Virginia City Highlands Property Owners’ Association

Minutes - Annual Meeting – Saturday, August 8, 2009

Virginia City Highlands Fire Station Community Room


Present:  Biederman, Morrow, Robbins, Tallent-Stewart, and Lumos

I.      Call To Order and Approval Of Meeting Agenda  

The meeting was called to order at 10:10 am by President Andy Biederman.  A motion by Morrow, seconded by Robbins to approve the agenda as posted was approved unanimously. 

II.    Introduction of Board and Architectural Committee Members

President Biederman introduced the board members.  All board members were present.

III.   Appoint Teller Committee to Count Ballots

 Biederman appointed the teller committee, all members of the HRPOA.  They are Lydia Hammack, Angie Morran, and Sharon Dixon.

IV.  Presentation of Invited Guests and Reports  

A.            Storey County Commissioners

Bob Kershaw reported that the county is holding its own financially and is not considering raising taxes this year.  He does not anticipate any layoffs, etc., but all is dependent on the economy.

He reported that he still feels that Cordevista is a dead deal and is not expected to revive.

TRI is starting a growth spurt again which will help the economy of the county.  It will help us to be more recession proof.

There is a new development in Washoe County on the Storey County border that is requesting access through our county.  He has opposed that request and will continue to do so.

He noted that Washoe County had approached him about “regional revenue sharing” due to the success of the industrial park.  This was denied and drew a good laugh from the folks in attendance.

Keith Judson asked if any stimulus money had made its way to Storey County.  Mr. Kershaw responded that he had attended a conference in Washington, DC in March in order to learn more about the program.  There will be some money for public works, emergency services, etc.

Kershaw was asked about the wind generation project.  He stated that he favors wind generation in the right location.  Some are looking at TRI and other locations.  He is against the project near Virginia City unless it cannot be seen or heard from town.  Jed Margolin pointed out that although the statutes require utilities to have a certain percentage of ‘green’ energy by a certain point, and includes solar energy, there is no requirement for wind energy.

B.            Sheriff, Fire, & Public Works Departments

Sheriff Miller reported on current events.  He stated that he has no equipment to move dead horses, but that he recently called a rendering works to remove a dead horse from the Highlands. 

There have been many numerous complaints about speeding on Cartwright and said that there are many dangers.  He will have a radar unit in place often to try to remediate the problem.

One of the bears has been captured and relocated.  The state has not had enough funds available to aid in relocation regularly.

We have a new range manager, Jim Stewart, who did move the horse out of the road.  He works under the auspices of the sheriff’s department, but is not a sworn officer.  It is a volunteer position.  He will undergo a lot of training in the near future.

If someone sees a horse that has been hit on the grade call either the NHP or the sheriff’s dept.  If in the Highlands, call Jim Stewart.

In 2009 the sheriff’s department has issued a total of 94 citations, not all in the Highlands.  Case reports to date - 115, arrests in the Highlands - 8, accidents - 7 in the Highlands (last year 11).   He warned that the utility quads (side by sides) are dangerous on roads and can easily flip. 

He asked that 4 wheelers be identified with the Highlands sticker so that they can identify who belongs and who does not.  There is no enabling statute to allow a requirement that these vehicles be licensed. 

Sharon Dixon reported on the plan for large animal evacuation and provided a handout.  Pens are set up at the slash pile location east of the fire station in case of emergency.  VCHPOA and HRPOA each donated $1000 toward the purchase of the fencing.

There are a number of cattle near Lousetown and Hwy 341.  They have contacted the owner and asked that they be removed.  

Gary Hames, Fire Chief, stated that they have a loader that may be used to move dead horses.   He stated that he is working with the Division of Forestry and hope to soon have a dozer and staff on site during fire season.

He stated that the reason the County would like to buy the fire station is simply because it is not in the best interest of the tax payers for the county to continue to invest in a property that they don’t own.  He stated that an appraisal has been done, but that negotiations have not yet been done to determine the selling price.  The community building will still be available for meetings of the associations, VRWPA, etc.  They are only trying to look out for the best interest of the tax payers.

Ray McPartlin asked what “Plan B” would be if the association was unable to obtain a majority of the property owners’ approval of the sale.  He stated that no plan B has been discussed at this time.  There is not any for the sale.  The appraisal is for $250,000 but does not include the community building, since the county paid for the construction of the building.  The house and station are included in the appraisal.

Hames stated that the property was deeded to the County early in the association’s history but never accepted by the County, so it remains in the association’s ownership.  Jed Margolin suggested that a Plan B would be to sign a 99 year lease that is revenue neutral. 

