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hometown fun at the homecoming parade

The Colonial Beach High School PTA sponsored several homecoming events Oct. 31. The evening began wi...

CB council candidates split on sharing services with county

CB council candidates split on sharing services with county

The Colonial Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Colonial Beach Foundation hosted a candidates’ &...

Elementary students move into new home

Elementary students move into new home

Faces were beaming, despite carrying heavy loads of boxes, chairs, desks and other school supplies a...

Colonial Beach groups will team up to host fall festival

This year, the Colonial Beach PTA, Chamber of Commerce and Volunteer Rescue Squad are teaming up wit...

Beach manager defends decision to raze ex-school

Foulds says building was unsafe, and several residents complained
The Colonial Beach town manager sai...

1st Annual Colonial Beach Bike Fest

1st Annual Colonial Beach Bike Fest

1st Annual Colonial Beach Bike Fest

 

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Castlewood Park closed until further notice

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The public safety committee meeting drew the largest crowd during yesterday’s meetings.

The Public Safety portion of the July 30, 2009 committee meetings drew a large crowd of residents waiting to hear what the Colonial Beach Town Council planned to do in response to complaints of overcrowding in Castlewood Park and the surrounding area at the end of the Point in Colonial Beach.  

As the summer has progressed the problem in Castlewood Park has grown to epic proportions. Residents have witnessed large groups of people monopolizing the Park and surrounding areas at the end of the Point, pitching tents overnight, cooking meals and fishing.

The problem according to Council member Stephen Kennedy is that even though these are families using the park, it is not big enough to support so large a group of people. The bathroom facilities are not sufficient to support the groups and the trash receptacles are filling up too fast.

Read more: Castlewood Park closed until further notice

When is a push an assault? Can't we all be friends again?

Editor's Note: For some time The Journal refrained from reporting on the alleged assault of Police Chief Christopher Hawkins by Colonial Beach Vice Mayor Trish King, as a result of interviews held shortly after the incident. Having been informed by authorities that the matter did not rise to level of a story, but was more a matter between two councilpersons in the privacy of a back room, The Journal let the matter stay between the two persons involved. When the issue developed into a full-bloom investigation by a Commonwealth's Attorney, The Journal took another look. As far as the paper is concerned, the matter should have stayed between the two persons involved in the privacy of a back room. Since that was not to be, here are the facts.

Recent reports in local papers have facilitated the need to clear up some misinformation. Confusion and speculation was spawned from articles that make unnecessary inferences as to what took place regarding actions of officials who are obligated to look into the matter for the purpose of following procedures.

Read more: When is a push an assault? Can't we all be friends again?

“High Tides” wash away boat and real estate tax increase

Boat and marina owners packed the Pete Bone Meeting room Wednesday to voice their divergence with the Colonial Beach Town Council’s proposal to raise real estate and boat tax for the next fiscal year.
The council was considering a .03 cent real estate tax increase and a raise on boat tax from .01 to $1.50 per $100 of assessed value to help bridge a $245,834 budget deficit.
The council applied $150,000 from the sale of the boardwalk property to Brian and Vicki Coffman, owners of High Tides Restaurant, to next year’s revenues. Members also removed $50,000 dollars that had been budgeted for paving roads in Riverside Meadows for next year, and all members of council gave up their pay of $150 per month to put $15,000 into the general fund. The resulting budget went from a deficit of nearly $250,000 to $30,834 short, without raising either tax.

Read more: “High Tides” wash away boat and real estate tax increase

Mayor Rummage: Maybe it’s time to jerk the Charter

The June 11 council meeting resulted in a number of resolutions passed and a few heated debates.
Resolutions passed included the reappointment of Barbara S. Cooper to the Colonial Beach Tourism Advisory Council, the appointment of Gerrald E. Higgs to the Memorials Commission, Amendment of the Contract to renovate the tourism building, approval of the update and maintenance of the 9-11 maps and approval of lease between the town and Hurst Harvey Oil, Inc. to house the police station.
David Coombes’ reappointment to the Planning Commission was met with some opposition from an unnamed citizen. The argument was presented by Mayor Rummage.

Read more: Mayor Rummage: Maybe it’s time to jerk the Charter

Boaters threaten to jump ship if boat tax re-instated

Last week the Town Council held a special meeting before its regular meeting to hear arguments from Marina owners and boat owners, opposing a tax hike on personal property tax for boats. At present the personal property tax in Colonial Beach for boats is 1 cent, allowing the tax to remain on the books but keeping the town from collecting. Council members are wrestling with the idea of re-instating the boat tax at a rate of $2.99 per every hundred dollars of value.

