Community Operations During COVID-19 Pandemic

Dear Valued Homeowners:
As you know, recent events have disrupted virtually all of our daily routines, work lives, social interactions and even our homes and communities. Like you, Harmony Management Group is concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it may have on all of us. Obviously, our utmost concern is with the health and safety of all of our homeowners, board members and our employees. That said, we also understand that our responsibilities to your community do not simply stand still and wait for things to resolve on their own. To that end, we want you all to know that we will continue to do everything in our power to continue to serve the needs of your communities while also balancing our concerns for the health and safety of everyone with whom we come into contact. Our commitment to providing outstanding professional management services is unwavering.

With that commitment in mind, and given the current circumstances, we are changing our staffing model to allow telecommuting by all our staff. We have temporarily closed our office and have suspended all onsite management services and have asked our employees to limit their contact with others to the extent possible. In addition, all telephone calls will automatically be transferred directly to your respective community manager. If the manager is not available, the call will be transferred to your manager’s administrative support team. Finally, our managers will only be attending meetings via telephone or video conferencing until further notice. We also encourage our board members and homeowners to participate in the same manner. Finally, we encourage postponing or canceling all in-person meetings and social events until further notice. We hope that these guidelines will serve the dual purpose of supporting the need for social distancing in our communities while also ensuring that our employees will be able to continue to serve the needs of your communities.

For the vast majority of our communities and homeowners, you will not notice any interruption in services. Our company is already set up to be able to efficiently operate remotely and our staff is well-trained in using the tools we have implemented to allow them to continue to work. Having said that, some degree of interruption to the normal rhythm of business is to be expected. We appreciate your understanding and patience as we navigate the rapid changes to our employees’ working conditions and personal lives.

We will continue to keep our communities informed of any changes to existing policies and practices, whether through government direction or internal decision-making. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please reach out to your community manager or directly to me. We extend our best wishes to you and your family to remain healthy, happy and calm.

With much appreciation,
Michelle Lee
Harmony Management Group, Inc.

Download the PDF letter here

Snow Removal Operations and Protocol

Community Association Boards contract with snow removal service contractors to provide services on common elements. The Management Company oversees the contract- they do not provide the snow removal services.
Here are some general guidelines of what to expect:

  • SIDEWALKS: These areas will receive service as contracted, usually at 2” depth snow. Usually hand-shoveled.
  • DRIVES / PARKING LOTS: These areas will receive service as contracted, usually at 4” depth snow. Usually plowed.
  • COMMON ELEMENTS: Parks, Courtyards etc. These areas will receive service as contracted, usually at 2” depth snow. Usually ATV/plowed.
  • MAJOR ROADWAYS: Main thoroughfare streets are usually plowed by the City/County. This will vary from HOA to HOA community.
  • BROKEN TREE BRANCHES & UP-ROOTED TREES: If these conditions exist there may be power outages and blocked drives. Efforts will be taken as quickly as possible to mitigate these situations. ALL VENDORS WILL BE BUSY AND DISPATCHED ASAP, including Xcel energy when power lines are compromised.
  • TRASH REMOVAL: Will likely be delayed, albeit private or city provided service.
  • MAPS: Snow shoveling, plowing, snow storage (where it needs to go when plowed) and ice-melt application maps are provided to the contractors to clarify for each community they serve.

Policy Examples

If you live in a Stapleton Sub-Association, here are the MCA Master Community Association Snow Policies for reference:

The “Big Storm”

Unfortunately, snowplow vendors cannot “ramp up” with a big crew each winter since they may or may not even see any snow work. When a big storm hits, they work all night and day to get things taken care of and pull in labor where ever they can find it.

If the entire city is shut down by this storm – it was virtually impossible to keep up. Even if they had a plow and shovelers specifically assigned to one property all day, they would not be able to stay ahead of blizzard conditions. When a storm breaks most crews move into 12 ON 12 OFF shifts. If I70 and I25 are closed, because CDOT cannot keep open, and the entire city is told not to go out, it is reasonable to assume that HOA Plow crews will have trouble keeping up as well.

