Part 3 Discussion With Alderman
August 29, 2014
PART 3 of 3
We discussed several issues directly effecting condominium associations and unit owners.
“How’s the project?” The Alderman asked. I replied,”Our exterior plaza work? I think it is going to look pretty sharp, I just wish the weather would cooperate more.” He followed up,”I like to see building’s investing in making the neighborhood look good; that’s good for all of us.” To which I replied,”So long as we do not have to spend all our money and borrow more to pay for sprinklers.”
“I just recently attended a meeting with the Department of Buildings,” he said, where the sprinkler issue was discussed. The Alderman added he and his office are working closely with buildings that have not passed their life safety evaluations yet. He acknowledged Park Tower at the time was only one of two buildings north of Foster that already passed. “Buildings need to be in compliance by January 1st…we have met with several Boards. High rises and condos in our Ward are in a good position and all are moving towards compliance.” He said he will continue to fight any efforts to mandate sprinklers, except for buildings that do not pass the evaluation.
I also asked him about our little friends – the Bed Bugs! I asked how the ordinance he sponsored has been received and if he feels there has been any progress. The ordinance requires buildings such as Park Tower to have an action plan for prevention, inspection and treatment of bed bugs. He said it was too early to tell, “But the effort sure has raised lots of awareness and people are paying better attention.” He acknowledged more may need to be done. I shared with him some of our recent experiences at Park Tower, such as the fact we have had a fraction of the cases we experienced 2 or 3 years ago. I said it’s still something many buildings are struggling with, but agreed that awareness is half the battle.
Another very recent topic of interest is the “Energy Benchmarking” ordinance, which Alderman Osterman did not support. This requires high rises such as Park Tower to track, log and report the energy use of common areas and units. This will be compared to other similar structures to essentially give us a measure of our energy use. He said,“I recognized that this would add work to your plates.” Nonetheless, the ordinance passed. Some in the industry have pointed to other municipalities such as New York City, where benchmarking has led to mandated energy savings projects that can cost a lot of money. He mentioned that as he understood it, we would get information to identify whether there might be opportunities for us to save energy. ”If you save energy, you save money,” he said playing devil’s advocate. “We didn’t support the ordinance, but we’ll be fully involved if any future legislation is proposed (and) watch it closely so there are no surprises.”
I said with the recent recession and foreclosure crisis, condo associations have been under a lot of added pressure to make up the difference. I explained that higher insurance, energy and labor costs, coupled with bad debt from foreclosures and unpaid assessments, has kept assessments on the rise, especially for those who neither want basic maintenance and repair to suffer nor to defer important replacements in aging buildings. I added that decisions like phasing out the “Refuse Rebate” make it tougher. Essentially condo owners pay for garbage pick-up twice. Once through their assessments and once in their property taxes. “At Park Tower,” I told him,”losing that rebate is over 1/2% of an owner’s current assessment.” He said he is looking for a way to restore the rebate,“I live in a single family home, and I think is unfair (condo owners) are nitpicked through the property taxes.”
He concluded,”Condo buildings are an important part of the community. I have actively fought for and will continue to support policies for their financial health.” As we finished up our talk, I invited him to stop by the building for a tour when the exterior project is done, and mentioned we would love to have him for another town hall meeting.