Carey Geddes president of the Colonial Beach Chamber of Commerce spoke first, saying, “Several events in the recent past have presented a challenge to Marina owners; the Marina fire, Hurricane Isabel and Ernesto.  Boat owners have concerns with rising fuel costs, maintenance and other expenses concerning boat ownership. They have their eyes and ears pointed towards their overall cost of operating their boats.

Read more: Boaters threaten to jump ship if boat tax re-instated

Fireworks discussed but not flying at CB

   The Colonial Beach Town Council met with Val Foulds and other town officials on Friday to discuss the fiscal year 09-10 budget. In attendance were Ronald Ridgely, Karen Payne, David Coombes, Stephen Kennedy and Mayor Rummage.
   While discussing budget issues concerning the Chamber of Commerce Mayor Rummage asked to discuss the fireworks. It was discovered during the conversation that in years gone by the Town has always had to borrow from the next year to pay for the fireworks on the 4th of July. This happened somewhere in the past because the budget is not completed till the first of July and money to catch up is never available in the budget.

Read more: Fireworks discussed but not flying at CB

Colonial Beach Town Council issues No Trespass notice to Mayor Rummage

   At Thursday’s Town Council meeting Council members made a motion to suspend the rules in order to allow a vote on Resolution #33-09 seeking to impose restrictions to private office areas of Town Hall from Mayor Rummage.
   The resolution stated that on April 27th 2009 and April 29, 2009, Mayor Fred Rummage had entered into the areas of Town Hall that are not designated for public use and has interfered with and interrupted the ability of staff to perform their work, this intrusion by Mayor Rummage into the private work areas of Town staff has caused some members of Town Staff to feel uncomfortable, fearful and intimidated.
   This resolution takes matters concerning conflict with Town Hall staff members and Mayor Rummage one step further than a previous resolution passed just three weeks ago at the last Regular Town Meeting where the mayor was ordered to vacate his physical office and prohibited from interfering with the day to day duties and operations of Town Hall unless invited by Council as a whole or the Town Manager Val Foulds to participate in.
   Councilman Ridgely commented that feelings of being uncomfortable, fearful and intimidated had been reported to continue going on in Town Hall. “This is one of the most unpleasant things I think the council has had to do. But we just feel it’s necessary. Town Employees are our assets; we’re going to protect the assets of the town and the people. The people truly feel fearful and intimidated by what’s going on and somehow it has to be brought to an end.”
Councilman Coombes at the previous meeting gave a very rough overview of the problems concerning the Mayors presence in Town Hall.
    Thursday’s work session he was slightly more open about specific details of the problems by saying “Any reasonable person that has six elected people at odds with his activities or some of the activities in Town Hall and has the entire Town Hall upset, should come and sit down with us and have a reasonable, professional discussion of the problem. Instead I hear this business of ‘It’s war! Payback is hell!’ and that’s just not the kind of thing that the chief executive officer elected to this town should be doing.”
   Coombes said, “I too said three weeks ago I was very sad about closing the Mayor’s office. Unfortunately tonight I also am convinced that this is necessary and it is very, very unfortunate. I want to, on behalf of myself and this council, apologize to the citizens of Colonial Beach and everyone, that we have to enter into this process. All of us would have preferred not to have to do this.”
   The unpleasant action that Coombes referred to comes at the end of the Resolution instructing the Town Attorney to draft a No-Trespass Notice against the Mayor. Barring him from access to any private areas of Town Hall and instructing the Chief of Police to carry-out such Trespass papers with whatever action may become necessary.
   Coombes made a plea to the Mayor to help resolve the issue saying, “I would hope that as a result of this, if it passes, that Mayor Rummage voluntarily would come to us and sit down with us. We all regret having to do this but the problems continue. The expressions of concern, fear and intimidation continue to come to us. We just don’t have any alternative, we are backed up against the wall we can not turn in any other direction.”
   Coombes ended his comments by saying, “I say with all due respect Mr. Mayor, I hope you will take the initiative, I hope you will take a deep breath, I hope you will plant your feet in cement, I hope you will come to us and sit down with us as a group and have a discussion about the problem.”
Since the beginning of this year Council has put on their agenda items relating to defining the Councils role as well as the Mayors.
   Vice Mayor Trish King who has remained silent in public spoke out about the previous resolution to vacate the physical office of the Mayor and the Resolution before them by saying, “I too am very troubled by having to participate in this action. It is very disheartening to know how hard everyone is working to put a professional foot forward.”
   Kennedy reiterated that this was a necessary action to prevent a stressful work environment in Town Hall. He said, “This is not a head hunt for him, he created his own misery. We have done everything possible to resolve this and he would not hear of it. If it continues we will go to the next step.” When asked what was the next step, Kennedy replied, “We don’t know! That’s the problem.”
   It was revealed and very obvious by the Mayor's lack of surprise when the Resolution was read, that the Council had presented Mayor Rummage with a copy of the Resolution before the meeting. However, he did show surprise when he questioned if it was to be put on the next meeting's agenda and was told no. Mayor Rummage had no comment.

