by Pat Licata, Civic Club’s President
Please join the Civic Club on Wednesday, July 11th, at 5:30 PM, as we host a Reception for the Candidates in the Great Hall of the Clubhouse. We encourage you to mingle with the candidates from 5:30-6:00 PM, with the forum beginning at 6:00 PM. Each candidate will have 2-3 minutes to deliver his/her message to the audience. A cash bar will be available, and light hors d’oeuvres will be served.
The Lake of the ,Woods Board candidates are Heidi Brown, Pete Brown, Ralph Debnam, Walt Diercks, Bill Feterle, William Logan, Allen Priester, and Terry Terrenoiere. The candidates will be vying for 3 Board of Directors vacancies on the 7 member Board. LOWA will mail ballots to lot owners near the end of July, and the balloting will conclude on September 1st at the Association’s Annual Meeting.
The Reception for the Candidates is open to all members of the community. Please plan to attend so you may become better acquainted with the candidates. We look forward to seeing you on the 11th.
Following the Reception for the Candidates, consider having dinner at the Clubhouse. The deck is open, and the view of the lake with the sunset is spectacular.
The Civic Club has asked each LOWA Board candidate to answer nine questions, and their answers are below. On behalf of the Civic Club, we wish the candidates good fortune in the election and want to express appreciation for their willingness to serve our community.
- Why are you running for the Board?
Heidi Brown: I was very fortunate to have served our Nation in uniform for 36 years. LOW is my home now. I love this community and its members. I want to serve on the Board to give back to the community.
Pete Brown: LOW is a vibrant, diverse and wonderful community with great amenities providing almost everything we could want, but it is not pretentious. Over the past 50 years, good people have volunteered to provide a vision that has made our community what it is today. It is time for me to do my part in the future vision of keeping LOWA a great place to live.
Ralph Debnam: I have consumed a substantial amount of time and effort over a period of years to attempt to provide the board and various committees what I believed to be common sense solutions to certain issues. This effort was to open a line of communication to begin a dialogue to engage the board/management with the community to reach reasonable compromise on issues that I felt were of importance to the community in general. This process was unsuccessful so hopefully a seat on the board will help advance that process.
Walt Diercks: At present, the LOW community is divided and a number of members feel angry and marginalized. There is a perception among some that the Board does not listen to members which has contributed to that division. I believe my 40+ years of experience as a lawyer working on conflict resolution and organizational governance could help reduce our division. I also believe my experience as an engineer and member of a church building committee will enable me to be of value in overseeing the construction of our CARC facility and its integration into the operations of LOWA.
Bill Feterle: As a full time resident I have a vested interest in our community. I feel my communication skills and past experience serving on a condo owner’s assoc. (Treasurer) will enable me to contribute in a positive manner to the future of our community.
William Logan: My wife Pat and I have enjoyed living here at the Lake for 14 years. One of the reasons I am running for the Board is to better serve the members of LOW. I believe there is a need for better communication and I want to represent the voice of the members.
Allen Priester: After residing in LOW for 20 years, I wish to continue my public service career by utilizing my experience and talents in managing large programs and projects by volunteering to serve on the LOW Board of Directors.
Terry Terrenoiere: It appears to me that we have an elitist leaning Board that does not represent, or recognize, the needs and limitations of a significant percentage of the working and retired community. I want to be a voice of conservatism to represent this portion of our residents.
- What are the 3 most important duties of a Board member?
Pete Brown: 1) Listening to our membership and committees to set goals and policies for our staff and communicating those goals and policies to the membership. This is accomplished through diligence in studying all sides of issues before making the sometimes difficult decisions. 2) Ensure adherence to our governing documents, amending rules and regulations if necessary. 3) Approving and monitoring our budget and 5-year plan.
Ralph Debnam: 1) Adopt and inforce policies that seek to serve the majority of members in the communityto advance the overall quality of the association. 2) Establish fiscal responsibility in all decisions on behalf of the membership. 3) Facilitate open communication between the board and the members.