The city of Denver requires homeowners to have sidewalks cleared within 24 hour of the end of a storm as well leaving residents a reasonable amount of time to dig out. Depth of snow, timing of a storm, and water content are all contributing factors.

Communicating and Getting Updates

The fastest, most effective way HOA’s communicate to their membership is by E-Blast. Snow removal updates are provided as quickly as possible, please be patient. Calls to management company to check status will likely delay the overall process. Be sure you have updated your most recent email address with your HOA Management Company, to ensure you receive the e-blasts and are updated!

Managing Snow Removal Expectations

Helping to Create Reasonable Expectations Towards Snow Removal Services

Education is an imperative part of all of our jobs, as is creating the right expectations of our clients, and of our teams. So what better way to serve as a resource than to educate those to whom we are responsible to on the topics of what is reasonable to expect, why certain items are a greater challenge than others, and how landscape and snow removal contractors are structured / operate to help create a more harmonized view of how to achieve mutual success.

Like all companies, Landscape and Snow Removal Contractors are predicated on making the most efficient use of their resources, and achieving the greatest amount of productivity. This means making sure employees and equipment are actively working vs. not. In industries where labor is already a problem (unfortunately those willing to work hard at manual labor jobs are a scarce commodity), employees need to be kept continually busy, aka maximizing productivity. Having too many employees, or not enough work, means low productivity, and less profit. Too few employees and the work can’t all be done in a timely manner. And with the pay scale for landscape / snow removal employees already on the low side, employees who are not getting enough hours to make ends meet, will quickly look for employment elsewhere. Unlike our beloved Denver Broncos, where such a high value is placed on players by fans and viewers, service companies can’t pay employees high salaries for them to “sit on the sidelines” in case they are needed. Doing so, and paying employees to be available only when a job is needed, would mean higher costs to the contractor, which would then be transferred on to the customer. In order to control those costs and offer pricing that is more affordable, it is imperative to be as efficient / productive with our labor as possible.

One of the greatest opportunities for expectations to be misaligned between Client and contractor are in regards to snow removal services. Snow events are the ultimate in volatility. The best defense for this uncertainty is a well-constructed preparation and response plan when snow conditions dictate the need for service.

Snow removal companies have to plan based on what they can get done in a timely, efficient manner based on average or “typical” accumulations / conditions. Again, they need to be supremely efficient, and allocate staff and time for completing work based on what is most likely to happen; most often between 2-8” of accumulation. Similar to the efficiency goals for landscape, productivity goals for snow removal involve maintaining the balance between too much and not enough resources, and completing work in a reasonable amount of time.

Employees paid on an hourly basis need to maximize the amount of time they work during each snow event. Having too many employees means that during a snow event of 2”, those employees will get very few hours. With multiple occurrences of this scenario, the employees will look for other employment. One might think the solution is to simply give them more jobs. However, this approach would compromise the timeliness of service, leaving customers unhappy, and potentially introducing great risk and liability.

The primary disconnect for snow removal, often involves the expectation, that a 4-6” snow event will be serviced following the same timeline as a 20” blizzard. What this means then, is for larger storms like we had this past year, contractors are trying to get more done with the same resources as what they have allocated / available to service properties when there is 8” of snow. It simply isn’t possible to meet the same timelines, just as it isn’t possible to “manufacture” more employees and more equipment. And going back to the football analogy, it is difficult to keep “backups”, as employees who aren’t getting called to plow or shovel snow right away and are watching their counterparts tally more hours and more money, will simply go elsewhere where they can get the hours they need / want to make the money they need / want.

Consider also, the contractual obligations involved, and the protection against liability, which create yet another opportunity for expectations to be misaligned. The responsibility falls upon the contractor to manage snow services so as to mitigate liability, while also controlling costs. Typically the 2 are conversely related; in order to reduce potential liability, more services are needed equating to a higher cost. Mistakes and problems most often happen when Clients place too much priority on cost savings, and compromise their protection against liability. This is often why a contractor will refer back to their contract. While wanting to maintain their relationship, they will follow the contract (if at odds with the desires / direction of the Client) to protect the contractor from liability.