Linda Farneth

 

Ridgely, Kennedy, Coombes, tell their side of the story

“The three of us met that morning because it was a crisis!”
Editor Note: At the April 9 Town Council meeting Council passed Resolution 27-09 to disallow the Mayor the use of an office in Town Hall and to restrict the Mayor or any member of the Town Council from undertaking actions related to the day to day operations and/or management of the Town, unless specifically authorized by the Town Council or specifically requested by the Town Manager.
   In his defense, Mayor Rummage opened his speech at the most recent council meeting by saying, “I have always felt that both sides of the story have to be told and when that is not done we are short changing the public!”
   In that effort, last week's Journal told Mayor Rummage’s side of the story. This week some Council members tell their side of the story.
   Councilman Ronald “Sparky” Ridgely, with the approval of Councilmen David Coombes and Stephen R. Kennedy, talked with The Journal in more depth about the actions of the Mayor which led to his removal from Town Hall. “The three of us met that morning because it was a crisis!” said Councilman Sparkey Ridgely.
   Ridgley was referring to the morning of April 7 when Councilmen Ridgely, Coombes, and Kennedy approached Mayor Rummage and requested that he pack his belongings and remove himself from the physical office in Town Hall. “Illegal meeting or not, there comes a point in time when you have to say we don’t have an option. Would I do it again? Hopefully, I’ll never have to,” said Ridgely “
   “About four to six weeks before that, Council had talked to him [Mayor Rummage] about the work environment [at Town Hall] and it didn’t get any better.”
   At that earlier meeting the members who attended were Vice Mayor Trish King and Councilmen Coombes and Ridgely.
   When asked if at either meeting with Mayor Rummage discussing the work environment at Town Hall; was any other Council business discussed?
   Ridgely said, “No, they were both rather short meetings!”
   Ridgely emphatically stated that they [Councilmen Coombes, Ridgely and Kennedy] had the approval of all members of the council, excluding the Mayor of course.
   Ridgely summed up the problems  saying, “Employees where starting to use the term ‘hostile work environment’, employees where asked sometimes to do unethical and perhaps even illegal tasks and were then threatened with discharge if they did not comply.” 
   When asked to explain, Ridgley sited a few examples: Rummage reportedly asked a town clerk to call select residents to attend a meeting that would be in their best interest.
   “You can’t use town employees for that.” Ridgely said.
   “He [Mayor Rummage] instructed the Chief Financial Officer to cut a check for $50,000 immediately for the roads in Riverside Meadows before the Town Council had voted to pass the resolution to spend the money."
   “The CFO [Joan Grant] refused and made Council members aware of the instructions given to her by the mayor.
   “There comes a point where you have to do something,” Ridgely said. “I know one woman threw up one afternoon from nerves. One employee reportedly told her boss, ‘If you're not coming in tomorrow, I’m not coming in because I don’t want to be here if you're not.’
   “The employees are the Town’s assets. When you have employees that have been there for years and they’re uncomfortable being there, it’s the Town Council's duty to act on it.”
He said employees would approach him and convey that they had refused to act on orders given to them by Mayor Rummage that they knew were unethical, looking for his approval for their actions. “You could feel the tension when you came into Town Hall!”
   The mayor reportedly used phrases such as “Paybacks are hell!” and “I’m going to get even, this is war.” while shaking his finger at people he disagreed with.  It was a work environment that wasn’t conducive to productivity or what the people where used to,” Ridgely said. “Nobody enjoyed doing it! But it had to be done!” 
   Ridgley admitted the Council had disagreements about issues brought before them and how issues were being handled by the Mayor, “But in no way did any of those issues have any bearing on why the Council opted to close the physical office in Town Hall and restrict the Mayor from conducting business in Town Hall.”
   Ridgely’s message conveyed that Resolution 27-09 was put in place solely to keep Town Hall employees free of a hostile work environment and to promote the mental well being of the employees.
   In a phone interview, Councilman Kennedy responded to comments made by citizens after the April 9th Town Council meeting, accusing Kennedy of “spearheading the Mayors removal from his physical office because he wanted to be mayor.” He said, “I refused to participate in the original meeting. It was only after the problems became worse that I got involved. Because I sit on Council I have a responsibility to the residents of this town. My desire in the past to become Mayor had nothing to do with my actions concerning the Mayor's removal from Town Hall.”
