News from the August Rancho Murieta Association board meeting:
- The debate about improving the cable system continued, with the board spending almost $95,000.
- The community's latest vandalism problems were interpreted as gang activity by a retired police officer.
- Directors revisited exclusive use of common area property only to announce the moratorium on new leases imposed last month is still on.
The board approved spending $61,350 from reserves for cable improvements as part of Phase 2 of a multi-year plan for the cable system. The plan was approved last year, ending years of board indecision about a course of action for the cable system. RMA officials say Phases 1 and 2 of the plan address deferred maintenance.
"We owe it to our membership ... to make these repairs that are necessary," said General Manager David Stiffler in defense of taking funds from the reserve budget. The RMA places $189,000 in reserves each year to maintain, upgrade and replace components of the cable system.
"You're just not being straightforward about what this is going to cost," said resident John Weatherford, an outspoken, longtime critic of the cable system. "I think this is going to cost residents a lot of money. ... I don't think we should be in the TV business."
The board allotted $250,000 last year for the first phase of the cable plan, which was expected to be completed in January. It concluded Aug. 1 with the switchover of premium channels like HBO and Showtime from analog to digital broadcast. Stiffler estimates more than 200 of the 266 premium subscribers made the switch.
The changeover frees up bandwidth for additional digital programming that's expected to compete with satellite dish to generate revenue for the association.
Members pay for basic cable service as part of their RMA dues, and this will remain in the analog broadcast mode. Eventually, federal regulations will require a complete changeover to digital.
At the meeting, held Aug. 21, the board approved $61,350 for the second phase of the plan. Director Mel Standart, chair of the Communications Committee, said the funding would cover adding six nodes to the system, with each serving 200 homes.
The board also approved a separate expenditure for $33,450 for cable equipment.
At the Finance Committee meeting the week before, neighbor Justin Jordan said the segmentation provided by the nodes will "build up the signal" where it is weak -- in the Fairways, and along Camino Del Lago, Puerto Drive and other parts of Murieta North.
Jordan, a former Communications Committee member who now contracts with the RMA for cable services, said the 45-day construction schedule "catches the high-def revolution happening this fall."
Standart said a mailer is going out to all RMA members offering the new tiers of digital and high-definition TV services. The cost of preparing and sending the mailer is $6,000.
During the Finance Committee meeting, Director Chris Pedersen said the board should be able to assess the success of the cable plan by early 2008.
Although Pedersen said he was "skeptical" about the digital service, he said he has been "pleasantly surprised" since he started receiving RMA digital programming at his home in the Fairways.
The Finance Committee was told costs for the cable plan would be $269,356 for Phase 1 and $202,000 for Phase 2.
Maintenance Manager Rod Hart said money is being saved by having maintenance workers do cable work that previously was outsourced. He said replacing a 3,000-foot main cable run cost $2 a foot instead of $20-$23 for labor and materials, and pulling another 5,225 feet of cable cost 25 cents a foot instead of 95 cents in Phase 1.
It was noted at the board meeting that former RMA cable manager Doug Mack has returned to the RMA in a consulting capacity.
Bridge, restroom graffiti gang-related, resident says
It's bad enough that vandals have targeted the pedestrian bridge in two recent graffiti attacks. Now retired Stockton police officer Dennis Carroll says his experience with gangs indicates this is the work of three or four gang members.
"There's no question about it. ... I think it's a serious problem," he said, referring to "code" he's seen written on the walls of a golf course restroom and on the landmark wooden bridge.
Director Mike Martel said photos have been sent to the Sheriff's Department and state Department of Corrections.
Unlike a previous vandalism that occurred at the Stonehouse Park restroom, no one has come forward to identify the perpetrators from pictures that have appeared on RanchoMurieta.com.
In response to repeated vandalism, the RMA and the Country Club made arrangements with Community Services District Security to lock restrooms at the parks and on the golf courses at night.
Although the Parks Committee approved spending $10,000 to $15,000 in parks funds for security cameras at the bridge last November, there are no cameras in place.
The RMA was also looking into upgrading security cameras at the Gazebo and Stonehouse Park last year after vandalism attacks that included at least one attempt to start a fire in a restroom. No upgrades have been made.
At Tuesday's RMA meeting, Director Paul Gumbinger suggested placing security cameras at the bridge.
Some said CSD Security and the Sheriff's Department aren't doing enough to address vandalism and other crimes, and Cooper described Security as "a paper tiger."
Resident Ted Hart said the problem stemmed from "parents who don't have control of their kids" and suggested "an extremely severe punishment of the parents. And that can be accomplished through a change in the CC&Rs ... We've reached a point of saying to the community we're not going to take this anymore."
Exclusive use ... again
Saying uncertainty about exclusive use agreements "drastically and negatively affected" the real estate market in Rancho Murieta, Karen Hoberg, owner of Rancho Murieta Homes & Land, asked the board to resume approving them for circle, cottage and townhouse lots, as specified in the CC&Rs members voted for in 1996.
The board called for a moratorium last month on granting new lease agreements. The agreements enable people who own these types of lots to put in decks and pools.
President Jack Cooper said the legal opinion from RMA counsel needs further clarification and he didn't want to break the law that went into effect last year. The law requires a 67 percent vote of the membership to grant exclusive uses, barring certain exceptions.
Exclusive use agreements were approved for Rancho Murieta by the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors in a special ordinance passed in 1977, a senior planner said at a county meeting in 2005.
At the RMA's request, the problematic circle lot concept was abandoned in favor of estate lots when the South was developed. The Fairways is the first subdivision on the North to have only estate lots.
Last month's board discussion of the topic and RMA counsel's explanation of the legal opinion he prepared is available here.
- The Governing Documents Committee will consider drafting a non-architectural rule to prohibit passing school buses that are stopped with their red lights flashing. Committee members are Director Anne Denker, Wilbur Haines and Jack Tavolario.
- The Nominating Committee consists of Director Paul Gumbinger, April Mattice, Ron Ruff, Bonnie Shewchuk and Chelle Kaiser. The two directors' seats up for election in November currently belong to Jack Cooper and Anne Denker. Gumbinger said Cooper plans to run for a second term and Denker is undecided about running. Anyone interested in being a candidate for the three-year terms is asked to contact Gumbinger at 354-9704.