Monday, February 4, 2013

Secretary's report on the activities of the last year

Property Tax
Repeated attempts made by our Jt. Secretary Venkat R to sort out the issue with the Panchayat were futile since Sholinganallur was in the process of shifting from being a Panchayat to a part of 'Greater Chennai'. We finally got in touch with the surveyor thanks to a lead from committee member Shekar Subramanian’s friend. The assessment and official process were completed in early 2012 and subsequently some of the owners/members have paid their taxes. Hope the others will also finish their process soon. We have been informed by the corporation that those who do not pay the property tax before 31st march 2013 will have to face disconnection of their electricity connection from TNEB.

If all the flats pay the property tax we are likely to get streetlights and metro water connection. We request all of you to complete the process soon so that we can avail of the same. Suresh Ganesan is working on the documentation of this.

Rainwater Harvesting
As an off-shoot of the property tax inspection there was an inspection from metro-water officials of our rain water harvesting system. Subsequently we have had to clean and repair our rain-water harvesting system. The original recharge chambers built by the builder were found to have been clogged with debris and garbage dumped by them when they vacated the premises. We invited noted environmentalist Sekar Raghavan to take a look at our system and make modifications so that we comply with the authorities and also help save the environment at the same time. Preliminary work has been completed and we hope to have the process completed before the next rains. Hopefully, as we reapeatedly recharge the ground water table we can use this water in a couple of years.

Water on the road
Every monsoon, or even for every small rain, the entire road from Mondrian right upto the gates of Wipro are flooded. Along with the other associations on our street we have taken up the issue with the corporates who are also letting out their rain water onto the road. The process of repairing their rainwater systems is underway. We have also had several meetings with the local corporation authorities and they have promised to take action if we give them an idea how to solve the problem! They seem to be clueless on how to solve the problem. We have sat down and  worked out a detailed water channel plan - the same has be submitted to the authorities. Hopefully it will be in place before the next monsoon.

Parking on the road
Indiscriminate parking of busses and trucks on our narrow road has been causing a lot of problems in the smooth flow of traffic. We have taken up the issue with the IT companies in the neighborhood and they have promised to look into it. We hope to find closure on this soon. if you notice any busses parked on the road, pl. take a photograph and send it to

In August 2011 we have engaged Eagle Security Services to look after the security at Sabari Terrace. Their performance has been much better than the earlier service provider but there are still areas for improvement. We are looking for someone to take up the full time responsibility of handling all matters related to Security.

Repairs and modifications
The main driveway, the paving around the gate/STP area and some other places needed some urgent attention. All repairs were carried out in the last quarter of 2011. This ensured that the area near the main gate did not hold water in the rains and thus avoided mosquitoes to a great extent. Similarly the compound walls and some other areas have been white-washed last year. This year we have an estimate for the painting on the lift/staircase lobbies - to be undertaken soon.

Vishranthi-Sabari finally sent us the equipment for the gym in January 2012. STAOA's Gym committee, consisting of myself, Amit JainSuresh Ganesan and Anand Kannan went about and finalized the purchase of all the other requirements like Air conditioners, fans, mirrors etc. The maintenance and supervision of the exercises at the gym are under the expert watch of Dr. Arun Kumar a noted physiotherapist, and his team. He is the personal trainer for a host of celebrities, including industrialists and cricket stars. The gym is now fully functional. We encourage more members to use the facilities.

Gym Roof
During the monsoon of 2012 and the subsequent effects of the cyclone Neelam in sept-oct 2012 we found that the roof of the gym was leaking in several places. Ultimately one day the tiled roof collapsed in some parts. The committee decided to replace the roof with a good quality metal sheet and the work was taken up on a war footing and completed in record time.

A new gardener and a supervisor were engaged in february 2012 and has in the last one year transformed the entire place into a nice green field. The flowers - red, orange, yellow and white - compete with each other to grab your attention - not to mention the 1000 lillies on the entire south wall that are in full bloom every so often. Prabha Koda has volunteered to take charge of all the gardening related matters. The 'side-effect' of having a good gardener is the new compost bins.

Compost bins - Solid Waste Management
We have been looking for an eco-friendly method to segregate our garbage and avoid it being dumped in the municipal trucks - which ultimately end up in the Pallikarnai land fill.. Once we had a proper gardener in early 2012 we invited noted environmentalist Dr. Sultan Ismail to come and suggest what we should do. He has guided us on the waste management and we have made a start with the garden wastes. We currently compost and process 100% of our garden wastes and we hope to include domestic kitchen wastes too soon in a phased manner.

