Highland Lakes

Country Club and Community Association

President’s Message – Annual Address

President Jeanne Jameson
Address to the Membership
August 21, 2011

Good afternoon members, friends and neighbors.  Welcome to your Annual Meeting of 2011. I think I can speak for a number of people when I say that it has been an extraordinary year for the majority of volunteers and staff. We have been involved in a wide range of issues and at times the extra meetings seemed endless. I am taking this opportunity today to tell you about how hard all of our volunteers and staff have worked this year so that you can appreciate their contributions.

The Voting board wrestled with quite a few major challenges this year and was put through a grueling series of meetings over the past 11 months.

The continuing debate with Vernon Township officials did not get resolved by the end of September last year, so the Vernon Township Association of Private Communities (VTAPC) continued their attempts to sit down with the Council members to work it out. We made several requests for such a meeting, but were unsuccessful.HighlandLakes, however, did finally receive their payment in two installments from the township for the 2008 reimbursement which included a difficulty factor to compensate for the difference between the town’s cost to plow their roadways and the steeper, narrower roads inHighlandLakes.

When the township announced plans to take over plowing operations on all township roadways with the purchase of an additional 6 new trucks, the hiring of 10 new personnel to supplement the road crews, amid layoffs within the Township to save costs, the action kicked our efforts into high gear.

New battle plans were put into place, statistics were gathered on each Community’s unique makeup and again presented to the township officials to stop the proposed spending and listen to reason.

The township and the VTAPC agreed on partial payments to each community for 2009 reimbursements, which were received in early 2011, with the understanding that both the snow plowing takeover and the balance of reimbursement would be discussed at a later date.

With the change in the form of government for Vernonpending, there was a lot of campaigning to contend with. The VTAPC representatives attempted to meet with each candidate who responded to requests for a meeting to discuss our position so that no elected official could claim unfamiliarity with the issue and stall further discussions after the election.

Most responded and met with us.

After the elections, we were contacted by the newly elected mayor, Vic Marotta for a negotiations session.  That meeting was attended by all the Communities who have been involved and the outcome was that the mayor will authorize the payment of the balance of the 2009 reimbursement for all Communities represented that evening at the same factor that has been used in the previous 10 years (or the township’s costs plus a 50% difficulty factor to account for conditions such as elevation, roadway difficulties and prolonged duration of storms). The mayor will present this agreement to the council for the 2010-2011 season reimbursement at the Township Council meeting onMonday, August 22, 2011for their authorization.

The Tennessee Gas Pipeline project has provided us with a lot of meeting material over the past year as well.  Their project, while on state owned land, impacted us in ways that warranted our involvement.

We were first contacted in the late fall of 2010 to provide water for their drilling operations from theMainLake. Their initial point of entry would have been (according to their filings with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) down at the bottom of the lake, closest to their operations, but that area was declared unsatisfactory by NJDEP and their own internal environmental team. A new area closer to the Clubhouse was then selected but raised may concerns among Board members, staff, members and volunteers who saw the operations as too much of a disruption of summer activities.

A meeting was held withTGPrepresentatives, the Voting Board and concerned residents shortly thereafter and as a result, a new withdrawal point was sought.

The Highland Lakes Fire Department was contacted byTennesseefor permission to use their parking lot as a drawing source. Due to the wetlands condition in the area, that idea was also dispelled byTGP’s environmental teams. Finally, the entire idea was withdrawn andTGPdecided it was more expedient to continue to use the resources already in place to gather water for their drilling. In consideration of all the time spent by the Voting Board for work done on the water withdrawal issue, Tennessee Gas issued a one time payment of $5,000.00 recognizing the amount of involvement by the Club.  Had the original plan been authorized by the Board and the NJDEP, as well as their environmental team, it would have been a down payment on a future compensation package that had not been determined yet, but since the plan was withdrawn, it was non-refundable.

Barely two weeks went by andTennesseewas back again with a new request. This time it was to request passage on one of the Club’s roadways to accessWaywayandaState Parkfor their pipeline operations in their move east.  They had originally been operating under the assumption that the roadway was a public road and not private. Upon realizing their error, they began researching the topography of the area for alternate access for the large trucks carting out timber that was cut down to clear the way, wood chips that accumulated from clean up operations and hauling in machinery needed to accomplish the tasks at hand.

