Weston community seeks recall of homeowners board over costly tree removal

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Thomas Monnay
April 19, 2006


WESTON Hurricane Wilma left the Village Homes at Country Isles with more than downed trees and damaged landscaping to clean up.

Its board of directors faces a recall attempt by a group of angry owners who accuse the board of awarding a favorable tree-removal contract to the company that runs the 168-home community. They say they could have saved up to $14,000 with another company.

On Tuesday, about 40 owners held an outdoor meeting and signed recall forms in hopes of having a voice in how the place is run. They pledge to gather more signatures from other owners. The forms include board candidates' names.

"We need a new board," said Jackie Puglisi, an angry owner. "We need to be managed by our own homeowners association."

"Change is good," said Christine Ragsdale, adding she's tired of looking at tree stumps in her townhouse community, west of Weston Road and south of Indian Trace Boulevard.

The controversy started April 5 after the board voted 3-2 to award Gables Property Management a $37,970 contract to remove 116 hurricane-damaged trees from the community. The contract also calls for Gables to grind all stumps and prune healthy trees.

Shortly after the vote, however, Henry Miller, the board's president and one of the two dissenters, circulated a flyer accusing the other directors of picking Gables over two competitors that offered to do the job for less.

Miller's flyer, which urged owners to protest, stated that Green Horizon and Stiles Landscaping Co. agreed to accept $23,000 to $24,000 for the job.

Displeased with Miller's action, the board held a special meeting in a local hotel on April 14 and removed him.

Miller then fought back with a petition to recall the directors, except for Jimmy Jimenez, who was the other dissenter and could not attend the April 14 meeting. Jimenez was appointed to the board just 21/2 weeks ago, he said.

Linda J. O'Donnell, Gables Property Management president, said her company's bid was the lowest for the amount of services to be provided. She produced a document showing that the other competitors would remove fewer trees and would not handle such things as preparing the ground for sod and future landscaping projects.

"The bids speak for themselves," O'Donnell said. "Whatever way you calculate it, Gables' bid is the lowest."

During Tuesday's meeting, Miller and other activists agreed that the bidding process was subjective because companies submitted proposals based on the scope of work they deemed necessary.

"We're not trying to get Gables out. We just want to find out what other companies can perform," said Jimenez. For the recall to succeed, O'Donnell said, the homeowners would have to gather signatures from about 51 percent of the 168 homeowners, or about 86 people.

Outspoken resident Puglisi said some 90 people have expressed an interest in recalling the board.