He in turn, as it was told at the meeting, gave each department head a sum of money that would be used for bonuses after the employee received their evaluation. So it wasn’t a wage increase, but a bonus from a pool of money which was somewhere in the neighborhood of $11K total. Some employees received a good bonus and some didn’t receive anything, but again, it was based on their performance review. It sounded as though the board was going to do the same thing this year as opposed to the 3% across the board raise as indicated by Bob at the town hall meeting. By giving bonuses as opposed to pay raises the cost to Farmington Woods is lower due to increased contributions to employees 401K that raises bring. I’m not sure if our employees know that.

Golf was a slim discussion topic at this meeting other than to say, golf membership is up to 196 not including the junior golfers. This is still a far cry from the 300 members necessary to break even, but they continue to work hard trying to recruit new members both individual and corporate. The new platinum program is flourishing and everyone seems pleased with the results. Good job Margaret Darby! Does this mean we are nearing the day when the golf department is self-sustaining? One can only hope.

The meeting closed and there were comments from the moms, who with their children waited patiently to speak about their Trick or Treat proposal. They wanted to know from the board why the Covenants Committee rejected their request.  Jamie Lee, Chair of the Covenants Committee, indicated that they were not turned down but told to come back to the committee with a new proposal that addressed one, child safety, two, residents living in 4-plexes with a common entrance way and three, ways to have trick or treat in a confined area of the community. The first objection, child safety was a joke. Parents are always concerned about their child’s safety and I’m sure Farmington Wood’s parents are no different. The second objection, resident’s living in a 4-plex was one covenant committee member’s pet peeve. Yes, you read correctly, pet issue. He doesn’t want the kids disturbing his dog although his dog disturbs all of his neighbors with incessant barking all hours of the day. The third objection leads me to tell the following story again and the resident who suggested it was in the room to clear matters up.

It was suggested that Trick or Treat be held out of a car trunk; after all, other communities are doing this. This goes against everything mother’s teaches their children about safety and accepting candy from a person in a car. Heck, I was told that as a kid. Anyway, the Moms called area towns only to find out that this was not advocated by town officials and was actually discouraged. The suggesting resident explained schools in West Hartford are doing this and kids were told that this was the exception to the “candy from a stranger” rule. The parents in the room, rightfully so, saw this as giving mixed messages to their children who have the same rights as all other residents.  

And that’s when the football crossed the goal line for touchdown or a slam dunk if you prefer the basketball metaphor. One very brave mother got up and scolded our president Sarah Harrigan for being rude and condescending to both her and her children who, before the meeting were sitting in chairs usually reserved for adults and committee members.

Prior to the start of the meeting Sarah approached the mother asking why kids were taking up chair space. The mother promptly replied, “They can sit on the floor or in our laps.” The mom called Sarah on her bad behavior and suggested this was an example of the children being seen and not heard attitude in Farmington Woods almost to the point of discrimination. But Sarah couldn’t and wouldn’t simply apologize for the off-handed remark.

No folks, she had to make matters worse by saying that she has a dog she dresses up for Halloween, as if a dog was comparable to a child! We certainly have a long way to go in attitude adjustment when it comes to acceptance of children in our community. By the way, the kids were well behaved at the meeting. They busied themselves with play dough and crafted all sorts of things with it. We have some creative and talented children in our community. How about we lighten up on the kid bashing?

Oh, and one more thing: Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. You're doing a great job!

Thursday, April 18, 2013


If you attended the Public Hearing on the 2013-2014 FWMA and Tax District budgets tonight, you saw why I attend very few meetings here at Farmington Woods. The degree of cognitive dissonance in the room was so high I was looking for the thermostat to turn it down. Instead it got me heated up and I ended up spilling my frustration onto the crowd, which wasn’t overflowing, but sizeable.

After hearing our President’s rather lengthy introduction to the meeting tonight we were subjected to the usual mind-numbing review of the budget, department by department courtesy of our new GM. You know the story: This department’s forecasting a loss but hey, they pay rent to the district so it’s a net gain for us. Except when you realize that all the money paid from one department to another comes from one source: us.

