- Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 December 2008 22:50
- Published on Wednesday, 03 December 2008 22:50
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Here it is December already; the mid-way marking point in the year for Colonial Beach's new Mayor and Town Council. The Journal took a few moments to catch up with the community's representatives and get their answers to the same three questions: 1) Do you feel that the Council is where it should be at this time; that it has met its goals; 2) What do you feel the three hot topics at the first work session for the New Year will be; and 3) What suggestions, if any, do you have towards filling the $100,000 hole in the budget?
Mayor Fred Rummage allowed that they, the Council, "haven't accomplished everything they wanted to do, but likes the progress that the group has made."
Rummage continued, "I appreciate the cooperation that has developed among Council. We don't have any Donnybrook here," he added. When asked about the 2009 work session that has already been scheduled for December 30, the Mayor said he plans on talking with Council about that date. He has concerns that people will be away for the holidays and therefore won't be able to attend the meeting. However, he expects that "water rates and connection fees will be two of the hottest topics at the regular January meeting".
For spot number three, the Mayor expects the budget to fill that niche. "In light of the downturn of the economy," said the Mayor, "we need to find out how that has impacted our revenue." As for the hole in the budget, Rummage says, "I am hoping that the cigarette tax will assist considerably. I will also be looking into expanding the bill to include other types of tobacco - non smoke tobacco as well as cigars".
Vice Mayor Trish King said she hadn't yet taken a moment to assess where the Council stood and review the past six months. "Mayor Rummage coming on board and changing the assignments has taken some time to become accustomed to", she said. King also referenced the departure of the Town's manager, Tim Kriewczel, and pointed out that they "have not gotten a firm answer from the Town's Chief Financial Officer, Joan Grant, as to what the town's income is.
"I would have like to do more with economic development" and commented that "Land Studio has been the best thing happening. The survey they did has given us the new light that people are interested in developing Colonial Avenue as opposed to the Boardwalk. It gives us a whole new vision for Colonial Avenue".
For the first work session of 2009, King says, "Budget and economy will be number one. Everything else will be dependent on that." The Vice Mayor expects the waste water treatment plant to hold the number two spot. "Unfortunately", says King, "we are going to have to raise the rates, but the amount has not yet been ."
Hot topic number three? King says, "Decisions about funding for the school." When asked if she had a solution for the $100,000 budgetary hole, King replied, "Not yet."
Council Member David Coombes reflected that no financial reports concerning the town's income for the year had yet been given and also pronounced this Council "a better working Council than I've seen in a while". Coombes acknowledged there were "some major hurdles before us and a lot of problems that aren't solved overnight; for instance, this whole police station thing."
The Council Member touched briefly on the boat safety decal calling it, "the right decision for now. Is it an accomplishment or not; I don't know," concluded Coombes. "Financing is my biggest concern. The tax on cigarettes will provide some revenue, but not enough. Are we going to be ok in our second six months?" he posed rhetorically. "We won't know until we get an analysis".
The three hot topics Coombes expects to see in January are one: "a sound financial track. If it means tightening our belts, then so be it".
Coombes says that item, finances, is "the big one" and after that at the number two spot should come the question, "What are we going to do with our police department"?
From that point on says the Coombes, "It's a toss up. I don't want to prioritize".
Coombes says there are only so many ways to fill the $100,000 hole in the budget and those are to "raise revenue, cut expenses or do both." He expects to see some decision making done in both these categories over the next six months.
Council Member Sparky Ridgely felt the Council had "met the goals".
Ridgley said that some things "are a work in progress. Do I wish we could have gotten more done," mused Ridgely, "sure I do. Am I pretty much satisfied? I am."
The Council Member expressed that he felt council had been wise in moving cautiously. The hot topics that Ridgely expects to see in spots one, two and three are "economic development, the police station issue and developing more efficient use of resources. "We have got to operate more efficiently," urged the Council Representative.
How does Ridgely foresee the $100,000 budget hole being filled? "Well," he says, "we have already met with department heads and shared words of caution that just because a project shows it being funded in the budget doesn't make it so". He hastens to clarify that he is not talking about cutting necessary services, just putting off projects that "don't have to be done today."
Ridgely also shared that the Town currently has four vacancies in the Public Works Department; "one due to a tragedy." The salaries and benefits for these four positions will be incorporated back into the budget.
Council Member Karen Payne said, "No, I don't think we are where we should be." Payne said she wasn't pointing fingers at anyone and wasn't assigning blame, but said she felt, "This Council has been put in a hole because of previous Councils and the budget.
"I am very well aware of the $100,000 shortfall", said Payne, but does not have any one concrete idea with which to fill the hole. "Cost cutting measures and tightening of belts", is what she forecasts. Payne says the budget will be the hot topic for the new year and is of such importance that it should fill all three of the hot topic spots on the agenda for the new year. "We need to look at the big picture", she said.
Council Representative Steve Kennedy replied, "No" he doesn't feel that Council is where it should be. Kennedy said, "Personally speaking, I felt that the committee system worked better. With this new system, we don't have that sharing of information. I understand what the Mayor is trying to do; he wants everyone to specialize, but I lose something by not being involved with Karen Payne on water and sewer. I used to serve on Economic Development and Administration and Finance and that provided a really good crossover of information amongst the various Council members who served on those two committees." Kennedy said that he feels so strongly about this sharing of information that even though he has been assigned to Roads, he has kept up his involvement with economic development. Kennedy also volunteered that, 'based on the fact that this Council has had some major issues to deal with that we have done well. I think", he continued, "this Council has worked harder and put in longer hours than Councils in the past".
For the new year, Kennedy sees the three hot topics as one: "The budget and how we are going to meet the needs of the school: two, "Economic development - we need to get businesses into this town" and three: "You could toss a handful of bills up in the air there are so many things that need our attention."
As for filling the $100,000 hole, Kennedy says that fellow Council Member Sparky Ridgely "has been working hard on the budget.
"We have got to see what this cigarette tax will do. We need to have a tracking device in place so we can see if our businesses are losing other retail sales as a result. I don't think we should be doing something that will affect our business owners."
Council Member Burkett Lyburn could not be reached for comment.