City Council members ostensibly had a simple task on Tuesday. In 1995, Hopkins agreed to sell bonds on Meadow Creek’s behalf in order to fund improvements the association wouldn’t otherwise have been able to afford. With the original projects complete, there is now about $130,000 left in excess fee revenue.
Hopkins could either give the money back to the condo association or direct it to further projects. City staff recommended the former option.
“Staff is not comfortable telling the association how to spend the money,” Assistant City Manager Jim Genellie said.
But Meadow Creek is riven by a battle over how the complex should be run. About 10 owners have filed a lawsuit alleging that the board mismanages the property, kowtows to the management company and doesn’t listen to owners. The association gained statewide attention in 2009 when poor decisions nearly brought it to bankruptcy. It received shutoff notices for natural gas and electricity because of unpaid bills.
Members of the association’s board counter that the condo complex has switched management companies and is back on its feet after the setbacks. They accuse the unhappy residents of harassing the board and other residents—with board President John Ward accusing resident Mel Pittel of holding up a sign at a meeting calling the members a “Chickens--t Board.”
The extra money from the bond sale puts Hopkins right in the middle of this dispute. Board members want the city to turn over the money so it can use the funds for further capital improvements. The upset property owners want the city to withhold the money until the lawsuit is settled.
“We’re not saying don’t give the money to Meadow Creek. We’re saying give it at a time we know it’s going to be used (properly),” said Pittel, one of the owners involved in the lawsuit.
“I’ve been cursed by his accusations and his lies for the last two years,” Ward answered. “There is no one on the board that wants to do anything with this money other than to use it for the necessary capital expenses.”
The fight left Hopkins council members palpably frustrated. Councilwoman Cheryl Youakim said she arrived at Tuesday’s meeting thinking, like city staff, that Hopkins should just turn over the money. But hearing the accusations, and pondering the staff time spent refereeing conflicts at the complex, convinced her that the city needs a longer-term solution.
“It’s just costing the city, citizens and taxpayers, more money if people just aren’t getting along,” she said.
In the end, council members decided to use the outstanding money as leverage to bring the combatants to the negotiating table.
Mayor Gene Maxwell invited the parties to contact the city about mediation and offered to sit in on the negotiations himself. The council will take up the issue again at its Aug. 6 meeting, taking into account how the sides used the mediation. The parties could come up with a compromise list of projects that the city would then direct the money toward.
“Maybe both sides would come to their senses and maybe just sit down and be able to discuss something and come up with a happy ending for both sides,” Maxwell said. “It’s not that hard. It just takes a little effort from both sides—and maybe a little stubbornness has to go away.”
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