It’s been awhile, since a LOT of stuff has been happening, so this is a very comprehensive update! Sit back, relax, and take some time to read this and catch up on everything.
1. Back to School Bash
Waterslide, tables, and lots of amazing food waiting for the guests to arrive.
Our Back to School Bash was held on Saturday, August 10, 2019 from noon until 6PM. It featured a bounce house and huge waterslide from Stafford Amusements, and GREAT food from Firehouse BBQ and Catering, Cafe du Jour at the Whistle Stop, LaShish Greek and Mediterranean Restaurant, and Days Smokehouse. We’re guessing that about 100 people attended, and everyone said they really enjoyed themselves and LOVED the food! That means a lot, as we really wanted to do it right, and give our residents something special. A few suggested some great ideas we hadn’t thought of, so look for the next Spring Lake party to be even better! We figured on spending around $1200-$1500 for the Bash, and it ended up costing a little more than $1500, but we have drinks left over, which will be used at the next event! So, even though we were focused on quality, not budget, the cost was right in line with our expectations.
We want to extend our deepest appreciation to a couple of people who helped make this event possible:
- Jim Waid, who generously allowed us to connect a hose to his house for the waterslide. Without that, TONS of kids (and adults!) would not have been able to slide, splash, and have fun!
- Joe Miller, who was kind enough to lend his big patio fan. It made a huge difference, and made the pavilion a lot more comfortable in the heat.
Look for another event to be announced in the not too distant future.
Speaking of events…
2. Pavilion Reservations
Remember that any Spring Lake resident can reserve the pavilion at the park for occasions like birthday parties, family reunions, etc. Just contact the board well in advance!
Those of you attending the Back to School Bash may recall that there was a nagging electrical problem at the pavilion. At a recent WONDERFUL birthday party held there by residents Jason and Marisol Duplessis, one of their guests was a licensed electrician. He saw the problem, ran to John’s Supermarket, and replaced the faulty parts, which were 2 GFCI outlets. So, that is now solved! The HOA reimbursed the cost of the outlets, and sends a huge THANK YOU for a job well done! That was a nice surprise, as we were about to call an electrician to go find and fix the issue.
3. Door to Door Solicitors
Recently, many residents got annoyed by representatives from Fox Pest Control, who were canvassing our subdivision. Some reported that the Fox people were pushy and didn’t want to take no for an answer. In any case, several residents asked about putting NO SOLICITING signs up. We thought this was a great idea, so we researched and found some high-quality signs that are reasonably priced. We ordered one for each of the 3 entrances, along with the proper mounting hardware. They will arrive this week, and will be installed right away. The total cost with shipping and tax is only $121.95! Keep in mind that restrictions only apply to residents, not outsiders, and it appears that Livingston has not yet passed an ordinance regarding door to door solicitation. However, just the presence of these signs should be a nice deterrent, and will let outsiders know that we do not want solicitors in Spring Lake. Here’s what the signs look like:
4. Parking in/near the Bus Turnarounds
At the very end of Fountain View and Springlake Drive, there are spaces for the school buses to turn around. Not long ago, residents noticed vehicles parked in one of those turnarounds. They spoke to the drivers, who said they were workers for the adjacent Whispering Springs subdivision being built, and wouldn’t park there again. However, they were back the next day, parked in the grass just outside the bus turnaround. A board member took pictures, including license plate numbers, and reported it to the School Board Transportation Department. They contacted the Sheriff’s Office very quickly. However, the Sheriff’s Office said that the NO PARKING signs there were not placed by a governmental agency, so their hands are tied. The School Board then started contacting people associated with the Whispering Springs subdivision. The person developing the “Spring Lake 8th Filing” immediately to our north (more on that later) called a board member. He clarified that the workers are there legitimately, installing an underground sewer pipe that will run from the 8th filing west past our subdivision. He said they definitely will not park in the bus turnarounds, but will be there on the grass. The board was able to confirm the sewer line work via Clerk of Court records, so that is legitimate.
So while they will not be parking there anymore, residents on the ends of Springlake and Fountain View can expect to see equipment working there over the next couple of weeks as they run this sewer line.
Also, we learned that the land just past the end of those 2 streets, including the bus turnarounds, does not belong to Spring Lake! The property line is at the end of the streets, along the north edge of the last lots there. So, even if those workers park on the grass, they are not trespassing.
We will be installing new signs at the bus turnarounds to make it absolutely clear to everyone that they are not to park or obstruct those turnarounds.
5. Whispering Springs Subdivision
(Written by board secretary and veteran realtor Greg Bunch. The opinions in this section are his own.)
While we had the developer on the phone, we asked about the new Spring Lake filing. As the Planning Commission had told us, he confirmed that it will indeed connect to Whispering Springs at its north end. So, in my opinion, Whispering Springs cheated and got a free entrance courtesy of us. Tom, our HOA president, recently sent me a link to an article detailing how the Livingston Parish Council implemented back in October two new ordinances establishing a minimum number of entrances for new subdivisions and mandating that they connect to existing subdivisions whenever possible. Until Tom sent me the link, I was not aware of this. Coincidentally this is about the time the Whispering Springs development was getting into high gear, so I strongly suspect that these new ordinances were custom written for them, at least to some extent.
