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- Published on Wednesday, 04 February 2009 18:38
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In June, 2008 Mayor Fred Rummage assigned “monitoring and oversight appointments” to oversee issues that previous administration appointed committees had been responsible for; Budget (Mr. Ridgley); streets and roads (Mr. Kennedy); planning and zoning (Mr. Coombes); water and sewer (Ms. Payne); public safety (Mr. Lyburn); and economic development (Ms. King).
Councilman Kennedy raised the issue of returning to the committee system at the last Council work session on January 29th. “The oversight appointments have fallen short of my expectations as I see it. I have a number of reasons for feeling that way. I think communication between council members has fallen, we don’t have a good conduit of communication. I think that we are chasing rabbits; sometimes I don’t know who’s doing what.”
Kennedy concluded his presentation by saying, “I think these committees served a better purpose by having two to three people on each committee, there was a better line of communication, there was more input into what we were doing.”
Kennedy’s concerns stem from the fact that although these appointments are separate matters, members often end up researching the overlapping information but never confer with each other. For example, when dealing with public works, Kennedy handles the roads and Councilwoman Payne handles water and sewer. Payne confirmed in last week's meeting they have never met to discuss public works, yet they both have to meet with Public works director Rob Murphy.
Mayor Rummage replied, “I was surprised to see this on the agenda because I never heard that you were dissatisfied with the assignment that you agreed to.”
Kennedy clarified that he was not dissatisfied with the appointment but that he was dissatisfied with the lack of communication. Kennedy proposed instituting the resolution to reinstate committees on July 1st of this year to coincide with the new fiscal year. “I’m open for any discussion on this matter.” Kennedy indicated that he wanted input from the Council and if it was voted down he would accept that but he didn’t want the issue to fall through the cracks.
Originally when Mayor Rummage asked for comments from the Council, there were none, but as discussions between Rummage and Kennedy continued all members joined in to give their opinions.
Rummage began his argument against the resolution by saying, “The ways and Means Committee to my knowledge, in the past two years prior to July 1 of this year has never met! Were you aware of that?”
To which Kennedy replied, “No.”
Rummage continued, “The administration of the finance committee according to my predecessor was set for the convenience of an individual that wanted to chair a committee. Nothing ever came out of that committee.”
Rummage explained that the Finance committee and Ways and Means committees are a duplication of effort. He told Kennedy, “If you're willing to settle on Public works, public safety, and planning and economic development, I don’t have a problem.”
Appearing to reach a compromise Kennedy said, “I’d still like to see adding a finance committee in there. We can combine the two.”
Other Council members finally began to join the discussion; Ridgley stated that when he was appointed to oversee the Budget he did not receive any written information from his predecessors or any committee concerning finances.
Coombes said in the past the success or failure of a committee was due to its chair and said, "We have had some weak chairs in the past."
Payne had no objection to going back to committee system.
King's general comment was to point out that with a committee meeting, several people engage in the discussions and others can attend. With the present system "Council members are only given a report and are not privy to how decisions are reached."
Finally Lyburn said he doesn’t feel left out because he just goes out and asks people to find out what he wants to know.
Lyburn said he is happy to share information any time it is requested. He is not opposed to committees but he cautions the time consumption issue and he addressed the need to find ways to share information. If three or more members of council meet to discuss town issue it must become public and advertised adding to the burden of scheduling.
After much discussion the majority of the Council voted in favor of tabling the issue till May.
The next two items on the agenda seamed to set an atmosphere of addressing uncertainty in the rolls of the Council members and the Mayor.
Kennedy presented a list of Bylaws and Rules of Procedures drafted by Town Attorney Erard which the council covered line by line. The Resolution following this list addressed, commitment to excellence, the Mayor and Council complying with the letter and spirit of the laws affecting the operation of town government as well as being required to be impartial and fair in judgment and actions while in public office.
Mayor Rummage presented a document also prepared by Erard outlining the powers, duties and authority of the Mayor compiled from the Town Charter, Town Code and The Code of Virginia and other legal precedence.
Although there was no formal discussion on the documents concerning the Mayor he apparently was responding to the opposition he has received from Council in the past.