A vandal tried to lock four members of a Clearwater homeowners association board inside their apartments last week by filling their keyholes with a liquid adhesive.
Two members had their locks vandalized a second time, according to police investigating the incidents.
The president of the Horizon House HOA board suspects the act was the work of a resident upset over a proposed assessment.
With the building nearing 60 years in age, a maintenance assessment is being floated by the homeowners association to return the property to tip-top shape.
Board president Edward Schmoll rattled off a list of problems that need fixing: the pockmarked parking lot that needs resurfacing; a leaky facade which allowed 800 gallons of water to seep into hallways and laundry rooms during Hurricane Irma; structural problems with the roof; exterior paint nearing the end of its lifespan.
Cash also is needed for an engineering study to address regulatory requirements for fire safety.
The estimated cost to address these problems? More than $300,000.
According to data from listings on real estate website, Zillow, residents already pay monthly dues ranging from $500 to $800. Dues are dependent on the size and location of an apartment.
While the dues might seem exorbitant to outsiders, Schmoll said the fee covers all utilities, including central heating and air, communal washers and dryers, and water heaters, as well as costs associated with general upkeep of the building and grounds.
When the Horizon House co-op building was erected in the early ’60s it was one of the tallest buildings on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Located in Island Estates on the southern tip of Pasadees Key, just north of the Clearwater Memorial Causeway, the 15-story, 126-unit tower was the second FHA co-op constructed in the state.
At the time of permitting, news reports stated that it was the most expensive building constructed in Clearwater history.
Six hundred sixty 40-foot concrete pilings were driven into the ground to support the behemoth. An estimated 900 gallons of paint were needed to cover the exterior.
Advertisements from the time of construction heralded the building as the height of luxury: $3,750 down and a monthly payment of $213 would get you a two-bedroom apartment. Prices rose with the floors.
These days, the tower is beginning to show its age.
A lack of prudence from previous boards, Schmoll said, allowed problems to metastasize. He described the division as a conflict between two camps: The new board and boards of the past.
Schmoll said the current board has a fiduciary duty to ensure that the building is in good repair and that residents’ assets are protected. Schmoll credited the prior board for starting conversations about the state of the building.
Dr. Thomas Tocco, a seven-year resident and former board member, said he supports the current board and its efforts. Tocco, who previously dealt with infrastructure projects as a school superintendent, said that if residents continue to kick the proverbial can down the road, it could end up doubling the cost to fix the problems.
Tocco cited the lack of substantial increases in maintenance rates over the past 10 years as the culprit. According to Tocco and Schmoll, there aren’t enough cash reserves to cover the costs.
To repair the building and protect the investment of resident shareholders, the board is putting the assessment up for a vote. If homeowners agree to the resolution, Schmoll estimates that unit owners will need to cough up $3,200 to $4,200 in cash to cover the expenses.
Schmoll also is suggesting a 1-2-percent increase in monthly maintenance rates to help offset inflation.
To lessen the impact to residents, Schmoll said the board intends to offer a payment plan that will stretch payments over the course of a year.
That might not be enough to satisfy everyone.
But Schmoll isn’t deterred.
“The behavior exhibited by the culprit isn’t typical of residents of the building,” Schmoll said. “It’s a great place to live.
"If the intent of the culprit was to persuade us, it really backfired. The silver lining is that it has bonded the community together.”