April 7, 2016
Things have been moving right along and I, for one, am very proud of how things have been progressing with regards to our community events. The Easter Parade and Easter Egg Hunt were both very successful and were both very well received. I am deeply thankful to everyone who helped, or supported these activities.
We have a lot of serious work ahead of us with regards to: (1) Establishing a new budget for the upcoming fiscal year; (2) Getting the required work completed for the installation of our new well; (3) Addressing the issues of our deteriorating sewer system; (4) Appointing a representative for the Northampton County Planning Board; and (5) Appointing a replacement for Commissioner Cecil Harkey, who recently resigned from the Board and most recently lost his beloved wife.
I would ask that all of us please continue to keep Mr. Harkey in our thoughts and in our prayers.
I know that there are a lot of things for us to consider, but if we continue to break these many tasks down into the smaller, individual projects that they are, they will not appear to be so overwhelming as they may seem to appear at first glance.
The important things to remember are: (1) We continue to keep moving forward; (2) We keep working together; and (3) We keep in mind that what we do as a Town Board, we do for the sake of the Entire Woodland Community!!
In this report, I am also providing a list of our upcoming community events, some of which will require the Town Board's approval.
PLANNING BOARD APPOINTMENT
During our February meeting, I advised the Town Council that Ms. Virginia Spruill, a member of the Northampton County Board of Commissioners, asked that I identify someone from the Town of Woodland to serve as a representative on the Northampton County Planning Board. At our meeting, I asked all of the commissioners to consider any individuals that they would like to be considered for this position.
I have previously advised the board that I would like to submit Margaret Burgwyn as a potential candidate. Ms. Burgwyn is a a life-long resident of the Town of Woodland and has previously served as Mayor. I welcome any other suggestions from Town Board members and ask that we be prepared to discuss and vote on a candidate at our April meeting. ACTION REQUIRED
We have scheduled work sessions for Wednesday of each month at 5:00 pm. The dates and subjects to be discussed are as follows:
Report of Previous Work Session March 16, 2016: Sewer System/Water Treatment – At the previous Work Session on 3/16/16, the board reluctantly voted to have Rivers and Associates conduct a Flow Study, at a cost of $15,000. We were reluctant to make this decision, because this was not an item which was considered in our fiscal budget. We were also reluctant, because we had already had an assessment of our sewer system completed in December 2015, by the Wooten Company. The price for that assessment was in excess of $46,000.
These things having been stated, it was decided that we should proceed with a Flow Study. The decision to move forward with this costly venture was due in no small part to concerns raised by Robbie Collier, our Public Works Director and Commissioner David Cooper; as well as the two representatives of Rivers Associates (Mr. Mark Garner, Jr. and Mr. Blaine Humphrey).
The concerns involved the large amount of rain water the Town of Woodland had recently received. It was felt that while there are excessive amounts of water in the ground, this period of time should prove to be a perfect time to check the sewer system to see just how much rain water may have entered the system from the ground. It was also stated that it is imperative that the test be done while we are still in the rainy season. Once the season changes, we will “miss the window of opportunity.” Commissioner Cooper summed up the situation in his statement, “Time is of the essence.”
It was not so much in issue that the Wooten Company did a poor, or unsatisfactory job with regards to their assessment. The issue of concern was that when that first assessment was conducted, it was not conducted during the rainy season and there was not nearly as much water in the ground at that time, as there is at the current time.
April 20, 2016: Financial Records and Budget – We need to have a work session in order to help the new members of the Town Council to understand the financial record keeping system of the town, which will help us to understand and assist in the preparation of the Annual Budget. This Work Session will also help the Board and our Financial Officer in preparing a budget for the upcoming Fiscal Year, which begins on July 1, 2016 and ends on June 30, 2017. The proposed budget will need to be presented to the Town Board no later than June 1, 2016.
May 18, 2016: CADA Building – We need to address problems with the building which is the home of the Head Start Program, run by the Choanoke Area Development Association (CADA). It was brought to my attention that the the town owns the building and there may be an on-going problem with a leak in the roof. There are some other issues with regards to this building which requires our immediate attention.
