| Filed under

→ See video of the two RMA meetings here

[Full story posted Jan. 16] The Rancho Murieta Association board addressed two vexing issues Tuesday night, allowing Village households access behind the gates and reaching agreement on committee chairs.

Village access OK'd at $300 annual fee

The board voted unanimously to allow gate access to Village residents in exchange for a $300 annual fee.

“It’s just a question of trying to pay a fair share, is what we’re trying to establish here,” said Alex Bauer, board president. “People who live inside the gates, who have access to these amenities, we all pay....”

There was back-and-forth about the exact fee, but in the end the board settled on the number first proposed by Director Jim Crowder. Last year, the RMA board approved charging Village residents $62.40 a month for access, a figure based on an analysis of what RMA members pay for association amenities. That’s roughly $750 a year.

Gate-access bar codes for Village residents were turned off Jan. 1. 

“It’d be nice to have closure to this,” Crowder said of the disagreement, which has gone on for four years.

The Village was the first residential piece of Rancho Murieta to be developed. The RMA has explained its motivation for the Village fee, after many years without one, as the need to establish a consistent policy on gate access for development outside the gates. A home builder says the Murieta Gardens development, across Murieta Drive from the Village, will start selling 78 homes in December.

Villagers who want gate access, which is available now, must apply at the RMA. They will be required to sign a resident-use form agreeing to abide by RMA rules and to pay a fine if they break the rules. The $300 fee gets a Villager one bar code.

Board settles committee leadership issues

The board appointed committee chairs at an earlier, organizational meeting that lasted only 22 minutes. The meeting had to be continued after last month’s session was stymied by questions about whether Director Stephanie Bianchi would be given the chairmanship of a committee other than Recreation, where she has served for a year. Dozens of Murietans came out to oppose that possible change.

This time, with only a handful of people in the audience, the Recreation Committee question was addressed quickly, unanimously and with no discussion when Alex Bauer, board president, proposed that Director Larry Shelton join Bianchi as committee co-chair.

Director Joanne Brandt nominated herself to continue as Communications Chair and to assume responsibility for the Maintenance Committee.

Bianchi offered to co-chair Communications with Brandt, saying she could assist with ongoing progress for the website and social media. Brandt resisted, saying, “Actually, as far as social media, I don’t consider that to be a reliable or important information most of the time, from what I’ve read.” Asked by Bauer if she would change her motion, Brandt said she would be glad to consult with Bianchi but she wouldn’t change her motion.

The vote on that motion ended in a 3-3 tie, with Brandt, Bauer and Director Cheryl McElhany voting yes. (Director Rob Brown was not present for the organizational meeting.)

After all the other chairmanships were handed out, Director Larry Shelton returned to the question, making a motion for the co-chairmanship Bianchi proposed, and the board approved unanimously.

In the other assignments, all by unanimous vote:

  • Brandt will be head of Maintenance, replacing Shelton.
  • Shelton nominated himself for Compliance Committee, replacing Director Jim Crowder.
  • McElhany nominated Crowder to chair the Architectural Review Committee, replacing Shelton.
  • McElhany will continue as Finance Committee chair.
  • Brown will continue as chair of the Governing Documents Committee.
  • McElhany and Brown will continue as representatives to the Parks Committee.
  • Bauer will continue as chair of the Personnel Committee, which meets rarely.
  • The Joint Security Committee will have Crowder and Shelton as representatives.

In public comments before the votes, neighbor Stephanie Xenos read aloud a letter she was asked to share by another neighbor, Jennifer Heavenston, that echoed many of the points aired at last month’s contentious meeting. The letter said moving Bianchi from Recreation would be unprecedented. It said in part, “...This is not about Recreation Committee. This is the attempt to humiliate and quiet a progressive member of the board, someone that has a busy schedule and maybe can’t make every suggested meeting date, someone that has pointed questions, someone that demands change and accountability, someone that represents a different demographic than all of you. She is a squeaky wheel, the thorn in your side.”

GM's new contract is challenged

Neighbor Stephanie Xenos read a statement to the board challenging the contract granted last year to General Manager Greg Vorster, which she said was written by someone who didn’t have the association’s best interests in mind. The three-year contract, signed late last year, runs to February 2022.

Her statement posed a number of questions and offered this view of the contract, which is available to any association member to review:

  • Annual salary of $147,800 independent of benefits, car allowance or bonus
  • Benefits payments equal to 10 percent of salary
  • Five weeks of paid vacation a year
  • $500 monthly vehicle allowance or use of RMA-maintained vehicle
  • A 4 percent annual raise regardless of job performance
  • There are staff bonuses that Xenos said she couldn't fully understand and needed the RMA to clarify.

