18 April 2010


Unit In attendance Comments
101 Michael O'Neill
102 Via quorum proxy Proxy given to Denali
103 Chris Kalinski
104 None attended Matt emailed to say he had strained his back the before the meeting.
105 Holly Viola
106 Katie Douglas
201 Via quorum proxy
202 None attended
203 Denali Van Ness
204 Via quorum proxy
301 None attended
302 Meghan and Charley Traylor
303 None attended
304 Via proxy Proxy given to Meghan Traylor

Old Business

New Management Company

For several years, the Association has discussed hiring a management company to take over management from the volunteer Board. Meghan Traylor, our Secretary, took on this project this year, contacting numerous management companies.

Full service management--covering all aspects of physical plant management--was too costly at $100/unit/month. Meghan found eCondoServices--a company that will handle much of the routine management work excluding physical plant--for a little more than $100 per month over what we pay our current financial manager Dave Bembridge CPA. The Board voted unanimously to terminate our relationship with Dave Bembridge and retain eCondoServices.

eCondoServices will cover all financial management--including bill payment and dues collection--as well as preparing our annual budget, mailing out notices for the annual meeting, etc.

Tim Ambre of eCondoServices joined us at the meeting and shared that his company can also help with physical plant issues for additional fees. For example, eCondoServices has a construction manager who can collect bids for and manage maintenance and improvement projects such as the painting, rear stairwell, and electrical work that the board has handled this year.

The Board will share payment information via email shortly. Please note that HOA dues will be due on the first of each month.

Bylaws and Declarations Amendments

The Bylaws amendment passed and has been recorded with the county.

Unit No. % of Individual Interest Vote
101 8.50% Yes
102 7.79% No
103 5.62% Abstain (voted yes after passage)
104 5.29% No
105 8.18% Yes
106 5.65% Abstain (has not voted yet)
201 8.97% Abstain (voted yes after passage)
202 8.09% Yes
203 5.73% Yes
204 5.29% Yes
301 9.41% Abstain (voted yes after passage)
302 8.68% Yes
303 6.18% Abstain (has not voted yet)
304 6.62% Yes
Total 51.09%

Reserve Study and Budget

A new Washington State law requires us to complete a reserve study every year so that potential buyers can understand the fiscal health of the property. Meghan worked with David Bach and Associates to conduct the Reserve study.

The reserve study is available http://www.516ethomas.info/local--files/reserve-study/reserve_study_2010.pdf. The study showed that the Association is collecting sufficient funds to meet our capital needs over the long-term provided that the Association continues to raise dues to meet inflation. In the short-term, however, we have a capital deficit to handle a few major improvement projects, including window replacement and tuck pointing.

Our new management company will make sure the reserve study is refreshed each year.

Laundry Room, House and Landlord Rules

Denali completed a set of Laundry Room Rules, which were adopted by the Board as part of the House Rules. These are posted in the laundry room, as well as at http://www.516ethomas.com/laundry. We also have an update to the House Rules at http://www.516ethomas.com/house-rules. Finally, we have collected all of the rules in the Declarations and Bylaws that landlords must follow http://www.516ethomas.com/non-res-owners

Complete Repainting of the Building


The Association repainted nearly the entire building this year. The rear stairwell, front entryway, basement and first floor were painted by professional painters. The second and third floors were painted by the owners, with Meghan Traylor, Charley Traylor, Denali Van Ness, Michael O’Neill, Kevin Connelly and Dan Cromer (Easton Richmond’s tenant) providing from a few hours to two full days of their time in exchange for low-cost donuts, coffee, lunch and wine. Denali, Michael and Meghan also repainted the laundry room.


The Board asked all owners to respond in the affirmative or negative whether they would volunteer their time to help with the painting project. The following owners did not reply: Frank Shields/Katie Douglas, Matt Roller, Lisa Holley, Randy Olesen, Will Lint, and Rob Harwood/Rob Bartholomew.

The Board chose a set of colors from Sherwin-William’s Arts & Crafts collection to match the architecture of the building. The interior colors are Ruskin Room Green, Dard Hunter Green, and Rembrandt Ruby. Front entry colors are Polished Mahogany, White Hyacinth, Roycroft Suede and Craftsman Brown. The rear stairwell differed from the front entryway in that Roycroft Copper Red replaced Polished Mahogany on the trim. Many owners/tenants declined to allow the Association and its vendor access to their unit to paint the inner border of the doors to their unit. Those owners can find the Rembrandt Ruby paint on the top shelf under the window in the utility room.

