June 2, 2016
This month, one of the Town Council's most urgent matters of concern is the adoption of the Town's Budget for the new fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017. A Public Hearing has been scheduled for June 2, 2016, at 6:00 pm, in order to give the public an opportunity to review the budget and raise any issues of concern, prior to the regularly scheduled Town Board Meeting at 7:00 pm. At that time the new budget will be voted upon.
During the process of preparing this new budget, we have worked very hard to ensure that our proposed expenses are addressing all of the relevant issues that will continue to help make our town grow and prosper. One such new feature is that we have set up the process to establish a Capital Improvement Fund, so that we can start placing money in a separate account to help with maintenance issues involving our water and sewer systems and our streets. This has not been done in past years and the town has suffered as a result.
Status Update of New Well: The process for the installation of a new water well continues. We will hopefully receive more information during our meeting. As stated in the previous report, the town currently has two wells; however, Well Number One is over 70 years old and is not able to pump a lot of water; therefore, the town is totally dependent upon Well Number Two for all of its water supply at this time. Should Well Number Two cease to function for any reason, we will have to connect to the county's water supply, which will become an additional expense for all of our citizens. As such, we are in great need to create a third well for the town.
Sewer System: Rivers and Associates, an engineering firm, is currently assisting the Town of Woodland in the process for applying for a grant/loan in order to begin some very much needed repairs on our aging sewer system. As a result of a recent Flow Study which was performed on our system, we learned that there are a myriad of breaches within our sewer system, allowing ground water from precipitation to flow into the system, bringing in sand along with the water. The additional ground water, which is seeping into the system, must also be treated with chemicals, as if it were sewer water.
As a result, instead of pumping only 65,000 gallons of waste water on an average day; during a rain soaked day, in which we may receive over one inch of rain, we may have to pump as much as 596,000 gallons per day.
This is extremely costly, because this rain water has to be treated as if it was waste water. Also, our utility bills are excessively high due to pumping of all this additional water. If that is not bad enough, because this additional water is not coming from residences, the town cannot bill anyone for the pumping and treatment of this excessive water. As such, we cannot even recoup the additional costs created by this problem.
REPORT ON PREVIOUS WORK SESSION ON MAY 18, 2016
Choanoke Area Development Association (CADA) Building for Head Start – We reviewed the Lease Agreement between CADA and the Town of Woodland, which owns the building. During our review, we identified two issues of non-compliance pertaining to the Lease Agreement, which is dated July 1, 2002: (1) Excessive Tardiness of Rent Payments; and (2) Maintenance of the Building. CADA has been in arrears for as many as seven months at one point in time. Additionally, there are some problems with at least one of the air conditioning units located on the top of the building, which has been leaking for almost two years. This on-going maintenance issue has led to other problems with the building.
The Town Board asked Mayor Manuel to contact Ms. Sally Surface, the Director of CADA, in an effort to address these issues of concern and to schedule a date for an on-site inspection.
Additionally, the Town Board is also contemplating the idea of possibly selling the building. The current lease is for a period of 20 years and is due to expire on June 30, 2022.
On May 25, 2016, I spoke to Ms. Surface via telephone, as she was unable to meet with me as scheduled. We discussed the matters of concern and she agreed to look into these issues and schedule another meeting with me to address these matters further. Ms. Surface also expressed her interest in keeping the Head Start Program in the Woodland Community, as it serves a vital purpose. She further stated that there are some challenges to purchasing a building for the purposes of a federally funded Head Start Program, but looks forward to addressing these challenges.
On May 27, 2016, Mr. Robbie Collier, the Director of Public Works for the Town of Woodland and myself conducted an on-site visit of the CADA Building. We were accompanied by Ms. Rosa Bond of CADA and Mrs. Beale, the Director of the CADA Head Start Program in Woodland.
Robbie pointed out the various areas of concern with regards to: (1) the circuit breaker box; (2) the two sewer pumps and the lid which was recently replaced at a cost of $800; (3) the seven bathrooms in the building; (4) the water stains on the ceiling in some of the class rooms; and (4) the roof area, which contains seven air conditioners.
The roof is flat, with very little, if any grading pitch to it. As such, water sits on the roof and does not flow off. None of the air conditioning units have leader pipes attached, which would allow the water draining from the units to travel to the edge of the roof and drain off. As a result, the water from all of the units is pooling on the roof. We observed several puddles of water on the roof during this visit.
Robbie also pointed out the cracks in the joints of the roof and in other locations. The roof will need to be resealed; however, for this to be done, the air conditioning units will need to be hoisted off of the roof. This will prove to be a very expensive project.
Action Requested: I have asked Robbie to obtain estimates to seal the roof and to also obtain estimates for two air conditioning units which will need to be repaired.
Barbara J. Outland Selected As New Town Board Member: During our meeting on May 5, 2016, the Town Board unanimously voted for Barbara J. Outland to serve as the Police Commissioner in charge of Public Safety. Mrs. Outland was sworn in by Mayor Manuel immediately following the vote and was seated as the newly appointed Town Commissioner.
