I discovered last evening that Commissioner Rumsey, after consideration of the information brought before the commission on Wednesday night, either plans to or has requested Maria Davis’ resignation. Thank you, Commissioner Rumsey. Hopefully with his support, we will see some action in the direction of her departure. Time will tell.
There were other things that caught my attention yesterday aside from Commissioner Hockman’s presentation regarding Maria Davis and the Employee Handbook fiasco.
Here are just a few things of which I took note from Wednesday night’s meeting and for which I have questions:
I believe it was Edie McConville, who, during public comments, mentioned in passing that a new CRA Agency was to be formed. Nothing more, that I have heard, was said on the subject, and I wondered if anyone knows what the purpose of that agency is to be or if anyone has heard anything about it. I must have missed that at the recent CRA meeting. Please let me know by email or in the comment section if you have that information.
Ms. McConville’s request for permit and fee waivers in order to hold an Irish Fair that she has planned and organized and which will be held at Kelsey Park in March was interesting. From what I understand, she was requesting from the town a facility fee waiver, a free alcohol permit and a special event permit to hold what she dubbed “A feel good party for the town”. The mayor asked, apparently looking for the town manager’s direction, “What can we do right now to help?” and Ms. Davis answered, “Say yes to her requests and let her do it.” The commission gave “consensus”. That was nice and all, but I just find it curious the process for deciding what requires permits and fees and what does not. Who do we waive fees for and usher past the hoops most people have to jump through and who do we not? I wonder also how many other fees are waived that we don’t know about. We heard mentioned at the meeting twice on Wednesday, in passing, about organizations which had meetings or events in the Mirror Ballroom or which were about to. Were the fees paid for those meetings or are certain “friends” of the town STAFF getting “waivers” as well? The Mayor was quick to smile upon Ms. McConville’s request for waivers but was adamantly in opposition a couple of months ago to the gentleman who wanted to host the green market which for which fees will be paid. I understand one is a single-day event and the other will be ongoing, but something doesn’t jibe in his differing responses. I appreciate the commission’s willingness to help out a resident who wants to hold a fun special event for the town, but I just wonder what the standard is and will others be given the same consideration if they want to use Kelsey Park for free for something they too might consider the “good” of the town.
Compare and Contrast
Then there was the discussion of the bid for the work to be done on mulching the park surfaces. The amount of money our town is spending on this is truly hard to swallow. The town manager said that we do this every year to the tune of nearly $11,000 and it is routine. Gulp. She didn’t bat an eye about it. Yet, just before this discussion, one of the commissioners, I believe it was Commissioner Stevens, asked once again about the possibility of putting the videos of the commission meetings online, and the town manager said that it would cost $129 a month to do, and that we don’t have the money. Hmmm. (He then suggested that we put it on You Tube if possible to avoid this cost. Thank you, Commissioner Stevens for continuing to push for making the video of the meetings more readily available to all. Comcast continues to have poor signal strength for this channel and many in town cannot watch on TV.) The point is that there once again seems to be a willy nilly standard about what we do and don’t have money for. What’s important and routine doesn’t always make sense to those of us watching this town do our business. Thanks also to Mr. Stevens for asking that the town look into other long term solutions for the playground surfaces to cut costs. This is the kind of thing we need to be doing to reign in some of the spending that is so unnecessary in Lake Park. If we could continue along these lines and begin to think smarter about how we spend money, we might eventually get things in order.
Another item that came out during the Employee Handbook situation is that the Town Manager, according to the Town Attorney, has the power to expend funds up to $10,000.00 without commission approval. This was apparently one of the ways Patricia Bass continued to get incremental payments throughout the many years she was paid to rewrite the handbook, train employees, etc. I would hope that when all of this mess is settled with the town manager that the commission will CAREFULLY review the policies and procedures that allow so many questionable decisions to be made and funds to be spent. Perhaps more accountability and oversight (checks and balances) could be required of someone with such power over our town, or perhaps we need to consider changing the form of our town government.
General Housekeeping Needed Alright
An instance of concern, as noted by Jim Lloyd during public comments, is that the Town Manager recently hired a consultant to review the need for a change to the town ordinance regarding acceptable noise levels. Why? Where did the money come from to hire this consultant and how much is this costing? How was this consultant chosen? Are there any connections between the consultant and the town manager? The town manager stated that it was general housekeeping to hire the consultant. Since when do you hire someone for regular housekeeping to clean up something which isn’t a mess? Why would the Town Manager want to consider changing the acceptable noise levels if the developer who would most have need of this change (for the semi-proposed Marina development) has not requested a variance? It looks from the perspective of many of us watching this as if they indeed do want a variance and this is their backdoor way of getting it without alerting the residents who are carefully watching that developer’s plans and who would quash it in a heartbeat. They know residents would have none of that, but the town manager, acting in someone else’s interests under the guise of regular housekeeping, could declare a need for the acceptable noise levels to be changed and waa laa, suddenly the developer can do as he pleases and residents would have no recourse. Controversy nullified for the developer. Why has the town manager decided to use town money when we are told “we don’t have two nickels to rub together” to look into something that could only be of benefit to this developer who would have to have this to get his development through? There’s some general housekeeping in order here but it has nothing to do with noise levels. There is a mess in our town government and the commission needs to take note and take action to clean it up. And this is the kind of general and routine housekeeping that should be ongoing from this point on.
One last thing, in an effort to speed things up here (although, there were others), was that when Sue Lloyd spoke during public comments, she asked about the Kelsey Bar and Grill closing and questioned what would happen to grant or loan funds that went to the restaurant. Ms. Davis emphatically stated that Sue was wrong. She stated that neither the Town nor the CRA gave funds to the restaurant or the owner of the building. She did not, however, state that the CDC didn’t give any grant funds to the restaurant or the property owner. The matter of what funds if any they received should be clarified once and for all, because we have heard conflicting reports. One of our great concerns about government giving money to private businesses is that when those businesses go under, we need to retrieve that money. Unfortunately if there is no clear cut word on which businesses have received money, who follows up to see that if it was given, it is repaid? The story definitely seems to change about who did and didn’t receive funds. It might be a good idea if some sort of log was being kept by the commission for easy reference in the future. With the secrecy of the CDC and its operations (which was created to help the town procure money, yet we are told has nothing to do with the town), we get very few clear cut answers in regard to the money being provided as incentive to various businesses and organizations in town so it is very hard to follow that money trail. The CDC is a prime ground for secrets to be created and kept. The inconsistencies in the stories regarding who did and didn’t get money would be cleared up if a simple tally was kept to which anyone could refer at any time. Trying to find out which CRA or commission meeting minutes to go back to to see who said what during which month, to point out when we were told differently about the Kelsey Bar and Grill having received money (or any other business or project for that matter) is nearly impossible. Those involved seem to know this and use our murky memory and the difficulty of finding the information about the many mentions and discussions of this to their advantage.
That’s it for today. If you have any other concerns from the meeting or anything else, please let us know in the comments.
Don’t forget that on Sunday, the Green Market will be held at Kelsey Park from 11:00 to 3:00. I hope you have a great weekend!