Gate security concerns cause Lake Wildwood flap
A proposal to eliminate a guard at the north gate of Lake Wildwood in Penn Valley during the graveyard shift proved so contentious, it sparked a recall action and the eventual resignation of the president of the homeowners association.
While the decision by the association’s board of directors was eventually reversed in a Sept. 22 meeting, the months-long brouhaha left some residents of the gated community feeling soured on the political process. With about 6,000 residents, Lake Wildwood effectively functions as one of western Nevada County’s largest cities.
“The board had voted back in May to spend monies that had been budgeted for upgrading security equipment, with the intention of alleviating the graveyard shift guard and have it covered by the main gate guard,” explained association general manager Edward Simpkins.
According to Simpkins, budget talks had been ongoing since October of the previous year, with the aim of cutting about $200,000 from the initial budget proposal. Not funding a guard at the north gate between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. would have saved the association $32,500 a year.
The board voted in June to authorize the installation of cameras at the north gate that would have been monitored by the guard at the main gate. But angry residents, concerned about a perceived loss of security, fought back with two petitions – one that urged the recall of board president Mike Doscher and one that asked for continued staffing at the north gate.
Doscher said community fears far outstripped reality.
“We looked in detail at the traffic going through both gates during the graveyard shift – and combined, it was still a fraction of what the single main gate attendant handles during the day shift,” he said. “Workload was certainly not an issue.”
Doscher said he chose to resign rather than face a recall that would continue to embroil the board in controversy.
“I was singled out to teach the board a lesson,” he said, adding that the recall group even went so far as to accuse him of getting a kickback for the security equipment.
Byron Maynard, one of the residents who organized the petition drive, said the issue was not just a lack of communication. A manned security system is in Lake Wildwood’s governing documents, he charged, and a change should have required a vote of the association members.
“The board said we didn’t decide to take the guard off, we just didn’t fund it,” he said. “That was not the way to handle it.”
Maynard said the two petitions received almost 1,000 signatures, showing a majority of residents were opposed to the cost-cutting measure.
“I think the board got the message from the members,” he said. “We got the people behind us and the people said we want to keep the guard … When they dropped the issue, we let it ride. We don’t want to fight with anybody,” he said.
Now that the board has opted to keep the guard at the north gate, it will have to make up that shortfall somewhere else, Simpkins said.
“We’re actually doing better than budgeted in other areas,” he added.
Doscher said he was concerned with the board’s decision to reverse its vote after pressure by a group he considers a vocal minority. And in a community like Lake Wildwood, with everything from rentals occupied by working families to multimillion-dollar second homes, it can be difficult to find common ground, he added.
“Homeowner groups, when they work well, they work very well,” he said. “But when they don’t, they get ugly, they get litigious, they turn combative.”
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4229.
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