The developer told me that supposedly DR Horton is going to build higher-priced houses in the new Spring Lake filing. I think he said it will be around 60 something houses at first, then a second filing with 80 something houses, for a total of about 150.
I have been told from multiple sources that when someone develops a new filing for a subdivision, they are not bound by the existing restrictions. They can set up their own, which it sounds like they plan to do. In my opinion the new Spring Lake filing is really just a part of Whispering Springs, and they called it Spring Lake simply to justify using our entrance. We met with our new attorney last week, and asked what if anything can be done about making sure that this so-called new Spring Lake filing is built to the same or better standards than the rest of our subdivision. The answer is, probably nothing. He said at this level, when you’re dealing with huge, multimillion dollar subdivisions, it gets very political. So, we can count on Whispering Springs connecting to us via Garnet Lake. Hopefully they will indeed build higher priced homes in that nearest section, because I believe it is Whispering Springs that is negatively affecting sales of homes in our subdivision. Very few houses have sold, and for those which have, the average sold price per square foot of living area over the past 12 months is about $112, the same as it was a decade ago!
Our beautiful entrances after renovations were completed.
Everyone has probably noticed the beautifully redone entrances to our subdivision. The biggest change was at the Sapphire Lake entrance, but the other two entrances were also redone, with new plants, mulch, and more. The last step was to troubleshoot the irrigation systems at all of the entrances. They had not been operational for years. The systems at Cane Market and Natures Way are small, and were easily repaired. Sapphire Lake has a large, elaborate system which required a new controller and some other fixes, but those were done. The only remaining issue is that a couple of valves are leaking and must be replaced. Resident and landscaper Jason Polo volunteered to troubleshoot those for us, so that issue should be taken care of very soon.
We also would like to thank resident Mary Stafford, who lives near the Sapphire Lake entrance. Mary was kind enough to let us connect to her water supply during those critical days after the new sod was put down and there was no rain in sight. Thanks to her the sod was kept watered, and ended up taking root and growing very nicely. We really appreciate her generosity!
We are very fortunate to have our wonderful park here in Spring Lake. The park encompasses about 7.5 acres, and contains the pavilion, basketball court, playground, walking trail that is over 1/4 mile in length, trees, benches, fields in which to play, a gazebo near the south end and a 3.5 acre lake with large fishing pier. The park is a true blessing, and we thank our residents for keeping it in such good shape. It is really looking great. And, there is much more that we want to do with the park for everyone. Here are a few of our ideas and plans:
Fishing pier – The pier is made of old wood, which is showing its age quite a bit. We recently had to have some repairs done to replace rotted boards. We started researching permanent solutions, and it turns out that EZ Dock, one of the leading makers of docks and piers in the United States, has their Gulf Coast headquarters right here in Walker! We called them, and they came out that same day to measure and check out the existing pier. They said that the underlying structure of the pier, including the pilings, looks very solid, so they suggested just replacing the decking, railings, etc. They will be giving us quotes for doing so, with different choices of materials ranging from wood to synthetics which are designed to last around 20 years. We have no idea of the cost, but we’ll find out soon. This may be a project for the future, but eventually replacing all that old wood with modern materials will be more economical then constantly repairing what we have now. Plus, we cannot ignore the possibility of someone getting hurt if a board gives way.
Examples of EZ Dock’s work.
Pavilion – We would like to install outdoor rated ceiling fans at the pavilion. It would really help during the summer months.
Gazebo – Many people are not aware that near the south end of the walking trail lies a very nice gazebo, which is about 15 feet in diameter. It is solidly built, much like the pavilion. It needs to be pressure washed and stained, but that’s it. We would like to run electricity to that gazebo, and install lights, outlets, and a ceiling fan. We’ll also put in place one of those rock-solid picnic benches like we have at the pavilion. This will allow for smaller groups to have parties while something else is going on at the pavilion, for really large groups to occupy more than one location, and to give everyone another great place from which to enjoy the park. The view there is wonderful.
Fountains/aerators – While running electricity for the gazebo, we would also run it to the pier, and to the north and south ends of the lake. Those connections would be for a fountain and an aerator in each of those locations. The fountains would be smaller than the main fountain near Cane Market, but still very attractive. They would serve both for looks and for aeration. At night they would shut off and the 2 dedicated aerators would come on. These efficiently mix oxygen into the water, which will greatly improve the overall health of the lake and the many fish which it contains.
Type of smaller fountain we’d like to install. These also aerate the water.
High-efficiency aerator, which would run at night.
Having electricity at the fishing pier will allow us to install lights on it, which would be either motion-activated or set by a timer. If solar lighting is a better option, we would do that instead, but with power there we have choices.
- We will soon be solving the problem of the large drop from the playground slides to the surface beneath them.
- We may move a bench currently beneath the trees to another good spot, and install a new picnic table in its place.