One department success story involved the restaurant that is projecting a $22K profit this year versus last year’s $4K net gain. Of course what the power point presentation didn’t highlight is the fact that before unused restaurant minimums, which are assessed from all of us at $30 a month, were factored in there was a loss of $122K. That’s right, because 37% of us choose to forgo the pleasure of the restaurant those unused assessments mean the difference between losing $122K and making $22K. 

How would that scenario ever work in the real world? Really.

Other departments of note included the golf department with this year’s $129K deficit built into the budget (and $50K more to come in January if past history is any) with no mention that the golf department hasn’t had a profitable year in the last ten. There were charts and graphs of fees over the years and fees other condos were paying, but missing was the one that showed that losses for the operating expense of the course were entering their fifth year of plus $100K deficits.

When the comment portion of the meeting commenced people were allowed to ramble far beyond the two minute maximum announced beforehand. There were comments about the overall appearance of Farmington Woods and the fact that while, according to a resident realtor, home prices in Avon in general were rising, Farmington Woods condos were decreasing in value. High condo fees were cited as the reason.

Concerns were voiced about tree removal and other mundane issues but the most contentious topic of the night, the allotment of $5K in a budget of over $6M for a “playscape” and other recreational amenities for youngsters and a basketball court for all ages.

There were actually people who said that although they approved of the budget as a whole and were ready to vote in favor of it, they had changed their minds because of, and I repeat myself intentionally, the expenditure of a measly $5K in a budget of over $6M!

At one point during the budget presentation I had to escape. If there had been a room with paint drying in it, I would have preferred to be there watching it dry as opposed to being where I had been. I left the room and went into the bar area to get some popcorn and take a breather. I sat, ate my popcorn and started to see elephants, even though I hadn’t had a drop to drink besides water!

As I sat there, looking out over a mostly empty dining room and a filled to capacity bar, with golfers enjoying their drinks after a carefree day on the links, I couldn’t help but reflect on the folks upstairs and their concern about the damage that an expenditure of $5K would do to our community. Oh, the maintenance costs. And, oh the increased liability. And, oh the damage that outside kids could do if we constructed such a thing. The rationalizations were mind bending.

It was at that moment that I decided I couldn’t stand in that room full of people, a lot of whom were content to front the golf operation $129K to keep it operating, while making some of the most mean-spirited, selfish comments I have heard coming from supposed adults in my entire adult life.

So if you missed what happened next you missed the reason I write a blog rather than stand on a soap box lecturing. I guess it’s because when I see not one but two elephants in the room and others see nothing, the level of cognitive dissonance reaches critical mass and I can't take it any more.

The experience of witnessing grown human beings looking right through those two huge elephants and focusing only on a mouse, in this case a child, sitting quietly in the back of the room, got my Irish blood boiling.                        

To summarize: 

-subsidizing a group of fewer than 89 resident adults and their pastime with losses to exceed $129K this fiscal year, Check.

-Providing amenities for resident children, of which there are in excess of 80, at a cost of $5K, Not Prudent.

To be frank, not only do I now see two very large elephants taking up most of the room eating everything in sight, I smell a red herring in all of this. I smell discrimination. I smell selfishness. I smell the ghost of the miser himself, Mr. Scrooge. It’s not his season, but he’s happy to share his misery any chance he gets.

As one mom asked, why should I have to drive my child outside of this community to access recreational activities? Answer, according to the grinches is “take them elsewhere or move.” I wonder if we presented that same deal to the 80 of so resident golfers what their reaction would be?

I wonder if we told them we weren’t going to subsidize their losses for the fifth year in a row and that as a result they would have to play golf at one of the many area courses within five miles of Farmington Woods because we just couldn’t afford to support them any longer, what their reaction would be.

Might be a nice reality check.

By the way, those two elephants are still there. If you can’t see them, you could be in the throes of a severe case of cognitive dissonance.  Better get help.

Monday, April 8, 2013


Nothing like a little controversy to bump up the numbers: hitting 20,000 page views shows that things are heating up around here and it's not just the late arrival of spring that's responsible. 

When you draft a budget with projected losses of :

-$130K for golf (usually increased by the following January) 
-$60K for golf infrastructure, including new irrigation and another cartpath 
-$60K for a new clubhouse roof 


-$1.1M in salaries for these two money losing operations


-post a "profit" of $22.5K for the restaurant courtesy of "restaurant common fees" (otherwise known as unused monthly minimums) of $145K out of $390K residents contribute in restaurant assessments in this and every fiscal year,

it's hard not to get upset when a line item for a measly $5K, chiseled down from $15K, for a playscape and a basketball hoop cause ageing males to play Kojak with resident children on bikes and flyers to be passed around, anonymously and unbelievably "person to person", that show nothing short of contempt for the children of Farmington Woods and their parents.