Walt Diercks: First, the Board has a fundamental duty to act in the best interests of the entire Association membership – not those of factions or interest groups. Under that fundamental duty the Board has many more than three important duties. The “Top Three” in my book are: 1) determining the short-term and long-term fiscal needs of the Association and approving a responsible and realistic budget; 2) planning for the replacement, acquisition and maintenance of Association amenities and other assets, and 3) ensuring that the Board’s policies, programs and budget are properly carried out by the General Manager.
Bill Feterle: 1) Listen to members concerns, suggestions, criticisms, etc., with an open mind to better serve the community as a whole. 2) Maintain infrastructure and amenities while being fiscally responsible. 3) Ensure that reserve funding is adequate.
William Logan: 1) Work with the General Manager to control the budget process while reducing expenses. 2)Ensuring that all policies and programs are properly carried out by the General Manager. 3) Listen to the members and find the right solutions to meet their needs.
Allen Priester: 1) Uphold the governing documents of the LOW Association and the associated laws of Orange Country and the Commonwealth of Virginia that govern Home Owners Associations. 2) Work with the Board, the LOW General manager (GM) and his staff, and the Members of the Association to maintain and improve the capital assets and amenities of LOW to keep them attractive and safe to maintain and improve property values. 3) Work to obtain consensus between the Board, the LOW staff, and the membership in executing #1 and #2, above.
Terry Terrenoiere: 1) To exercise the fiduciary responsibility in protecting and preserving the assets of the association. This will help to maintain the value of each owner’s property. 2) To listen to the residents and give their concerns serious consideration when faced with making decisions which will impact them, especially in a financial way. 3) To be willing to talk with any resident with respect for their opinions and be willing to express your own opinions and beliefs about any concerns they may have. This, while walking the tight rope between what you believe in your heart to be in the best long term interest of the community and the association as a whole, and the eventual cost to the resident.
Heidi Brown: First and foremost, make decisions that are in the best interest of LOWA and its members. Second, establish, supervise, and carry out policies which guide the management of LOWA in a progressive and fair manner. Third, determine the fiscal needs of LOWA establish budgets and provide adequate resources for the running of the Association.
- What should be the role between the Board and LOWA staff, particularly the General Manger?
Ralph Debnam: The board’s official role is to adopt policies for the General Manager to implement. The advisory capacity of the General Manager is vital in assisting the board in the analization of those policies prior to implementation. The operational management of the community under the General Manager should be monitored by the board to ensure minimal intrusion into a member’s rights.
Walt Diercks: The LOWA Bylaws spell the division of responsibility between the Board and the General Manager. The Board of Directors is responsible for overseeing the GM and his staff to ensure that the policies, programs and budget adopted by the Board are properly carried out through the GM. The General Manager is responsible for the day-to-day management, operations, maintenance and security of all of the Association’s properties and personnel. The GM reports to the Board of Directors.
Bill Feterle: As BOD is responsible for governance, at the behest of the BOD, the general manager and his staff executes enforcement of the rules and regulations plus operations of all amenities on a daily basis.
William Logan: The Board sets the Policies and Procedures. The role of the General Manager is to adhere to these Policies and Procedures as he conducts the day to day management of the Association. I also think that the Board tries to micro manage the General Manager.
Allen Priester: According to the duties outlined, above, the Board is responsible for maintaining the LOW infrastructure and amenities and provides the funds to make it happen. The General Manager (GM), who serves at the pleasure of the Board, is responsible for the day-to-day operations of LOW. His role is to advise the Board and then execute Board decisions based on the duties outlined, above. The Staff support the GM in surfacing recommendations that he takes to the board, then executing the individual tasks in their area based on decisions made by the Board.
Terry Terrenoiere: It is my understanding that the Board hires the GM. In that case, the Manager is to answer to the Board on matters of daily operations and expenses. It is his, or her, responsibility to oversee all daily operations within the community. The GM must have a pulse on the needs of the community residents and be ready to discuss any concerns of the residents in a timely and respectful manner. At the same time the Board must provide direction to the GM so that the needs of the general ownership can be efficiently addressed.
Heidi Brown: The Board sets policies and procedures for LOWA. The Board appoints the GM who is responsible for the day-to-day management, operations, maintenance and security of all the Association’s properties and personnel in accordance with rules, regulations, policies, and Virginia law. The GM reports to the Board.
