Sat04192014

Last updateTue, 04 Nov 2014 9pm

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New council divided

Newest member of Colonial Beach Town Council, Linda Brubaker, was met with opposition from other council members when she presented some ideas to boost revenue, as well as citizen and staff concerns.
Brubaker told the council that she and Councilman Tommy Edwards had met with Building and Zoning Director Gary Mitchell, Colonial Beach Building Inspector Dexter Monroe, and Code Compliance Official Teresa Davis.

“All three were reserved at first, and candidly worried about why we were visiting, and about Whitestone,” Brubaker said. [Whitestone is the company that the town has hired for $17,000 to evaluate town employees.]
“We tried to reassure them that we wanted the lines of communication opened.” she continued.

Brubaker then announced that she and Councilman Edwards both feel that the town should make a budget amendment to hire Building Inspector Dexter Monroe full-time.

Brubaker then turned her thoughts to Davis, “On Teresa Davis, our personal recommendation to the council is put ‘code enforcement’ in her title. She is another good employee. I feel that what was suggested would help her to be more proactive.”

Brubaker referenced a house on Jackson Street that should be torn down, inoperable cars on citizens’ properties, as well as broken windows in homes. Brubaker stated she was told that the previous council had instructed building and zoning to only go after property violations when someone from the community complained.

Mayor Mike Ham denied that anyone on council had given those instructions.

Brubaker feels that Davis should be seeking out violations and enforcing code.

She also suggested inspections for rental properties, “I would like to see a rental inspection; that could be a source of revenue.”

Brubaker also believes that when there is an accident involving a residence that the proper authorities are not notified when there is structural damage.

Edwards added, “Dexter [Monroe] works a twenty-hour work week. When the fire department gets a call like a car in a building, they call someone from the county.”

Chiarello responded to Brubaker asking, “Is it the fire department’s responsibility to notify the building inspector?”

Chiarello feels that it is ultimately the homeowner’s responsibility, “I am not against having more regulations or revenue sources, but if you want to address the overall situation of safety, at what level do you do that? Do you inspect every single home in town, every single business, every single building? A lot of these buildings, regardless of their intended use, have all been inspected at some point, and been given occupancy permits, and they are regulated by their insurance companies.

Brubaker argued, “I think there are two separate issues. One-I doubt very seriously if some of these slumlords that don’t have mortgages, have insurance. I know for a fact there is a four-unit apartment project within walking distance of here [meaning the town meeting room] that did not have smoke detectors. Mold is not an issue for the town, but the floors go like this (gesturing that they are not level); it probably hasn’t been inspected since 1950.”

“The other issue with the fire department, and maybe I didn’t state that correctly- the fire department, I feel does have an obligation, if there is a fire, of course not a frying pan fire, but if there is a fire with structural damage to the home, our building inspectors need to know about that.”

Edwards, who is a retired fireman, told the council that if there is a fire, it is up to the fire marshal to say whether the home is inhabitable or not.

Mayor Ham cited the recent accident at the Beachgate Motel, saying that the CB Fire and Rescue notified somebody, because Dexter Monroe was there, almost immediately.

Foulds said that she has received calls late at night from the fire department, under Fire Chief Jett, looking for Monroe. Foulds said that although it has not been specifically addressed with new Fire Chief Robey, she suggested planning a meeting with him to address these issues.

At this point, Councilwoman Wanda Goforth responded, “Jim [Councilman Jim Chiarello] and I also had a work session for four hours at public works. They had some desires and need some people too. But I can’t recommend at this point making anyone full-time, giving anyone a raise, or anything else. We’re going to have some budget issues. Just because we have a good employee, I don’t think we can say they need to be made full-time immediately. We have to research if there is a need, and we have to find the money. We don’t just make a budget amendment. We’re not the US Government where we can print our own, or get it from China.”
Goforth added, “I think it’s a knee-jerk reaction when we have a management study coming up. I think we will get this kind of information. And I also think before we make a recommendation, we need to do our research. We need to find out what the fire department does, what inspection Dexter [Monroe] is doing, if there is a backlog, and which ones there are. We also need to find out his response time.”

Edwards said that there are twenty-five inspections that have never been closed.

Brubaker felt compelled to tell the council, “If we can’t get a budget amendment, I feel it is my responsibility to tell my fellow council members that we’re going to lose Dexter [Monroe], because the man has to put food on the table.”
Edwards turned the subject to the property on Jackson Street, owned by Joyce Gunderson, saying that it has been dragged out for too long. “We need to tell her to come forward and take care of this, or the town needs to take her to court.”

In order to clear the property, Gunderson has to post an erosion and sediment bond, according to Foulds, who added that she has not come forward with the bond yet.

The town currently plans to rely on the county for erosion and sediment control inspections, and has not finalized the contract to utilize the county’s services.

Brubaker and Edwards asked that Town Attorney Andrea Erard draft a letter to Gunderson asking her, nicely, to handle the situation. The other members of council said that Mitchell could request that from Erard.
Chiarello said, “I’m sure that Mitchell can address this issue. I would like the council to step back and allow the town to do what they’re supposed to do, Gary [Mitchell] has a procedure in place, and he should be able to handle it.”

Edwards and Brubaker said that Mitchell told them that this is not getting done. Brubaker said, “Gary [Mitchell] told us he doesn’t feel he has the ability to communicate with the town attorney.”

Town Manager Val Foulds assured the council that town staff would carry out anything the majority of council agrees on, and instructs them to do.

Linda Farneth

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