See my comments interspersed into your questions.Since I can't officially start a thread yet, may I ask the experts the following four questions here?
I will give my 5 cents worth...(in BLUE)
1. Our Property Manager is insisting we hire a lawyer to get Proxy to allow Beanfield in our building, which is something supported by the majority of owners (per an informal Facebook poll). I don't see this stipulated anywhere in our Condo Declaration. Why do we have to pay a lawyer to draft up a proxy when the provider would be optional to owners (residents can continue to use either Rogers or Bell) and owners support it anyway. I don't get this at all?! Can someone please explain? A proxy for this seems very byzantine to me. In our Building we are in process of being 'wired' for fibre by Bell (Beanfield was not interested as we are small). We certainly ran the Bell contract past our lawyers (Bell paid about 50% of cost) and, as we suspected, were told that the original Bell draft ("It's been approved by all the big condo lawyers") was filled with clauses that constrained our rights and made it very hard to get out of it at a later date. We got a better contract as a result. From my experience it is generally best to pay lawyers to avoid a problem than pay them much more to get out of something later. It is not 100% clear if the Corporation has RIGHT to enter a Unit to install fibre - in our case we are treating this a an upgrade to the building's infrastructure (which we DO have a right to do); we got legal advice on how to deal with this too.
2. Our Hydro bills are through the roof (we paid $9400 more in 2016 than in 2015!). The board has installed LED lights and motion lighting in the garbage, locker and bike rooms (garbage chutes too) and have even removed some aesthetic lights in the hallways. We are thinking of reducing hallway temperature but not sure to what (anyone have any advice on this? It's now set to 18) but would like more ideas on how to conserve energy so we don't have to increase our maintenance fees too much. Anyone have any solid tips they'd care to share? We have converted all our 24/7 lighting to LED and most of the rest are now done too. We also now always buy energy efficient pumps, motors etc and changed our pool heater from electricity to gas. You WILL see lower Hydro rates in 2017 as the Province has just removed their 8% part of the HST from hydro. You can certainly decrease common area temperatures and/or install programmable thermostats. You do not need to heat a lounge in middle of the night! Energy costs are very temperature dependent and as 2016 was FAR colder/hotter than 2015 it is probably inevitable your (and our) hydro bills were higher in 2016. (If you use GAS do you have a contract? Probably a good idea.)
3. On a similar topic, can the board make residents purchase low flow shower heads? I doubt you can FORCE owners to do this (or install low-flow toilets) but you could consider encouraging them to do this by offering a subsidy. Water is going up by 3% this year, after several years of 8% to 9% increases.
4. Our property management company does a pretty average job of keeping the board informed but that is not the case with residents. We constantly have to ask our PM to send out emails regarding garbage, noise, repairs, etc. and practically have to write each announcement ourselves, too. Is this normal? On a similar note, does anyone have any resources they could share regarding communication tips/strategy/templates, etc.? If anyone has hired a communication strategist, how much have they paid? Property managers have many skills but communicating with residents/owners is usually not one of them and is certainly not always top of their priority lists either. As a small building we do not have a full-time PM and, very good though she is, she simply does not have the time to write Newsletters or run websites. We have condo website (which, as Secretary, I created and run) and send out (and post on web) a 2-4 page 'newsletter' after each monthly Board meeting. We have also now got 100% of our owners to agree to accept all communications by email - this not only saves lots of $$$ but means it is quite easy to send out info. Toronto Condo News had quite a good article on communications last April. See http://tinyurl.com/jggvhk6
Re hallway temperature--just not sure what they set it to. Ideas?: "How did the Toy Factory Lofts condominium reduce its maintenance costs? Some of the reduction is due to well-thought out building adjustments, such as reducing hallway temperatures in the winter. Such cost saving initiatives should be applauded and encouraged as a way of keeping condominium living more affordable." If I remember right, the Toy Factory Lofts 'saved' $$ by reducing their Reserve Fund contributions - it seemed, a nd seems, a rather risky thing to do to me!