Repair and Replacement of Rear Stairwell / Special Assessment

While putting together a bid to paint the building, our painting contractor noted dry rot on the rear stairwell. Denali noted this as well a few weeks later, but in a different part of the rear stairwell. Denali added that a few years back, guests of the Smiths (owners of 101 prior to Michael) reported that the railing was loose, and the Board repaired it by putting new lumber on top of the existing, rotting lumber.

When the painting contractor began work, he discovered that the dry rot was for more extensive than he anticipated. Michael collected several bids, and chose House Doctors to replace the railings. Meghan took over managing the project as Michael was on vacation in December. When House Doctors got to work, they discovered that the dry rot on the top floor landing was so extensive that not only would the railings need replacement, but the entire landing needed to be rebuilt. This doubled the cost of the repair.

The Board requested House Doctors to use white cedar--a more expensive wood that is one of the most decay-resistant, durable woods available--to make sure the newly installed decking lasts for decades. The Board also paid a small premium (about $600) to have the railings match the existing stair rails as closely as possible.

The high cost of the repair, the fact that the Board was aware of the problem several years ago, and the concern of several owners that we maintain reserves prompted the Board to levy a special assessment on the ownership for the costs of the project exceeding the bid—about $600-$700 per unit. Because many owners are financially strapped, the Board decided the assessment would be due in six months, rather than immediately.

The assessment will be levied as follows:

Unit No Assessment due 1-Jul-2010
101 $710.91
102 $651.53
103 $470.04
104 $442.44
105 $684.98
106 $471.71
201 $750.22
202 $676.62
203 $479.24
204 $442.44
301 $787.02
302 $725.97
303 $516.87
304 $553.67
Total $8,363.67

Association Website

The HOA now has a new website, www.516ethomas.info. Michael O’Neill, who put the site together, did have trouble accessing the site via that address on one of his computers, so if you can’t get to it at that address, use 516ethomasst.wikidot.com. The site is a wiki hosted using the wikidot.com platform. The site includes the full text of the Association’s Declarations, Bylaws, House Rules, Meeting Minutes going back to 1978, Laundry Room rules, Directory of Service Providers, How Tos (including Alarm, Boiler and Radiator maintenance), our current Reserve Study, and Forms (including Proxy Vote and Electronic Notice forms).

Any member of the association may request to contribute to the wiki, but will need approval from a member of the board to edit existing pages. The goal here is for owners to document how to handle routine maintenance issues or related building business so that it is easier for future owners to handle things.

No one volunteered to take over management from Michael.

Association email addresses

Michael O’Neill also set up new email addresses and aliases for the HOA. The entire Board of Directors may be contacted by sending an email to hoa@516ethomas.info, while the officers can be reached via president@516ethomas.info, secretary@516ethomas.info, and treasurer@516ethomas.info. All emails sent to hoa@516ethomas.info will be saved in a dedicated email account both for the reference of future boards, as well as to aid the Association in discovery in case of a future lawsuit. These email addresses also create continuity for building operations: businesses that work with Association will now have an easy way to contact the HOA even if the officers have changed.

In addition, in case future owners do not want to have their contact information shared with the entire community, and to simplify sending emails to the entire ownership (e.g. if an owner changes his/her email address, and some owners forgot), Michael set up distribution lists for all owners and tenants—owners_100s@516ethomas.info, owners_200s@515ethomas.info, owners_300s@516ethomas.info, and tenants@516ethomas.info.

Please make sure to configure your email client and spam filter to accept all emails sent to you from the 516ethomas.info domain.

No one has volunteered to update the email address aliases.

Accurate Ownership Percentages

In the process of raising HOA dues, Michael O’Neill discovered that the Association has been working with incorrect ownership percentages for units 101, 103, 105 and 106 for an undetermined period of time. An Amendment to the Declarations was passed in 1979 which changed the ownership percentages. The Amendment may be viewed at http://www.516ethomas.info/declarations#toc38, and the new ownership percentages can be viewed at http://www.516ethomas.info/declarations#toc37.