"They will move on" say the detractors, as if they themselves, won't be moving on anytime soon. It's not easy getting old, I ought to know.  But to me children represent light, life, laughter and vitality. I'm sorry some folks see them only as an irritant.

I just hope this is not the "way of life" that our newly elected President wants to "preserve" as stated in her profile statement from last fall's campaign: continued deficit spending on the golf and clubhouse operations, with a penny-pinching, Scrooge-like approach to the needs of those who will inherit the future and the loving parents who will guide them there.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


This month’s report is rather long so I’ll keep my comments short and to the point, not an easy task for me as some already know.

As usual I think I’ll start with a short history lesson, this time involving golf and how it’s funded. Contrary to what many would have you believe, when we purchased here in 1999 we were told that the course was self-funded. While that may have been true until about 2005, things changed drastically that year.

Around that time golf started losing money on an annual basis. At first this was covered by profits from earlier years. But by 2009 things got so bad that a committee was formed to address the problem.

After reviewing all possible uses for the course and admitting that it was now losing money and membership on an annual basis, the Ad Hoc Select Committee to Study Golf, a group made up entirely of golfers came to the conclusion that for the time being residents were going to have to make up for any shortfalls encountered by the golf operation.

They also stated that this temporary fix should be evaluated yearly to measure progress in both increasing membership and stemming the tide of the losses. Supposedly that approach has been taken every year since 2009. That makes five years now that residents have openly been supporting the course.

Something else happened in 2005. The 20 year bond floated in 1985 to purchase the course was due to be paid off leaving us with about $100K to use on other things. And we did. That year $75K was used to replace the pump house that serviced some of the course. That didn’t sit well with some residents and a minor battle ensued. The district won in the end.

Then, as we all know, last year a plan was announced to bond $4M dollars, again over twenty years for course infrastructure and clubhouse improvements, including an elevator and a much needed horseshoe bar. That boondoggle was voted down by an overwhelming 2-1 majority in May of 2012.

And yet here we are in 2013, five years after the “select” committee announced that residents were now responsible for golf operating shortfalls, a decision that was to be reviewed annually, while the tax district funds the very improvements to the course that residents rejected almost a year ago. 

It’s part of the 10 Year Stategic Plan that was produced after a series of Focus Groups showed that residents' number one concern in 2011 was that the course be self-sustaining. Now that's responsive government!

This was supposed to be short and I would end it here, but now there’s a new twist. Last year, a small group, known as the Mom’s of Farmington Woods was formed. They had the idea that since so many young families were moving here for all kinds of good reasons the demographics might now call for a playscape to be built for the 80 or so children now residing here. After all, 89 residents have a golf course of their own.

That turned out to be a big mistake. When you read the following report you will see that not much changes at Farmington Woods. Fees can go up, taxes can increase and golf can lose all the money it wants, but if a group from a new demographic requests a pittance, say $5K to build a playscape, well they have declared war on the powers that be here.

I’ve gone on long enough with this and the story just disgusts me, but apparently some individual or group of individuals thought it would be fun to pass out flyers anonymously that showed their contempt and downright animosity for the parents and children of Farmington Woods. Since I’ve gone on long enough, if you want to see the flyer and get a different slant on how this is playing out you need to visit a blog I recently discovered at

Some philosopher, I believe it was Machiavelli was fond of saying “It is not enough that I succeed, you must fail.” I think we have a small group of people at Farmington Woods who are not happy taking from residents to support their lifestyle, they want residents to suffer as well.

To them I can only say be careful. As a student of history I recall a lawsuit being filed a few years ago that involved Farmington Woods barring children from some of the pools. I remember the outcome of that. I'm not sure that the aforementioned group does.


March's minutes give us a look at how some residents of Farmington Woods view children and it's not pretty.