The goal in providing this information is to facilitate a greater understanding and appreciate of the abilities and limitations of snow removal contractors. Once this understanding is achieved, there is a greater opportunity to partner together to develop and execute a game plan that meets the mutual goals of the client and contractor.

Disaster Planning – Are you ready?

Fire! Hurricane! Earthquake! Frightening occurrences for any homeowner, these natural disasters are an even greater threat to clustered, attached, and stacked homes in a community association.

Most association documents—and many state statutes—direct associations to operate for the “health, safety, comfort, and general welfare” of the members. Preparing for natural disasters cannot be overlooked in meeting this operating standard. Yet too often, managers and boards do not make plans or preparations to protect life and property in the face of a natural disaster. Understandably they expect that municipal services and civil agencies will respond to the community’s needs during a disaster; however, this isn’t always the case. The U.S. Citizen’s Corp, a program under the aegis of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has stated that,

Following a major disaster, first responders who provide fire and medical services will not be able to meet the demand for these services. Factors such as number of victims, communication failures, and road blockages will prevent people from accessing emergency services they have come to expect at a moment’s notice through 911. People will have to rely on each other for help in order to meet their immediate lifesaving and life sustaining needs.

If we can predict that emergency services will not meet immediate needs following a major disaster, especially if there is no warning as in an earthquake…what can government do to prepare citizens for this eventuality?

The same question should be asked by community association leaders: “What can community associations do to prepare residents for this eventuality?” The Citizen’s Corp goes on to answer the question with a direct four-step approach that provides a model for community associations:

First, present citizens the facts about what to expect following a major disaster in terms of immediate services. Second, give the message about their responsibility for mitigation and preparedness. Third, train them in needed life saving skills with emphasis on decision making skills, rescuer safety, and doing the greatest good for the greatest number. Fourth, organize teams so that they are an extension of first responder services offering immediate help to victims until professional services arrive.

To achieve some or all of these goals, the association’s manager and board must initiate a
preparedness project, work closely with residents to analyze the association’s needs, develop a
workable plan, and familiarize all residents with its execution. And they must do it now. Natural disasters create chaos and stress—conditions in which people who are unprepared cannot function effectively. Therefore, association leaders and managers must develop disaster plans and put them in place before they’re needed so that they are able to cope with the situation during and after a disaster.

This guide addresses natural disasters and catastrophes resulting from mechanical breakdown or equipment failure. Homeland security, terrorism, acts of war, and other similar crises are beyond the scope of this guide; however, additional information on these topics can be found online at www.ready.gov.

Key Points for planning:

  • Community associations must prepare for disasters in advance by developing comprehensive plans based on their exposure to various perils and the nature of the community.
  • Associations must communicate extensively with residents and members about their disaster plans, involve them in preparations, and facilitate their implementation.
  • Successful disaster planning includes anticipating the financial ramifications of each type of disaster and being prepared to meet all costs. This involves a thorough examination of insurance coverage and requirements and establishing a contingency fund for all needs not covered by insurance.
  • Working effectively with association members, residents, management employees, and contractors before, during, and after a peril is essential to developing a workable natural disaster plan, preparing the community for a natural disaster, and restoring the community after the peril has ended.
  • Associations can minimize damage and facilitate recovery by taking practical steps to secure physical assets, inform residents, and proactively prepare for all perils in advance.

The Community Can Can charity event was a huge success!

Harmony Management has joined the 4th Annual Hindman Sanchez Community Can Can. This food drive raised over 18,000 pounds of food last year. The competition was a two part event, first part is to collect the most canned goods and we hope to make a major contribution with at least 500 cans. The second part was a creative challenge to build the coolest structure out of the cans collected. This is an actual competition amongst different community management companies from across the Denver area

Thank you to all who helped in our quest to collect. This was Harmony Management Group’s inaugural attempt to win the competition, unfortunately, we didn’t take the cake…

The day was not a loss by any means and many lessons were learned. We found that Lamas and Alpacas do not like the ears touched but goats love it! We witnessed firsthand what the community can do when it teams up, great contributions can be made and lives are truly affected.