Improvements to rear walkway

Two years ago, Denali Van Ness asked Michael O’Neill to apply no-skid tape to the rear walkway of the building. Michael tried this several times, but could never get the tape to stick for more than a few weeks. This year, Michael rented a power washer to clean all the dirt off the existing surface, and then applied a two-part epoxy with a no-skid additive recommended by Sherwin Williams. Unfortunately, this didn’t make the surface substantially less slippery when wet. But no-skid tape applied on top of the new epoxy coat has held on through the rainy season for six months now.

Planting shrubs in the ground by the rear walkway

Michael O’Neill tried to do this, requesting a garden supply store give him “plants that will grow with no upkeep and no sunlight—basically weeds.” The native plants—costing about $60—did not live despite watering and fertilizing per directions. It is recommended that the Board not attempt to grow plants in this area in the future.

Lock box on the Thermostat

18 months ago, the Board suspected that tenants were changing the settings on the building thermostat, causing increases in our gas bills. Michael O’Neill installed a lock box on the thermostat this past fall. The keys to the lockbox are in the HOA storage unit, keys to which are held by all three Board members.

New Business

Building Boundaries and 301 Belmont Avenue

While at the King County Recorder’s office checking ownership percentages and researching potential solutions to the noise problem from 301 Belmont Ave. and reported by unit 102, Michael O’Neill obtained a copy of Exhibit A to our Declarations, which includes a map of the property (a full-sized copy of the maps are now in our files on site). Michael would like to note that the house next door is encroaching on our property. The Gayle’s property extends to the edge of the walkway leading to the entrance of the rear rental unit of 301 Belmont Ave. This means that the fences along north and south boundaries of 301 Belmont, including the arched entryway near the front of our building, extend onto the Gayle’s property. This also means that the tenants of 301 Belmont Ave are storing items on our property without our permission.

Meghan Traylor reports that an owner informed her that 301 Belmont Avenue has been purchased by a new owner. We hope this is a good thing: the prior owner had consistently been uncooperative when approached with problems we have had with her tenants over the years.

Michael looked on the King County Recorder’s Office website for information on a new purchaser. He could not find a sale from the current owner, Jan Gleason. However, if the building did sell, someone needs to volunteer to track down the new owners and send a friendly letter making sure they are aware of the property boundary issue, and inform them of the history of noise problems with the tenants in the basement unit. Meghan has volunteered to do this.

Updating Electrical Wiring in Common Areas

After the rear stairwell was painted, Michael O’Neill, who has done light electrical work for twenty years, bought some low-cost, Arts & Crafts-style lighting fixtures to replace the three cheap fixtures currently installed. When Michael removed the existing fixture, the insulation around the wiring disintegrated at a touch, exposing the hot wire all the way to the plaster and lathe. Michael did some research, and discovered that Knob and Tube wiring—the type of wiring used when the Gayle was constructed in the 1910s—has asbestos clothe insulation for the flexible wiring that connects lighting fixtures to the knob-and-tube wires. The insulation on the wires will bake and become brittle with heat, and our old lighting fixtures had no heat insulation to prevent this. The wire’s insulation has been baked for 90 years, meaning that all of our common area lightning fixtures are likely to have brittle and decayed insulation for wiring. This is a fire hazard, albeit a relatively low one. Michael also pointed out that another Association member discovered this problem more than a decade ago, but the Board took no action to resolve the issue.

The big risk of doing nothing is that insurers charge far higher rates for buildings with Knob and Tube wiring. The Association receives a questionnaire from our insurer every few years which includes the question “has the electrical wiring in the building been updated.” Technically speaking, the answer is yes. All units received new, dedicated services lines when the building went condo in 1978. Many units have also had a mix of wiring updates. One change in the wording of that question (just add “all” before “the electrical wiring”), however, and our insurance rates would jump substantially.

Because of the potential fire risk and increase in insurance rates, the Board has hired Preservation Electric to disconnect all Knob and Tube wiring in the Common Areas and run new Romex wiring into the building. At the same time, Preservation Electric will be replacing all of our lighting fixtures with new Arts & Crafts style fixtures. The Board looked at several different styles, and chose the most economical fixtures that would complement the aesthetic of the building.