Board members were uncomfortable with granting this permission without consulting the residents in the area who would be affected, so another meeting was scheduled with those residents,TGPreps and the Voting Board. All residents in attendance were given the opportunity to ask questions which were answered or postponed pending further investigation and all were given information requested. Residents were also given the opportunity to have their homes and property photographed for compensatory compensation in the event of resulting damage to said property from the use of the road.

For the protection of all residents, the Voting Board requested and received some assurances regarding safety issues, damage control and reimbursement opportunities, if necessary, for repairs as well as time constraints on usage of the road for access. As good faith payment of consideration for the use of the roadways for 6 months, the Club also received $120,000 in compensation.

This money has been received and has been placed in our reserve account for future determination by the Voting Board of how best to utilize its value.

The Board often reviews Land Use issues considered by the Vernon Land Use Board that affect the Community and its neighborhoods. Any time members apply for a variance from the Land Use Board, the Club is notified if it is an immediate adjoining property owner. This year, we had several notifications of such variance requests. The Board must review each request and decide whether or not it is in the best interest of all members to oppose such a variance. Several issues arose this year that warranted our attention and all but one matter has been resolved.

Our Committees have been working just as diligently on their own projects, trying to make this community even better than it’s been for 75 years. Every August, we have two special events planned for all of our volunteers to thank them for all of their hard work over the year.  These Appreciation dinners are for volunteers only and many attend. They are fun events geared toward our volunteers. However, unless you are a volunteer, you may not be aware of the reason we celebrate these hard working people every year. So, I am taking this opportunity today to inform you of just what it is they have contributed at their own expense over this particular past year to make your life inHighlandLakeseven more pleasant.

Our Planning Committee completed their almost two year review of the Filed Community Plan and submitted it to the Voting Board for approval. This plan provides members a small relief from the otherwise stringent township building codes by demonstrating neighborhood schemes and our own planning tools.  The Board reviewed the revisions and submitted the document to the Township Land Use Board. It was approved and subsequently approved by the Township Council. According to Township Code on Filed Community Plans, the plan must be updated every five years and we have complied with that mandate. Thank you to Lyn Kaplan and all the Committee members for their hard work on this project.

The Buildings and Grounds Committee spent a lot of time coordinating the specifications and choice of contractor for the replacement of the doors at the Clubhouse project, and their hard work and attention to detail has paid off. The doors are a lot more efficient, offering more safety, more security and a much nicer look to the Clubhouse. I want to thank Rich Klos and his committee members for all their work.

The Communications Committee has developed a revamp to the Community web site which should be airing shortly. The Committee has also been developing a new program of informational articles in the Newsette regarding property maintenance items outlined in the Vernon Township Code. They have been informative and well written, and I expect that they will continue throughout next year. Several of the articles helped me understand the regulations of our township in more detail. Thank you to Suzie McCotter and her committee members for all their work.

The Ecology Committee has also embarked on an educational writing campaign in the Newsette, keeping members informed about how best to coexist with our ecological system in our community. Thank you to co-chairs Joan Ross and Brenda Sussman and their committee members for all their work.

The Dam Committee reviewed the Regional Emergency Action Plan developed by Civil Dynamics for all five dams Reviewed the Regional Emergency Action Plan developed for all five dams (based upon the first stage – the Hydraulic and Hydrological Study that is still being reviewed by NJ Dam Safety) and recommended to the Voting Board for authorization as well as the Operations and Maintenance Manual but will wait until the REAP is accepted by NJ Dam Safety to refer it to the Voting Board for authorization. Thank you to Rich Spoerl and his committee members for all their work.

The Road Committee spent a lot of time researching and choosing locations for the installation of seven speed humps in the Community. These speed humps will serve to remind folks to slow down on our roads out of concern for the safety of children and adults walking, cycling and playing in the area. The speed humps will be installed this fall. They also continued their work on selecting appropriate paving projects to begin in the fall. Thank you to Tom Mulcahy and his committee members for all their work.

The Goodwill Fundraising Committee held its second annual Community Yard Sale to raise money for the Goodwill Fund. It was very successful. The committee started a project to raise more funds by paving the Path to Goodwill with bricks purchased by members inscribed with their individual messages for generations to come to enjoy. The first phase of the sale of paving bricks was completed with an overwhelming response by members to preserve their family’s contribution to the history ofHighlandLakes. Members who did not get in on the first phase did not miss the opportunity though; more bricks will be sold in the second phase until the walkway is completed. Thank you to Grace Lewin and her committee members for all their work this year.