At the pre-meeting question and answer session, half a dozen individuals spoke out against the proposed playscape for children. One resident stated that the majority of children at Farmington Woods belong to parents who are renters or young starter families that have no intention of staying here anyway, so why make such an investment? She told the audience that just five minutes outside our gate are plenty of places for kids to play, so she didn’t want it in her back yard or funded with her dime.

Another resident feared that the maintenance and liability of such an investment would only hurt Farmington Woods as a community. She was extremely concerned about maintenance costs of the playscape, stating that we can’t currently maintain the green area next to her house on Eagles Glen.

Either way, the overwhelming feeling in the room that night was that playscapes for kids did not belong in Farmington Woods; the general manager smiled and nodded as each resident spoke out against it.

Interestingly, this is a $5K line item in the budget, the same amount added to the golf club’s already six figure budgeted deficit. The irony contained in the fact that the playscape screamed investment while the golf course cried loser was lost on this crowd.

(Mom’s, you need representation at these meetings; it appears you are being hoodwinked by our GM. His job is to say yes to you but his alliance is to the board that hired him. And although we do have new members, five of the old guard still reside on the board and block every effort for change that new members bring forward. This is evidenced by the budget information two paragraphs down.)

One very brave resident named Lou stood up with a series of questions but was only allowed to ask a couple. So he chose wisely and asked, “Why are we still investing in an irrigation system when it was overwhelming voted down last year?” No real response for him other than to tell him his time was up. He was told he could ask the question at the end of the meeting.

By the way Lou, you’re right,  not only was the irrigation system voted down, so was the 10 Year Strategic Plan and yet it seems like we are on course to squeeze it through somehow, by any means possible. Get ready for the elevator ride next. And the return of the horseshoe bar!

It was reported that the clubhouse has plans for some improvements of its own. Clubhouse locker rooms will be updated for 89 resident golfers while 80 resident children will just have to wait for their playscape, or move. 

The budget was the big ticket item and 4 board members voiced strong opposition to it. One member insisted that her comments go on record. Another talked about all the empty units in her area because of high fees and fixed incomes. Her point was affordability.

Despite the resistance, the budget passed 5 to 4 with the additional $5K allocation to the golf course’s projected loss for the next fiscal year, for a total of about $129K of resident funds going to a once self-sustaining golf operation. This has been going on for years now.

Yes, our budget was calculated to accommodate a loss to a project that was voted down. And you should expect the loss to be higher by the time this budget is all said and done. The MA’s budget is projected at $4,386,130.00, an increase of $120,648.00 for a 2.83% increase while the FWD budget projection is $1,928,275.00 an increase of $99,729.00, a 5.45% increase! The proposed budget packet should be coming in the mail soon.

We were once again told the tale that we have NEVER had a special assessment at Farmington Woods but that is categorically untrue. There has been a monthly assessment in place since 1998, delivered to us by folks who were tired of paying restaurant minimums and decided to spread the burden of the restaurant around to all residents, not just golfers. These are minimums that 43% of us don’t use but must pay regardless.

One resident mumbled in disgust, “we get nothing for it” which led to another rather rude resident blithely responding with “just move!” I guess she thought she had come up with the perfect solution to the problem. But can you imagine if all of those who disliked paying the minimum just moved? 43% of all Farmington Wood’s units would be empty.

Irene Lorretto countered by saying that many area condo’s had a special assessment for snow removal during the last blizzard and we are lucky because we didn’t. We also didn’t have snow removal for three days so many residents shoveled out their own driveways. Should we be pass that assessment on to the MA?

Margaret Darby gave a power point presentation on her idea to make golf profitable. She calls it the Platinum Program, kind of like the American Airlines rewards program. The idea came to her while she was on vacation watching airplanes fly overhead. I'm assuming it was an American Airlines plane.

The plan goes as follows. Basically, if you play golf here for 10 years, you would have a fixed annual rate for golf for the rest of your life. It would include bag and golf cart fees with average annual membership of $3,500 for single and $5,500 for a family.

She says there’s already interest in the program and some residents have signed up. It’s also open to non-residents. The program is designed to retain our long time golfers with some kind of reward.

Not quite sure how that’s going to attract new members, but I guess it’s a good deal for those who already have a good deal here at Farmington Woods. Ah yes, life is good.

As the meeting ended, they thanked us for coming and announced that a budget meeting was about to take place. Apparently they were going to tweak the numbers before the packets went out to residents. Expect change.