Finally, we learned that no matter how stiff the competition, all differences can be mended with the simple joy of working for something bigger than ourselves (and a couple of people in drag always helps!).

Thanks again to all who helped us in our quest to collect and compete. The real winners are those who received an abundant amount of food from this great charity event.

Denver water restrictions go into effect

Summer 2013 Stage 1 Drought Water Restrictions

waterAs of June 26, 2013 Denver has been moved into Stage 1 Drought and is officially out of the Stage 2.  Thanks to the unexpectedly wet spring and reduced water use by citizens, this means Denver Water has expanded the watering schedule to permit watering three (3) times per week. In May 2013, the Denver Water Board delayed implementation of drought pricing due to the then improved conditions. The recent Stage 1 Drought declaration removes drought pricing entirely.  The last time the utility declared a Stage 1 drought was in 2012. Even though the fierce extremes of the drought are past us, there are plenty of tips and guidelines to ensure water tables don’t drop to frightful lows.

In response to the Stage 1 drought declaration, Denver Water is asking its customers to reduce outdoor watering and to follow the standard annual watering rules:

  • Water no more than three days per week (there are no assigned days).
  • Do not water lawns between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Do not waste water by allowing it to pool in gutters, streets and alleys.
  • Do not waste water by letting it spray on concrete and asphalt.
  • Repair leaking sprinkler systems within 10 days.
  • Do not water while it is raining or during high winds.

To help save water, Denver Water asks customers to pay close attention to the weather and their landscapes and only water when necessary. Other tips:

  • Use a day of rain to skip watering.
  • Only water the areas of your yard that are dry. For example, if shady areas   look fine, only water the dry areas that get the most sun exposure.
  • Water two minutes less.

If you notice broken sprinkler heads or equipment in the courtyards please report it to Harmony Management so that we can have it repaired ASAP.


Pruning Young Trees

Proper pruning is essential in developing a tree with a strong structure and desirable form. Trees that receive the appropriate pruning measures while they are young will require little corrective pruning when they mature.

This brochure is one in a series published by the International Society of Arboriculture as part of its Consumer Information Program.

Keep these few simple principles in mind before pruning a tree:

  • Each cut has the potential to change the growth of the tree. Always have a purpose in mind before making a cut.
  • Proper technique is essential. Poor pruning can cause damage that lasts for the life of the tree. Learn where and how to make the cuts before picking up the pruning shears.
  • Trees do not heal the way people do. When a tree is wounded, it must grow over and compartmentalize the wound. As a result, the wound is contained within the tree forever.
  • Small cuts do less damage to the tree than large cuts. For that reason, proper pruning (training) of young trees is critical. Waiting to prune a tree until it is mature can create the need for large cuts that the tree cannot easily close.

Making the Cut

Where you make a pruning cut is critical to a tree’s response in growth and wound closure. Make pruning cuts just outside the branch collar. Because the branch collar contains trunk or parent branch tissues, the tree will be damaged unnecessarily if you remove or damage it. In fact, if the cut is large, the tree may suffer permanent internal decay from an improper pruning cut.

If a permanent branch is to be shortened, cut it back to a lateral branch or bud. Internodal cuts, or cuts made between buds or branches, may lead to stem decay, sprout production,
and misdirected growth.

Pruning Tools

When pruning trees, it is important to have the right tool for the job. For small trees, most of the cuts can be made with hand pruning shears (secateurs). The scissor-type, or bypass blade hand pruners, are preferred over the anvil type. They make cleaner, more accurate cuts. Cuts larger than one-half inch in diameter should be made with lopping shears or a pruning saw.

Never use hedge shears to prune a tree. Whatever tool you use, make sure it is kept clean and sharp.