New Manager
There have been a lot of changes in the last year. Our manager Srinivasan quit in pursuit of a Govt. job as an art teacher at a school in his hometown in March 2012. In May we appointed Vaidyanathan (a retired army man) for the post but the demands of the work at Sabari Terrace were too much for him and he quit in a couple of months. Finally since September 2012 a young man, Prakash has joined us as Manager. He has adapted to our requirements and is now able to handle most of the day to day issues. He is proficient in using the computer for email, spreadsheets and has been handling most of the phone calls and sms with our vendors. He can be reached on 4320-1002 or 98404-84043

Developmental work
  • As part of an ongoing process we have installed a network of PVC pipes to collect the water from all the A/C outlets. This has gone a long way in avoiding the water splashing on the walls and causing the green moss from growing. 
  • To aid in the process we have acquired a high quality 'fireman's ladder' that can be used in three different parts or joined together to reach the 4th floor! 
  • A new store room was constructed in the 4th block. This room has neatly placed shelves that are used by the various departments - house-keeping, garden, plumbing and electrical. 
  • We have also invested in some fire fighting equipment from Ceasefire - units are located in every block on the ground floor and near the Genset.
  • Pest control - cockroach treatment has been completed and the rodent treatment will start soon. Hopefully this will also stop the snake menace.
  • We noticed that while the children play in the park and the north-corridor the mothers and grandparents were finding it difficult to stand for long periods of time. Also, because it was not safe to sit on the small stone hedge we have invested in some stone benches. This has been well received by one and all.
AMCs and licenses
All the required AMCs and licenses (Genset, Lift etc.) have been updated and renewed in consultation with committee members who have expertise in the respective fields.

Paying Guests and Service Apartments
The unending woes of residents because of the PG facilities located here is taking up a lot of energy and time of the committee. You might recall the raid by the TNEB on power theft in february 2012. Everyday finds us fighting with the staff of these PG operators in getting them to be hygienic - constant dumping of garbage outside the designated bins and spitting on the walls. PG occupation has even become a health and safety hazard in Sabari Terrace!  A lot of the sub-tenant residents are seen to be causing damage to the common areas and that has resulted in us having to invest in some CCTV cameras with recording facility at strategic locations all over the premises. This has helped a lot as we have been able to catch people in the act and they have been warned. A second offense will see them being handed over to the authorities. Our present problem is that these PGs are also 'over-loading' the powerlines with faulty electronic/electrical equipment and this is causing the entire block to trip. The PG operators are also using industrial grade fuses and circuit breakers which is causing the power cables to overheat and melt - creating the right environment for a major fire disaster. We have informed the owners of these apartments but a lot of them have not taken any action. In the interest of safety we have disconnected some of the high power lines of these apartments till the errors are corrected.
New housekeeping team
After repeated attempts to get proper service from Standard Infra it was decided to terminate their services and engage a new team of our own. Sabari Terrace now has directly employed four housekeeping maids and a supervisor. We also have our in-house plumber/electrician and STP operators. Meena Suresh has volunteered to handle all aspects of the housekeeping. We must put on record that this has made a huge difference as there is a dedicated person taking care of this aspect.

Kudos to the new team
The new team is working so well thanks to a lot of encouragement and empowerment from the committee. They have taken ownership of the problems and have shown on many occasions that they can come up with effective solutions to problems.  Two instances come to mind - the first when the entire city was reeling under a diesel shortage for a week and major offices and appartment complexes had shut down their gensets for lack of supply - our staff took it upon themselves to call all the fuel stations in the neighborhood at regular intervals and ensure that Sabari Terrace was never without power. Another incident was during the Neelam cyclone when the entire city was plunged into darkness for 48-72 hrs we were all powerful - not a single minute of powercut!

STP water
A major bugbear for all of us residents has been the smell of the water in the toilets. Primarily the bacteria process employed in our STP Plant is not able to break down the chemical cleaners used by us (Sabeena, Vim, surf etc.) and this results in the pungent smell.  After experimenting, testing and analyzing 6 different solutions we have finally found the right solution in a brand called Proklean. For the last 8 months we have had pleasent toilets! This has considerably reduced the smell and improved the clarity of the water. We hope that this process will hold good for us. Ironically, all the people who took time every day to complain about the smell, to the staff and committee members, did not take a moment to thank us when the solution was found!!

BSNL phone-intercom
After following up with BSNL for over 6 months they have finally activated the 3 (incoming/epabx) phone lines that are due to the association. Those having BSNL lines at Sabari Terrace can make a toll-free call to security, housekeeping and assn. office using the last 4 digits. Others can dial the same using the full phone 8/10 digit number.
  • Security Room - 8861 (44-2450-8861)
  • Office / STP     - 8862 (44-2450-8862)
  • Housekeeping  - 8863 (44-2450-8863)
Minutes of the meeting held at Sabari Terrace on Sun, 27 Jan 2013
After the Secretary's report the following matters were discussed and decisions taken. 

