Re: People vs Facilities [was Average Turn Over]
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Thu, 7 Aug 2008 08:28:54 -0700 (PDT)

On Aug 7, 2008, at 8:12 AM, Caren Albercook wrote:

I have often wondered what social wonders Sunward ( Ann Arbor, MI) would manifest if we weren't so focussed on getting the weeding and the charter's done.

What are charter's?

would shift the mix of members to the more wealthy, as we would have to pay for those services, but what else?

I'm not convinced of this. There are three labor intensive areas: (1) gardening, (2) cleaning, and (3) major projects -- researching, bids (takes forever and many reminders), and supervision.

1. Our gardeners love to garden and there are a large number of them. We couldn't hire this work out and have it so well done. It is also visible work so they get a lot of satisfaction and compliments. We have gardening workdays as well. We do hire out some regular maintenance of the green, not sure what this is. And spend liberally on bark mulch to keep down weeds.

2. Simple cleaning. This could be hired out, in my opinion, more effectively. An annual professional cleaning and refinishing of the floors. A biweekly cleaning service. With a twice yearly clean-out of cupboards by residents. Our residents do a wonderful job but I personally would like to see each of them doing other things they do well too. We recently discovered that we had not been properly caring for our real linoleum and cork floors. With a professional service this would have been caught and saved us more that it will cost to do early replacement of the floors.

3. Reduce major project work by finding a reputable construction and home repair company and sticking with them so we don't have to get bids or learn how to work with a new company all the time. Learning to communicate effectively with each one is time consuming -- who will return calls? Which secretary takes good messages, or takes messages at all? Does the supervisor really speak English or will there be miscommunications unless a Spanish speaker is there?

We have moved as much as possible to regular maintenance contracts -- elevator, parking gate, sewage ejector pumps, etc. The management companies don't supervise the bidding process or the work. They ask for bids but don't walk the property with the bidders to be sure what is included or to get advice from the people bidding.


So, of these three areas, the cleaning being hired out would save a lot of small hours by a lot of people and would not be prohibitively expensive. If the saved time and energy were spent on preparing meals, which might save money for some households and would certainly be welcome by families, in the end it would be less expensive to hire out than to do it in house. $400 a month would be less than $10 a household. When you calculate that in terms of your own hours spent cleaning, I think most households would readily pay that and I can't think of any that couldn't afford it.

The other advantage of hiring out cleaning is that you then have a service that knows the facilities and the members and can be easily hired by individuals to clean the guest rooms and after personal parties.

We have a professional English nanny whom we hire to do child care for meetings who has now been hired by parents to watch 3 children on Saturday or Sunday afternoons. Since she knows the facilities and the other members it is much nicer for everyone to have her here than the sitters we don't know. It makes it nicer for children as well. They interact more freely and are not kept indoors as much.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing,Washington DC

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