June 15, 2016: By-Laws - The Town Council needs to adopt procedural rules for how it will operate and govern the Town of Woodland, which would include a Code-of Conduct for the Mayor and Council Members, as well as a written explanation of the duties and responsibilities for each Commissioner Position. As I have learned in the “Orientation Class for New Mayors,” Town Boards should have a written guide to procedures.
This guide must take into consideration state statutes and the Town's Charter. This may require more than one work session. We can obtain a copy of the Northampton County's By-Laws to help us. We can also use the pamphlet, “Suggested Rules of Procedure for a City Council,” which is published by the Institute of Government.
July 20, 2016: Process for Releasing Records – We need to establish a written, standard operating procedure for releasing records. Many individuals and news agencies have been requesting copies of the Minutes from the 12/3/15 meeting and we need to set up a process by which any documents which come under the Public Information Act can and should be released, including the fees.
Meeting with Sgt. William West of National Guard Armory – I had the opportunity to meet with Sgt. William West, who is the general administrator of the National Guard Armory in Woodland. During our meeting, Sgt. West informed me that it is the desire and the intention of the U.S. Army to allow the National Guard Armory to be utilized as a resource for the local community. He further stated that for town sponsored events, there will not be any charge. During our discussion, Sgt. West informed me that at some future point in time, the Army will most likely make arrangements to present the building to the Town of Woodland, if the town would consider assuming responsibility for the building.
At a separate meeting, I met with Sargent First Class (SFC). Hanson, who is a Recruiting Officer for the U.S. Army in this region of the state. SFC. Hanson, echoed Sgt. Williams' words and said that the U.S. Army is currently undergoing some administrative/restructuring changes and that the town may be contacted within the next few years, if not sooner, by the Army with regards to this matter.
I believe that this building could prove to be a great asset for the town. It could be used as a community center, or an emergency shelter in times of need. It also has the potential to be an income earner, by renting the building out for private affairs. However, there are some concerns and issues which will need to be addressed: such as needed repairs and the maintenance of the building. We can have a more detailed discussion about this at a later date, but I did want to bring this matter to the Town Board early on, as we will need to have this discussion at some future point in time.
Upper Coastal Plains Council of Governments – On March 15, 2016, I attended the Upper Coastal Plains Council of Governments Meeting at Nash County Community College. At the meeting was Mr. Seth Robertson, PE, State Revolving Fund Section Chief, NC Department of Environmental Quality. Mr. Robertson made a presentation about the 2016 State Water Infrastructure Programs for Local Governments. Mr. Robertson advised us that grants in NC are very low, compared to 10 years ago. They used to have a funding resources $150 million, but now there is only $35 million.
He also said that with the approval of the NC Connect Bond, which was approved by the citizens of NC on 3/15/16, There is now an additional $309.5 million which will be set aside for state reserve programs. $100 million will be set aside for grants and $209.5 million will be set aside for revolving loans. The state of NC understands that all municipalities need to have a viable water system to will be able to continue to serve the needs of the people. However, the state needs for the individual municipalities and counties to operate their water systems (both waste water and water treatment systems). He said the state can no longer afford to fully fund these costly projects, as had been done in past years.
UCP Brownfields Program - During the meeting, I had an opportunity to meet with Mr. Ron Townley, Planning and Development Services Program Director of UCP. I spoke to Mr. Townley about the National Guard Armory and he informed that we are not to consider assuming responsibility of the armory, without having an Environmental Site Assessment completed, since the building is what has become to be known as a “Brownfield.”
A Brownfield (as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency), is a real property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminate.
Mr. Townley explained that the UPC has a Brownfields Program, which provides professional and economic assistance to owners and potential purchasers/developers of Brownfields properties with the goal of putting these sites into beneficial use. The cost for joining the program is a one-time fee of $1,000. The benefit is that the UPC helps to obtain the funding for the environmental assessment, which will cost thousands of dollars. It is a definite investment that we seriously need to consider, for the future of Woodland. I have provided each of you with a copy of the pamphlet he presented to me.
Northampton County Board of Commissioners – On March 21, 2016, Commissioner Ron Lane and myself, attended the evening meeting of the Northampton County Board of Commissioners and also the Commissioners/Mayors Meeting, which followed.
