As a board member, there’s often more to do than you have time for, and finding efficiencies is often easier said than done. But there’s one helpful resource that communities often forget they have at their disposal: local government. Whether your community is under the jurisdiction of a city, county or township, public servants and programs can help your community in a variety of ways. For example, they can alert the HOA of upcoming construction around the neighborhood instead of just the homeowners that are closest to the project. They can write articles to repost in your newsletter about local programs or policies, taking another item off your plate. In short, they can provide added value to your board and community, and it’s already paid for through your taxes.
However, many times cities or counties don’t know who to contact to communicate with the association. You can fix this by asking your community manager to reach out to the city or county to identify the HOA liaison and introduce them and your community. Oftentimes it’s someone in the community development department or city manager’s office.
Once that relationship is established, here are three areas in which your local government's office can assist if you reach out.
1. Pest control and animal issues
When your community is playing host to wildlife visitors, it’s second nature to schedule an appointment with your pest management contractor – but depending on the nature of the pest, you might be able to save that call. Many times city or county animal services will remove a group of deer, nest of rattlesnakes or den of skunks. And if coyotes are constantly entering your neighborhood, cities and counties have ways to trap and release them where they belong. And of course, they can pick up loose dogs or cats as well.
Remember, this service is paid for with your taxes, so every time you can use it, you’re saving the community money.
2. Public safety
As sponsors of National Night Out, an annual event that fosters relationships between neighborhoods and law enforcement, Associa sees the value in having a neighborhood watch. If your community is interested in establishing one, ask your police department or neighborhood watch division to do a presentation at your next meeting or as a separate town hall. Even if the interest isn’t there now, it’s important to educate homeowners about public safety because oftentimes board members or community managers will receive calls about suspicious behavior and other information that should be called into the police department’s non-emergency number. By hosting a presentation like this (and thoroughly promoting it) homeowners will learn what to report, how to report and to whom to report crime and neighborhood issues, cutting down the number of calls to management and the board.
Additionally, if your community is home to any elderly residents, the city and/or county has quite a few resources available to them. If a concerned resident wants an elderly neighbor to receive a wellness check, the HOA doesn’t have to take that on – a call to the county health department can accomplish that much more effectively, taking the liability off the association. Local governments can also provide information about agencies and programs that can help the elderly with meals and other types of assistance.
3. Water usage
For any community, but especially communities in areas with drought, it’s beneficial to work with your city or county and water district on ways to reduce water usage. These entities know that associations are responsible for watering the landscape, and they can help your community get water-saving sprinkler heads, weather-based controllers, and other water-saving devices at a great price because they have access to rebates and grant funding. Your water district in particular can help by setting up the infrastructure to pipe reclaimed water to the community’s sprinkler system and getting you rebates for the retrofitting. They – along with other utilities – can also perform a usage analysis to see if the community has a leak or if there are simply ways the community can save on their water bill. In short, it pays to know your water district.
While most of this information helps communities as a whole, there are a few things you can do as a board member to promote resources for individual homeowners.
Tips for Connecting Homeowners to Local Government Resources
- Post contact numbers and program information on the community’s website.
- Follow local government offices’ social media channels and share posts about upcoming events on the community’s social media channels or mobile app.
- Include city event, program, and contact information in your newsletter.
- Encourage homeowners to attend city- or county-wide National Night Out events every year.
- Invite the police, fire department and a rep from the city to your annual meeting to give a briefing. Tell homeowners that they’ll be in attendance and available for questions.
Knowing about these opportunities to partner with local government is so important because by taking advantage of them, your board doesn’t have to recreate the wheel. You and your homeowners are paying the taxes that make them possible, so it makes sense for everyone in your community to take advantage of them.
Wendy has taught classes about working with local governments at the national, state and local level. If you have any questions about this topic, feel free to reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 949-465-2270.
About the Author
Wendy has served Associa PCM for more than 23 years. She has been a member of the Community Association Institute (CAI) since 2005, serving as the Orange County chapter president in 2009. Bucknum earned the prestigious Professional Community Association Manager (PCAM®) national designation from the CAI as well as the organization’s national Governmental Affairs Award in 2011. In 2016 she received the May Russell Hall of Fame Award, Orange County CAI Chapter’s top honor.More Content by Wendy Bucknum