Pete Brown: The BOD sets budgets, goals and policies upon evaluation of recommendations of our committees. The GM is hired by the BOD and has authorization to implement those policies and goals through staff and to work within the approved budget. The BOD does not do the daily management of the association.
- What do you think of the current status of our facilities/amenities?
Walt Diercks: Generally speaking, the facilities/amenities are in reasonably good shape, given budget constraints. I am excluding the current Clubhouse Pool and Fitness Center from that evaluation because they are being replaced in the Clubhouse Area Recreation Complex, which already has been approved by the Board. The health of the Main Lake and Keaton’s Lake is a concern and each has a capital project heading toward construction: the Flat Run Forebay Project for the Main Lake and the 14th Fairway Pond project for Keaton’s Lake.
Bill Feterle: Adequate at this time, but there is always room for improvement. I also feel that because of the variety of amenities, our members are well served.
William Logan: The current status of our facilities/amenities is adequate but many of the components are aging and need to be addressed. However, failure to fully fund the Repair and Replacement Reserve is of concern in order to continue to meet future needs.
Allen Priester: Our amenities are what draw people to LOW and support the property values within the community. I think that our amenities are barely keeping up with the needs of the community. We should focus on maintaining the main amenities that support the property values, e.g., stop the encroachment of silt in the main lake, repair potholes in community roads, ensure the amenities such as the pools and beaches are in good and safe condition for the membership.
Terry Terrenoiere: In general, it is very good, however, for the past several weeks there have been difficulties with the A/C in the Community Center. This situation has gone on much too long and it seems like we have the “gang who can’t shoot straight” running the operation. There also seems to have been a gross lack of management in seeing to it that the dock by the Clubhouse was done correctly and on time. I observed many days of no progress and no construction workers on site. The lack of concern and action in overseeing this small project gives me GREAT concern for the projected completion of the yet to be started CARC project.
Heidi Brown: For the most part, the grounds are looking great. The facilities and amenities appear to be in satisfactory condition although after the storms the last week; I’m concerned about the flooding across LOW (ditches, lakes, homeowners’ yards, roads, marinas). The Golf Course and the Clubhouse appear to both have excess capacity therefore we need to create more demand for their use.
Pete Brown: They are well maintained. Some are beginning to show their age and will need upgrading or eventual replacement. These should be identified and put into our 5 year plan. We must balance the needs and means of our diverse community while protecting our LOW assets and programs. Our amenities directly affect our property values.
Ralph Debnam: Extensive renovations/expansions over the past decade have established a solid foundation of quality facilities/amenities. The priority going forward is to reorient our focus from renovations/expansions to quality and timely maintenance to ensure the current status of these amenities will maintain the level of excellence our past expenditures established.
- What is your view of LOWA capital planning?
Bill Feterle: Using Miller-Dodson as a guide, along with input from management, committees and members, the BOD is well-served when considering repair/replacement of amenities, equipment, facilities and infrastructure.
William Logan: The Board should set realistic goals for the upcoming fiscal year based on what components of the amenities are in need of repair and or replacement. At the beginning of the fiscal year, the Board should take into account how much money is in the Repair and Replacement Reserve Fund, including the contribution to reserve (CTR) and make sure sufficient funds are available to cover the cost of the carry- over projects as well as the regularly scheduled projects, before deciding to add new ones. The Board should also avoid approving additional capital projects in the middle of the budget cycle, unless it is an emergency.
Allen Priester: Capital planning begins with the Miller-Dodson report and associated recommendations to the GM. The GM and his staff recommend a budget to the Board. The Board, working with the 22 LOWA committees and the GM revise the recommended budget. Once consensus is reached, the Board approves the budget. I do think that each recommended line item in the capital budget needs to be questioned and justified before made a budget item. At the same time, our revenue streams need to be examined to see if can be expanded without increasing member assessments. I think that a formal incentive program should be established for the GM and his staff and be incentivized to save money on capital expenditures. The saved money can then be rolled into the Reserves and potentially reduce assessments the following year.