Playground Equipment: I addressed the Commissioners regarding the letter I submitted to them on 1/15/16, requesting donation of the used playground equipment from the Wellness Center to the Town of Woodland. I was told by County Manager Kimberly Turner told that the newspaper article was incorrect in stating the Board of Commissioners would be able to simply donate the used playground equipment to another school or municipality. She further stated that since receiving a grant to redevelop their playground area, the company hired to do prepare a new design of the location, may wish to keep the old playground equipment and build a larger playground area around the existing spot. She also said that if it is decided that they no longer want the old equipment, the new owner of the old equipment will be required to come in on short notice, dismantle the equipment and cart it off. I am disappointed that I never received anything in writing from the Board of Commissioners and that I only received this information because I pressed the issue.
I think it is in the best interest for the Town of Woodland, that we consider obtaining our own equipment. There are many funding resources that may be willing to assist us, so that the town does not have to shoulder the entire financial responsibility.
However, I believe that we definitely need public playground equipment for our youngsters. This is one of the concerns that I have regarding the fact that we have to do a better job of serving ALL of the members of the Town of Woodland.
Board of Elections: Commissioner Lane addressed the County Board of Commissioners regarding the $1,682.29 bill we received from the Northampton County Board of Commissioners for the election held on November 3, 2015. The bill was almost twice the amount the Town of Woodland was told it would be required to pay, prior to the election. Ms. Susie Squire, the Director of the County Board of Elections provided a response. She said, when the state employee who was responsible for bringing in a new system for tallying votes suddenly resigned from his position, the state had to go back to the former system, which is much more expensive.
Commissioner Lane and I both believe that the County Board of Elections should have at least provided notice of this change, since the town had only budgeted $800 for the election, based on information previously received from the county.
Uncollected Property Taxes: Commissioner Lane also addressed the County Board regarding concerns that they are behind in the collection of delinquent property taxes. He was told that they are doing the best that they can, with the contact information that they have. Chairperson Fannie Green, suggested that we have an option and can always assume the responsibility of collecting the taxes ourselves; however, as Commissioner Lane pointed out, we have already paid them for a service, for which we have not received full compensation. This will be an on-going process.
I would like to thank Commissioner Lane for his hard work with regards to these matters. He represented the interests of this Town Board and the citizens of Woodland very well.
Documentary on Woodland's Solar Farm Issue – On Sunday, April 3, 2016, the four college students from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington returned to Woodland for their final trip to interview more of our residents and to take more photographs and video footage of the solar farms. As part of a class project, the students have decided to produce a documentary about the Town of Woodland and the recent solar farm issue. The students are anticipating completion of the documentary by late April, or early May. We will obtain a DVD copy for the town's records. It is their hope that they will be able to enter their documentary into several competitions and perhaps even win some awards. We certainly do wish them well in this endeavor.
PAST ACTIVITIES & EVENTS
Essentials of Government Training: I along with Commissioners Pat Liverman and Ron Lane, attended the two-day training seminar on Friday March 4th and Saturday, March 5th. I thought is was an excellent training opportunity and brought some clarification to some of the responsibilities we have as a Board and that I have as a Mayor.
During the training session, we each also received two hours of Ethics Training, which were required for myself and Commissioner Liverman, as newly elected public officials.
Easter Parade: The Easter Parade, which was held on March 19, 2016, seemed to be a wonderful success. I would like to thank the Town Board for voting to approve and help to financially support this event. We could not have done this without your support and the purchase of the Easter Bunny costume, which was a big hit!! I am pleased to say that although the Town Board approved $250 for expenditures (food and costume), we only spent $109.98 for the Easter Bunny costume. We purchased the refreshments (drinks water and hotdogs) from private donations. Barbara Outland was very gracious in her donations, which included a case of 100 hotdogs. We received cash donations in the amount of $675.00. A report will be provided for your review.
We had a total of 250 hotdogs, which was more than enough for the event. Some of them we gave away to the senior citizen building, after the program. The rest we served at the Easter Egg Hunt the following week.