Pat Flanagan stated that the $2000 income from the rental is not the total income.  He asserts that the improvements made by the County as well as the rebated taxes should be counted as income.

President Biederman stated that the point of sending out the approval forms was to determine interest in selling prior to spending $3000-5000 for an independent appraisal.

C.           Fire Safe Highlands

Harry Stanley stated that he has been involved in FSH for about 5 years in order to learn more about fire danger, fire season, etc.  There are currently few members and only two very active ones.  He pleaded for more community involvement and members.

FSH has been responsible for establishing the slash pile and for ongoing improvements.  They have had problems monitoring who is dumping in the slash area. 

Setting up defensible space around homes has been a major effort of the group, along with the Nevada Fire Safe Council and the Nevada Division of Forestry. 

Recent projects have been creating shaded fuel breaks along major roads.  They had limited success in some areas due to a lack of cooperation from the adjoining property owners. 

The Storey County Fire Department, Nevada Division of Forestry, and the Fire Safe Council have been very helpful in the effort to make the area more fire resistant.  Special thanks went to Bill Molina of NDF for his efforts.

There was a sign-up sheet provided for folks to join the FSH and become involved.

Pat Murphy from the Fire Safe Council asked how many of those present are members.  Only about 10% indicated membership.  The Highlands was the first chapter of the Council.  The Council is a facilitator towards helping the chapters achieve their goals.  Homeowners can influence neighbors to make their properties more fire safe.  There are grant monies available for projects that the chapters propose.  It currently pays for the shaded fuel projects and the reduction of the biomass accrued at the slash area.  The grant money must be matched by the community.  This can be done in hours spent clearing.  There are forms that should be filled out by owners to indicate time spent.  The form is currently posted on the Yahoo chat group site and can be downloaded, filled out and turned in.

Murphy stated that this community has the highest fire danger in the state and that a fire would be catastrophic.  Homes and lives would likely be lost in the case of a large fire.  He stated that making the community more fire safe should be a first priority for all.

They would like to be able to clear a wider swath when doing the fire breaks, but need approval from the adjacent owners.

He stated that it would probably take millions of dollars to make the community as safe as they would like.  The $40,000 per year now being spent is not enough.

D.           VRWPA

Jeanne Gribben talked about junipers in the VC Highlands and surrounding area.  There is an infestation of juniper mistletoe.  She had several pictures of mistletoe in all areas of the Highlands.  This is ‘true mistletoe’ and is spread by birds.  The only way to eradicate is to limb affected branches or remove the tree.

There are no matching grants to spray tall whitetop.  VRWPA’s website has information about both mistletoe and whitetop.

She also talked about the appointment of Jim Stewart as range manager.  Lumos and Associates of Carson City donated a 4 wheel drive pickup for the range manager’s use. 

She noted that no one called VWRPA about the dead horse on Highlands recently.   They should be contacted in such cases.

The group formed 30 years ago to stop the practice of mustanging in our range.  There will be an anniversary party on August 29 at 2710 Goldfield Road.  Tickets are $5.  All residents are invited.

E.            Gail Durham, NDF

Ms. Durham is the forest health officer covering the entire state.  She has done some inspection in the Highlands.   She presented a Power Point presentation and map that showed areas of beetle attacks, as well as other sources of harm to the trees.  Drought stresses the trees more than normal making them more susceptible than normal to attack from insects.   Trees can be watered lightly once a month in dry years.  The attacks are most often on larger trees.  In the Pinenut Range nearly half the stand of trees was lost to beetles in recent years.  There is possibility that our area could be subject to a similar loss.

She will be mapping our area in September and expects to find more damage than last year.  She does not recommend pruning other than in winter.  Pruning in summer attracts the beetles. 

Pine needle scale and sawfly are a big concern around the state this year.  There is a little bit of the problem in the Highlands.  Needles in the interior of the tree fall off.

Ms. Durham provided handouts about the nature and treatments of these infestations.

Mistletoes are killing forests around the state.  They are specific to the type of tree, but both pinyons and juniper are susceptible.  Pruning at this time of year will also accelerate the spread of mistletoe.  Winter pruning is acceptable.

There is some funding available for cost sharing treatment of trees for folks with four acres or more.  The money is available on first come basis.  Neighbors can work together as long as only one signatory is responsible.

The Cooperative Extension Service may have folks available to look at trees, as well as Ms. Durham. 

V.    Committee Reports  

A.            Architectural Committee

Rita Lumos reported that the state of the economy is reflected in the lack of activity of the Architectural Committee in the last year.  There were some months when no one appeared for any kind of application.  Only one new residence was approved during the year.  A number of additions, sheds, fences, dog runs, etc., had been approved. 

