A Letter from Anne Anderson to the Board re Silly Survey

It seems I’m not the only one that thinks the recent one line survey from the POA was silly.  Here’s the text of a letter that Anne Anderson recently sent to the POA Board.  She wrote the letter before seeing my blog posting on the same topic.

Dear Board,

Thank you for your efforts in continuing to look for areas to contain and cut costs on Dewees.

I am writing to address problems, as I see it, with the one sentence Survey question that you are asking the community to vote on without the information needed to make an intelligent, informed vote. You state that you would like to hear what we think of the idea of eliminating the 2:00/2:30 ferry run to save $15,000 and then gave us only the option of saying yes or no. For the following reasons, I do not believe that you will have a valid answer when you tally this vote.

For instance:

There is no objectivity in the survey question but rather something of emotional blackmail as an emotional response is called forth. We must vote to support saving $15,000 or vote not to support saving $15,000. In this economic downturn, how can anyone not vote to “save $15,000?” I think the quick, “of course I want to save $15,000” response applies even heavier upon the owners who rarely come to the island, or never come to the island, and have very little appreciation for the daily workings of the community. It might be interesting to compare the results of a survey of the entire ownership with results from a survey of only the people who ride the ferry; i.e. the stakeholders who use this service, easily compiled from the ferry log.

We must assume that the $15,000 savings is computed from the elimination of one hour of the two boat crew salaries, and some other incidental costs. Wouldn’t we have to pay the crew who is coming on from 2:30 in order to have the boat ready to load and run the 3:00 pm? That would generate 1/2 the savings would it not? How much of the savings are now being generating by the Ferry On Demand schedule? With a 2:00/2:30 run permanently eliminated, you will most certainly transfer riders onto other runs which may not have been made under the On Demand schedule. I think it is somewhat misleading to say that we would “save $15,000” –gross, perhaps; net, most probably not. At any rate, it comes with impact on everyone who rides the ferry. You did not indicate whether or not you would also continue the On Demand program, which by the way, is working well. How much have we already saved under this plan?

You did not remind the community that eliminating the 2:00/2:30 run had already been implemented in 2007 (I think it was 2007? or 2006? recently at any rate) and the decision reversed for a number of very valid reasons. An unexpected consequence was the additional cost that often was incurred by the POA and by the owners when service contractors were charged an extra hour’s labor due to the fact that the job was completed without the ability for them to leave the island, eating into the real, net savings from the quoted $15,000. It was a factor with which service contractors expressed frustration and we found it even more difficult to attract good repair people. Another issue: Scheduling arrival times for those people coming from out of town was difficult and there was discussion about assigning “tickets” to ride on specific boats in order to stagger the loads. During the busy time of the year, we frequently run into cart capacity limits on the Aggie for groceries and with luggage from arriving passengers. You do, in fact, reduce the capacity of the Aggie by eliminating one run, thus compressing the cargo (people, pets, baggage, etc.) into the available space per run. In the end, it was decided that the $100 savings per lot per year was not a reasonable exchange in the greater picture. In addition, obviously, the savings is negligible if you only cut out the 2:00/2:30 run during the 4 or 5 winter months.

You are asking the community to vote on “Saving $15,000.” One item–without any other financial data or consideration for other cost cutting that the Board may be considering or has already implemented . Are there specific projected Budget shortfalls that precipitated this suggestion at this point in time? Is this in response to loss of actual income from the existing foreclosures? Or are you projecting the fear that more owner’s will default in making dues payments, including that the IPP will not be able or willing to make their commitment? How did the elimination of our Assistant Manager position play against projections? Are there not other, perhaps several smaller, budgeted expenses or projects that don’t have the same kind of impact, that could be postponed? Is the Budget Committee making this recommendation? Is the Board making this recommendation?

What if you sent out a Survey that said: We can save $100,000 by eliminating the Environmental Program? How many of the 90 lot owners or others who rarely come to the island and may not have a personal interest in continuing our environmental program, might jump at the chance to save $100,000? Would you consider it necessary to act on the opinions of this group of people who’s primary interest may lie in financial gain from the sale of their investment and in keeping cost to a minimum until that time? Wouldn’t many of the same majority who might vote to save $100,000 vote yes to support saving $15,000? Would a decision to eliminate the environmental program be a valid decision for our island? I think not.

I sincerely hope that when you receive the results of your Survey, that you look at those numbers in light of some of the concerns raised above. I most sincerely hope that you will not look at the tally as hard numbers and simply take the position that “this is what the community wants.”

All owners understand the critical need to control expenses, in spite of that, if programs and services that attracted most of us to the island are too severely eroded, the true value of all of our property would drop. You know and I understand that finding this balance is difficult and even more so in tight economic times. Yes I want to “save $15,000”; however, with my limited knowledge of the Board’s thinking process, I believe this is a misplaced area to cut expenses.

We voted not to support eliminating the 2:00/2:30 ferry run. Should island finances become so dire that you, as a Board, believe this cut is necessary in addition to other saved expenses, then we would support the Board in that decision. I believe that I have made clear my concerns surrounding this issue. Are we truly to that point?


Anne Anderson

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