In October, there was a fuel spill (#6 fuel) in our building following a routine delivery. Even though the fumes seemed unusually bad, I didn't think too much of it at first because it's always obvious when a delivery has been made (and then the fumes quickly dissipate). But this time it was clear that something was amiss.
The fuel was delivered on a Thursday. The super was scheduled to leave on vacation later that day, but I saw him going into the boiler room late Friday evening, as I was leaving the laundry room; I assumed that if something was going on with the fuel tank he would know about it/be on top of it. In fact, I assumed that that was why he was going into the boiler room. Never assume.
The next day I started to feel sick: headache, nausea, etc. Talked to some other folks in the building who were also feeling sick. At least one person slept elsewhere for a few days. At that point I wasn't aware that a fuel spill had actually occurred; I'm no longer on the board, and the one board member I'm in regular contact with, the VP, was out of town. Which is unfortunate, because if he had been around after the fuel was delivered, he would have known that there was a problem and would have acted on it. It wasn't until he got back to the city the following Tuesday that the situation started being addressed/redressed.
A week after the spill, the BP put a notice in the elevator stating that there had been a fuel spill, but that no one had been able to do anything about it because the super was on vacation, and he is the only one with a key to the boiler room. So basically a full week passed before anyone got into the boiler room and started doing anything about anything.
When I was on the board, the boiler room key was discussed at virtually every board meeting. The VP and I both insisted that all board members should have a copy of, or at least access to, a key to the boiler room. As I've written previously, the BP, somehow, has created a situation where he is the only person who ever talks to anyone. He is the central hub through which all information passes (and gets distorted). So when the VP and I would suggest that the super should not be the only person to have a key to the boiler room, for practical and safety reasons, the BP would say: "Okay, I'll talk to the super." And then he would come back to us and say: "The super feels that by asking for a key to the boiler room, we are indicating that we don't trust him. He's very sensitive about stuff like that. I don't want the relationship with him to be difficult, so I'm not going to insist on the key issue." To which I responded: "Look, the boiler room is not the super's private property. This is a basic safety issue." Long story short, nothing was ever done and the super was the only person who ever had a key to the boiler room. And, we had a fuel spill and nothing was done about it for a full week. Go figure.
Eventually a crew came in to clean up the spill; during the cleanup the fumes got even worse. The BP slipped a notice under shareholders' doors stating: "Last week our fuel oil storage system failed. Apparently this system has operated for 40-some years past its useful life." Which sort of begs the question: why were we still using a system that was "40-some years past its useful life"?
This pains me especially because one thing I really hoped to accomplish while on the board was getting an energy audit for the building through NYSERDA. I was finding the process a bit daunting, frankly (and I admit I know almost nothing about boilers/fuel/fuel tanks, although I've been trying to educate myself), so last January I asked the managing agent if she could help with the application and get the ball rolling. She assured me that she was very familiar with NYSERDA and had helped other buildings get audits done. She seemed confident and I trusted her. Well, I kept asking for status reports and got evasive answers. She assured me that our application had been submitted. Finally I asked her point blank for a copy of the completed application for the board's records. She kept hemming and hawing despite repeated requests and I never did see a completed application. And then I stepped down from the board; I simply couldn't run again or stomach the thought of remaining on with the current BP. One of the biggest problems for me was that the BP and MA seem to have some sort of weird commitment to making sure that each stays in his and her respective position. It's impossible to get much done. The only things that seem to get done are what the BP and MA want done, and those things are fairly superficial.
So I have some questions (and gratitude for anyone who has had the patience to read this far):
1. Is it in the management company's purview to advise the buildings they manage on things like fuel tanks? The fuel tank has been removed from the boiler room and is now behind our building; it is completely rusted out! I imagine that even I, I who know nothing about fuel or fuel tanks, would have been startled if I had ever gotten into the boiler room and taken a look at that thing.
2. In his note to the shareholders, the BP states that "we are obtaining bids from companies for a new oil tank." Is it reasonable for me to expect that at last three sealed bids would be obtained and would be opened by the entire board, or at last a board majority? (In the past, the BP is the only one who has ever seen any bids from anyone; I have made some noise about this.)
3. I'm a bit concerned about the effects of the fuel spill on residents' health. I've been trying to do some research on it and it appears that a residential fuel spill over a certain amount, particularly if it goes unreported or unaddressed, can indeed have repercussions. One of the places I looked for information was the AG's site; it appears that in the event of a spill, a report needs to be filed and the spill needs to be assessed. I would like to find out how much fuel actually spilled. I don't expect an honest answer, or any answer frankly, to that question from the board. Is it on record anywhere and, if so, can I get access to that information?
4. A special shareholders' meeting has been announced by the board and is taking place tomorrow. I'm aware that at annual shareholders' meetings, minutes must be taken. Must minutes be taken at a special shareholders' meeting? I see nothing about that in the pl or bylaws. Is it reasonable for me to insist that minutes be taken? Is it legal for me to record the meeting?
Any feedback is appreciated, as always.
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