Establishing a Strong Scaffold Structure

A good structure of primary scaffold branches should be established while the tree is young. The scaffold branches provide the framework of the mature tree. Properly trained young trees will develop a strong structure that requires less corrective pruning as they mature.

The goal in training young trees is to establish a strong trunk with sturdy, well-spaced branches. The strength of the branch structure depends on the relative sizes of the branches, the branch angles, and the spacing of the limbs. Naturally, those factors vary with the growth
habit of the tree. Pin oaks and sweetgums, for example, have a conical shape with a central leader. Elms and live oaks are often wide-spreading without a central leader. Other trees, such as lindens and Bradford pears, are densely branched. Good pruning techniques remove structurally weak branches while maintaining the natural form of the tree.

Trunk Development

For most young trees, maintain a single dominant leader growing upward. Do not prune back the tip of this leader. Do not allow secondary branches to outgrow the leader. Sometimes a tree will develop double leaders known as co-dominant stems. Co-dominant stems can lead to structural weaknesses, so it is best to remove one of the stems while the tree is young.

The lateral branches growing on the sides contribute to the development of a sturdy well-tapered trunk. It is important to leave some of these lateral branches in place, even though they
may be pruned out later. These branches, known as temporary branches, also help protect the trunk from sun and mechanical injury. Temporary branches should be kept short enough not to be an obstruction or compete with selected permanent branches.

Permanent Branch Selection

Nursery trees often have low branches that may make the tree appear well-proportioned when young, but low branches are seldom appropriate for large growing trees in an urban environment. How a young tree is trained depends on its primary function in the landscape. For example, street trees must be pruned so that they allow at least 16 feet of clearance for traffic. Most landscape trees require only about 8 feet of clearance.

The height of the lowest permanent branch is determined by the tree’s intended function and
location in the landscape. Trees that are used to screen an unsightly view or provide a wind break may be allowed to branch low to the ground. Most large-growing trees in the landscape must eventually be pruned to allow head clearance.

The spacing of branches, both vertically and radially, in the tree is very important. Branches
selected as permanent scaffold branches must be well-spaced along the trunk. Maintain radial
balance with branches growing outward in each direction. A good rule of thumb for the vertical spacing of permanent branches is to maintain a distance equal to 3 percent of the tree’s eventual height. Thus, a tree that will be 50 feet tall should have permanent scaffold branches spaced about 18 inches apart along the trunk.

Avoid allowing two scaffold branches to arise one above the other on the same side of the tree. Some trees have a tendency to develop branches with narrow angles of attachment and tight crotches. As the tree grows, bark can become enclosed deep within the crotch between the branch and the trunk. Such growth is called included bark. Included bark weakens the attachment of the branch to the trunk and can lead to branch failure when the tree matures. You should prune branches with weak attachments while they are young.

Avoid overthinning the interior of the tree. The leaves of each branch must manufacture enough food to keep that branch alive and growing. In addition, each branch must contribute food to grow and feed the trunk and roots. Removal of too many leaves can “starve” the tree, reduce growth, and make the tree unhealthy. A good rule of thumb is to maintain at least half the foliage on branches arising in the lower two-thirds of the tree.

Newly Planted Trees

Pruning of newly planted trees should be limited to corrective pruning. Remove torn or broken
branches, and save other pruning measures for the second or third year.

The belief that trees should be pruned when planted to compensate for root loss is misguided.
Trees need their leaves and shoot tips to provide food and the substances that stimulate new root production. Unpruned trees establish faster with a stronger root system than trees pruned at the time of planting.

Wound Dressings

Wound dressings were once thought to accelerate wound closure, protect against insects and
diseases, and reduce decay.

However, research has shown that dressings do not reduce decay or speed closure and rarely
prevent insect or disease infestations. Most experts recommend that wound dressing not be used. If a dressing must be used for cosmetic purposes, use a thin coating of a material that is not toxic to the plant.

Community Operations During COVID-19 Pandemic