Terry Terrenoiere: Since I do not have inside knowledge of these plans I can only give my relatively uninformed opinion. There needs to be improvement, starting with more consideration given to the financial resources of the young families and retires living on fixed incomes.
Heidi Brown: The Board, by means of the annual budget review, should evaluate the planned capital spending proposed by the General Manager to ensure that the program is carried out in an efficient manner, given the Association’s limited financial resources. Additionally, given the recent damage caused by the storms that hit this area, we need to review projects that have either been pushed to later years or are not on our scope at all (e.g., Flat Run forebay, drainage ditch repair, etc…).
Pete Brown : This is an excellent system. We employ Miller Dodson Capital Reserve Consultants to assist our efforts. We look out on a 5-year rolling plan to anticipate future needs and set aside funding for those projects. Funds are placed in restricted accounts to be used only for those purposes. The BOD has the authority to reallocate these funds, if necessary, in the event of projects being carried over into another fiscal year.
Ralph Debnam: Capital planning is essential to identifying future specific amenity/infrastructure needs coordinated with overall demographic shifts. However, balancing amenity/infrastructure expansions and improvements with financial prudence has to be weighted towards prudence until our reserve balances favor other alternative issues.
Walt Diercks: In general, the biggest part of LOWA capital planning is determining the funding of the Repair and Replacement Reserve, which provides the funds needed to a) maintain, at a very good level, the property, lakes, building and grounds, roads and equipment by replacing those assets where appropriate, and b) provide for the non-recurring repair of assets and common areas. LOWA hires a Reserve Specialist Company (currently Miller Dodson) to conduct at least every five years a Reserve Study to determine the necessity and amount of reserves required to fund repairs and replacements. In the current budget year, the R& R Reserve is funded over $1.6 million ($392 of the per lot assessment) based on the Reserve Study. Careful attention should be paid to the Reserve Study’s forecasted amounts needed for repair and replacement reserves more than three years into the future so that we can anticipate these future financial demands.
- What has been your involvement with LOW community activities?
William Logan: Having lived here for 14 years and served on the LOWA Finance Committee for 5 years (1 year as Chair) gave me great insight into the financial management of the Association. I served on the Elections Committee and the Safety and Security Committee. I have also served on Orange County Litter Control Committee, volunteered to teach after school children at Locust Grove elementary and middle schools and volunteered at Fredericksburg Police Department. I have been active in my church activities to raise money for disabled children and the poor.
Allen Priester: I have worked full time in my 20 years at LOW. I have enjoyed many of the amenities including the fitness center, the beaches, the lakes, and the golf course. I have attended several committee and Board meetings to listen and, where appropriate, express my opinion as a homeowner and member of LOWA.
Terry Terrenoiere: In short, very little. Having bought my house in 2012 I spent most of the first 3 years here doing extensive remodeling on the 25 year old house, while at the same time taking full time care of my 4 grandchildren in Vienna during the week. Last year much of my time was taken up going thru the end of 50 year marriage and trying to get my life back on an even keel. For 2 years, and 5 shows, I was the volunteer photographer for the “Players”. For the better part of the last 2 years I have been active in some of the “fun bunch” activities, namely shooting pool on Tuesdays.
Heidi Brown: Since arriving here in March 2017, I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy some of the many community activities. I joined two different women’s golf venues, joined the LOW vets, attend various events at the lake, clubhouse, and golf complex. I plan on getting even more involved in the vast variety of LOW activities.
Pete Brown: I served on the 50th Anniversary Ad Hoc Committee. I am a member of the LOW Visual Arts Council and am a member of the LOW Pickleball Club. My wife and I attend most community events, dinners, concerts, etc. As a member of the LOW Church, I have participated in their “Home Helps” program and sing in the Chancel Choir.
Ralph Debnam: Professional and personal obligations limited my ability to serve as a full time member on established community committees. I have had substantial engagements, both oral and written, with various committee members as well as past and current board members in promoting ideas and concepts to better serve the community.