The Fishing Committee hosted two successful and fun fishing derbies this year. The ice fishing derby, traditionally held in February, was well attended. The weather cooperated for a change and the lake was frozen over. At least 25 anglers braved the chilling temperatures to bring in some nice catches. The summer children’s was held yesterday and was enjoyed by young anglers trying to catch the biggest one of the day.  Fish stocking of over 600 fingerlings took place in September, 2010. The mix was a healthy combination of crappies and trout as well as bass. Thank you, Mike Ewasko and his committee for all their work this year.

The Badge Checking Committee spends the entire spring gearing up their volunteers for the summer to staff the beaches, tennis courts, basketball courts and picnic areas to ensure that only members are enjoying the facilities that we pay for through our dues. We rely on these folks to provide us with adequate coverage every weekend from10:00 am to5:00 pm. They do a wonderful job and deserve to be thanked every time you walk onto a beach.  It is they who are sitting out there in the hot sun making sure anyone who uses our facility is a member in good standing. Thank you, Ursala Fahmy and her committee members for all their work this year.

The Clubhouse Committee has once again, provided us with a number of wonderful programs throughout the year that enhance members’ lives in Highland Lakes.  Whether you want to get out and have some fun while celebrating holidays, have your children experience all that a happy childhood offers or just meeting your neighbors the committee has an app for that! There were some extraordinary events this year that were coordinated between the Clubhouse Committee and the 75th Anniversary Committee to supplement the regular activities of the year, so it was an even more busy year for them. Thank you to Carol Hastie and her committee members for all your work this year.

In addition to our volunteers, we also have a very organized and competent staff working diligently to make this such an outstanding community. Our office staff  produces the Newsette 11 months out of the year with additional weekly editions throughout the summer, sends out special messages to the members, coordinates all the membership materials for mailings, records and pays all the bills of the Club, plans special meetings for the Voting Board, coordinates member rentals, keeps track of all dues received and pending, sends out invoices, answers member questions, researches real estate transaction statements for realtors and lawyers, produces statements for Board review monthly and coordinates all functions here at the Clubhouse and elsewhere throughout the community. Without their support our Committees would not function as well as they do nor would we have such an outstanding reputation as a quality community in which to live. Thank you to Pat Krause and her outstanding office staff for giving us the service you do on a daily basis.

Our security staff deserves a lot of respect from us.  In spite of, or perhaps because of their own family’s involvement in this community, these dedicated people are willing to come home from their primary jobs and go out into the community and help where needed. They respond to every emergency when on duty and sometimes when not, they behave professionally and they get the job done. Whether it is checking in on elderly residents during severe snow events or extreme hot weather, administering CPR on heart attack victims or controlling traffic at accident scenes, they are out there. I don’t think I can express my appreciation for their work in any better way than thank you. Thank you to Allison LaRocca and her security crew for all their hard work.

Our maintenance staff coordinates all the repairs needed during the year as well as maintenance of all of our community common grounds and equipment. In the winter, they put in extraordinary efforts to keep roads clear during storm events, are seemingly on call 24/7, maintain the equipment used to prune, spruce and encourage growth of our natural resources, administer life enhancements to our lakes or simply repair broken picnic tables. They set up every meeting or activity with chairs and tables set to everyone’s request, they take down set ups after parties and they work extremely hard when we’re all home basking in the glory of any event. I thank Jim Zabrieski and his maintenance staff for all their work.

Our General Manger deserves an awful lot of credit for his work this year. From working with Tennessee Gas Pipe personnel to the township officials on a variety of issues to keeping Board members informed on so many different topics to running an extremely efficient and dedicated staff. Jack has not faltered in his determination to keep this ship on a steady course. There are few in this Community that are unaware of his ability to keep this a wonderful community in which to raise a family, but I am not sure that everyone appreciates all the hard work he does to ensure that success. I am aware and I want to say a special thank you to Jack McLaughlin for his help this year.

In closing, let me say that I know this is a lot of information but something I think that is vital for you to know. We have a very good thing going here inHighlandLakesand we must make it continue for the next 75 years. The quality of life we enjoy can only be accomplished through hard work. And that effort is accomplished by the hard work of combined volunteers, paid staff and members willing to cooperate and contribute. We have accomplished a lot in the past 75 years inHighlandLakesas a community and we can achieve even more, if we all work together. So, if you are sitting there one evening saying to yourself, I wish there was more to life than just going to work and watching TV, consider volunteering your time on a committee.  They can always use your help and expertise.

Thank you, for coming to your meeting today.

Jeanne Jameson

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