Maine Alliance for Road Associations
Our Association (17 members) has been in operation for approximately 10 years. The members of the Board for the most part have served several or all of those years. We have reached a point where a majority of the Board members have sold their property or are not planning to offer their names for nomination for the next fiscal year, including myself. I have been involved in creating the Association and its operations from the beginning. In addition to serving as President the past two years, I have carried out the duties of the Treasurer, as no member was willing to accept the position. The Board is polling the membership to determine if members are willing to serve in order to maintain the Association. The issue is that some members don't want to do the work necessary to maintain the Association as required by the statute and bylaws but do not want to vote to dissolve the Association. They are content just paying the assessment with others doing the work. Some would prefer an informal association. If the Association were dissolved, maintenance of the main section of the road would revert to a non-profit corporation road association, which has suspended its road maintenance responsibilities and transferred them to the statutory association, per the advice of the attorney we consulted in forming the Association. The other section of the road is the responsibility of the two owners of the land the road crosses. We have been able to maintain low assessments because the maintenance activities, including plowing, has been done by member volunteers who have also provided the necessary equipment. That situation is changing as the majority of those members are or will no longer be part of the Association.
In the event we do not receive a majority of votes to dissolve the statutory association but members are not willing to serve on the Board and comply with the statutory obligations, are there options to dissolving the Association and is there guidance for this type of situation?
What you have written causes me to be sad with the similar mixture of anger and fear I have for the survival of our democracy in these unsettling times.
If I were your neighbor, I would be very grateful to you and the board for 10 years of service. I sincerely hope you have good results in polling the owners. Some owner education might also be in order regarding the consequences of not stepping up. If all efforts fail to produce candidates for commissioner or board or for offices provided for in your by-laws, then, were I in your position as president, I would pursue dissolution of your statutory association. I am not an attorney, but to do nothing might be seen as neglect of your authorized statutory duties and subject you to legal action by aggrieved owners. I doubt any suit of this nature would meet with success unless your by-laws so state as I do not see anything in the Statute that requires you to perform your duties. I suggest you run this by a knowledgeable attorney.
Dissolution, according to Statute, §3101(4-A), requires a majority vote of the owners. I would call a meeting in the usual manner with 30 days notice to all owners at addresses of record in the town tax office, allowing both in-person and absentee voting, and put "Dissolution" before the membership for a vote. A quorum is not necessary. Disinterested owners might abstain. Those voting in-person or by written proxy or absentee ballot would determine the outcome.
If a majority of those voting failed to approve dissolution, the association would survive. If those in favor of maintaining the association failed to step up and do the work necessary to run the association then the association (and your private road) would die from inattention --not a pretty picture. Eventually, if things got bad enough, leadership would probably emerge to decide on a course of action.
I know of no other means to dissolve your road association. I would be interested in others' views.
I think the answer above pretty much nails it. Our road association went through a similar upheaval in 2010 - 2012, but things worked themselves out eventually. What happened with us was that there had been a non-profit road association that went through essentially what your association is going through now.
Those who had served for a number of years with few signs of appreciation from the rest of the members eventually burned out and quit, one after another. Only about 1/3 of the members paid their dues. Our daughter had recently moved in, and my husband and I had not yet bought our property there. One day the President swung by my daughter's house and dropped off the files and said, "I'm moving out of state. You'll make a great president."
The following year they were unable to raise enough funds to pay the plow contractor, and word quickly got around so no contractor would bid on the job. One of the members agreed to plow the following winter, and a few of the members paid their dues a year in advance to get him paid. But it was obvious things could not continue that way.
In 2012 we voted to scrap the non-profit association and start over as a statutory association. We now have almost everyone paid in full! But we also struggle with finding people who are willing to take on the administrative duties, and burnout is on the horizon for some of those who have served for several years.
Perhaps if you share this story with your members and point out the possible consequences of having no road association, someone will step up to fill the gap. Also, if some of your members are moving out, maybe you'll get some new blood in.
One thing I would recommend is to find some way for the members to express appreciation for those who serve. And try to make meetings fun. Have a potluck or hand out door prizes or funny awards. One of the things that killed our original non-profit association was that annual meeting always turned into a blame fest, with everyone yelling at each other. After a couple of years of that, hardly anyone would show up.
Also, try to bring new people on board in an apprentice role. That way they can ease the burden on the officers by taking on some of the responsibilities, while at the same time learning the ropes.
I like your reply, Roberta. Your experience with leadership burn-out and recovery was very interesting. Great!
The Maine Alliance for Road Associations