In a different context late last year, Vorster said his new contract’s annual salary is $147,680 and it grants him every other Friday off, a benefit that came about when another association discussed hiring him at a “considerably higher” salary and he accepted time off instead of pay to stay with RMA. The retirement payment was bumped from 8 to 10 percent in the new contract, he said, and there is a performance-based bonus of up to $15,000.

In keeping with the new board meeting policy, no director responded to Xenos’ comments directly, but at the end of the meeting, when directors are allowed three minutes each for general comments, a majority of the board indicated support for Vorster. President Alex Bauer said Vorster's contributions are hard to measure in dollars. Director Rob Brown called Vorster the "go-to guy" who has "a unique institutional knowledge of the community here that nobody else has." Brown said he believes the board handled its responsibilities properly in granting Vorster's contract. "I understand if you're on the outside looking in, you might not understand that," he said.

After the meeting, Xenos handed her statement to Bauer, who said the RMA will respond by letter.

Board is asked to apologize

Mike Martel, the Country Club's current president and a past RMA director, offered emotional comments about the way Randy Jenco was addressed by the board at last month’s meeting. Jenco, a longtime Murietan, spoke last month to defend how much Little League had contributed to the association’s Stonehouse Park. 

“The comment was that (Jenco) received a tax benefit for his donation and his volunteerism into this community,” Martel said. He explained how youth activities like Little League, soccer, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts were launched here only through the work of community volunteers like Jenco. Martel said the Jenco family was an early sponsor of Entertainment, Theatre & Culture and offered to build the group a stage at no cost to RMA to help ETC succeed.

Martel told the board, “I think you guys were out of line to reference anything about his generosity, or their generosity, or their contribution to just about every single thing that goes on in this (community).” Later in the meeting, Director Joanne Brandt said she agrees.

In other business...

  • At both of Tuesday’s meetings, Director Alex Bauer, board president, read a statement outlining rules for conduct at RMA meetings. He said the rules, prompted by unruly behavior at recent meetings, were taken from the Davis-Sterling Act, which governs homeowner associations in California. Basically, the statement called for respectful meetings, with public comment only allowed on non-agenda items at the start of the meeting and with comments on agendized items only as those items come up at the meeting. See Bauer’s full statement here.
  • The board voted 6-0, with one abstention, to approve a one-year field-use contract with the Rancho Murieta Bulldogs youth baseball tournament team. General Manager Greg Vorster said the one-year contract carries no charges for the first six months and a charge for the remainder yet to be determined by the board. Director Larry Shelton abstained from the vote.
  • The RMA’s Casino Night, coming up Feb. 23, has sold 93 tickets, Director Stephanie Bianchi reported. There are seven sponsors, she said, which means the event is already more than $1,000 in the black with the possibility of additional sponsors. Tickets are available at the RMA office and on Eventbrite.com.
  • General Manager Greg Vorster and Director Joanne Brandt reported on the decision by Greenfield Communications to continue to operate in Rancho Murieta and new services and pricing it is rolling out. These topics were covered in a story last week. Brandt reminded everyone that the cable switch happens next week.
  • Brandt said the RMA's new website has almost 200 members and that Murietans will see an email invitation and an event introducing the community to the new site.
  • A Joint Security Committee meeting will be held 6 p.m. Feb. 28 at the RMA Building, the board announced.

Patti Sewall's picture
Joined: 01/28/2015
Posts: 2
Post rating: 6

RMA OK's Village Access

I am glad to hear RMA voted to allow access to the Village residents for a reasonable annual fee. It would have been difficult at best for some of my neighbors to entice buyers to this area if they had to tell potential homebuyers that they wouldn't be allowed access to enjoy the many wonderful outdoor amenities that make Rancho Murieta so unique. I am anxious to hear more details on the issue, such as when the access can begin.


Joanne Brandt's picture
Joined: 06/12/2014
Posts: 33
Post rating: 43

Welcome to RMA Nabr email

Please look for the new Welcome to RMA Nabr email.  It will provide a link so you can sign up to become a member of the new RMA website.

Also, there will be a demonstration of the new website for residents on Sunday, February 10th, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the RMA Building.  Residents are welcome to come at 1:30 p.m. for cookies and other refreshments.

Joanne Brandt

Paul Wallace's picture
Joined: 11/30/2010
Posts: 37
Post rating: 3

Village Access and Murieta Gardens

I would hazard a guess, that without the new Murieta Gardens housing development (outside the gates), charging the Village households an access fee would not even be a topic for discussion. 


