July 30, 2018 ROCK HALL TOWN COUNCIL MEETING REPORT

UTILITIES / WORKSHOP MEETINGS

UTILITIES BOARD REPORT

Present: Jones, Kuechler, Andrews, Edwards, Nesspor (Fithian, Porter, MacLeod, Dempsey)

ACTIONS TAKEN BY VOTE TO:

  • Approve meeting agenda
  • Approve meeting minutes from June 6 (3 yea; 2 nay)

OTHER

  • Two replacement pumps on order for Bayside Avenue pumping station; cost at $10-12,000 each

WORKSHOP REPORT

ACTIONS TAKEN BY VOTE TO:

  • Approve meeting agenda
  • Approve meeting minutes from June 6 (3 yea; 2 nay)
  • Award playground contract to Mid-Atlantic ($74,500 grant)
  • Approve new trash hauler (Eastern Shore Environmental) at $7,000 per month)
  • Re-appoint three members of Planning Commission with terms as appropriate (Costa, Riley, Creighton)
  • Appoint three volunteers to Communications Board (Thornton, Soforenko, Harris)
  • Name Jones as liaison to Communications Board (3 yea; 1 nay; 1 abstention)
  • Permit Jones to have personal use of Town-owned vehicle (former police cruiser) (3 yea; 2 nay)
  • Permit any Town employee to have personal use of Town-owned vehicle per assignment by Fithian (3 yea; 2 nay)
  • Go into closed session to consider two personnel matters and acquisition of property

ACTIONS TAKEN WITHOUT VOTE TO:

  • Consider further proposal for cloud-based Town record system at next meeting
  • Instruct Fithian to determine Blue Book value of “gold” police car and 4X4 and sell them
  • Express enthusiasm for Main Street Committee’s mural project as proposed

OTHER

  • After meeting was recessed during discussion about questionable personal use of two Town vehicles, Jones asked Dempsey to remove the citizen raising questions; Dempsey stated that citizen was not disruptive and not breaking any law and declined to take action; meeting resumed
  • Given Town’s rock-bottom finances, a citizen suggested that Town sell retired police cruiser now being driven by Jones; suggestion not pursued; Town to continue to incur costs for fuel, maintenance, insurance, etc., for this vehicle
  • Cost of new roof for Municipal Building estimated at $24,000; cost of plywood additional; discussion to continue at next meeting
  • New town well close to operational
  • Open Meetings Compliance Board opinion read in entirety
  • Town disposing of/junking the unused Town dump truck now parked at recycling yard

Compiled by Gren Whitman

FULL MEETING CAN BE VIEWED @ http://streamer.townhallstreams.com:1935/vod/_definst_/mp4:rock_hall_md/2018-07-30_5726949_UtilitiesWorkshop_Meeting.mp4/playlist.m3u8?wowzaplaystart=0

 

 

A Reader’s Comment

The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object”

Thomas Jefferson

Gren certainly outlined a few choice issues about this non-meeting and although all are of significance, I’m on a somewhat different tack here; hence the quote from Jefferson.

What is at the core of my angst with the town leadership strikes at the core of free expression.

I’ll digress for a minute and harken back to the days of the Willis administration. As all pretty well know, it was a contentious time for reasons that are really not understood by many.Despite the countless hours of raised voices, hurled insults and vitriol directed at Bob Willis; he was generous in allowing folks to have their say. There wasn’t a 3 minute curfew on speaking ones mind and in spite of whether he subscribed to the speaker; he allowed freedom of expression.

When Bob left office, the number of chairs in the meeting room became rather slim, which sent a message to me, that there wasn’t much room being made for the public. It could almost qualify for a set up of musical chairs!

My current participation in town meetings would qualify me as a video voyeur and I’m ok with that, What I do see is the erosion of interest and patience in hearing what the taxpayers have to say. Mayor Jones is often surly when someone raises a question that is not to his liking. The gavel hammers down and the speaker is silenced. It may have the immediate effect of suppressing free expression, but the net result is to feed malcontent and distrust. It’s just not a wise way to govern in the grand scheme of things.

Leadership is difficult. Great leadership is rare.

Liz Smith

 

Just a little satire…..

ROCK HALL TOWN COUNCIL NON-MEETING REPORT

Not Held on July 12, 2018

ATTENDANCE AT NON-MEETING:

No one present.

ACTIONS NOT TAKEN BY VOTE TO:

No votes were taken because no one was present.

ACTIONS NOT TAKEN W/O VOTES:

Plan to return Rock Hall to solid financial footing notadopted.
Fiscal 2019 budget not modified to fund RHPD at four full-time officers.
Property tax sufficient to pay for basic public servicesnot enacted.
Chronically broken-down, arguably unsafe trams not suspended from service.
Billings to Town by mayor for unauthorized services not challenged or halted.
Unauthorized actions by mayor not challenged and not rescinded.
Legal-services contract that violates Town Code notterminated.

OTHER

No explanation offered for cancellation of a scheduled meeting.

Compiled by Gren Whitman Read More…

ROCK HALL TOWN COUNCIL 6/6/18 MEETING REPORT

UTILITIES BOARD

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

 WORKSHOP

  • Approve meeting agenda
  • Approve April 2 minutes (1 opposed)
  • Approve amendment to January 29 workshop minutes
  • Approve amendment to February 26 workshop minutes

OTHER

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.

Some highlights:

  • 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 @ 

http://townhallstreams.com/stream.php?location_id=31&id=17187

(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.)

 

 

 

Comment by a viewer on the May 17th Town Meeting

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.

Liz Smith

“Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest”. Mark Twain

 

Click below to view the Rock Hall proposed budget 

FY 2019 RH Town Budget