ROCK HALL TOWN COUNCIL NON-MEETING REPORT
Not Held on July 12, 2018
ATTENDANCE AT NON-MEETING:
ACTIONS NOT TAKEN BY VOTE TO:
ACTIONS NOT TAKEN W/O VOTES:
Compiled by Gren Whitman Read More…
Present: Jones, Kuechler, Andrews, Nesspor (Fithian, Loller, Porter)
ACTIONS TAKEN BY VOTE TO:
- Approve meeting agenda
- Approve April 2 meeting minutes (1 opposed)
ACTIONS TAKEN WITHOUT VOTE TO:
- Sewer allocation report not ready, but no changes from previous month
- Approve meeting agenda
- Approve April 2 minutes (1 opposed)
- Approve amendment to January 29 workshop minutes
- Approve amendment to February 26 workshop minutes
Most of the 2-hour meeting was taken up by a discussion of the proposed FY 2019 budget. At least 17 motions were made to amend certain line items. Councilwoman Andrews made many excellent suggestions to fund essential services and to cut non-essential services – most of these were ignored by the Council.
- Andrews made a motion to move $48,685 of unspecified miscellaneous expense to the Public Safety budget to fund a third full-time police officer; no one seconded this motion, so it died.
- Andrews made a motion to reduce the proposed $34,000 P/T Municipal Bldg (janitorial) Salary amount (51 hrs/wk at @12.79/hr) back to the 2018 budgeted amount of $12,979 (16 hrs/wk). After much discussion of the need for additional hours for Civic Center bathroom cleanup and trash removal during the 6 months of warm weather, the Council voted 2-1-1 (Andrews against, Jones abstained because the employee in question is his uncle) to fund this position for 30 hrs/wk all year, at $20,000. Payroll costs and benefits amounts will be adjusted to reflect the new salary cost.
- After Andrews questioned the proposed increase in Legal Counsel fees from $15,000 to $25,000, the Council voted to cap these expenditures at $20,000.
- Andrews moved to reduce proposed combined Mayor expenses and Mayor and Council expenses to $7,500. Council voted unanimously to reduce those expenses to $10,000 (from $12,000).
- Andrews moved to advertise for another full-time police officer; motion died.
- Motion was made and passed to move the $14,000 saved from the janitorial position to the P/T Police Patrol Salary line item, increasing this proposed amount from $7,000 to $21,000.
- The town manager will look into cancelling the new patrol car that has been ordered.
- Motion was made to put the RH app in service, requiring an increase of $1,000 in hosting fees in the Website Payment line item; motion passed with 1 abstention (Andrews).
- Andrews moved to reduce the proposed Parks & Rec Expense from $17,000 to $6,000, because there was $6,000 of Parks & Rec Income in 2018. Motion died.
- The proposed FY2019 budget includes 3% salary increases across the board. Andrews moved to instead fund salary increases for the 3 or 4 employees who have gone the longest without an increase. Motion died.
Several citizens spoke at the end of the meeting. One urged the Council to institute a modest $0.05 property tax increase to fund essential services; Rock Hall property taxes have not been increased in 20 years. Another urged the Council not to ignore Rock Hall’s lack of monetary reserves and the dangerously high proportion of debt and high cost of debt repayment. Another urged the Council and mayor to start running the town like responsible business owners.
The meeting adjourned at 9:05pm.
Compiled by Gren Whitman and Jan Plotczyk
FULL MEETING CAN BE VIEWED @
(Please note: sound quality of the recording may be bad; water damage was sustained at the municipal building several weeks ago, and the mayor has not gotten around to checking the microphones yet.)
With all of the rain and the futility of trying to mow; I decided to watch the Town meeting of last night. I have to confess that it’s far more comfortable to endure at home than at town hall.
Having said that, I came away with some observations that constitute a common theme. It usually doesn’t get very interesting until the public comment and question portion. It is during that time that voices can be heard for the obligatory 3 minutes and is generally pretty revealing.
There was discussion of the budget and how it specifically related to the police department. It seems that the town is down to 2.5 police and a number of folks in the audience were not altogether happy about that; feeling that it would translate to reduced public safety.
Apparently, police calls for service were up 22 percent, yet there is a 37 percent reduction in coverage. Annette May questioned what seems to be a surplus of about 42 thousand that has been assigned to the Miscellaneous category of the proposed budget somewhere on page 9. Her comment of, ” miscellaneous that’s miscellaneous – don’t know where that’s coming from” was explained by the town manager, ” that could come from anywhere”. I love those concrete answers! Seriously though, when significant numbers appear in the Misc column with regularity or repetition, it becomes sort of like the office wastebasket and becomes difficult or impossible to track down.
It seems that there is money being saved from the reduction of police salaries to the tune of about 138 thousand (according to Annette’s ciphering of the proposed budget). This begged her to ask, “Where is the money going”? I confess, it had me starting to wonder too.
