For those of you old enough to remember the 1960’s TV series Dragnet, you will recall Sargent Joe Friday’s notorious line, “All we want are the facts, ma’am”. Well, we have had a few days for log in issues, statement issues and over charge issues to surface and be brought to our attention directly with facts aside from the usual social media rhetoric. Once the Board had sufficient factual information, we contacted Hammersmith to investigate and begin to resolve the issues. In an effort to be transparent we want you to have the same facts we have.
When I submitted my name for the Board, I admitted that one of my greatest flaws was not being politically correct in some (most) instances and I don’t candy coat the facts. I say that so you know these are my words, but the facts are from the entire Board. With that said please take the time to read all the facts as I know them that explain how things started and where we are today. This isn’t meant to be confrontational, demeaning or excusing responsibility on anyone’s part.
Fact; quotes from July 2023 RORA Newsletter;
Roger Simpson, Treasurer
“We have tried to reach out in a number of ways to make contact with each member and get owner information verified in our files. Both the HOA and the members benefit from having this corrected data on file. With correct information, we can get all of our members updated when we need to communicate from time to time. That means having a valid email address on file, so we can contact each of you quickly. Please contact the office by email with the subject line listing the change or by snail mail if you have any changes to your situation, so that we may include you in further communications. Do not leave this information on a voicemail. It must be in writing with the subject line stating the change. That change should be the only information in the email to make sure it gets to the right place. Use a separate email for other business you wish to discuss.”
Todd Erickson, Secretary
“The Ranch has hired and managed its own bookkeepers and administrative help over its history. Due to the growth in membership, along with the continue tightening of the local labor market for skilled bookkeepers, the Board has decided to move to a professional HOA bookkeeping and administration firm to take over these duties.”
“The Board looked at all its options, including investing in accounting and administrative packages and hiring full time personnel to meet the requirements. We also conducted an in-depth analysis comparing the costs and services of the leading professional services in the state, eventually selecting Hammersmith as the best option.”
“In the near future, members should expect a welcome package from Hammersmith which will provide details about the new services.”
First opportunity to look at your portal information!
Late August 2023, Hammersmith sends out welcome/onboarding letter to all members via USPS. Fact: Packet was sent to address on file at the time, if your contact information is incorrect, it’s your responsibility to maintain updated contact.
In that packet was information on how to set up your personal homeowner portal including temporary sign in password. Also included was contact information for help, mailing addresses for inquiries, making payments, and information on various ways you could pay your dues when needed.
Second reminder to sign up and look at your portal information!
Fact: October 2023, Newsletter, Vice President advises everyone to look at portal for directory information so you could choose how and what information you wish to be visible to other members, also included information on electing notification preference. Mail or electronic.
Third reminder to sign up and look at your portal information! Fact: December 4, 2023, Post put on Ranch of the Rockies web site:
“January is right around the corner, so we want to remind everyone again to take a moment and log in to your new account through the Hammersmith owner portal. The information on the portal is what Hammersmith will use to communicate with you about such things as your yearly statement and account status and the primary way for you to make payments.
Check your information to ensure everything is correct. Pay careful attention to your address/property information, contact name, address, e-mail, phone, etc.”
Also included was Hammersmith contact name and information. (issue with Hammersmith, several personnel changes and new contact information)
Fourth reminder to sign up and look at your portal information! Fact: December 24, 2023,
“Greetings Neighbors, just a quick note to let everyone know that the Board approved the 2024 Budget at the December 9th Board Meeting. The good news is that with our collection efforts on past due accounts and money carried over from unfinished projects and cost savings we were able to not only maintain our dues at the current level of $233 per lot but we were also able to add monies to a few of our capital reserve accounts.”
“If you have any trouble logging into your account with Hammersmith (ehammersmith.com) . please contact Sarah Weltman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send her your preferred email address and phone number for your account and she will set up your portal, emailing you your login information.”
Issues with overall process:
The board should have gotten budget approval and dues information posted immediately following the December 9th meeting. Closer follow up and communication was needed to ensure that Hammersmith had all documents and understood all documents to prepare 2024 Dues statements:
Multiple names and contact changes for Hammersmith help. It would have been better to list a general contact number and email to allow for personnel changes.
