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May 2022 Town Board Meeting
Efficiency and Unrestricted Funds
May 9, 2022

ay’s Town Board Meeting focused on the movement of ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds from a restricted to a non-restricted fund, the movement of Public Works Week, and a lengthy discussion about how to help town staff be more efficient.

town hall sign Mayor Sally Belangia, Commissioners David White, Charlie Overcash, Alan Price, Sandy Winfrey, and Frank Roe were present. Town Manager Diane Miller, Officer Nic Blayney, and Chief Financial Officer Tammy Cox were also in attendance. In addition to the town officials, seven residents also attendance.

National Police Week & Public Works Week
May 9 through 15 is National Police Week. May 15 through May 25 is National Public Works week. Commissioner Frank Roe suggested that Public Works Week be moved to Labor Day in September, reasoning that it was not a national recognition and would detract from National Police Week.

Commissioners sit at folding tables during budget meetings. This month, the budget meeting immediately followed the Town Board Meeting.

All five commissioners approved the resolution recognizing National Police Week. Four commissioners except Commissioner Frank Roe approved the resolution recognizing National Public Works week.

National Police week was proclaimed by President John F Kennedy in 1962. Public Works Week began in 1960 as an education campaign by the American Public Workers Association.

Board Appointments
The Oriental Tree Board asked Commissioners to approve the application of John Deaton to their Board. Deaton lives outside of Oriental limits, but has a business inside town limits. He has been assisting the Tree Board regularly. Commissioners approved the appointment.

ARPA Funds – now without restrictions
ARPA (the American Rescue Plan Act) provided funds to help municipalities deal with the economic fallout from Covid. Oriental will receive a total $274,398.50.

Initially, any APRA monies went into a restricted fund in accordance with the Federal rules on how the money could be spent.

In 2021, Oriental’s Board of Commissioners earmarked it to be spent on water, sewer, and drainage projects. Approximately $156,000 has already been spent.

At the end of April, the federal rules changed, saying smaller municipalities (like Oriental) could use those monies as needed instead of solely as grant money with restrictions.

Town Manager Miller drafted a budget amendment asking for permission to move the remaining funds, and funds yet to be received, out of the restricted account account into the General and Water funds, in accordance with the newest Federal guidance.

Commissioner Roe disagreed with moving the money into the unrestricted funds.

Commissioner Frank Roe

“I don’t understand this,” he said. “I think it’s a mistake to accept this until we get more detail – we have more money coming in, what are we going to spend it on?”

Both Commissioner Charlie Overcash and Town Manager Diane Miller explained that the second disbursement of money had already been discussed and earmarked for projects that they were discussing in the upcoming budget meeting to be immediately following the town board meeting. (Commissioner Frank Roe was not a Commissioner at the time of the first ARPA fund discussions in 2021.)

Roe maintained that the money should not be moved until they discussed where the funds would be spent, even though the money had been earmarked and budget discussions would begin within the following hour. Manager Miller said they had to move the monies because of the newest Federal guidance.

All commissioners agreed to the budget amendment except Commissioner Roe. The budget amendment passed.

Police Report
Commissioners and the public are still discussing speeding in town. The radar speed detector has been deployed on Hodges Street near the harbor to gather data.

Allison DeWeese stood up during public comments and made the observation that there were no speed zone signs prior to approaching the pedestrian area on Hodges Street between the Bean and the harbor. She suggested putting a speed sign in the area of Academy Street on Hodges – thereby alerting drivers earlier to the upcoming speed zone – which could help the speeding issues occurring further down the road.

Commissioner David White suggested ticketing speeding drivers to slow them down.

Officers will soon be attending radar school and may begin issuing citations for speeding.

Manager’s Report
• The Town Auditor will be at the June 7 Town Board Meeting to discuss the town’s finances.
• The Consumer Confidence Report on Oriental’s Water is out. It can be viewed in the links below.
• As a result of rehabbing the town’s water softeners, the town’s water softness level has increased. If you have a home water softener, Manager Miller and Water Plant Manager Drew Cox say it is important to have it adjusted. The town is now running 17-34mg/l, 1-2 grains/gallon.
• The Water Burnout is happening May 16 – June 15. The water plant switches from Chloramines to Chlorine for a month to clean out any build up in the pipes. The town says the change in chemicals is important for people with fish, or kidney problems. The water may have a chlorine smell during this period.
Bay River Metropolitan Sewer District is increasing their rates effective July 1. The flat rate is increasing from $23 to $23.50 for the first 1,500 gallons. From 1,501 to 3,500 gallons, the increase is $9 to $9.25 per 1,000 gallons. Above 3,500 gallons, the price goes from $9.85 to $10 per 1,000 gallons. If you use less than 1,500 gallons of water, the Bay River Metropolitan portion of your bill (sewer) will increase by 50 cents.

Commissioner David White
Commissioner Comments
• Commissioner Charlie Overcash asked that a presentation from the Library be put on the June Agenda.

• Commissioner David White has been looking for contractors for the Net House Restoration project. “I am now down to 10 strike outs.” He said he would continue to look for contractors nonetheless and has two new ones to speak with.

Commissioners Discuss Staff Efficiency
“I would like to see how we can either reduce or improve or make the work load for the town employees more efficient,” said Commissioner Frank Roe. “I’m not criticizing, but it’s apparent to me that we need to discuss how we can help, not hinder.”

Commissioner White responded, “We set an agenda and tell the people what they need to do. And then the Board [of Commissioners] changes it. The Board adds more things. The Board members get involved with the day-to-day activities of the employees. They question everything they do…We need to let the people do their jobs and back away from them.”

White said that the priorities get changed and that there is only so much money available to tackle projects – which is why Commissioners set the projects and priorities at the Budget Meetings.

Commissioner Charlie Overcash seconded White and said, “I’d like the Board Members that go to Diane to respect if she says ‘I can’t do this for you, let the Board tell me.’”

White listed several items that had come up that were not in the budget but that had been discussed in several meetings: a new website, speeding issues, delayed drainage work. White said to let the Town Manager do her job. “We can’t come out of this budget cycle and say we’re going to drainage, roads, and people and then say, “Oh, the website, and oh by the way I think the drainage oughta look like this. That’s getting into the day-to-say stuff and that’s not our job.”

“I don’t agree with the approach you’re taking on this,” Roe said to White, “I think you all [the town staff] do a good job, but I’m here to represent the people who stop me on the street about speeding… there are things people come up with that we need to discuss.”

“I’m a strong, strong proponent of let them do their job. That’s the best way to help them is let them go do it. We’re damn lucky to have the people we’ve got,” said Commissioner Sandy Winfrey. “I wouldn’t advise rattling the cage any.”

Dates to Know
The next Town Board Meeting will be Tuesday, June 7 at 8a. Budget Meeting #4 will be Tuesday, May 24 at 8a.

Related Information
May Meeting Agenda
April Agenda
Public Works Week
National Police Week
Budget & Ordinance Amendment
Parrothead Regatta Request
Police Report
Manager’s Report
Auxiliary Board Reports
2021 Consumer Confidence Report – Water Report

Posted Monday May 9, 2022 by Allison DeWeese

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