Perennial PG problems
Aside from the problems mentioned by the Secretary in his report some more issues were discussed - like using the parking lot as a storeroom for gas cylinders, water cans, to constant repair/ maintenance of common amenities like lift doors, walls, drain pipes, sewage blocks, from proper usage / maintenance of security phones in individual apartments, to electrical wiring/ tripping issues. The number of water and sewage loads have also exponentialy increased as they PGs are now housing 10-12 persons per apartment. The earlier estimate of about 6 adults per apartment seems to be no longer relevant. It has been decided to review the maintenance/water amounts collected for these apartments and implement a revised rate ASAP.

Property Tax
Out of 56 apartments, only 25 have completed their property tax registration and payment. If the remaining 31 apartments do not complete this immediately, then we will have issues getting our Metrowater connection and also street lights... not to mention the penal action from the corporation and TNEB. P K Anand Kumar has agreed to follow up with the owners and have the process expedited.

Service Tax & Audit
As per central govt. orders all apartment associations have to pay service tax from June 2012. However there are some aspects that need to be clarified on this. The treasurer is working on engaging the services of an auditor to start the process. The committee has also decided to immediately consult Mr Narasimhan, referred by Ravi Alfred, and get the accounts audited

Electricity trip/ fuse/ wiring / water leakage
Periodic monitoring of the electrical wiring, fuses, etc. in individual apartments is needed - especially in the commercial flats (PG/SA). It has been decided that no outside electricians and plumbers will be allowed to work in the premises as a lot of irregularities and violations have been noticed, especially in the PG/SA flats. This has caused the fuses to overheat at burnt cables in some cases.

Binoy Kumar has agreed to assist and supervise the process of taking our electrician to do a periodic audit. The flats which have issues to be notified to rectify it immediately failing which our designated electrician/pumber will fix the issue and charge them for materials and labour.

Individual flats security phones AMC
Just as the contracts for annual maintenance have been signed for generator, lifts, etc.,  AMC needs to be drawn up for the security phones in the individual flats. The firm 'Origin Securities' have given a quote of around Rs. 55000 p.a for this. Treasurer Srinivas to negotiate the terms to a quarterly payment and monthly visit/ checkup and finalize the AMC.

Extension of the gym/ clubhouse
To seriously look into the possibility of extending the gym/ clubhouse area to include a few things like table tennis, projector/ TV for weekend movie-screening for residents and/or a pool table. Krithika Anand has agreed to do a feasibility study on this, especially with respect to CMDA regulations. V Balaji who is into construction has also offered to help.

Activities planned for the immediate future
1. Increase the number of security cameras in the common areas ... 12-channel from 8-channel... to monitor more areas.
2. To install metal nets in the South walls of the apartment complex to combat pigeon menace.
3. Painting of the interiors - the staircase area.

A Team Effort
The Association has been able to run things in an efficient and effective manner largely due to the co-operation of a few of its residents who have taken charge of the day-to-day running of a particular department like maintenance or garden. There are many more such areas which need the help of its residents.
The immediate need is in the Security department - to put a system in place and monitor that it runs well on a daily basis. P K Anand Kumar & Binoy have come forward to take this up and do it.

Cooperation from all
Even after many initiatives are implemented and several steps are taken towards improving safety, hygiene and the overall quality of living in Sabari Terrace, it requires the co-operation of not just a few but ALL the apartments.
Negligently forcing something like atta/paint/food wastes down the drain blocks the sewage line of an entire block; throwing a cigarette butt casually on a gas cylinder in a parking lot has hazardous implications to the entire complex... and several such things.

Penalties for problems
While the association wastes a lot of time, energy and effort setting right all these, damage control is not a solution. To discourage such things from happening in the first place, it was decided that if any such sub-standard procedures were being followed and noticed which could cause a health, safety or  hazard, the residents/ tenants would be asked to correct things immediately, failing which the association's staff would be employed to set things right (like maybe cleaning the food spills inside the lift, or paint a portion of a common wall stained with paan marks) and the apartment will be responsible to bear the charges arising due to this, payable immediately in cash. 

It was agreed that the next AGM should be scheduled for April 2013. A more detailed mail on dates, agenda etc. will follow nearer the date. 

Phew! That was a lot of things to cover in one mail... if I have missed out something please let me know and I will send another mail soon. :)

Looking forward to hearing from you and seeing you at the next meeting.

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