This last Monday, homeowners at 111 East Chestnut Condominiums received the 2014 Summer Newsletter from our Board president. Here find point-counterpoint. After consultation with five former Board Directors, there seems to be a number of significant discrepancies.
But before we get into it, a quick note as to why the our delay. Of course, we at 111EastChestnut.org typically respond directly, but…
First off, we were thrown by the apparent gambler’s tell. Previous copy in error? Begs the question: So what was wrong with the first one?
Then to break through its well-designed surface tension, and approach it more than just superficially, well, that took some doing. Hell, getting past the lipstick, scented paper and effusive rhetoric was downright work. PR by design is meant to seduce and lull one into acceptance. In that Milazzo seems to excel. However polite and professional, it is also contrived, not aimed to inform but rather to mislead and cajole. And with the exception of a select few willing to take the time, he surely succeeds. In the words of H L Menken, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”
That said, let’s go though his “newsletter” point by point. Here in summary:
Milazzo: “Our building has seen a major renewal and transformation over the past few years.”
Fact: In two years time, our curb appeal and overall presentation has visibly deteriorated. Our residents are now significantly rental and transient. Our community is gone.
Milazzo: “As was the board’s intent and vision, our Association benefited significantly from reduced contractor fees and low interest rates available during our nation’s recent economic recession.”
Fact: No. Let alone that the claim is empty blather, actually, the logic is false. During a recession, the water-level for all boats is down. Indeed, we may have locked in a slightly better price tag at a nice rate on a project or two. But, as we are paying for these on credit and over time, i.e. we’re paying with more valuable dollars while servicing a debt. So much for vision.
Milazzo: “More importantly, we were able to address our building’s most critical concerns in a cost-effective and organized manner, rather than on an emergency basis.”
Fact: Like the Life Safety project? The Statutory deadline is in 4 months. Fact is, we are chronically last minute and over budget. Remember his claim in the Autumn Newsletter, “Though all of the building projects listed above were completed at or below our budgeted cost estimates, the loading dock project was an [read the only] exception, coming in over budget by about 13%.” He was knowingly being misleading then, too.
Milazzo: “Fortunately, our most crucial building improvements are behind us now.”
Fact: No. We’re looking at major renovation of our hallways, well as the lobbies. And that says nothing about our complete denial about building-wide critical plumbing and electrical issues.
Milazzo: “…while keeping our expenses (and therefore assessments) reasonable.”
Fact: Reasonable as compared to what? What exactly do we get for our assessments. Just how far are they out-of-sync with the marketplace? We’re not competitive and we get squat.
Milazzo: “In 2012, contractors started replacing our building’s severely degraded outdoor window sealants.”
Fact: The jury is still out on this one. Mel Thillens had an issue. So did Milazzo (rumor has it). Did the issue require a building-wide initiative to the tune of $2M plus?
Milazzo: “We installed new, state-of-the-art domestic hot water boilers and building-wide water circulation pumps last year.”
Fact: It’s a water boiler. According to two former Board members who worked on this, besides the 2013 budget estimate of $125K and the actual spend being $375,252, the boilers could have been retrofitted. Also these “new” they-don’t-make-like-they-use-to boilers will die well before Milazzo’s claim that they’ll pay for themselves.
Milazzo: “We also replaced our crumbling, forty-year-old loading dock last year.”
Fact: Here again, a poorly anticipated and managed project that came in grossly overbudget. Did it need repair? Sure. Did it need replacement? Well, it took the contractors an extra 2-3 weeks just to take it out.
Milazzo: “The Board wisely restructured this debt into a 5-year note at a fixed 4% interest rate.”
Fact: The credit goes all to Michael Boucher.
Milazzo: “This loan will be paid off completely in about 14 more months (26 in the original newsletter). By November of 2015 (2016 in the original newsletter) all of our loan obligations – 5-year note and line of credit – should be paid off in full.
Fact: Nonsense. At least not in light of our history or additional issues we looking at in the near future.
Milazzo: “Our Association will not require a special assessment now, or in the foreseeable future.”
Translation: To appease our investor owners, Milazzo leverages the fear of the masses. As a result, we will remain financially challenged and uncompetitive for the foreseeable future. Bottom line: There’s no such thing as a free lunch. The gift Milazzo seemingly gives you, is surrepticiously taken right out of the value of your home.
Milazzo: “Though this wiring and conduit now appears rather unsightly, the Board is working very closely with a professional interior design architect to devise a practical and visually appealing ceiling application that will conceal this wiring and blend harmoniously with our current hallways.”
Fact: Total debacle. Milazzo overrode two professional designers on the Board to cram down two options that rise to lame and unsightly. This is no small issue. We’re going to have to live with this major cosmetic modification for years to come.
Milazzo: “Our much anticipated fitness center renovation is slated to start in September and should conclude 4-6 weeks later.”
Fact: Forget the $40 grand debt spend for new toys for Tony; this is but another project-management debacle. February 7, a special Board Meeting was held for the exclusive reason of approving the Fitness Center rehab. At that time Milazzo promised that the project would be completed by end of March. February the designated contractor, First Star Construction, got permits for only part of the project. In May a subsequent permit application was filed for the rest of the project. On August 5th, a stop-work-order penalty fee was added. And now, almost nine months later, with the additional work reconciled as originally anticipated, George wants more money. So the Board is now again considering other contractors, who also want more money. And insult to injury, if another contractor is chosen, a new permit application would need to be submitted.
Milazzo: “By working in a focused, cooperative and productive manner, our Board has been able to achieve an extraordinary number of outstanding building improvements.”
Fact: By surrounding himself with “yes men” and under a shroud of secrecy and dishonesty, the harm Milazzo has caused our Association is incalculable. From lawsuits, to debt, to the culture of our community.
Previous copy in the Summer Newsletter in error? Well, at least that was right.
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