I was really surprised that we had so many people and agencies participating. My thanks goes out to everyone who helped and assisted in even the smallest of ways. I think everyone that participated and everyone who attended the event enjoyed themselves. I have received a lot of positive feedback and I am just so thankful to all of you.
It was absolutely amazing to watch this town literally come alive, as we drew closer to the parade. The spirit of warmth was contagious and it seemed like everyone was getting a bit of the fever!! It has just made my heart smile with joy and gladness. So again, my deepest thanks to all of you for helping to bring this all together.
A very special word of thanks to the members of the Special Events Committee for all of their work, encouragement and enthusiasm; and also to our Town Clerk, Kim Bryant, who kept the records for all of the donations we received!!
It is my recommendation that the remaining balance of $140.02 be moved to a separate account for the purposes of Special Events and Recreation Programs. Of the $675.00 raised, we spent $300.79. The remaining $374.21 is in the Woodland's bank account. It is respectfully recommended that all of this money ($374.21 + $140.02 = $514.23) to be placed in the Special Events and Recreation Programs account. ACTION REQUIRED
Easter Egg Hunt: On March 26, 2016, we had our Easter Egg Hunt. We have a rough estimate of approximately 50 children came out the Easter Egg Hunt. We had a over 1,200 plastic eggs in total. All of the eggs contained candy and some also contained a number, which corresponded to a prize on our “Prize Table.” We were so fortunate to have received so many wonderful and gracious donations of candy and prizes.
We collected most of the eggs after the hunt was over, so that we could reuse them next year. We collected 1,184. Pattie went out and just purchased an additional 120 more eggs at the end of the Easter Shopping Season and she also purchased 4 new prizes, which will be used in addition to those that were not given out this year.
National Day of Prayer (Thursday, May 5, 2016 at 11:00 am) - The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for our nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. Since its inception, this day has continually united Americans from all socio-economic, political, and ethnic backgrounds in prayer while also encouraging personal repentance and righteousness in the culture. The National Day of Prayer belongs to all Americans and is a day that transcends differences, bringing together citizens to celebrate our most beloved freedom; the freedom to humbly come before God and seek His guidance in prayer (taken from the National Day of Prayer website).
We will hold a brief service at Town Hall. I will be asking all of our churches and local ministers to participate, as well as anyone else who would like to attend. The Town Board has already approved this event.
OTHER TOWN-WIDE EVENTS TO CONSIDER FOR 2016
Youth Day (June 25, 2016) – A special day to celebrate the youth of our Town. I have asked the Special Events Committee Members to start thinking about what we can do for the youth on this day. I have already secured the National Guard Armory. This will be a work in progress, but we need the Town Board to approve the event. (More information to follow). ACTION REQUIRED
National Night Out Against Crime (August 2, 2016) - National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, better places to live.
The National Night Out program culminates annually on the first Tuesday of August. Note: Texas (October) date is the first Tuesday of October. Neighbors celebrate across thousands of communities from all fifty states, United States territories, Canadian cities, and military bases worldwide (More information to follow). The Town Board will need to approve this event. ACTION REQUIRED
Mayor's Ball (Saturday, September 17, 2016, from 7:00pm to 11:00pm) – We are planning a Mayor's Ball, a formal dinner party, which will include terrific food, great music and lots of dancing and partying. The event will serve as a fund raising activity to help offset the costs of some of the programs and activities I would like to create and sponsor in the Town of Woodland (More information to follow). Since this is designed to be a fund raising event for the Town of Woodland, I need the Town Board to approve this event. There will be no cost to the town, as I will pay for it out of pocket and seek reimbursement following the sale of the tickets. Anything above the costs will go to the town. The plan is to keep the costs of the event as low as possible, so that the town will make a profit. ACTION REQUIRED
Craft Fair (Saturday, November 5, 2016) – We are looking forward to sponsoring our Second Annual Craft Fair. Last year's event was very successful and we will be working on trying to make it bigger and better than before!! We will provide more information about this event later in the year.
Veteran's Day Service (Friday, November 11, 2016) – We would like to have some kind of a special service, or program to honor all of our veterans in the Woodland area (More information to follow).
