Present: Dave Thomas, Jack McGuffey, Patrick Flanagan, and Jim Watson
Absent: Karlyn McPartlin
I. Call to Order, Declaration of a Quorum, and Approval of Meeting Agenda
President Thomas called the meeting to order at 9:11 am and declared a quorum present.
The agenda was amended to move the Neighborhood Watch report earlier on the agenda to accommodate the speaker. A motion by Flanagan, seconded by Watson to approve the amended agenda was approved unanimously.
II. Introduction of Board and Architectural Committee Members
Thomas introduced the board members and read a statement explaining why McPartlin is not present. Flanagan objected to the reading of the statement since it was a private email and not an agendized item. Thomas noted the objection. Since the statement was not an action item but for information only it was allowed under the published agenda.
Thomas introduced the members of the Architectural Committee. He thanked Jim Poston for maintaining the association website and administering the Highlands Yahoo site. He thanked District Attorney Bill Maddox for his help in the eminent domain proceedings for the County’s acquisition of the Fire Station property. He also thanked bookkeeper Lydia Hammack for her work and explained that it is a more difficult job than one might imagine.
Flanagan thanked Mary Tallent-Stewart for her service on the board, Steve Morrow for his volunteer efforts as road manager, and the road crew for their work.
III. Appointment of Teller Committee to Count Ballots
This item is void due to the necessity of an entire new election proceeding. There is a handout available explaining the need for the new election. Nomination forms have been mailed to all owners. New ballots will be mailed at the end of the nomination period.
IV. Comments by Association Members
An owner commented that as a homeowner she appreciates the timely posting of minutes and agendas on the website. Poston distributes these by email to those who subscribe.
Stacy Jones thanked the board for their work.
V. Presentation of Invited Guests and Reports
A. Storey County Commissioners
Thomas noted that all three County Commissioners are present for the meeting.
Commissioner Bill Sjovangen introduced the other commissioners, sheriff, fire chief and county planner.
He noted that the legislature has approved a land bill for a development called Sunny Hills that hopes to extend from eastern Washoe County, above Hidden Valley, into northwestern Storey County. There is a provision in the bill to amend the county line to move the development area into Washoe County if both boards of commissioners approve the boundary amendment. The area in question is north of the 40 acre parcels.
The county is working on the issue of trapping wildlife in the Highlands. He has met with the Department of Wildlife and has determined that some changes need to be made to the county code. Currently state law allows hunting and trapping anywhere within the Highlands. This issue is being addressed together with the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW).
The Fire Department has graded and done maintenance on Long Valley Road both as a training exercise and to enable equipment to readily reach residences in that area.
Paving will be done minimally as needed on Lousetown. They will cover the cost of the first mile of Cartwright Road, which is dedicated right-of-way. They can provide staff and equipment for the remainder of Cartwright, but the two property owners’ associations will have to pay for materials. Public Works Director Mike Nevin will be the contact for this project.
He reiterated that the condemnation of the Fire Station property is complete.
Commissioner Lance Gilman addressed the owners present and commented on how important these meetings are to learn about community issues. Open meeting laws prevent discussion by the commissioners of issues outside of regular commission meetings. Attending association meetings offers them an opportunity to discuss issues important to the owners and associations.
Commissioner Marshall McBride addressed the meeting and thanked the board for their dedication to the association. He stated that he has lived in Storey County for his entire life and is very appreciative of the Highlands community. He is very concerned about limiting growth in Storey County to a slow, controllable rate. He emphasized that the commissioners are very cognizant of the wishes of the community. He commented that he reads the chat board to keep tabs on issues. He stated that anyone can contact him about issues at any time and has business cards available.
Jed Margolin asked if the commissioners would put the Sunny Hills land swap issue on a ballot for a determination by voters before approving it. Sjovangen said that once they have more information, and if there is a lot of opposition, there will be a ballot item. No decision has yet been made on this issue.
The proposed development will import water from Reno. It could be accessed from Lousetown Road, but paved access will be from the west through Washoe County.
Lance Gilman commented that if the development is built and a water system that imports water from Washoe County is in place, the Highlands might be able to utilize that system at some future date if needed. He said the commissioners have vowed to listen to the community here on these issues.