- It was suggested that we could install bat houses at various spots around the park. Bats love water, so the park is an ideal location for them. In contrast to the Hollywood version of bats shown in movies, bats are actually tiny, beneficial animals. One small bat can eat over 1,000 insects every hour! They also pollinate flowers and spread seeds. Our board member Greg Bunch has a bat house in his backyard, which recently became the home of a maternity colony consisting of pregnant bats, then later the moms and their babies. Every night like clockwork he could sit on his back porch and watch the bats leave to go eat thousands of nuisance bugs. He also rescued two baby bats which fell out of the house, one of which is shown below. Having a few bat houses would be a great way to reduce insects in the area, while helping the local bat population. Bird houses may be a nice addition to the park as well.
Greg Bunch’s bat house, mounted on a 16′ pole, and a tiny baby bat he rescued.
Eastern bluebird on house.
Click here to see the financial statements as of August 31.
They are presented in 2 forms: Accrual basis and cash basis. This is only because we inherited over $80,000.00 of delinquent receivables, approximately $75,000 of which is still on the books. The management company used the cash basis for reporting, which concealed the delinquent amounts from our residents. The proper method is to use the accrual basis, which is what we do. However, since these amounts must now be accounted for instead of being hidden, they had to be shown as income (“sales”) which temporarily makes the income look far too high. Just for comparison purposes, we included the cash-based financials, which are based only off of what was collected, not what was invoiced or delinquent.
If you compare the accrual reports to the cash reports, the difference is approximately that due to the delinquent balances. As those balances are either credited off or collected, they will either be debited to sales (thus correcting the overstated income) or deposited into cash.
Since moving to self-management, we have cleared up over $7,000 from old past due accounts. Conversations have started with other lot owners on settling their accounts or getting set up on a payment plan to catch up. Legal remedies from our newly hired law firm are certain to bring more accounts current, one way or the other.
Our annual dues invoicing (income) totals $58,250. As of August 31, approximately $46,000 had been collected, leaving $12,250 in receivables from 2019. Most of this is from those who habitually pay late or not at all.
Here’s a brief look at key figures from August 31, 2019 compared to where we were a year ago:
As you can see, we have over $14,500.00 more in the bank than we did at the same time last year, and this is AFTER spending about $8K to renovate the entrances and repair the irrigation systems.
We are earning close to $100.00 of interest each month on our money in the bank, compared to about $2.00 a month last year.
Our average monthly expenses have fallen by over $1,100.00. As a self-managed subdivision, we are no longer spending nearly $1,500.00 each month on management fees. Since the big fountain has been working this year, along with the irrigation systems, utilities have risen back to normal levels, and Quickbooks costs us $60 each month. This is why the difference is $1100 instead of almost $1500.
Our past due balances have dropped by over $7,000.00 because of amounts we’ve collected. Those collections will continue to come in.
Here’s how we manage the bank accounts: Our routine is to keep a base amount of $2000 in the operating account, just in case we have an emergency expense, etc. Anything over that goes into the money market account to maximize the interest income. Each month an automatic transfer moves $1500 from the money market into operating to cover the recurring bills, which are then paid automatically. All this gets picked up directly into QuickBooks, so there’s no manual entry of this at all. So far, since moving to self-management we have only written a total of TWO paper checks! Everything is either done through electronic transfers or BillPay, which is free and doesn’t even cost postage.
We have hired a new legal firm to represent us. They are:
Shockey & Associates
10114 Jefferson Highway
Baton Rouge, LA 70809
Bill Shockey, the lead attorney, has been practicing 40 years and is well-versed in HOA-related issues. He has represented between 15 and 20 other HOAs, including Easterly Lakes. We met at length with him and one of his associates, voted as a board to hire them, and immediately gave them stuff to do. Among their highest priorities are dealing with a rental we discovered; streamlining the procedures we must follow when enforcing violations and collecting delinquent amounts; and to start looking at revising or replacing our restrictions. They got started right away! We’re confident they’ll do a great job for us.
10. Other Plans and Goals
Here are a few items we’d like to do for our subdivision. Some are big and may be for the future; others are small and fairly easy to do. We ALWAYS welcome new ideas and suggestions, so if you have any, email them to the board! Also email any comments you have on existing plans, etc.
So, in no particular order:
- Hire random but regular LPSO details to ticket those speeding and/or running stop signs. (This WILL be happening, so drive accordingly!) When the violations stop, so will the tickets.
- Install more NO FISHING/TRESPASSING/PARKING signs around lakes.
- Restock lakes and move some fish to balance and improve populations.
- Replace the antiquated sign boxes at the entrances with modern, outdoor-rated digital signs which can be changed and updated almost instantly.
- Install entrance cameras tied to the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office (like those at Easterly Lakes, which have been VERY successful!)
- Set up regular police patrols to deter crime, another thing Easterly Lakes does with great success.
- Install fountains/aerators in the big lake between Springlake and Fountain View.
- Have more entertainment events at the park, including evening events with live music (as long as neighbors approve.)
Violations will be addressed in a separate update, which will be coming VERY soon. It will also talk about collection of past due amounts.
We know this has been a long update, but we’ve been doing a lot, and had much to say. We hope it was worth the wait!
As always, we look forward to your comments, ideas, and suggestions. Email us anytime!
Your Spring Lake HOA Board