Tag Archives: Van Loon Commons Association

Fees, Dues, Special Assessments and “Betterment Fees”? 4,900 this year!!

By now, you should have received your most recent, additional “contribution” and the analysis of last year’s water shortage. Only $16,835.90 short last year……..that may be close if there were only 339 days In a year, as used for the “Van Loon 2013 Water Report” mailed.

The basis for the 2nd 2014 “Special Assessment” is a $20 per month charge for each of the months in 2013 you were not present, and not billed water/sewer usage, therefore didn’t share in the fixed charges by the City of Cape Coral, referred to as Capacity charges.  What are Capacity charges?  All dwellings, single or multi family have a fixed charge per month for the access to water usage and sewerage processing, whether used or not. Sort of like paying for having the pipes there and maintained, or similar to the LCEC charge, with or without usage. ($15 for LCEC presently).  The fixed costs divided among the 150 units, equal about $21 per unit.

( VLC Association pays the full water bills to the City, and then collected from each unit using a billing company, which sent the reimbursements to VLC Association)

What is true is that when VLC installed sub-meters, the bills were set up that the fixed costs were divided among only units which had water/sewer usage, in each building, each month.  So, if 10 of the 15 units were occupied in a billing month, the 10 shared the $330, or approximately $33 per unit plus their water, and sewer. (Water is billed on a per unit amount/sewer based on the water billing).  If 15 had billings, each unit’s bill included capacity and usage.

Units with zero usage received only an administrative bill of $4.21 which was the $3.75 earned by the billing company for mailing them and collecting payments, and postage. Was this a fair division? No. If zero units were occupied in a building one month and no usage, would there been any reimbursement to the association? Doesn’t seem so. Was there ever a month that only 5 units had usage and each paid $65 plus usage? Maybe.

As the meters began to fail transmitting readings, less and less units were being billed more than $4.21.  The other units in the building whose meters continued to transmit, shared the fixed costs. Two board members at the time, Marguerite Kisner and Pam Decraene shared in the free water, kept the situation from other owners calling it “board business”, refused free replacement of all meters in Nov 2013, and did not want accurate billings corrected. Ms. Kisner was aware of the unfair allocation and shared the information only with other board members, but not all owners. The allocation could have been corrected with the billing company, simply by resetting the billing software. That would be if she were actually concerned with what was good for the association and not receiving free water. By keeping this information to themselves and not having the meters repaired, they were increasing the bills of all neighbors with usage.

One neighbor who rented in 2013 in our building, with the Kisners (1137) told us of receiving a $225 bill in June 2013, when very few were present. Hmmmm. He was very clean….

So, the fixed costs were covered for each building by the unlucky owners who were present and had usage. Your neighbors who were not present, were not trying to deceive anyone nor if not on the board, knew of the allocation problem. (again, easily changed). Your neighbors who had failed meters, and especially board members who had the responsibility to correct the problem may not have understood the higher math as described above, but definitely knew their bills shouldn’t have been $4.21.  To have kept it quiet was as dishonest as knowing you got an extra $20 in your change from the high school kid, and not giving it back.

We received a bill for $100 for this Water Calculation, supposedly representing 5 months of not being present or billed usage. Others have received $140 or more.  That is for only fixed costs.

Question: The association with the board including Pam Decraene has paid about $10,000 since January, related to the water amendment’s legality. Last notice in June 2014 that I am aware of (and will share soon) from the honorable Richard Deboest, Esq., was that the water amendment was illegal since he was not given proof the rights of the unsold or foreclosed units from Dec 2010, had been taken away. (more on that, the vote of taking rights away from non paying units took place Feb 2014)

No new legal counsel was sought and the board is in limbo on how to proceed. So, if the amendment is not legal, then how can you bill anything?

And, we want a refund for all payments made under the illegal amendment, going back to the beginning. Or, why assess the $20 of unfair allocation from June 13. Why not go back to June 11? (for those who still own). See the problem? This is another Special Assessment because we are in a deficit, though Special Assessments don’t look good for values. I asked board member Brenda Hallihan about the basis for this, if legal or illegal has not been established.  Her response was that this was NOT a Special Assessment and directed me to a page from the City of CC water department, referring to “Betterment Fee”.  Maybe we can rename all our payments betterment fees. I like the sound of it. Better.

I continue to say; the reserves are deficient, the budget was improperly prepared, and the year end is coming. Ask why the actual financial reports are not posted each month. Actual income and expenses on a Cash Basis, so owners can assess throughout the year our financial status and prospective owners can determine if they want to purchase at VLC.  “OPEN AND HONEST” communication. It is what Rick Aliperti and Brenda Hallihan claim to support.  Money where the mouth……….






Pam Decraene: 30 Year JP Morgan VP and Crediblity

How do you determine credibility of persons?  Does it matter to you? Experience has taught us that it does. JP Morgan Chase is an impressive corporation and investment bank and my brother, an accountant was a manager in the Wilmington, Delaware Headquarters for 10 years, until early 2007.