Flanagan asked the County’s position on the Bank of America closing. Sjovangen stated that County Manager Pat Whitten and Comptroller Hugh Gallagher have been looking at the issue. Future service might be limited to a full service ATM. Other banks are being approached to provide service in the County.
Margolin asked if the County would move its money to another bank. Sjovangen said that is a very real possibility. He noted that the State of Nevada has switched to Wells Fargo. Gilman stated that the County’s Comptroller will be consulted on the best action to take.
Jack McGuffey commented that recently he was alarmed and very disappointed in the condition of the park. He sent pictures to Public Works Director Mike Nevin. Public Works crews then spent three days doing maintenance on the park. The crew did an amazing job and the park is now in the best condition ever. He hopes that this will be the beginning of regular maintenance. More needs to be done. Nevin had been under the impression that the association maintains the park. It is a county park and it is hoped that they will take the responsibility. Sjovangen said the McPartlin is going to address the commission in the near future on items that need to be addressed at the park.
B. Storey County Sheriff
Gerry Antinoro, County Sheriff addressed the meeting. In the 2012 there were a total of just over 1600 incidents in the Highlands, down from previous years. He said the organization of the Neighborhood Watch program is a factor. Those incidents include all calls, including barking dogs, domestic disputes, traffic stops, property checks, as well as more serious crime.
Even though state law allows hunting and trapping in the area, it is still illegal to discharge a firearm in a residential area. No one can hunt or trap in an area that is posted for no trespassing.
He also reads the chat board. He asked that no resident try to stop anyone for a perceived violation. Stopping citizens is a crime and can be considered kidnapping or unlawful detention, subject to jail time. Call the sheriff’s office to report any possible violations and try to get license numbers.
On the issue of animal control he stated that animals are not taken to Lyon County to a kill shelter. There are some kennels at the jail and animals can be held up to five days. They have partners that they are working with to shelter animals that are not claimed within the holding period. They have contracts with vets to deal with any animals that have a vicious nature or severe injury. They have a microchip reader to help reunite animals with their owners.
C. Storey County Fire Department
Fire Chief Gary Hames thanked the board and owners for the opportunity to meet with them.
He reported that they have received a grant that will enable the county to obtain a chipper for the slash pile, so there won’t be any further burning of the material there.
There is a significant amount of funding available from the Division of Forestry that will help pay for more shaded fuel breaks. This will consist of mastication and clearing work by ground crews.
He stated that dead trees should not be cut at this time of year. That should be done in the winter. They will have a fuel crew available during the winter to evaluate trees and cut dead and dying trees. Owners can call the fire station to request this service.
The “You Call, We Haul” program is still in place. A dump trailer can be left at a property for up to 7 days to be filled by the owner. This will then be taken by the Fire Department to the slash pile for disposal. He asked that people track and report their time to enable matching grant funds.
Seasonal employees are now managed by the Fire Department during fire season. They are all-risk seasonals, so they can be utilized for structure fires. Some are also trained for medical aid. Most of them are fairly new in the profession.
A replacement water tender has been approved for the Highlands station. Staffing in the Highlands has not been reduced during the recession.
An owner asked if trees could be trimmed at this time of year. The answer is an emphatic no. Tree limbing should also be done in the winter due to the beetle problem. He describes winter as occurring after the first hard freeze.
The commission will be asked to create an ordinance that allows them to fall trees that have been determined by a forester to be dead and dying when the owner is not a resident and can’t be contacted.
They have a grant funding a program for replacing smoke detectors that is currently being utilized in the Mark Twain area. They will move to the Highlands after that area is complete.
Al Drake, Volunteer Fire Chief, invited folks to the annual spaghetti feed on August 17. He asked for more volunteers to serve on the volunteer fire department. They have received grants for equipment and training. Complete gear is available at this time for six more volunteers.
D. County Planning
Austin Osborne, County Planner, is working on an update to the County Master Plan and welcomes input from the residents. They are looking at water issues that can occur as the Highlands area nears build-out. Industrial growth, mining, development are among the issues being studied. There will be a workshop regarding the update in September at the Highlands Fire Station Training Room.
