It was a messy but ultimately successful exercise in local democracy.
Tuesday evening’s meeting of the board of directors of the 735-member Enchanted Hills Community Association was peppered with unintelligible crosstalk, interruptions and mutual volleys of invective, accusations and innuendos, but, at the end of the 2 1/2-hour session, everyone achieved essentially what they came for.
The board approved a motion to “reaffirm” a contract with the Bowen Center to erect a new multi-use community center and pay its $20,000 share toward the $176,000 in construction costs.
Opponents — some of whom objected to the project and others who disputed the legality of the board’s entering into the contract — secured board approval to hold “an all-member meeting to vote on the funding for the building and the (validity of the) lease (renting the new facilities to the Bowen Center).” That meeting will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015.
Two Indiana State troopers waited in an office adjacent to the meeting room, ready to step in if things got out of hand. Fortunately, they didn’t have to.
Eleven of the 15 board members were present and several of them frequently squared off with the eight homeowners who attended to voice their objections to moving ahead with the project.
One ignition point involved paragraph 9.3 of the lease, which provides that if EHCA defaults in its obligations, the Bowen Center has the “right to possession of the real estate, and the right to remove all persons and property from the premises” and the “right to force (EHCA) to convey title to the property” to the Bowen Center.
That lease provision prompted one audience member to murmur his distrust of the Bowen Center and predict the Bowen Center would own the property “within six months.”
Rick Patton, program manager at the existing community center, pointed out the lease required 30-days’ written notice to allow EHCA to cure any default before the cited remedies would be triggered.
Board member Joyce Sherman, whose husband, James, was ousted as board president at November’s meeting, critically questioned Patton and board members on most aspects of the transactions concerning the new building.
She maintained the board had not informed association members of negotiations and agreements about the project; that the full membership — not just the board of directors — should determine whether to enter into the contract; that the Bowen Center, after seven years of presence in the subdivision, had yielded little or no benefit to the association; and that the default remedies in the lease were unacceptable. She also alleged the removal of her husband as president was illegal.
She handed Ron Simms, the association’s vice-president presiding over the meeting, an Oct. 21, 2014, letter from the Office of the Indiana Attorney General confirming a pending investigation into the board’s alleged irregularities in pursuing the contract with the Bowen Center. Sherman requested that investigation.
The proposed 2,000 square-foot building, to be erected in the park just west of the current community center, would house EHCA’s office and meeting room, food pantry and thrift shop; provide space for Bowen Center’s offices and programs; and serve as the community’s storm shelter. Bowen would foot the costs for maintenance and insurance and the association would pay the taxes and utilities.