Sunday, January 13, 2013


Cicero wrote: “To remain ignorant of what happened before you were born is to remain always a child.”

If you missed the January 7th Executive Board meeting you missed the repeat of a scenario that caused an uproar at the November meeting due to its sequence: comments from the floor were taken after our president, Sara Harrigan called the meeting to order.

Because she called the meeting to order and then took comments, those comments should technically appear in the minutes because they were presented inside the convened meeting. Normally, comments are not included in the minutes, which is why it’s so important to go to the meetings:you actually get to hear the concerns of residents.

And the comments came. The Farmington Woods Young Mothers’ Group representative spoke first. She asked the board to consider a playscape for children, a very good idea which many of us have wanted for years. Another brave soul made a request to ask questions at the end of the meeting, which I guess is a no, no. She was told the board would “think about it”.

Another gentleman was very concerned about speeding in Farmington Woods, especially on Heritage. He wants radar during peak times: early morning and late night commutes. He wants the security patrol officer to hide to catch as many speeders as possible. He believes paying a steep fine for a first offense will boost our bottom line. Not sure if that would happen. It would probably cost more in salaries between Murphy Security and Farmington Woods office staff to catch and process the speeders. But I do agree people should slow down. A lot of people walk here. And if you've ever walked in the "imaginary" walkway on lower Heritage you know what I mean.

Last, but always troubling was the subject of garbage. One district rep commented on garbage on street corners, in driveways and on top of the garbage bins. He complained that residents in his area are tired of seeing it for days on end. He was told to call the MA and someone would pick it up but he wasn’t happy with this solution. It certainly is a common and unsightly problem in Farmington Woods.

We heard the usual social reports: Connect, Community Awareness and Communications. Most reports were like other month’s except the announcement that Farmington Woods proposes to enter the 21st century by developing a Face Book page even though the board thinks they reach most residents with the monthly “In the Woods”. The sad fact is that they are delivered to our doors, but most residents, at least in my neighborhood, take them directly from the mailbox and deposit them in their recycling container. I watch my neighbors do this every month.

The Farmington Woods website, with its registered users and over 700 email addresses was brought up but it seems to be used more for golf/clubhouse marketing purposes than to deliver important information to residents like the change of location of last month's executive board meeting.

According to the board we also use the Valley Press, Avon Patch, Farmington Life and the Valley Press to get our message out regarding golf and I assume, the joy of residential life here. There was one in Avon Life's October edition. (See  blogpost "He Said, She Said Journalism" October 7, 2012 .)

There was no mention of this blog but our stats show an average of 1500 monthly visits from residents and non-residents alike. In the last ten months we have received scores of unsolicited emails from prospective buyers asking very specific questions. We try to answer them as honestly and positively as possible. We are not here to bash Farmington Woods as a community. We like living here and when people ask, we tell them so.

The most disturbing event at the meeting was the budget discussion. It started by the board declaring that “we need to pick a number from 1 to 100 but we need a start somewhere.” At first, I didn’t understand what "picking a number" had to do with the budget. It soon became very clear when Finance Chairman, Brian Petrovitis  stated, “I don’t really need a number, just a place to start. Last year we worked hard on the budget and in the last hour had to scramble to adjust it for the vote.”

Now, I understood. The discussion involved picking a number to decide the percentage raise residents would incur for the next fiscal year, in both district taxes and condo fees. As a professional who manages budgets in my job, I was shocked to hear we pick a number and then work towards it!

One board member suggested a 3% starting point! What was wrong with starting at a 0% growth budget and reengineering Farmington Woods working processes? Why not look at what we spend and decide if we can spend smarter? What projects are needs versus luxury wants?  There are other approaches available before we just “pick” a number as a starting point.

For the umpteenth time a board member brought up the “fact” that we have never had an assessment here at Farmington Woods. This is categorically untrue. Read your documents (or read “Reassessing Assessments below.) We’ve had an ongoing monthly assessment called a restaurant minimum since 1998! It started out at $20/month for ten months and went to $25/month for twelve months a few years later. It’s now $30/month and if some board members have their way it will be increased in the new budget.

So yes, you, me and every resident of Farmington Woods has a monthly assessment, one that will only go up and that allows the clubhouse the luxury of $562K in staff salaries in this budget year alone. (I wonder if four star restaurants like Matthews, Apricot's or Cuginos pay that much in staff salaries. It would be interesting to know.)

In our fourteen years here the minimum assessment alone has cost us over $5000! I think if I were representing Farmington Woods as a board member I would be careful about spreading false and misleading information to prospective buyers. There may be legal ramifications for distorting the truth. 

We just received a survey with our monthly statements. I encourage everyone reading to complete it. Farmington Woods is trying to get a handle on the population, needs and wants of the community. There was much discussion about what we get for our money: pools, clubhouse, golf, tennis, sidewalks (or lack thereof) to name a few. One board member said “We should ask what residents don’t want.”

I’m not sure what residents don’t want, but I can tell you that based on the Focus Groups held roughly two years ago in 2011, what they do want. Of all the concerns and suggestions coming out of those groups one thing stood out quite clearly: the overwhelming majority of Farmington Woods residents want the golf/clubhouse operation to be a self-sustaining enterprise. We need to work towards that.

The meeting closed without any report on golf or clubhouse activities. That produced major groaning and grumbling from the crowd as they exited the meeting. I happened to overhear a comment regarding the playscape. One resident wanted to know who would be watching the kids (my guess would be their mothers) and what would happen if a kid got hurt. I guess we would just follow the same protocol we do for any other accidents here at Farmington Woods, (resident sidewalk or clubhouse falls, slips at the pool): liability insurance. Every resident pays for it.

A closing note: Thanks to the many friends and neighbors who showered us with Christmas cookies and email Holiday cards. As for the cookies, we enjoyed every one we ate and cursed the scale the next morning. Worth every bite though.

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