Sheila Rowert's picture
Joined: 09/10/2007
Posts: 2
Post rating: 2

Village Access

I completely agree with you Paul Wallace.

Sheila Rowert's picture
Joined: 09/10/2007
Posts: 2
Post rating: 2

Salary of RM General Manager

Thanks Stephanie for addressing the GM salary issue and contract; you pose some good questions. For comparison, I looked at nearby cities City Manager salary schedule. I tried to find data and salary info on other communities similar to RM without luck.

Folsom: pop. 78,000 (from 2017 census), CM Salary=$245,000 (as of 2018), Deferred Compensation=$18,400, Allowances=$9,600. (this included a $500./month car allowance)

Rancho Cordova: pop 73,563 (2017), CM Salary=$245,859 (2018), no other details given

Citrus Heights: pop 87,931 (2019), CM Salary=$260,000 with no other break out provided

RM: estamating pop at 6,200

While the base pay cannot be solely based on population, I too beg to question of how the salary is determined. The car allowances appears to be in line. IMO, the 10% retirment benefit a bit high and I'm not a fan of a 4% yearly raise just because you stayed on the job. 

Larry Shelton's picture
Joined: 01/29/2015
Posts: 44
Post rating: 50

Comparable Salaries

The GM's at other local HOA's and CSD have a higher salary with similar or higher benifits.

Beth Buderus's picture
Joined: 08/03/2007
Posts: 926
Post rating: 706

Shaking my head here

I am confused by Director Joanne Brandt's comment below.  What does this have to do with Rancho Murieta and the Communications Committee.  We're not talking about Trump vs. the media and unreliable souces here.  I'm at a loss for words, just shaking my head here....

Bianchi offered to co-chair Communications with Brandt, saying she could assist with ongoing progress for the website and social media. Brandt resisted, saying, “Actually, as far as social media, I don’t consider that to be a reliable or important information most of the time, from what I’ve read.” Asked by Bauer if she would change her motion, Brandt said she would be glad to consult with Bianchi but she wouldn’t change her motion.

Nellie Bloom's picture
Joined: 08/03/2007
Posts: 362
Post rating: 587

Social Media

I think Joanne's right in not tackling social media this minute. It is a bigger educational process and administrative/ moderation job than it seems at first pass, plus it comes with potential liability. For the RMA to have a public official social media forum (like Facebook) would require staff training, moderation, administration, social media guidelines and an attorney consultation. Comments in forums can be actionable and, though I've only heard of individuals being sued for libelous posts, I think there is risk for the "owner" of the forum. Which means, in this case, potential settlements paid by RMA dues. We already have issues with public online conversations devolving into personal attacks, detailing community security concerns (increasing crime risk) and more. Apart from all that, Facebook/Instagram are not a good stewards for sensitive information and we don't know what they are mining our community conversations for or what they are going to do with that information. If the RMA would like to add a secure community forum for residents/property owners only, that would be a good place to get their feet wet. I would happily donate 3 hours of my time to help. 

Beth Buderus's picture
Joined: 08/03/2007
Posts: 926
Post rating: 706

Social Media

Thank you Nellie, that makes sense, I didn't realize that was Stephanie's or RMA's intention.  I took it to mean Stephanie would continue to do what she has been doing which is putting the word out there for events using social media via Facebook and NextDoor.  

Joanne Brandt's picture
Joined: 06/12/2014
Posts: 33
Post rating: 43

Greenfield Communications Town Hall - January 29th - 6:00 p.m.

Mike Powers, CEO of Greenfield Communications, will be holding a town hall meeting at the RMA Building on Tuesday, January 29th, at 6:00 p.m. to give residents an opportunity to directly ask questions about the new Greenfield video offerings, other trends in video, and wiring problems.

Topics covered in the town hall will be:

  • Internet Video Trends
  • Wiring Problems and Solutions
  • How to find the Sports Games you want

Residents will have a chance to ask questions after each segment and at the end.

Please come join us for this opportunity to talk with Greenfield directly.  Refreshments will be served.

Joanne Brandt

Joanne Brandt's picture
Joined: 06/12/2014
Posts: 33
Post rating: 43

New Website has Resdient Group Forums

Hi Nellie,

The new RMA website has a group feature which makes it easy for residents to connect with other residents who share same interests. Each group features their own group page with a group activity feed, calendar, group photos, documents and member directory. Other residents can see all content inside a group but they cannot post to the feed without joining the group first.

There is also a place for residents to create photo galleries.

You must be a resident member of the RMA website to access these features.

Joanne Brandt

Your comments