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Meet the 2017 Oriental Town Candidates
3 incumbents and 4 newcomers vie for 5 Commissioner seats
October 18, 2017
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5. The Town has received a grant to study the periodic flooding of Hodges St. What are your ideas for solving the flooding problem?

Allen Price: There have been several ideas floated around and I have talked to an engineer about the flooding. We should wait for the professionals doing the study to report their findings and then discuss options.

Dianne Simmons: My idea for solving the periodic flooding on Hodges St. would be to use the grant money to consult a qualified engineer who would determine the best steps for the Town to take. The Town could then seek out the most economical path to making the suggested changes. This would include finding out what government funds or grants might be available to offset the cost. Any work done on Hodges Street should be done with the least amount of interruption to traffic and local businesses.

The major problem with the flooding for most of us is that it presents an obstacle to getting to the Bean. If large engineering projects turn out to be too costly, perhaps the Town could consider a raised walkway to enable access to Bean. One must have one’s morning coffee and conversation.

David White: Our Town Manager Diane Miller has done an outstanding job in securing a grant to study our flooding issues in and around Hodges Street. I very much support this study and look forward to the final report. It would be easy to say let’s raise Hodges Street or enlarge the Duck Pond, but that would be very premature. I have dealt with water issues on my own property in the past and one thing I have found out is water will go where it wants to and fixing one problem area may quickly cause another water issue somewhere else. Let’s see what the study recommends and then make plans based on those recommendations.

J. Martin Barrow: Obtaining the grant was the first step in addressing the flooding. The second step should be using the grant funding to hire a licensed engineering firm to study and propose viable solutions to minimize or mitigate the flooding. As a Town Commissioner, I would expect the study to identify a range of possible solutions and associated costs to consider. As with other initiatives, priorities and funding sources would directly effect execution of any recommendations.

Gregory Bohmert: The flooding is being cause by two major factors; 1) somewhere in the early 60’s Hodges Street was extended across the old harbor mud flats. It appears that they back filled and made a berm type structure and put a stone faced retaining wall on the harbor side to hold it together. It does not appear to have any independent foundation and was built upon a “waterbed of mud.” That mud is still moving, back into the duck pond, and in to the harbor oozing under the stone wall which has had several failures since I’ve lived here. The best example of what is happening can be seen by looking at the house that used to be known as “Wits End”. The building is sinking down on its East side, and less than a dozen feet away you can see a wave or mount of soil that has been displaced to make room for the building sinking down. 2) Since a large portion of Oriental drains into what is called our “duck ponds”, pipe(s) must have been laid under the road to allow all the water to go under the road way and not to seek a way through the berm which would weaken it. These pipes have failed, the mud levels rising in the ponds covering the pipes and or them being crushed by shifting soils. Since the failure of these pipes water must drain over or through the roadway berm, causing additional material loss and instability. I am not a road engineer; but I’d run heavy duty vinyl bulkhead sheeting along both sides of Hodges street and drive it all the way down to good bearing soil, about 23-25 feet down. This would contain the waterbed of mud between four solid corners. A huge pipe would need to be included for drainage, and a spillway for the duck pond to pour into the pipe, without taking all the pond mud with it, would keep the pipe from clogging. Depending upon the desired soil water levels; dredging of the duck pond might be required for correct elevation of the drainage pipe to relieve upland drainage issues. Then the roadway surface could be raised to the top of the bulkhead sheeting and resurfaced. This type of repair would allow us to dredge deep, right to the harbor bulkhead and even widen Hodges for additional pedestrian usage; bench & tables.

Eric Dammeyer: The flooding of Hodges Street is another issue that needs the consideration of a special committee – with a time limit. We have many engineers in this Town. This is a project for them, first. But I would submit that while the project should not be postponed by a stop-gap or bandaid measure, it should also be carefully considered to have it be a solution that is either invisible or beautifully designed. It should not turn into a “highly functional eyesore”.

Charlie Overcash: This question has come up at each election. At this point the suggestions made, such as raising Hodges Street at the harbor have been unattainable because the town just does not have the money to spend. Money keeps coming back up, but it is a reality that Oriental just does not have that much extra money after all the “have to have” budget items are taken care of. I look forward to the results of the grant study and sincerely hope the results include ways to pay for those results.

Sally Belangia (Candidate for Mayor): Hopefully the grant will help us design a plan for the flooding.

6. Does the Town need a new town attorney? Please explain why or why not.

Dianne Simmons: I don’t have enough information to answer this question. I would need to know a great deal more before giving a reasonable answer. I would have to have some official interaction with the town attorney before I would be in a position to respond adequately.

David White: I am not so interested in which law firm the Town engages, but more on the point that we have the right legal representation based on the issue(s) facing the Town. As with any service provider (such as law firms) the Town hires, we should constantly look to make sure we are spending our budget dollars wisely and getting results. Also, the type of legal services required is dictated by the type of representation needed. While at present there are no major issues facing the Town, if some should arise, we should make sure the best firm is engaged to represent our Town. During the budget process each year we look at all service providers and determine the best needed based on requirements. I encourage all to join in the budget process and attend the working sessions that are open to the public.

J. Martin Barrow: The Town Board must determine if the current services provided are adequate. The decision to make any changes would require an assessment of viable alternatives.

Gregory Bohmert: I am not current on the performance of the Town’s attorney or the lack of it. I would need more time to research the history of that relationship between the town and our current attorney before I could offer an informed opinion. It is my vague understanding that our town attorney has done most of his work advising the town on the legality of different ordnances, zoning regulations and other legal document interpretations through the many years he has served the Town. If my assumption is correct about the areas of concern, it should not be too expensive to have a qualified body, review his past work for accuracy and correctness, which would give us bases to evaluate his performance. Since I’m not a lawyer, and I hope no one else on the board is, we’d need some kind of yard stick to measure things by.

Eric Dammeyer: We need to consider a new Town Attorney, one that will advise us in advance of our decision making, not advising us after all the committee meetings have been held. The Town attorney’s voice should be at the beginning of the process instead of a barrier at the end. We need a Town attorney who will tell us what we are empowered to do instead of telling us what we cannot do. As an attorney myself, my strength is in the education of my clients. By helping them understand the issues they face, I help them to avoid being reactive to every issue, and to be able to see two or three steps ahead. Most importantly, the cost of constantly backing up and correcting a pathway is expensive to the Town and a huge waste of time. I have seen too many situations where the wind is sucked out of the Town’s efforts for lack of legal leadership and gumption. We need an advocate.

Charlie Overcash: The town should always be open to ways of improving services. With that said, it would be difficult to replace our current attorney with one who would have the same, or better, knowledge of town administrative laws, or one who has the same contacts in state and local government that are essential to being a good town lawyer.

Allen Price: No one has mentioned to me the need to have a new town attorney and I am ok with the current attorney. I would be glad to listen to those who think differently.

Sally Belangia (Candidate for Mayor): No. I think the one we have does an excellent job.

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Posted Wednesday October 18, 2017 by Allison DeWeese

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