   “Being Mayor is the furthest thing from my mind right now,” Kennedy said. He stated that even if the Mayor should leave his political office for any reason, that Vice Mayor Trish King takes over by default. “I know my place in the pecking order,” Kennedy added. “I am committed to serving the citizens of this town as a Council Member.”
   Kennedy feels that the Mayor is committed to fulfilling a campaign promise he made to the citizens to pave the roads in Riverside Meadows. He said, “At what cost? I don’t know.”
Kennedy stated that actions taken in the Riverside Meadows paving project or any other projects before Council had no bearing on the decision to disallow the Mayor an office in Town Hall. “It was simply correcting a bad situation.” said Kennedy. 
   Councilman Ridgely took the opportunity to speak out on the issue of the Riverside Meadows Road projects. "The Council has already approved $50,000 towards partial pavement of roads in Riverside Meadows earlier this year. The County Supervisors discovered recently that they had a surplus in their budget and made an offer to the Town to match funds. The combined funds would then be matched by the State to start a 2nd phase of paving in Riverside Meadows. The figure being bandied about for Phase 2 is also $50,000.
   "This gets confusing since both phases have the same bottom line required from the Town. When people hear that the town turned down the chance to quadruple their investment of $50,000 to pave Roads in Riverside Meadows, they think that the Council is reneging. To add insult to injury Mayor Rummage made Campaign promises that led Riverside Meadow residents to believe that he would see to it the roads would be paved in their neighborhood; a promise that cannot be carried out by one member of Council alone, even if that member is the Mayor."
   Ridgely explained that when this year’s budget was created and voted on, roughly $100,000 dollars of revenue was anticipated to come from either a boat tax or decal. That money was slated to go into a contingency fund. When neither the boat tax nor boat decals were implemented, this left a gap in the budget. Money in the contingency fund is a line item in the physical operating budget, according to CFO Joan Grant. If during the year there is an economic or meteorological emergency, the money can be spent from this fund.
   Another form of revenue that was anticipated was money from building and other permits. The economy took a turn for the worse and anticipated permits where not issued, leaving another $101,421.34 gap in the budget as of March 31st.
   Lastly, money that has been counted for this year’s budget will come in from property taxes that are due in by June 5th and the budget cycle ends June 31, meaning it is too soon to tell if that projected revenue will fall short.
   The town has already put in $50,000 matching funds for the pavement of roads in Riverside Meadows for phase 1. The $50,000 that was recently asked for by Rummage for a 2nd phase of road construction in Riverside Meadows would have to come out of this year’s budget which is already short.
   Both Ridgely and Kennedy confirmed that Mayor Rummage called the members of council individually, strong arming them. Rummage reportedly stated to Ridgely that he already had the backing of a majority of the Council when he first spoke to Ridgely about approving the money for phase 2. After speaking individually on the phone with other members of Council, Ridgely discovered that the other members had either not agreed to vote for it or had not even spoken to Rummage about it. After comparing notes it was reportedly discovered that Rummage quoted different figures to each member. Ridgely said, “He started with a figure of $80,000 and said he would negotiate with Town Manager Val Foulds on the money,” Ridley said. “You can’t negotiate money you don’t have!”
   Rummage stated at the last meeting that the money should come from the Reserve Fund. “That money is for emergencies: unforeseen catastrophic events such as Hurricane Isabel.” said Ridgely.
   "So here we have two funds, Contingency and Reserve. Contingency money is “contingent” on making revenue from some tax that has not yet been decided or some other form of revenue, for example a Boat Show that may bring in money but the amount is undetermined.
Reserve is money that has been made from the sale of land. What they both seem to have in common is that they are both used for unforeseen expenses that may come up and are not already budgeted for. These are “Rainy Day” funds, according to Ridgely.
   Kennedy and Ridgely both said in separate interviews that they did not feel comfortable committing money they are not sure they have. With the recent Town Audit results completed by the Miller/Foley group determining over $650,000 in overspending by the School Board in the past, and projected revenue that never came from the Boat tax and permits, the Council would be fool hardy to commit to the $50,000 dollars for phase 2 of the Riverside Meadows project, they said.          

Linda Farneth

 

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