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Tahoe Donner residents seek reform

Darin Olde, Sierra Sun

When H.R. “Dick” Halpin decided to go to a Tahoe Donner Association Board of Directors meeting last fall, he heard a conversation he didn’t want to hear.

A retired operations manager for Continental Can, one of the largest can producers in the United States in the 1980s, Halpin knew what critical discourse over budget issues was supposed to sound like.

“Normally staff present information for board review, examination and approval,” said Halpin.

In this case, the situation was different.

“It was obvious to me that the board and staff were not on the same page,” said Halpin. “Coming from a business environment I was kind of shocked.”

When Halpin asked why the board was not taking a more active role with its staff, the answer he received was unsatisfactory.

“When I commented to the board that this was not the way the budget process was supposed to be handled, one of the board members who also owns a business agreed. They held off on the budget approval for another meeting, but it was fairly obvious that things were screwed up,” said Halpin.

Ronald E. Wulff, a 32-year veteran with the California Highway Patrol and a Tahoe Donner property owner since 1988, was also concerned with the exchange of information taking place in budget meetings.

“One thing that concerned me was the canceling of board meetings, especially right before the budget comes out,” said Wulff.

Tahoe Donner board President Dick Kreutzen said the association has been working to improve communication with homeowners. He has pushed for more controversial subject matter in Tahoe Donner News, the association’s newsletter, and improvements to the association’s Web page.

Kreutzen also said the board has been critical of staff on certain issues, but because of time delays, doesn’t question every item on the board’s agenda.

“We’d be there all day long if we nit-picked every item,” he said.

But Halpin, Wulff and Tahoe Donner resident Paul Duggan aren’t convinced the measures employed by the association to boost public involvement are good enough.

In the last two years, two committees appointed to keep the board responsive and alert to community concerns have dissolved.

Association critics say those committees should be reinstated.

The Tahoe Donner Association Advisory Committee and the Finance Committee, according to association attorney David Gravell, were committees that helped steer the organization when it was still new.

“They were the eyes and ears of management,” said Gravell. “To convey how things were to the board of directors until the board could appoint a staff structure to advise them.”

According to Gravell and Tahoe Donner Association General Manager Bob Broyer, the committees eventually became inactive.

“Many committee members lost interest because they weren’t allowed to play the roles that they wanted to play,” said Kreutzen.

A larger concern hanging over the heads of Dick Halpin, Ron Wulff and others is that the association may be moving forward without direct communication from homeowners.

The near-sale of the Euer Valley, which has been a big part of the association’s cross country center, was a case where Wulff and Halpin feel more communication was required. (See additional story on page 11A.)

“Businesses must cultivate relationships with the people for whom they operate,” said Halpin. “If the sale is going on with another entity – indicating that relationship is not there, that’s inexcusable.”

To make their concerns clear to the board and association staff, Halpin, Wulff, Duggan and other Tahoe Donner residents have been meeting every other Wednesday to discuss how they can help the association run more efficiently, especially in light of the significant changes on the horizon for Tahoe Donner.

With recent approval of a general plan and the board’s resolution to circulate a draft master plan among homeowners, the next 20 years of future operation are up for discussion.

“The next six months to a year will be critical to the association for the next 20 years,” said Duggan.

As well, three of five directors seats are open on Tahoe Donner’s governing board. Incumbent Jack Schwartz is the only director eligible for reelection.

“Bruce Cornell and Dick Kreutzen have termed out,” said Gravell.

Halpin, Wulff, Greg McDougall and six others have decided to run for the upcoming association election.

Tahoe Donner Board of Director ballots will be mailed the first week of June.

Homeowners can bring their ballots to the annual membership meeting on June 24 and can cast them there, said Broyer.

“We’re right up to the point of implementation of important things,” said Kreutzen, referring to Euer Valley, the master plan, which calls for expansion of Trout Creek Recreation Center, rebuilding the golf course clubhouse, renovation of the Northwoods Clubhouse, and the sale of the 32-acre parcel across from the Coyote Moon Golf Course.

Of the new board, Kreutzen said, “I hope they get into it with a lot of energy, and more effectively communicate with the homeowners.”


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