There is hearing scheduled April 18th to discuss the District Budget in the North Lounge of the Clubhouse. If you care how your taxes are being spent, you should attend.

Friday, March 22, 2013


“Always walk on the sidewalk; if there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic.” from Safety Tips for Pedestrians at

Author's Note: I wrote this post as someone who has logged 5-6K miles over the last 14 years walking at Farmington Woods. It's intent was to show the glaring difference in priorities when it comes to residential vs golf course infrastructure and what happens when the business (golf) of Farmington Woods takes precedence over residential needs.

So, to the anonymous person who left an unsigned letter 
in my mailbox calling for me to "retract" certain statements in the post, I have two things to say: One, you yourself, just broke a federal law by using the Postal Service box for private distribution. 

And two, when you get the courage to put your identify out there on a blog of your own, you can then decide what the thesis of your posts will be, what statements they contain and how they are titled. You have clearly missed the point of my post and are blind to its ironic intent. 

History is my favorite subject and I know the history of Farmington Woods very well.


When we moved to Farmington Woods in 1999 there was one stretch of sidewalk that ran from the top of Heritage to the upper clubhouse driveway. At the time, the Woods still considered itself a golf community and the attitude was “if you want to walk, join the golf club”.

No, seriously, that was the response you would get when you asked board members or administration about the chance of getting some sidewalks built, you know, for the safety of walkers. So if you walked, you did so at your own peril. And walk we did, as did many others.

Somewhere at the turn of the 21st century the mindset began to change. I wasn’t part of the push, just an avid walker, however slowly but surely sidewalks started popping up year after year. One year, Paul Schorno, our general manager actually consulted me as to where the next stretch of sidewalk should go.

In no particular order we got sidewalks built on Heritage from the clubhouse to the crosswalk near the guardhouse, on upper Byron to the Byron Pool, on Mallard in various stages and finally on lower Byron. We celebrated the completion of each one. 

There was some controversy concerning the Mallard stretch. For years golf carts had to travel out onto the street to go from hole 3 to hole 4. When the sidewalk was built, someone decided to make it a dual use proposition: as a sidewalk for walkers and a cart path for golfers.

While walkers were ecstatic to have a new and safer way of traversing Mallard, the dual use aspect soon became a problem. Carts got parked on the sidewalk, forcing walkers onto the road, inpatient cart drivers would follow on the heels of walkers to get them to move faster. Finally signs were erected requiring carts to yield to walkers and a cart parking area was constructed at the end of the path.

All of these improvements were done during the tenure of Paul Schorno. Many things accomplished during his time here benefited the golf community, but he seemed to understand that in order to keep the community as a whole happy, things like sidewalks and yield signs went a long way. After all, there were then, and are now, more walkers at Farmington Woods than golfers and he seemed to understand the dynamics of that.

Unfortunately Paul left in 2009 just at about the time that golf worldwide and especially at Farmington Woods was beginning its decline. With the exception of golf, budgets tightened and as a result a moratorium was placed on funding for sidewalks. With the exception of two short pathways to the front and rear entrance for children exiting school buses, no resident fees have been appropriated for new construction since.

Back in the early 70’s when Farmington Woods started out, it was a much smaller place with a lot fewer residents than today, so there were fewer cars to contend with. Unfortunately Farmington Woods has grown considerably since then and the number of cars on America’s roads now totals around 250M, more than twice the roughly 120M on the road in 1970.

The demographics have also changed since then. There are certainly more children than when we moved in, certainly more walkers and as we all know fewer golfers. And yet every year since the last significant sidewalk was built here, the residents have been asked to subsidize the golf operation to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

Believe me, the folks that plan the future of our community can accomplish things when they set their minds to it:

That’s the new cart path on the 9th fairway. Another project accomplished with resident fees is found between the 1st green and the 2nd tee:

There are folks at Farmington Woods who would rather I “sing a different tune”. Why do I constantly target the golf operation/clubhouse for criticism? Rather than go into some rant about the “zero sum” game that our budget process is, let me just once again repeat that every dollar borrowed from resident infrastructure funds for golf improvements is one dollar less spent on improving things for average residents.