Walt Diercks: Since moving to LOW full-time with my wife in 2013, I have been a member of the LOW Lions Club and a LOWLINC volunteer. I also provide free legal services to LOWLINC, LOW Lions Club, LOW Lions Club Foundation, Friends of Lake of the Woods, LOW Lioness Lions Club, and LOW Lioness Lions Club Foundation; volunteer for the Wilderness Food Pantry; and provide free notary services to the LOW community. I also served on the LOWA 50th Anniversary Ad Hoc Committee.
Bill Feterle: 1) LOW Lions Club 2016-present (eyesight and white cane. 2) LOW Church chancel choir 2015-2017. 3) Provided musical entertainment for LowLinc and LOW Lioness Club.
- Should the Association take an active role in the affairs of state and local government? What type of issues should be addressed?
Allen Priester: The Association should be agnostic to state and local politics, i.e., not aligned to a political party, but be aware of them. Involvement by the Association should be in support of issues that impact our amenities and ultimately our property values.
Terry Terrenoiere: Since our community does represent a significant percentage of the County’s population, I do believe we should be aware of activities that could affect our operations and community as a whole. Just how we can be “active” in that operation remains to be seen. We do have a County official as a resident and I would expect that he would represent us well in that capacity.
Heidi Brown: I don’t believe it would be proper for the Board to take an active role in the affairs of the County because LOWA is a housing association. The Board should always strive to have a good relationship with the local government authorities and adhere to VA law.
Pete Brown: Yes we should. As the largest population center of Orange County, we have a vested interest in our county governance, taxes and growth. Our school aged children make up a large proportion of the student population. The Rte. 3 Corridor development plan and the Rte. 20 rerouting have a direct effect on LOW.
Ralph Debnam: Our continuing development of community planning with consideration given to changes in state and county comprehensive and master planning documents will continue to be vital. Advocating for and/or against policies by state or local jurisdictions that impact our self governance must continue to be actively pursued.
Walt Diercks: The Association should limit its involvement in the affairs of state and local government to those issues which directly impact the Association and its members in their roles as property owners at Lake of the Woods. The External Affairs Committee monitors civic activities external to LOW. Examples of issues that directly impact the Association and its members in their roles as property owners at Lake of the Woods include: Orange County Zoning and planning that could impact the quality of life of those living at Lake of the Woods, delivery of services by state and local governments, including public schools, law enforcement and fire and rescue services, and state legislation that could affect the governance of the Association, such as proposed changes to the Virginia Property Owners’ Association Act. Another example is LOWA staying on top of FEMA’s proposed changes to floodplain maps, which could affect members along both Keaton’s Lake and the Main Lake.
Bill Feterle: As the largest community in Orange County, being aware of governmental issues is of utmost importance, i.e.; education of our children, ecology, etc.
William Logan: Yes. LOW is a community that contributes to about 37% of county taxes and has two county supervisors. LOWA also assists the Sheriff’s Office as a first responder. Our fire and ambulance service provide excellent response services. County children are allowed to use our amenities to ensure that LOW children have competition such as swim and soccer activities. LOWA should also be concerned with how our county taxes are assessed, changes in rezoning and laws that have an impact on us such as police coverage, cable services and future WiFi service. LOWA is not just a private community but a place in which Orange County will grow.
- Are you satisfied with how the LOWA budget is developed? Please explain.
Terry Terrenoiere: My reading of the time line for last year revealed to me just how complex the whole process can be. At this point I can make no cogent suggestions for improvement but I look forward to keeping an eye on future plans.
Heidi Brown: I am satisfied with how our budget is developed (i.e., extensive process with Board, property owner, finance and planning committee expertise input). However, I am not satisfied that we are always executing within our budget. The Board and GM should give more attention to the recommendations provided by the finance committee given their wealth of professional knowledge.
Pete Brown: Yes. Our budget is based on expense requirements submitted by our operating centers to the GM with final approval by the BOD. Expenses are then compared to expected revenues. Our assessment is then calculated by dividing those final numbers among the number of lots. Restricted reserve funds are set aside and contributions made to those accounts as directed by our Miller Dodson study for funding approved capital projects.
