Posted on November 3, 2020 12:31 PM by Melissa Gentry
Categories: Homeowner Articles
One of winter’s great pleasures is relaxing in front of a warm, cozy fire. For most months of the year, however, the fireplace stands idle, and these long periods of disuse can lead to hazardous conditions when you light your first fire of the season.
Your fireplace needs regular care and cleaning to assure a safe and roaring fire. Creosote, a flammable, tar-like substance that accumulates in the firebox, chimney and flue, should be removed by a professional once a year, eliminating the worry of a potential fire hazard. Your chimney should also be inspected annually to ensure there are no structural problems.
Clean your fireplace and its accessories regularly to prevent the accumulation of soot, ashes and creosote tars. The following guidelines will help you keep your fireplace in good working order throughout the wood-burning season:
·       Vacuum or sweep the hearth weekly to prevent dust and soot buildup. Do not sweep or vacuum until all embers have been extinguished for at least 12 hours.
·       Burn only well-dried, seasoned wood to minimize dangerous creosote buildup and reduce the risk of toxic fumes and excessive smoke.
·       Don’t use water to drown a fire except in case of an emergency. Water will make a paste of the ashes, which is difficult to remove.
·       Don’t use an abrasive cleanser inside the fireplace; many such cleaners leave a flammable residue. Instead use a stiff-bristled brush to gently scrub the walls of the firebox.
·       When cleaning your fireplace, sprinkle damp coffee grounds over the cooled ashes to keep down the dust.
Remember, disasters can happen even in the best of homes. That’s why every home should be equipped with carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. Here are a few tips:
·       Install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in sleeping areas and on every level of your home and away from air vents. Interconnected smoke alarms are best, because if one sounds, they all sound.
·       Test smoke alarms monthly, and change alkaline batteries at least once a year. Use a familiar date, such as your birthday or when you change your clocks, as a reminder.
·       Prepare and practice a fire escape route with everyone in your home, including children.
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For more tips on fireplace care and maintenance, as well as kerosene heaters, wood-burning stoves and furnaces, download the U.S. Fire Administration brochure, Winter Fires: Safety Tips for the Home, at 
Posted on November 3, 2020 12:28 PM by Melissa Gentry
Categories: Homeowner Articles
For many people, meetings are a fact of life. Whether it’s a board or member meeting here in our association, a volunteer meeting at your child’s school or a department meeting at work, being adept at participating effectively and managing meetings is a useful skill.
Sometimes one or two participants will dominate the discussion, steer it off topic and interrupt others, causing long, uncomfortable or unproductive meetings. Whether you’re the meeting chair or a participant, there are techniques you can use to help engage others, limit intrusions and minimize distractions.
· Table the discussion. If a conversation is getting particularly heated, the chair or a participant can move to table the discussion for a later date. This helps clear the air and allows for a calmer and more meaningful conversation at the next meeting. It also sends the signal that debates will be conducted rationally and with respect.
· Take it offline. When a meeting attendee takes a topic off course, everyone’s time is wasted. A good tool for the chair to use—or for another attendee to suggest—to get the meeting back on track is to invite the member to continue the discussion privately. Saying, “Let’s take this offline so we can talk more,” is an easy way to get back on the subject without alienating the sidetracked speaker.
· Use the agenda. The agenda is a useful tool for keeping a meeting moving efficiently. When a chair begins a meeting by saying, “We have a full agenda today,” he or she sets the stage for productivity. Periodically referring to the agenda during the course of the meeting keeps all attendees focused on the discussion. If the chair doesn’t have an agenda, ask the group pause a minute to create an informal agenda that simply lists the topics to be covered or goals to be accomplished.
· Call on members. To engage more reticent members of the group, and to balance the impact of more vocal participants, it’s helpful to call on members by name to ask for their opinions. “What do you think, Mary?” or “Do you have some input here, Steve?” ensures that all members are valued. And you don’t have be the chair to ask for others’ opinions.
Posted on September 2, 2020 11:36 AM by Melissa Gentry
Categories: Homeowner Articles
As we contemplate our nations upcoming presidential elections it comes to mind how our community association has so much in common.  Community associations like ours have a lot in common with municipal governments. As members of a governing body, our board members meet regularly to discuss and vote on important community issues, like paying the association’s bills, funding our reserves and contracting with vendors to keep our community amenities in good repair. The board makes decisions about these and other important topics using a democratic process.
Also like a government, our association board has the legal authority to enforce rules and regulations—somewhat like laws—and to collect assessments, like a government collects taxes, to pay to maintain shared amenities like parking lots, general landscaping and street lights, and to pay the association’s bills.
Our association also has the authority to take legal action, if necessary, if a homeowner fails to meet his or her obligations that we all agreed to when we purchased in this community. These obligations include paying regular assessments on time, abiding by architectural or design policies, and observing community rules.
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