When Jim and I first met Ms. Decraene at the VLC pool in Sept 2013, our conversation revolved around her reason for moving with her husband Bob from their hometown in Indiana, her recent retirement after 30 years as a Vice President with JP Morgan and how expensive her water bill was. As stated before, we told her the $30-$35 we were charged for water/sewer each time we stayed for one week, was normal for the area and being a large usage condo, not unexpected (see City of Cape Coral rates-more gallons, higher unit price).  She stated her reason for moving from Indiana to Florida was an insult from a relative in regards to a job move when she waited for a location to open up for her. She did not elaborate on the move but stated the relative said her decision was “stupid”.

We returned to New Jersey and I asked my brother about Ms. Decraene and her being a VP for JP in Indiana. He stated that JP Morgan Chase had not entered the mid-west markets until mid-2000’s, more closely around 2005 when it began buying up smaller banks which then operated under the JP name.  We didn’t give additional thought to her, or her statements on her career until we learned she had been put on the BOD by former pres Kisner sometime in Oct 13. (Learned at the pool of course, no communications needed for mere owners) After becoming aware of the “free” water and sewer being enjoyed by Kisner and attempting to obtain (as all owners are ENTITLED to) copies of the water billings to determine who was not paying; we received the email discussions of the issue, including statements and questions by Decraene.

In none of the emails nor in our Sept 13 discussion, did Decraene mention her bill being ZERO for her unit as was Kisner’s.  Many of the writings did not indicate any financial or accounting background.  (Uploaded to Kisner post)

Water bills to be posted and subsequent payments by Kisner and Decraene, made 1/8/14 after conducting numerous legal meetings (see invoices) regarding “Election Issues”.  How did they think the had the right to spend our $$ to consult on Election Issues?

Decraene entered the election for the 2014 BOD; the CAM’s denied our being allowed to see the water bills (obtained after the election) and the Candidate Statement mailed separately to all owners (as inadvertently omitted by CAM Stiles), for Decraene included one career job and a long list of volunteer work.  2014 01 02_Candidate_Statement_Decraene One owner, who paid high like us and had a background in real estate and insurance spoke with me regarding the 30 year career and stated that it sounded impressive compared to some of the other resumes.  A Google search brought two separate articles from the South Bend Tribune (a local Indiana paper) of 2 different jobs held in 2004,  NOT JP Morgan Chase.

These articles confirmed what my brother had told us and after the election, newly elected BOD member Richard Aliperti wanted to have a phone conversation with me. (to be summarized on Aliperti post). During the “conversation”, I brought up that background checks for BOD members could be added to our bylaws, due to their access to unit keys and ability to control (and destroy) our financial health.  Aliperti became extremely agitated when I used Decraene’s misleading resume as an example (cannot understand why anyone would list one job, 30 volunteer activities except to impress beyond real background) and stated that she had explained to him about this.  He stated she worked for JP Morgan, then left, then came back and it happens often in the corporate world.   (I guess a government accountant must have never worked in the corporate world nor have knowledge of private enterprise practices?? – 🙂 I have worked in private, not for profit and government).

When I stated that JP Morgan was NOT in Indiana in those years, and only bought up smaller banks late in the 2000’s, he yelled that he could not work with anyone like me and would resign! That was the end to our 1st of only a handful of telephone conversations.  We had not at that time (met in person 3/24/14) and based on his writings by email and that one 30 minute phone conversation, I did not consider his resignation to be a loss.   During our “conversation” he admitted knowing nothing about the statutes, condo docs, by laws, nor the water meter debacle, nor the budget or deficit but lectured me, (seemingly without taking a breath) for the first 10 minutes. He ranted that I would destroy the community if I persisted thought did not specify what I couldn’t persist in doing and went on about VLC becoming a Section 8 community.  ?????? More on this to come.

Subsequent to this, Decraene emailed a copy of her last W2 and a glass etched award with 30 years retirement from JP by email, to clear up any questions.  This, Jim and I found “interesting”. After meeting Aliperti  on 3/24, and his bringing the Decraene employment history issue up again;  I sent the 2nd article for a 2nd 2004 employer and asked for further details of the changes. An emailed response from Aliperti stated the BOD was proud of Decraene’s service and that she worked for JP Morgan for her last 18 months (they purchased the bank she worked for and offered her a position 3 hours from her Elkhart, Indiana home).  BOD member Hallihan sent an email with “WHO CARES”!.

It was Aliperti who brought the issue up to me again in March 2014 during a meeting he requested, through Hallihan, which was conducted at our condo. (Yes I advised them that 3 or more was an illegal BOD meeting-we were not aware Hallihan was accompanying him).  I already knew the facts regarding JP and Indiana, and once I know someone has issues with truth, Keep them remain at arms length.  If someone submitted a resume to JP Morgan or any corporation, with overstated or misstated history, they are usually dismissed.

Who Cares?  We do. Credibility always matters.  We are shareholders in a not for profit association and as with buying ownership in a business or stock in a corporation, expect the finances and BOD members to be as reported. VLC may not be Enron but as a percentage of our net worth/wealth, it is important to those of us who own.