As a result we get a painted "invisible shield" to protect walkers on lower Heritage:

And at the busiest intersection in Farmington Woods walkers are forced to do this:

With traffic coming at them from three different directions these walkers are forced to break the cardinal rule of walking with their back to the traffic and their next steps will take them to the second most traveled street in Farmington Woods, Mallard:

And while walkers are constantly reminded of the dangers of walking on the course, no one seems to even mind that hundreds of people take their life in their hands by trying to navigate the busiest area of the Woods protected only by an invisible shield and the kindness and (hopefully) sobriety of drivers.

No it’s not the 70’s anymore. Our condominium has twice as many units, there are twice  the number of cars and from my experience folks are just too busy to stop for signs like this:

How about a pedestrian-controlled walk light instead? And a real sidewalk instead of the invisible shield we have now that forces you to walk with your back to the traffic coming down the hill behind you?

As I said earlier, the demographic of the Woods has changed considerably since its beginnings. There are a lot more walkers. There are more school kids left at the front gate. I see some of these kids walking up a street with no sidewalk where I’ve had people almost hit me to avoid an oncoming car. I’ve seen mothers pushing baby carriages through this hazard. I've seen folks walking adorable dogs too. How is this acceptable?

It just doesn’t make sense. In their efforts to market Farmington Woods as an upscale condominium with a golf course and full service clubhouse, our leaders have put a lot of ordinary residents at risk by not properly finishing the walkway from its end on Heritage and through the hazards of the front entrance on up Mallard to Great Meadow.

As demographics have changed over the years and more families with children as well as young adults who enjoy running and walking as an activity move here, I think they have missed the mark. Why don't we have a fitness course that says we value resident's health?

With fewer golfers and more walkers why not market Farmington Woods as the safest walking community in the area? For that matter why aren’t our leaders speaking with the town of Farmington about constructing a sidewalk into Unionville?

We could then market ourselves as “within safe walking distance” to the center of Unionville AND the safest community for walkers in the area.

The reason this doesn’t happen and won’t until new leaders are elected is as I stated at the beginning:  “At Farmington Woods, when golf rules, walkers drool…”  

The $50K our leaders spent on a plan to spend another $4M on the course and clubhouse (that was soundly rejected last May) could have been used to design an alternative walking path for the 21st century and to redesign the front entrance to give Farmington Woods the look and feel of a condominium community that takes the health and safety of its residents seriously.But that would require compromise and vision.

I don’t know where Paul ended up, but I can say we could use another general manager just like him, that is, with the sense to know when you take from people you have to give at least a little back to keep them safe, healthy and happy.

Monday, March 4, 2013


The U.S Government may be having trouble balancing its budget, but it appears from the following report that the Boards of Farmington Woods see no urgent need for austerity, at least not when it comes to our golf operation. There always seems to be an endless supply of Fifty-thousand dollar bills laying around for "strategic planning", cart paths and golf infrastructure. 

I realize some of our leaders believe the Long Range Strategic Plan is still in place, despite its being soundly defeated by 2-1 margin last May, but there are other needs like providing safe sidewalks for walkers, a playscape for children or upgrading our ageing pool areas, that never seem to make the Public Works priority list. 

Maybe we'll be surprised when the actual budget comes out. Maybe some of the increased revenue will be used for things that benefit all residents for a change, not just one special interest. If not, it may find itself sequestered.

MA Board Mtg.    2/25/2013

Golf had projected it would run about $125,000 for the coming budget. Newer figures indicate that it could run an additional $50,000 shortfall.  Total shortfall would be about $175,000.  They will review proposed expenses to see where they might save money over the coming four months. How about scaling back on the number of holes we are trying to complete this year or raising revenues from the people who actually use the course?

Golf lost only 28 members this winter. Golf Committee members were pleased that the number lost was fewer than last year.  There was no discussion of what percentage of membership this number represents, and no mention of what level of memberships were lost.

There was a vote to accept Gary Zahorodni as a new member of the Community Awareness Committee. Passed unanimously.

There was a vote on whether to renew the contract with FW’s current CPA.  The vote was 4 in favor and 4 against. President Sara Harrigan used her authority as President to break the tie, and the CPA’s contract will be renewed. It is nice to see the Board members expressing varying points of view. 