Prior to statements going out the decision was made to investigate the possibility of adding RV lot dues onto regular dues statements as a convenience to the members getting one billing statement instead of multiples. This request resulted in some communication and approval process misinterpretations on both sides causing a delay in statement mailings. Hammersmith also inadvertently sent out RV lot list to all instead of adding charge to only those with payment due.
The board was told statements went out January 5, 2024, but in reality, they did not mail until somewhere around January 11, 2024.
Hammersmith system and input errors,
They are set up for primarily monthly dues payments instead of our annual dues. On a normal monthly cycle, a payment is late after 10 days, interest incurs on 11th day and late fee assessed. The error occurred on RORA since our dues are payable no later than January 31, ####, and considered late after 10 days, etc.
This entry error caused members to be assessed an interest fee of $1.55 beginning January 11th. To compound the issue, most of us had not even received a statement yet due to mailing delay.
Members start finding this information out sometime January 11-12, instead of notifying any Board members of the situation many went to social media. The Board has said over and over, we do not monitor or conduct business on social media. If you have an issue, contact us directly.
On the evening of January 12, a member contacts the Board and advises of issues, at this point this is the first the Board has known of the issue.
January 13, 2024, regular Board meeting issues brought to light, discussed by Board and action plan set.
January 15, 2024, Monday being a holiday Hammersmith office closed but emails sent to our representatives advising them of issues, need to correct and refund interest charges and request meeting with all parties ASAP.
January 16, 2024, Hammersmith advised interest and any late charges are being refunded and dates in system corrected. The conference call meeting is set for Thursday, January 18.
January 18, 2024, meeting held, and issues discussed in length, including Boards displeasure with performance and multiple staff changes.
Throughout the process we (RORA) have found that a lot of our member data is incorrect, whether from entry errors over the years or not updating when changes occur, etc. So, the data passed to Hammersmith was what we had on file. There were some data entry mistakes made by Hammersmith in the transition but those are being corrected as they are identified.
A major factor that has caused issues with log in is the fact that a large number of members do not have an email address on file for your account. It is hard to send log in information and communicate efficiently without one.
In summary, as a Board we ask you as members to understand “we all have responsibilities” in everything that goes on. As a Board our job is to look out for and manage in a manner that keeps the community and its members’ investments protected. That does not mean or imply that as a Board we take responsibility to run or manage your personal affairs. Speaking for myself as a neighbor first, Board member second, I will help you any way possible, but you must be willing to take responsibility for what you can control.
Could we as a Board and a community have done better, no doubt, but seeing the flaws is much easier after the fact. As I watch in awe at all the rocket launches lately, I am only a spectator but when one suddenly goes awry, I can call myself a “Propulsion Expert” because after the fact I know it wasn’t supposed to blow up. But with life or any project the key is to try, learn from our mistakes, take corrective action and try again.
Where do we go from here:
For those that signed up, confirmed or corrected your information and paid your dues, we thank you. What you usually don’t see or hear on social media are the numerous success stories of how the process went right or how someone from Hammersmith took care of their issues in a timely, professional manner.
For those still waiting to receive log in help be patient but persistent. When the masses wait until the last hour to sign up, it overwhelms the system. Please keep in mind that Hammersmith has other customers in addition to us.
It is your responsibility to ensure that your owner/member information is current, correct and on file. It is also your responsibility to check our website periodically as that is where all information is posted. You can easily set your rotr.org account to send you an email when something new is posted on the web page.
Our hope and goal is for a more efficient and cost-effective way to manage Ranch finances and give members multiple avenues to manage and pay dues. Some seem to forget that Board members are neighbors and property owners just like you. The money spent, programs and processes tried affect all of us equally. It’s a new way of doing business, let’s suffer through the minor start up glitches and give it a chance and remember we hired them, and we can fire them.
Lastly, for those that don’t want change and want us to keep doing business the same old way we always have, it would be irresponsible on everyone’s part. Laws change, reporting and record keeping practices change and need updated. The old days of trying to rely on one in-house person, paid at minimal wage to take care of business isn’t the best business model. Management by “we’ve always done it that way” isn’t always the best and most cost effective. It’s good to review and questions processes, have a second pair of eyes to view things from a different angle but it needs to be done in a professional constructive manner.
If you have issues, contact a Board member directly. Our contact information is on the Ranch website.
Sincerely, your neighbor,