Christmas Tree Lighting & Caroling (Friday, December 2, 2016) – Last year, we had a fun time going throughout the neighborhoods of Woodland, singing our hearts out to our friends and neighbors. This year, I would like to have everyone come to Town Hall for a Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and Christmas Caroling. We can also serve hot chocolate and other refreshments. Even if we have to purchase an artificial tree!! We will provide more information about this event later in the year.
Christmas Party For Children (Saturday, December 17, 2016, from 9:00 am to 10:30 am) – We are considering the prospect of sponsoring a Christmas party for the young people of our community (ages 1 to 10). We will provide more information to later.
Christmas Luncheon For Seniors (Saturday, December 17, 2016, from 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm) – More information will be provided later.
Weekly Line Dancing Social: We are considering putting together a weekly line dancing program, for the sake of getting our bodies moving (for health reasons) and having some fun. More information will follow, as to specific dates and location.
OTHER EVENTS TO CONSIDER
Saturday morning recreational programs
Movies in the park
Thanksgiving Dinner for seniors and lonely citizens (November 19, 2016)
Monthly Bingo, or game nights for seniors
Farmer's Market in the summer
2017 ACTIVITIES (all of the above plus)
Woodland Day and Valentine's Day Dinner/Dance
NEW COMMITTEES – SEEKING VOLUNTEERS
I am continuing to seek volunteers to come forward and assist us with the many programs and activities that we are trying to create and establish in the Town of Woodland. These programs will help to create a more active community for all of our citizens. I would like to get representatives from all of the
various neighborhoods in the town on each committee. This will hopefully also help to bring our town together and take us one step closer to being a “Community of Friends.”
Special Events Committee – The Special Events Committee has now been established and I could not be more pleased with our members and the work that they have already done with regards to the Easter Parade and Easter Egg Hunt. This committee will be responsible for creating and establishing other, special town-wide events. Examples would be: The Woodland Craft Fair, our Town-Wide Yard Sale, Christmas Caroling and/or Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, National Day of Prayer, Woodland Day (to celebrate the Town of Woodland, its history and its citizens), First Night Out (for safe neighborhoods and public safety), Youth Day.
Recreation Committee – I will start actively seeking members for this committee during the month of April 2016. This committee will be responsible for the establishment and oversight of regular, town-wide recreational activities. Examples would be: Programs for Senior Citizens (such as a meal/feeding program, perhaps similar to meals on wheels), Youth Recreation Program, After-School Program to not only work with school work, but to also teach young people life skills (such as filling out a job application, balancing a check book, etc.), or teaching them through hands-on work about the building trades (such as small engine repair, carpentry, plumbing and brick masonry).
Grant and Fund Raising Committee – This committee would be responsible for helping to identify and secure various sources for raising money for various town projects, such as the installation of the new well, the repairs for the water treatment system, recreational activities and special events.
Ministerial Alliance – In April, I will also start actively contacting our local clergy for the purposes of creating a Ministerial Alliance. There is a lot of work that needs to be done in Woodland and we need the support, guidance and leadership of our spiritual leaders to assist us with the many tasks at hand.
APPOINTMENT OF NEW TOWN BOARD MEMBER
We will need to appoint a replacement for Cecil Harkey on the Town Board. To my knowledge, there are three individuals who have expressed an interest in filling this position. They are: Catina Jackson, Barbara Outland, and Kathy Newsome.
We will need to establish a process for this appointment, since we do not have any by-laws, code of conduct, or other written procedures to follow. I spoke to Mr. Rob Shepherd, Jr. of the NC League of Municipalities regarding this matter. He stated the NC General Statutes do not give a definitive process for the replacement of a board member, but it is suggested that a replacement is made as soon as possible.
Another suggestion is to have each of the candidates submit a written statement explaining who they are; explain their employment and educational background; what they offer to the board with regards to skills and expertise; and what their vision is for the town.
If the candidates are presents and if they fell so compelled, I would like for each of them to simply introduce themselves to the Board, just so that we may all know who they are.
I would ask the Board to consider these suggestions in coming up with a definitive process, which we need to place in writing, prior to our selection process. DISCUSSION AND ACTION REQUIRED