The focus then shifted somewhat to the hiring of a full time custodian with a cost of 34 thousand. It may very well be that the town needs a full time person in this position and I can certainly understand that. I think the crux of the matter boils down to the concern of cutting back on police to fund full time custodial service. Councilwoman Andrews remarked, “So, we’re cutting essential services for discretionary spending”. That had a certain bite.
As several other people in the audience spoke, the same concern was reiterated. There was another question about Miscellaneous expense line items going from one thousand last year to 48 thousand for this years’ budget. Mayor Jones explained that this money is “partially left over in case we decide to do something with the police department”. Without having the budget proposal in front of me, I was wont to know if this was another one of those nebulous Miscellaneous expenses. Having looked at Town budgets in past years, I suspect that is likely.
Whatever the absolutes in numbers; it seemed that those who spoke up wanted to see another police officer and it seems that there may be the money to do that – perhaps by raiding the multiple Miscellaneous funds. There wasn’t much objection to a full time custodian who could serve as a kind of maintenance man about town. I think that is not a bad idea myself.
Moving on, the elephant in the room came in the form of Mark Einstein; who with his customary graciousness, suggested that after 20 years, it may be germane to discuss the need to raise taxes slightly. If the Town is realizing a fiscal squeeze that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere it may prove a necessity. Dave May seconded that emotion. The discussion went no further, but it is a reality that may need to be seriously addressed in the near future.
Mark then shifted gears to ask the question about the events permit and rules. It seems that the paperwork is a bit cumbersome and boilerplate. As most know, Mark and Suzanne are the founders and shakers of Pirates and Wenches. This whole event permit thing evolved with P&W somehow the focus. After some discussion, Mayor Jones and Ron Fithian were willing to revisit, review and possibly redraft the permit. Ron stated that it is really directed at new events, not those as established as Pirates and Wenches. That is a good thing and proof that life sometimes makes a bend in the road.
“Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest”. Mark Twain
Click below to view the Rock Hall proposed budget
Present: Jones, Kuechler, Andrews, Edwards, Nesspor (Fithian, Loller, and Porter, plus Capt. Dempsey and Ofc. Wode)
ACTIONS TAKEN BY VOTE TO:
- Approve agenda
- Approve minutes for April 12 meeting (3 aye; 1 nay)
- Repair wastewater treatment plant, cost not to exceed the $47,000 in unspent FY 2018 funds
- Waive reading of Ordinance 2018-03 (FY 2019 proposed budget)
- Introduce Ordinance 2018-03 (3 aye; 1 nay)
- Contract with Bates trash hauling company for 1 year @ $7,600/month; trash to be picked up on Tuesdays
- Jones presented his annual State of the Town report
- Two Community Spirit awards presented, to Owen McCoy and to Bill Weldon (Waterman’s Crab House)
- Budget workshop meeting will be held on June 4, same date as the Utilities Board and Council Workshop meetings
- Council’s regular meeting on June 7 will include a public hearing on the FY 2019 budget
- Several citizens expressed concern about the budget proposal to reduce the Town’s police force to only two full-time sworn officers and one part-timer.
- Several citizens stated that the Council should consider raising taxes to pay for basic services, including public safety
- Several citizens asked why a custodial position now filled by the mayor’s uncle would be increased to full-time while the Town police force was being decreased by half
Compiled by Gren Whitman
FULL MEETING CAN BE VIEWED @
IMPORTANT MEETING !!!!!!
Our Rock Hall budget for FY2019 will be introduced. If you are interested in how OUR tax dollars are going to be spent be sure to attend tonight’s meeting. It is rumored that the police budget and the police force may be reduced. Interested? Come to the town meeting at the municipal building where decisions are made.
Meeting Agenda: Thursday, May 17, 2018 (from the Town Website)
Invited guests: – No guests
Meeting documents – None
- Call to Order
1.1. Invocation/Moment of Silence/Pledge of Allegiance
- Standing Items
2.1. Review/Approve Agenda
2.2. Approve/Amend Minutes of Last/Previous Meeting
- Guest Speakers/Invited Guests
- Community Spirit Award
4.1. Community Spirit Award
- Administrative Reports
6.1. Financial Report
6.2. Police Report – Police report presented by Police Department Representative
- Department/Board Reports
7.1. Streets/Sanitation – Report presented by Streets/Sanitation Liaison
7.2. Sewer/Report – Report presented by the Sewer/Water Liaison
7.3. Parks/Recreation – Report presented by the Parks and Recreation Liaison
7.4. Planning/Zoning – Report presented by the Planning/Zoning Liaison
7.5. Museum Board – Report presented by the Museum Board Liaison
7.6. Communications Board – Report presented by the Communications Board Liaison
8.1. Budget Introduction
- Old Business
- New Business
- Mayor’s Report – 11.1. 2018 State of the Town Report
- Town Manager’s Report
- Ending Items
13.1. Audience Participation
13.2. Date next meeting
13.3. Motion to adjourn