Ralph Debnam: The development of the annual budget by each operation center based on historical expenditures and revenue is the key to establishing the projected assessment. Projections for fiscal year expenditures and revenue need to contain realistic assessments of future growth in conjunction with historical norms to properly establish the correct member assessment.
Walt Diercks: In general, I am satisfied; however, there always is room for improvement. In particular, we should focus on using the Repair and Replacement Study to get a better understanding of repair and replacement costs projected more than three years into the future. With regard to the budget process itself, it is highly organized, intensive and transparent. The process provides many opportunities for member and committee comments and suggestions and for the Board to listen. We need to work harder to use those opportunities to listen to each other and learn.
Bill Feterle: Development of the LOWA budget is by the BOD, after input of data from management and committees.
William Logan: Each year, around October, the GM asks each Operating Center Manager to submit their estimated budget in order to determine what funding may be needed for the following fiscal year. These estimates and suggestions are compiled and submitted to the Finance and Planning committees for comments. A joint meeting with the GM and his Sr. Staff, Finance Committee and the Planning Committee is held to discuss the proposed budget. The GM then presents a draft of the proposed budget (for information purposes) to the membership at large at a town hall meeting prior to presenting it to the Board for review and approval in February.
Allen Priester: There is always room for improvement. As mentioned above, I believe that all costs need to be questioned, justified, and prioritized before being placed as a line item in the budget. Likewise, I believe that all avenues need to be explored to increase our revenues as they offset our costs, and not limited to increasing annual assessments.
- What is your view for the future of LOW?
Heidi Brown: This is a wonderful community with a bright future. The community has grown in the last 51 years and will no doubt continue to attract a diverse group of property owners in the future. We need to continue to market this community as a wonderful place for families to live and retire.
Pete Brown: I believe our next 50 years will be as exciting as the past 50 years. We will become an even more desirable place to live with our offerings of such a wide range of lifestyle, amenities, clubs and services that are hard to match anywhere. Our single class of membership entitles all of us to enjoy our amenities. We are a complete community and not just another housing development.
Ralph Debnam: Challenges will continue to be in the forefront of this community as we attempt to establish equilibrium between mandatory expenses, assessment stabilization and amenity operational requirements. The establishment of policies that provide for maximum optimization of these key elements will be vital in ensuring the bright future for all members of the community.
Walt Diercks: My wife, Mary-Jane Atwater, and I have owned our home at Lake of the Woods since 1997 and have lived here full-time for five years. I wake up every morning grateful that LOW is my home. I agree with the Vision Statement adopted by the Board in June 20, 2017 that LOW should be “a welcoming, diverse, residential, gated community of single-family homes and recreational amenities that supports the evolving needs of members and their families.” If elected to the Board I will work to help sustain that vision as a living reality.
Bill Feterle: My opinion regarding the future of LOW would be, at a minimum, maintain our present level offacilities/amenities and when able improve upon them.
William Logan: The future of LOW will be a community that will soon be built out; thus reducing our revenue base, such as road fees that generated over $480,000 last fiscal year. The increase in administrative and amenity costs will require more thought in how we spend our limited resources, given our growing diversity. We must also acknowledge that we have a responsibility to those of advancing age and how we can best serve them by ensuring that the increasing assessment does not force them to leave their retirement home.
Allen Priester: The past 20 years of living at LOW have been wonderful. The next 20 can be as wonderful aslong as the Board is mindful of the changing needs of the community based on the changing demographics. We must balance our upkeep of amenities that keep attracting residents with the annual assessment costs that might drive residents away. By establishing and maintaining that balance, listening to the membership, and faithfully executing the duties of the Board, it will be a bright future.
Terry Terrenoiere: If we can bring the community residents together in planning and spending, I see a great future. If we continue to force very large and expensive projects down the throats of the average resident, I see nothing but trouble. We already have several families either actively trying to sell or giving it serious consideration. I know of one family who decided NOT to buy here for that same reason. There seems to be a faction of the community that feels superior to the “other’ residents, and have been heard telling these residents “if you don’t like it, leave”. This attitude just cannot be tolerated and as a Board member, if I hear someone express that directive, I will certainly address him directly myself. We MUST respect the views and positions of ALL of our residents.