The vacant Commissioner seat was once held by Cecil Harkey, who resigned earlier this year. Mrs. Outland was selected from a field of two candidates. Ms. Catina Jackson and Ms. Outland both submitted a letter of interest to serve in that capacity and were both considered excellent candidates for the position. We thank both women for their interest in serving our community in this capacity and congratulate Commissioner Outland in her new post and wish her the very best in this endeavor.
Resignation of Police Chief John Ruppe Rescinded: After thoughtful consideration of his letter of resignation in April 2016, Police Chief John Ruppe requested that the Town Board consider rescinding his resignation. Chief Ruppe was offered another position as Chief of Police in a town closer to his family and residence.
The members of the Town Board agreed to rescind Chief Ruppe's resignation and expressed their glee that he had decided to remain with the Town of Woodland.
Chief Ruppe vowed that he would not seek any other employment opportunities and expressed his desire to remain in Woodland for the remainder of his career. He advised the Board members that he was very pleased with his job and the people he has come to know and work with here and is very thankful for the Board's decision to rescind his resignation.
We have scheduled work sessions for the third Wednesday of each month at 5:00 pm. There only two more scheduled dates for 2016. These meetings are always open to the public and the public is welcomed and encouraged to attend. The remaining meetings are as follows:
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.
PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN THE TOWN BOARD AND COMMUNITY COMMITTEES
During the the Town Council Meeting of April 7, 2016, I was advised by council members that they would prefer that I, as the Mayor, not continue to represent the Special Events Committee at the Town Council Meetings. The Council Members also stated that they would prefer that the Special Events Committee (and other committees to follow) operate completely on its own, without involvement of the Town Council.
I would like very much to re-visit this idea that these committees operate in isolation, without the support of the Town Board. As leaders of this town, we need to understand and come to terms with the fact that the events and activities that have been sponsored by the Special Events Committee (and those that will be sponsored by the Recreation Committee) are activities which the citizens of the town are creating and establishing for the benefit of all members of our community. Furthermore, they were created at the request of many citizens that I spoke to during my campaign as Mayor.
Theses organizations and these activities require the support and backing of the leaders of this town. It is our duty and our obligation to help support our citizens and this community. They cannot operate to their full capacity without a partnership of the Town of Woodland. Issues regarding insurance liability alone, is enough to cripple any one activity before it even gets off of the ground. We have already seen how well the Easter Parade, the Easter Egg Hunt and the National Day of Prayer were received by our community. I ask you, in fact, I beg you to reconsider your previous decision to have this town board abstain from any involvement with these organizations.
Special Events Committee – The Special Events Committee has now been established and recently elected new officers: Donielle McDermott, Chairperson; Lynn Lane, Vice Chairperson, Vanessa A. Council,Secretary. The SEC will be responsible for creating and establishing special, town-wide events, such as the Easter Parade, the Easter Egg Hunt and the Craft Fair. The Special Events Committee meets on the last Tuesday of each month at 5:00 pm at Town Hall. All are welcome to come and join.
Woodland Community Outreach, Inc. - The Special Events Committee is currently in the process of establishing an “umbrella organization”which will be called “Woodland Community Outreach, Inc.” This organization will be applying for 301(c) non profit status with the state of North Carolina and will operate as an independent and separate entity from the Town Council; however, it will still require the Town's support with regards to co-sponsoring its activities. Not so much for financial support, but moral support; by lending the Town of Woodland's name to its events and activities for insurance purposes.
Under the Woodland Community Outreach, Inc. organization, the Special Events Committee, the soon to be established Recreation Committee and the soon to be created Grants and Fund Raising Committee will operate.
NEW COMMITTEES – SEEKING VOLUNTEERS
Recreation Committee – On Tuesday, June 7, 2016, we will hold our first meeting of the Recreation Committee. The meeting will begin promptly at 6:00 pm at Town Hall. The meeting is scheduled to last for one hour. This committee will be responsible for the establishment and oversight of regular, town-wide recreational activities. Examples would be: Programs for Senior Citizens, a Youth Recreation Program, After-School Program to not only to help 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 will be responsible for helping to identify and secure various sources for raising money for various town events and activities such as recreational activities and special events.
STRATEGIC PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE OF WOODLAND
As members of the Town Council, we will need to seriously consider the future of Woodland and things that can be done to help ensure that this town will be able to continue to operate and function properly for future generations. As such, we need to start working on putting together some strategic plans that we can work on together, to help improve the community.
Capital Improvement Plan: As presented by Robbie Collier, we need to develop a Capital Improvement Plan that will address the many areas of our Public Works Department, including our water supply, sewer system, streets, sidewalks and facilities (Town Hall, Town Shop, Old Town Hall and Head Start building).
Strategic Plan for Community Development: We need to start working on a plan to help better develop our community, by partnering with organizations like the Special Events Committee, the Men's Club and other organizations that are interested and concerned about the welfare and public safety of our citizens. The Upper Coastal Plains Council of Governments will be a great resource to assist us.
Strategic Plan for Economic Development: We need to start putting together a plan of attack for addressing our need for more commercial businesses to set up shop in the Town of Woodland. The Upper Coastal Plains Council of Governments and the Northampton County Board of Economic Development will be two great resources to assist us in this endeavor as well.