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February 2013 Town Bd Meeting Wrap Up
Town Hall Costs, Drinking, Booms and Town Employee Ranks
February 12, 2013
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O
riental’s Town Board held its February 5 meeting in the newly renovated Town Hall. For the Board members, it was not the first meeting there — they’d sat upon the dais in the tiled room for their agenda meeting the Thursday before.

New Town Hall meeting room at the February 5 Town Board meeting.

It was, however, the first meeting in the new Town Hall for most of the public filling the 3 dozen chairs in the audience. Several of those audience members spoke at the meeting.

Here’s a rundown of the Oriental Town Board’s February 5 meeting.

Audit – Positive Report

The accounting firm Pittard, Perry and Crone that audited the Town’s books gave a positive report about the finances in the previous fiscal year.

Resident: Get A Boom

Bill Hines, a resident of town, suggested the community buy 200 feet of boom to deploy in future harbor spills. A member of the Neuse River Foundation, Hines told the board that the need for a boom and four people to deploy it was pointed up by two recent incidents (the Lady Barbara sinking and spill in January, and Chris Fulcher’s sandblasting detritus in December) which polluted Oriental’s harbor and nearby creeks.

Bill Hines proposed that the community purchase a boom to deploy when a spill seems imminent on the harbor waters.

Hines said the boom, which would extend a ‘wall’ below the surface of the water, would cost about $3,600. It would also require a 10×10×10 foot storage space when not deployed. Commissioner Larry Summers asked if the Fire Department might be involved. Hines said that in other communities, fire departments are involved.

Drinking Issue Arises in Public Comment Period

Two officers with the Pamlico Musical Society spoke in favor of the Town allowing alcohol to be served in Town Hall. Town Commissioner Larry Summers had stated in a letter to the editor a week earlier that the PaMuSo wanted to hold post-concert receptions at Town Hall and that the current alcohol ban thwarted that.

Pamlico Musical Society president Marilyn Nevison of Merritt told the Board at its meeting that that having receptions at the Town Hall would be “convenient” and that her organization was “not promoting unfettered inebriation.” Debra Khouri, an Oriental resident on the PaMuSo board said that discussion about alcohol being served at Town Hall “has been usurped by hyperbole.”

The Town Board had killed that idea at its agenda meeting on January 31 but voted at that time to consider re-defining, in the ordinance, what it meant to be “drinking in public”. In proposing that rewrite at the Agenda meeting, some Board members said it would clarify the law so that the Town’s police officer could better enforce it.

But with little discussion at the February 5 meeting, the Board postponed action because Commissioner Larry Summers had a counter proposal for fellow Commissioners to look over. In an interview after the meeting, Summers said that the first proposal would have made it possible for police to charge someone for having an ‘open container’ if they picked up a discarded bottle at roadside in order to dispose of it. Asked if that scenario could be avoided by emptying said bottle of the liquid inside, Summers allowed that it could. Nonetheless, he said, he wanted a system where those running afoul of the law might, in some instances, face only an ‘infraction.’ The matter was put off to a future meeting.

Town Hall Praised, Spending Questioned

Suzanne Gwaltney praised the Town Manager for his work on the Town Hall and said he was “saving the community a great amount of money.”

Maggie Monk noted having seen the Town Manager working on the project and said he’d done a “wonderful job.”

Town Board meeting February 5. The Town Board now sits on a dais, above the audience.

In his turn at Public Comment, Art Tierney said that in his 20 years of living in Oriental he’d observed the town had been very frugal. He said that now, however, he was “quite concerned that we are doing many things in the town that we hope we have the money to pay for.” Tierney described the newly renovated Town Hall as “gorgeous” but said he was “amazed” that the project “never went out on bid.” Tierney said that he hoped the Town wasn’t “spending money that we don’t have.” He called on the Board to “pull in the reins.”

Manager’s Report – Town Hall Costs

In the Manager’s Report, Town Manager Bob Maxbauer reported that the Fire Marshall’s rating for the new Town Hall was for “60 seated persons in this room.” He spoke of the facility being ready for the grand re-opening open house on Saturday.

In answer to Art Tierney’s question about why the project was not put out to bid, the Town Manager said that the cost estimate for the project was “targetted” at $300,000. The “project does not have to be put out for a bid,” Maxbauer said, if it’s done “in-house” and is budgeted at $300,000 or less.

In one of his four third-person self-references of the evening, the Town Manager said that the Manager was asking the board for an additional $10,000 to “cover expenses” over and above the $289,000 the Board initially approved for the Town Hall project. The Board approved the $10,000 unanimously.

Town Board, here seated on the dais at Town Hall’s meeting room, approved a $10,000 supplement to the Town Hall renovation budget.

Maxbauer detailed some of the cost overruns for the project he had designed and for which he was the General Contractor (after persuading the Town Board last spring that it would save the Town 25% for not paying a contractor from the private sector.) At the Board’s February meeting, he cited some of the additional costs the Town Hall project had incurred. Among them: adding a mechanical room to the back of the building; making the front porches 8 feet wide rather than the 6 feet originally budgeted for. A porch 8 feet wide, Maxbauer told the Board, would accommodate rocking chairs where 6 feet would not. (The porch base is also all concrete, a more expensive material than the original design of a planked porch.)

Such changes might have been the subject of review during the construction but with the Town Manager in the role of General Contractor there was no independent oversight. During the construction when some members of the Town Board asked the Town Manager for accounting of the spending, they were told the project would stay within budget.

At recent meetings, Commissioner Warren Johnson has persisted in asking about the accounting of the project. Maxbauer said that he would be meeting with Johnson on Thursday February 7 to “pore over every invoice from the beginning of the project to the end.” Johnson said later that Commissioner Michelle Bessette also planned to attend.

Manager’s Report – Town Hall Financing

Maxbauer said that the Town had submitted proposals to several lending institutions regarding a loan to pay for the Town Hall renovation. Mayor Bill Sage said that the question of whether to borrow and how much to borrow would be discussed at the Board’s retreat at Camp Don Lee on February 22 and 23.

Commissioner Warren Johnson noted that the Town’s Fund Balance was currently 35% less than it was on June 30 when the Town Hall construction began.

Commissioner Summers noted that the Town might be getting $63,000 in flood remediation money from the NC Department of Emergency Management which could be applied to the Town Hall construction.

The Board has been waiting to hear if $76,000 in FEMA money would come through as well. Those monies were being distributed at the end of January; in laying out his spending plan on the Town Hall renovation last winter, the Town Manager had touted that FEMA money as helping to defray the costs.

In other Town Hall renovation news, the Town Manager said that the Fire Department’s siren was up (on a pole behind Town Hall) but not yet operating. He said the Town had done its part with the electrical connection, and was “just waiting on the Fire Department now to do their part” in wiring it.

Ahead: How Many Employees Paid By The Town?

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Posted Tuesday February 12, 2013 by Melinda Penkava