Osborne reported that the Vista Tower (cell) applicants are having a challenge. According to the Special Use Permit a carrier must be contracted before the tower is built. They are competing with hundreds of towers already constructed in California and carriers would rather contract with existing towers. They are going to go through the use permit process again to reassess that condition. Potentially the rehearing will be in September or October.
The original company that proposed building wind towers on BLM land above Virginia City is no longer involved in the project. No applications are currently in process, but another provider may be interested in the future. A new applicant will have to start the process from the beginning, including the environmental impact study.
Osborne said that he welcomes questions and input from the community.
E. Highlands Neighborhood Watch
Stacy Jones stated that Neighborhood Watch can be reached at any time at VCHNW@Yahoo.com . He emphasized that they are not on patrol looking for trouble and are not carrying guns. They are just on the lookout for any event that looks out of the ordinary. The Sheriff’s Office is to be notified of any such unusual event. Neighborhood Watch meetings are a great opportunity to meet your neighbors. They meet approximately every 6 weeks.
Neighborhood Watch signs have been posted at both entrances. More are anticipated at the park and smaller signs throughout the area. The group will decide where they are posted along with property owners’ associations approval.
F. Fire Safe Highlands
Mike Riley spoke for Fire Safe Highlands. He commented that our area is in the same ecological area as that burned in the recent Bison Fire in Douglas County and is in similar danger. The FSH organization arranges for speakers who talk about fire dangers and precautions. There are many ways to keep fire out of the house.
They meet the third Thursday of each month and try to have a speaker at each meeting. Future speakers will talk about homeowner’s insurance coverage, embers, tree beetles and when to cut trees. Everyone is invited to these meetings. He said that junipers are known as “Natures Napalm” and urged residents to get rid of them. Gwen Buck has information on the “You Call, We Haul” program, address signs, in-kind forms for grant funding, National Night Out, and related issues. He emphasized that fire prevention is a community effort. It is important to get involved.
Jack McGuffey noted that he had posted a picture of the Bison Fire on the Yahoo site. He witnessed the fire moving at a rapid pace and said that it is a good reminder of what can happen in our neighborhood.
Bob Maccario gave a summary of VRWPA activities in the past year with input from Mary Tallent-Stewart.
A young girl in Australia wrote about reading a story of a wild horse in the area that was killed in a car accident, leaving a foal. She wanted to know what happened to that foal. The foal, Annie, was adopted by a resident and is still residing in the Highlands. There is a DVD about the incident that was sent to the girl in Australia along with pictures of the horse. She and her mother were very happy to hear that the foal was alive and well cared for.
They have entered into a coalition with other horse protective associations to work for the protection of wild horses. There is a cooperative agreement being developed to ensure the protection of the Virginia Range horses.
They are working with the Sheriff’s office on other issues concerning wildlife in the area.
He urged the board and owners to talk to the commissioners about the proposed Sunny Hills development that he fears will have a great impact on area wildlife.
They have been in talks with Comstock Mining regarding the protection of wildlife in the active mining area. There is a proposal to allow up to two non-residents serve on the VRWPA board to expand protection to the entire Virginia Range.
VRWPA is exploring becoming a Benefits Corporation, known as a “B Corporation”, which is a for-profit corporation that must do social good as part of its mandate. There are foundations that invest in these corporations, which might provide more funding for wildlife protection. The organization is evolving. Meetings are on the last Wednesday of the month.
VI. Committee Reports
A. Architectural Committee
Rita Lumos reported on another quiet year in the VCH. Approved during the past year were two residences, one detached outbuilding, three color changes/reroofing, and one cell tower.
B. Road Report
Steve Morrow is a former board member who has headed the road committee for six years and has been the volunteer road manager for the past two years since leaving the board.
He explained the annual road plan as set out in the List of Annual Road Repairs and Improvements (LARRI) which can be found on the association web site. Roads are assessed at the beginning of each construction season and maintenance is done as needed and as set out in the plan. They work hard to stay within the budget. Work on the higher elevation roads will be completed in the next 3-4 weeks. Improvements on lower elevation roads has been completed for the season.
A residence being built on Palomino Road has required a great deal of fill material on their lot and the delivery trucks have been destroying Silverado Road. The contractor was contacted. He has changed his haul route and agreed to purchase road base to repair Silverado Road.