Report on Storm Nemo by Lou Parrott.   Difficulties in clearing snow were hampered by the extra hours spent responding to requests by individuals who said they were medical personnel or first responders and needed to be dug out right away.  It seems that some of these requests were coming from people making false claims.   FWMA will continue responding to emergency requests but will also ask all medical and emergency personnel, as well as people with special health needs to register with the MA so that we can plan for future storms.  There was mention of asking for proof of employment.  Does this mean we are going to ask doctors for a letter from another doctor? Are we going to require that people with special health needs get medical excuses?

Pool Committee is developing a process for residents to apply to hold pool parties. Want to charge $100 per party. Chair of the Pool Committee explained that they would want to have a lifeguard on duty. Estimated cost of lifeguard is $9 per hour and expected time of coverage is 6-7 hours (determined by having the lifeguard arrive an hour before party to help with set up and to get his/her equipment ready and then stay longer for lingering guests, plus for an hour of clean-up). The Pool Committee hopes to be able to put aside a little of the $100 fee to create an income for its purposes.  Here's an idea: maybe they can borrow a few bucks from the golf operation to spruce things up!

James Caldwell presented summary of safety issues associated with outdoor cooking.  How to handle the matter is difficult because Connecticut did not adopt the guidelines put forward by the National Fire Prevention Association, and even the Farmington and Avon Fire Marshals have different ideas.  Charcoal grills seem to present the biggest problem, and propane is less of a problem.  A number of years ago there was a fire on a balcony, but there has not been a problem in recent years.  The Board is sending the issue back to the Covenants Committee for more consideration.

Margaret Darby is working with the Board to help the members work together more efficiently.  The Board has established  4  committees to concentrate on different aspects of their concerns:

                        Requirements to become a Board member

                        Governance and Operations


                        Farmington Woods District Policies and Board reporting.

Hopefully the requirements to become a Board member will not be so limiting that only past experience as a Committee or Board member in Farmington Woods will allow a new volunteer to serve on the Board.  If that does become an absolute requirement, then it should not take effect for several years.  Otherwise it will take forever to get new thinking in the Board.

The Finance Committee is working to produce a budget proposal for the Board. When Finance originally reviewed the proposed expenses before it, the figures indicated that our MA and Tax District Fees would need to be increased between 7 and 11%.  The Finance Committee is working to reduce the budget and the size of the increases to residents ---- perhaps 4 -7 %.

Very brief budget discussion at the end of meeting.  Katherine Rogers proposes that the budget be developed on price-based costing. She explained this to mean that the budget would start at zero, with items being added to it according to the recognized needs rather than simply accepting something because it was in the budget last year. It would also include using competitive bidding whenever possible.

FW Tax District Board Meeting 2/25/2013

The Minutes of the November 4 meeting were approved.

The Net Capital Income of 2012-2013 year’s budget fell short by $40,000 due to unbudgeted golf expenses. Chairman of the Finance Committee, Brian Petrovits explained that the 2012-2013 Budget had been passed without the $40,000 included. Did the Board know the $40,000 would be coming when they passed the budget last year?

$33,000 which had been awarded in 2012 for a solar project, appears in the 2013-2014 as a line item. 

The Board discussed whether to approve a contract, which included a pay increase of about 3%, for Farmington Woods part-time CPA.  Board member Peter Janus questioned the proposed contract because of the fact that the CPA had given the Board a letter listing several aspects of work which she does not accept responsibility for, including inaccuracies and assessing management’s financial decisions/actions, and the fact that there was no attempt to go out for competitive bidding on this contracted position. Peter Janus asked if the Board should open the position to additional applicants who might be willing to undertake more responsibilities. Other Board members did not want to do so, saying the CPA’s charge for the part-time work was acceptable and her familiarity with Farmington Woods was valuable. The contract was approved, with Peter Janus as the one dissenting vote.

There was discussion of the “jobs” of each of our Farmington Woods Committees.  President Sara Harrigan said that the Charters for each committee describe the job of that committee.

Margaret Darby suggested that if the Board “raises the bar for qualification to be a Board member, it may get better qualified applicants.”  She will assist the group which is working on board member qualifications, with their work.  Margaret Darby is also interpreting the By-Laws.  She said she believes the Board can work with the By-Laws we have rather than go to the expense of filing new ones.

The Finance Committee will meet on Monday, March 4, 2013.  Brian Petrovits reports that the Tax District budget will be challenging.