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Fight on the Playground (on the Potomac)

Colonial Beach Town Council Meeting - August 13, 2009

If one just opens their ears and listens to the Town Council meeting in Colonial Beach held on August 13 they would hear so much valuable information about the town’s infrastructure and the day to day operations of the town.

 One would also hear great words of pride, wisdom and maturity. However what sticks out in minds of those who were there and those who view the video is the frustration and fighting of some of the most prominent members of our local School system and Town Government.

Last night was to be the Town's new Superintendent’s first meeting of the Town Council. Last night was our town Government and School Board Chairman’s first chance to welcome Dr. Power to our community and make a first impression.

It may be lucky for us that Dr. Power had to leave early, hopefully she was not preparing her letter of resignation after listening to School Board Chairman Tim Trivett respond to allegations from the Town Council, made against the School Board in an earlier meeting, where Council Members aired their frustrations over the School reneging on their agreement to go the Bright accounting system which the Town uses.

  Dr. Power missed the town resident who accused the Town of giving her no services for her tax dollars because she lived on a street that was slated for paving in the second phase of the “Santa Maria” paving.

 Last night the Council learned from Board of Supervisor Larry Roberson that the money from the County, slated for Phase II is no longer available due to a lack of commitment from the Town.

Dr. Power also missed Fred Rummage, the Town’s Mayor using the Council's decision to revise the Bylaws as an opportunity to revisit his accusations that the Council is trying to take away his ability to perform his duties.

Dr. Power missed Councilman Lyburn's first ever loss of patience in a town meeting and his insistence that Mayor owed the Council and apology.

Spectators also missed the confrontational exchange between Councilman Steve Kennedy and School Board Chairman Trivett, witnessed by The Journal as well as one citizen and the rest of the Council.


Castlewood Park closed until further notice


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


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