Lake provisionally approved for $670,000 grant/loan under federal program

By Heather Michon

The Lake Monticello Owners Association (LMOA) has been approved for a $670,000 grant/loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a $350 billion fund created by the federal government to cover small business payrolls for up to eight weeks. If used for payroll, rent and other approved expenses the loan can be forgiven.

But because nothing is simple these days, it is not clear how soon the association will receive the funding. Days after the grant was provisionally approved, the program ran out of money. Congress approved a fresh influx of cash, with no way to say how long it will last.

“It’s a brand new program and we are working our way through it,” said General Manager Steven Hurwitz in an email in late April. “Because of that, it is hard to say exactly when the process involving LMOA will be complete.”

News that the association had won provisional approval for the grant was announced at a virtual meeting of the Board of Directors on April 14. About 35 people dialed in to listen to the directors discuss the short- and long-term implication of the COVID 19 pandemic.

“We’re just in the beginning of what’s going to be a two to three-year epidemic,” said Director Mike Harrison, “and we’re going to have to be very creative in our actions over the next few years.”

At the moment, all LMOA staff remains on the payroll, said General Manager Steve Hurwitz. The PPP grant will aid staff retention for the near future, although Hurwitz said he and his staff have been looking at furloughs “should financial conditions require it.”

Hurwitz indicated the association was in fairly good shape at the moment. “We’ve collected a substantial amount of dues so far this year.” He reported that the Food and Beverage Department had switched to takeout only and was doing well. The golf course was scheduled for a limited re-opening on April 20.

However, many amenities remain shuttered, and will likely remain closed at least until Governor Ralph Northam’s stay-at-home directive expires on June 10.

“We’re definitely going to have revenue shortfalls in golf, maybe in dues, and in other areas,” said Director Jay Hinkle.

Director Tom Braithwaite said the pool season, which normally opens around Memorial Day, will be impacted. Not only will it be shortened by almost a month, residents may be reluctant to buy passes to the often-crowded facility. The shutdown could also impact tennis and pickleball court rentals, golf tournaments, and other traditional sources of seasonal revenue.

After the summer, the financial picture becomes even more murky.

“It’s going to be a real problem,” said Director Rich Berringer. “Lots of people are going to be hurting.”

He saw potential for losses in home sales, as job losses cause current residents to move out and potential residents to defer home-buying until the economy stabilizes. Higher unemployment could also impact the collection of annual dues.

This will challenge future boards to dramatically reduce operations to critical infrastructure, such as roads and lake water management.

“It is what it is,” said Berringer. “We didn’t start it.”

Towards the end of the meeting, Harrison addressed some of the questions surrounding the delayed annual meeting, originally scheduled for the end of June. Three directors’ seats are up for election.

He said it might be possible to hold the meeting sometime in September, but no date has been set. Until that time, the current board will stay in their seats.


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