In addition to road maintenance the crews perform maintenance on association culverts. These are culverts that cross roads, but not under private driveways.
The water truck is now fitted out as a water tender to be used by the fire department in case of fire. They inspect the equipment yard. All equipment is properly placated to comply with all applicable laws. They have worked closely with the workman’s comp insurance provider to ensure compliance with all safety rules.
The yard has been completely cleaned. Sheds have been cleaned, reroofed, and painted. The crews also repaint and maintain the mail sheds.
The biggest association asset is the equipment. There is a lot of maintenance necessary. Along with regular maintenance there have been many unexpected repairs needed for the water truck and grader. Equipment replacement is anticipated in the next couple of years.
The proposed LARRI for 2013-14 is basically the same as previous year except that some residents have requested no dust suppressant be applied to their roads. These decisions are made in concert with the board.
He reiterated that the speed limit on the gravel roads is 15 mph and is very important to extend the life of the roads.
Morrow thanked the road crew, who are our employees. He related that they want to thank those owners who bring them refreshments, and compliments, which are much appreciated.
The list of proposed road repairs is available as a handout, along with a research paper about the road maintenance that was printed in last year’s newsletter.
Morrow noted that his contact information is on the website. The board is copied on all correspondence he receives.
An owner asked what the purpose is for the PVC pipes at the culverts. The purpose is to mark culvert locations for snow plowing. The owner asked if something more attractive could be used. That will be a consideration.
Larry Prater commented that he has great respect for the work the snow plow crews do, but asked that they not drop the blades low enough to remove the road base. Steve said that there are shoes on the blades that keep the plow above the base. These are replaced regularly, but it is sometimes difficult to avoid all base removal. They are aware of the problem and continually try to prevent damage to the base.
VII. Financial Report
A. Review of Financial Statements and Reserve Account
Thomas reviewed the financial report for the fiscal year 2013-14. The complete financial statements are available on the association web site at http://www.vchpoa.org/Financials.shtml
He noted that there is $27,500 more cash on hand than at the end of the last fiscal year, and one less fire house. He explained that the payment for the fire station property will be received in $50,000 increments over a 5 year period. This plan saves $45,000 in federal taxes. The first installment was received July 1.
Revenues and expenses for the year were consistent with recent years. The amount in the Reserve Fund is about $235,000 and it is fully funded according to the current reserve study.
A Reserve Study is required by statute every 5 years. It requires that funds be on hand for replacement of association assets, which in our case is roads and equipment. Currently reserve fund is fully funded. A large expenditure for equipment is anticipated in next year.
If the association dues were adjusted for inflation according to the Consumer Price Index the fee, adjusted from 1972, would be $288/lot. Although the association was incorporated in that year it did not begin meeting until 1979. The amount adjusted from 1979 would be $162. Current dues and assessments are $150/lot. There is not a need to raise the special assessment for next few years due to sale of fire station.
B. Presentation of Operating Budget
The proposed operating budget was published in the annual newsletter mailed to all owners and is available on the website.
The biggest change is from the previous year is the amount federal taxes due to the fire station sale. Equipment replacement has to begin, probably with a water truck. Road expenditures will be more since little material was applied in the current season.
Paving material for Cartwright would be a new expense not included in the budget.
A motion by Keith Judson, seconded by Larry Prater to approve the budget as presented was approved unanimously.
Thomas asked the owners present if they thought the roads were in reasonable condition. The response was overwhelmingly positive. A show of hands revealed that almost all present were in favor of mag chloride application; no one was opposed.
VIII. Report from Teller Committee
Not necessary due to postponed election.
IX. Comments by Association Members
Valerie LaBell Flatley asked if any homeowners associations could be non-profit corporations. Thomas briefly explained the tax law regarding associations. Some business income is taxable, but most income is not. All such associations are covered under same tax law and cannot be non-profit corporations.
An owner suggested that a PA system be borrowed or rented for future annual meetings. It was agreed that this is necessary.
Chris Davis of LHDC Survival School explained that his school trains pilots how to survive if they go down in remote area. He said that they offer communities a chance to speak with experts on disasters at no charge or fee. He would like to arrange meetings here in the future.
There being no further business the meeting was adjourned at 12:07 pm.
Rita Lumos, Recording Secretary