We will be replacing the pendant in the external entryway with two fixtures on the walls. Replacing the bulb in this fixture--which is above the stairs and requires a special ladder--has been a topic of conversation in the Association for two decades and will make things much easier and safer to maintain. We will also get two new external fixtures that use standard bulbs--the current fixtures uses commercial bulbs that can only be purchased in home improvement and specialty lighting stores. The caulking on the external fixtures has also separated, allowing rainwater to contact the wiring.

The project also includes an unrelated electrical issue: one of the fixtures that anchors the trunk wire (providing service to the entire building) onto the brick façade of the building (near the windows to 203) has been loose for over three years. If the second anchor came loose, it could interrupt electrical service to the entire building. This will be repaired as well.

From the perspective of individual units, it is highly likely that every unit in the building has some Knob & Tube wiring. As this old wiring presents a risk of fire, the Declarations require that owners are obligated to maintain their property. All owners should start planning to replace all wiring in their units over the next five or six years. The estimated cost to upgrade a 1-BR with 100% knob-and-tube wiring is $2,000, a Studio $1,000. If our insurance rates are increased due to the presence of knob-and-tube wiring, those units that addressed the issue will not be responsible for paying the increased insurance costs until such time as all units have upgraded wiring.

If you would like to hire Preservation Electric to update your electrical wiring, please give Chris a call at 425.293.8504.

Window Replacement

In the early 1980s, some of the units in the building installed new windows. This was the case with 101 and 302, and window experts who have seen the building have told Michael that the windows installed were of very low quality. These windows are now 25 years old and beyond their expected useful life of fifteen to twenty years. Not all of them stay open, the seals between the panes have broken, etc. They are in need of replacement.

Other units in the building, including 102 and 201 may have the original windows from 1918. These single pane windows are well past their useful life.

The building must budget for replacement of windows in the near future, as windows are the responsibility of the Association, and not the individual owners.

The most pressing issue facing windows are those in 103, 203 and 303. The windows sills in 303 have cracked out, allowing water to leak into the interior of the wall. This could mean that dry rot is eating away at the structural beams holding the building together. Denali reports that in the heavy rain season, water will actually leak into her unit. Denali and Chris K also reports that the window sills in their respective units are cracked as well from brickwork settling.

Michael reports that Renewal by Anderson could replace all the windows in the building for less than $70,000. The windows we would get are identical to the new windows being installed in the brick apartment building on our block of Thomas southwest of us. The replacement could be paid for with a 7-year, 7% interest Association loan, rather than via a special assessment which most owners could not afford. We would need to increase monthly HOA dues by greater than the annual 3%.

Holly stated that, with the economy still weak and some owners far behind in dues, now is not the right time to replace all the windows in the building. We should instead tackle this incrementally.

The ownership discussed this issue at length and decided that at present, all we can afford to repair are the windows on the western wall of the building. The Board discussed using eCondoServices to handle construction management but made no firm decision.

The ownership and Board did not decide whether we would pay for the western wall window replacement with reserve funds or an association loan. To obtain an association loan, however, Michael reports that we must be incorporated or registered as an LLC with the state. A search of the Secretary of State’s website did not return any records showing that the Association has taken these steps. We will need to incorporate to take out a loan.

The Board will communicate further updates on this project in the coming months.

Discussion of smoking by a tenant

An owner brought up an issue of a tenant smoking in her/his unit and littering the outdoors common areas with cigarette butts. The Board has chosen to omit the details of the discussion from the meeting minutes, and will attempt to resolve the issue with the absentee landlord of the property privately.

Election of New Board

Charley has nominated himself to take over the role of Treasurer, and the owners present unanimously elected him to replace Holly. The transition will take full effect on 1-May-2010.

No owner nominated themselves to take on the role of President, so Michael will continue in the role.

Holly--who is looking for a break after many years of service to the Association--nominated herself to succeed Meghan as Secretary, which under our new management company, will have the lightest duties of any officer role. Michael urged Holly to withdraw her nomination, pointing out that our recently passed Bylaws amendment places the Secretary next in line to succeed the President should s/he be unable to fulfill his/her duties (which is likely, considering that Michael is selling his unit). Holly would have volunteered for far more service than she intended, and she withdrew her nomination.

The ownership decided to attempt to elect new Directors via email to avoid resorting to emergency meetings.

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