B.            Road Committee

 Bob Moore reported that the rebuilding program began May 6 and put new material on several roads.  Mag Chloride was applied on the flatter portions and Durablend was applied on those roads that are steeper.  They are watering regularly during the summer where dust is occurring. 

Steve Morrow offered a presentation about the road committee and the work that was planned and executed for the year.  The road management guidelines in the association’s road plan are being followed and updated.  He thanked the members of the road committee and the crew for the work that they have done and time spent on the plan in the last year.  The plan for road work each year is formulated by the committee and approved by the board.  He reviewed all of the work that has been done since the adoption of the road plan in 2006.

The road stabilization materials are not lost during the winter and will be reinforced annually on selected roads.  The road plan calls for the use of stabilization materials but does not specify the frequency.  The committee drove all 13.9 miles of dirt roads and assessed the needed work on each road.  One positive aspect of the stabilization is a better rolling road surface and less dust.

He reported that three materials for stabilization had been studied and that the Mag Chloride and Durablend were found to be the most cost effective and appropriate for the area.

The plan for the future calls for application of materials to the approximately five miles of most traveled roads each year as well as about two miles of secondary roads each year.  Materials are still being studied and evaluated.  All roads will be regraded, moisture conditioned and compacted each year. 

It is not anticipated that any roads will have to be rebuilt with new material until 2012.  The cost per mile to rebuild is about $15,000.  Morrow reminded everyone that driving too fast creates dust and washboarding.  The posted speed limit on the gravel roads is 15 mph.  Lower speeds lead to longer life for the roads.  Using 4 wheel drive on steep areas at all times of the year also helps preserve the road surface.

VI.  Financial Report  

A.            Review of Financial Statements

Dave Thomas reviewed the financial statements.  Handouts were available for all.  Total cash balance dropped over last year by about $45,000 due to the road work.  On the balance sheet he noted that $96,000 of the $151,000 road work has en depreciated according to current federal tax laws. 

Total current assets of the association total $323,417.  Total cash receipts for the year were $185,988; operating cash expenditures were $79,504; capital improvement cash expenditures were $231,348.  Cash in the bank at the end of the year was $119,295.

Total billings for dues and assessments each year is approximately $174,000 and most has been collected.  Those who have not paid have been turned over to the attorney for collection.

Total architectural fees for the year were only $750.  Other income includes interest income, vehicle sticker purchases, and donations.  Operating expenses indicated that costs are up this year over last.  The postage costs rose considerably over the last year due to state required mailings.  Fuel expenses were down for the year.  Insurance this year was considerable less due to a change in carrier.

B.            Review of Reserve Account

The reserve fund is kept in a separate account as required by law.  The reconciliation showed a beginning balance of $81,317, an addition of $115,350 from the special assessment, $450 in road impact fees, interest income of $654, and expenditures of $151,844 for capital road improvements, for an ending balance of $45,926.

C.           Review of Reserve Study

President Biederman reviewed the preparation of the reserve study.  The board worked with the reserve specialist to come up with realistic numbers for the reserve account.  The result is that there will be an annual special assessment of about 100 to fund the reserve account and maintain our assets.  The complete funding of the reserve account is spread out over a 30 year period so there is no large assessment needed in any one year.  If the property that the fire station were sold, that money could be added to the reserve account to lesson the assessment.  The board would make that determination in the event the sale took place.

D.           Presentation of Operating Budget

Dave Thomas included the review of the current FY budget in his presentation.  Only one person opposed allowing the board to approve the operating budget. 

A motion by Tallent-Stewart, seconded by Robbins to approve the operating budget for the 2009-2010 was approved unanimously.

VII. Report of the Teller Committee

The results of the ballot count were announced.  Steve Morrow was reelected by a wide margin.  Patrick Flanagan was elected by a very close vote over Jennifer Herrington.

VII. Comments by Association Members (NRS 116.3108(3))

Mr. Flanagan reported that he has been talking with the ombudsman’s office about opting out of the ombudsman program.  That action would have to be taken by the board, not by individual owners.  He feels that we do not need the program, and that it is expensive and provides no services.

Ray McPartlin asked what the ramifications of leaving the program would be.  Dave Thomas stated that we likely would not be able to do special assessments under our CC&R’s and that the association would be bankrupt and unable to maintain the roads, etc.

The matter of the prohibition of lawns was discussed.  Currently there is no prohibition about lawns in any of the governing documents.  There have been complaints to the county about one owner who has planted a large lawn.

VIII.        Adjourn

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 1:15 pm

Respectfully submitted,


Rita Lumos, Secretary