- Last Updated on Sunday, 20 January 2013 15:01
- Published on Wednesday, 20 May 2009 18:25
- Hits: 1196
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.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 18:31
- Published on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 18:31
- Hits: 1122
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.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 May 2009 18:53
- Published on Wednesday, 06 May 2009 18:53
- Hits: 1011
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.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 April 2009 16:24
- Published on Wednesday, 22 April 2009 16:24
- Hits: 966
“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.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 April 2009 20:19
- Published on Wednesday, 15 April 2009 20:19
- Hits: 1120
More than 80 people tuned in last Thursday April 9th to view the Colonial Beach Town Council meeting on The Journal's U-stream, the meeting room was packed, and parking left late residents walking a few blocks to get to the meeting room in Colonial Beach.
As reported earlier in the week Mayor Rummage had been asked by three council members to vacate his physical office in Town Hall. Many residents were determined to get to the bottom of the matter but what they got was a sugar-coated version of the truth which left residents to read between the lines and speculate as to the exact cause of the Council members’ recent actions.
It was clear at the beginning of the meeting that the Mayor's ousting was valid reporting by The Journal since one of the items added to the agenda at the onset of the meeting was Resolution 27-09 which stated: Val Foulds has been employed as the Town manager, the Council seeks to promote an efficient workplace, the presence of the Mayor at Town Hall on a daily basis is interfering with and obstructing the efficient operations of the Town.
The resolution sought 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.
This move is in stark contrast to the previous Mayor's reign in office. Pete Bone, who sat in the Mayor's seat for several terms, renovated the upstairs area of Town Hall on the Corner of Irving Ave and Hawthorne as well as the Pete Bone Meeting room on Washington Ave. The physical office which he created was used intermittently by Former Mayor Bone for his duties as a mayor and many short periods when he acted as Town manager, one lasting 22 months.
It was not until the end of the Town meeting last Thursday that the resolution was addressed and Councilman David Coombes gave an eloquent speech to try to explain the actions of council concerning Resolution #27-09 without giving much detail.
The Mayor, however, shed more light on the issue than did members of Council. In his address to the Council and public he touched on three key events which he attributed to what he calls his “relations with Council going south."
Rummage began 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.”
The first event concerns the Riverwood Apartment development which he said came to the Council in regular session on December 11, 2008. “We had quite a debate and discussion on that issue. I felt it was necessary to continue to a subsequent date which turned out to be December 17. During that continuation meeting I was unable to get anyone to open a motion to open debate. I called a 10 minute recess hoping someone would reconsider opening the debate,” explained Mayor Rummage.
The Mayor subsequently sent a letter to the Westmoreland News to explain what happened in response to numerous complaints which he said he received from mostly elderly residents of Riverwood. The Mayor stated that after that letter he believes his relationship with the council “had gone south,” which he coined as regrettable. He said that it was never his intention for things to turn out in that fashion. “I still hope that we will reconsider and let bygones be bygones and get on with the future for the benefit and welfare of the people the Town.”
The second event concerned the audit from February 3, 2009. There was an audit delivered to the office which the Mayor said he didn’t learn about until a week later. Rummage said that he was “very insistent” that he wanted to make copies and disseminate them to all members of Council. He stated that the same day he was charged verbally with mistreating people in the office. [Town Hall]
Rummage offered an apology saying, “If I ever mistreated anybody in this office at any time, I am sincerely sorry and my sincerest apologies.” Mayor Rummage said he was told that there would be copies of the audit report at the Retreat, but then was told that if he had a retreat, he would be attending it alone. (By members of Council)
Although he didn’t point fingers at any one person, Rummage made claims that terms used to describe him among many others were ‘very domineering’ and ‘very critical’ and he was warned that if he didn’t change they (the council) would close the Mayor’s office.
Mayor Rummage said that subsequently he started to spend less time at his office and turned over all of the projects he was working on to Town Manager, Val Foulds who had just taken office full time.
The third event Mayor Rummage spoke of occurred after he was informed by the County that they had received some money from the state for road repair on March 30, 2009.
Mayor Rummage clarified at the Council meeting on April 9 that the money had to be spent during this fiscal year. The project would require $50,000 from the town’s budget that the county would match at $50,000. The combined money would then be matched by the State to total $200,000. This would start phase two of the Riverside Meadows pavement project. “The money would be derived from the reserve funds,” stated Rummage.
Rummage ended his speech for which he received audience applause by saying, “I’m sorry I had to make this type of report, happy Easter to everyone,” but added, “I shall not stop as long as I’m here making disclosures that should be made to the public. Transparency is my commitment, it was when I ran for this office and honesty I was always taught is the best policy. Thank you very much.”
When the Resolution came before the Council for vote, Councilman Coombes gave a guarded summation of the events leading to the decision to pass Resolution 27-09.
Coombes began by saying, “For me personally, and this council can speak for themselves, “I am saddened to have to make this recommendation.” “The mayor and I have worked together for quite a while and in thirty years of professional experience as a CEO I have never had to be involved in this kind of thing. I think it is best for a number of reasons as stated in the resolution that at least for the foreseeable future, not always, probably not always under his term, the council feels and I feel that it is in the best interest of us, and the mayor and the town that the town close the Mayor's office. Only the physical facility.
“We have had significant problems.” Coombes continued, “I commend the Mayor for publicly apologizing this evening particularly to the staff. But I still think we need to move forward.”
Coombes spoke of former Mayor Pete Bone and his intermittent need to act as Town Manager. “The lines of responsibility in people’s minds tend to get blurred,” Coombes continued. "State law and the town Code sets out the responsibilities of each of the entities involved in your government…Only this council, sitting as it is right now in open session with all of us here, that’s where the power and the authority lies. It does not lie in any one individual sitting here, each of us have the same authority and the same power when we sit here.”
Coombes said he would not discuss specifics in open session but offered an invitation to speak one on one with any individuals that wished for clarification. He closed by saying we are going to entrust the Town Manager with the day to day operations of the town.
Kennedy added, “I have a lot of respect for this man and what we are about to do should be no reflection on his ability to chair this Council. It should have no reflection on his desire to move this town forward. This is an operational issue. Nobody should read anything into this other than this is the way our charter is set and this is the way this towns structure should be.”
All members present voted yes, Chairman/Mayor Rummage voted present and having no need for a closed session, he adjourned the meeting.
After the close of the meeting a small group led by Jean Leitch spoke out. Jean spoke up because she felt she was never given an opportunity to voice her opinion. “I would like to object.”
The mayor explained to the woman that the meeting stood adjourned and asked to speak to her.
Leitch replied, “I would like to speak to them,” she said gesturing towards the Council members. “I did not agree with what they did and I want them to know it.”
Another gentleman with her spoke up and said, “I see control, I do not like control. When I woke up this morning I saw my flag still flying. I was surprised; I thought I was in Russia. When these people can have a meeting and walk into the Mayor's office and tell him to get out of his office where Pete Bone sat and slept for about 12 years up there.” The man continued raising his voice over the Mayor's gavel. “That man has an office, you have a job to do, you (referring to other members of the Council) did not elect that man, we did. We elected you, Mr. Kennedy, and I think you should get out of this place and never come back.”
The Mayor spoke up and told the man that the meeting was adjourned. The group continued to talk but quickly dispersed with the added police presence that built up in the room.
In an interview later with Jean Leitch said, “It appears that they, (referring to Council) only want to oppose everything the Mayor wants to do! This place is stagnating, it needs something new.”
She spoke of the Mayor's removal from Town Hall as an assault that was deplorable and said it insults the intelligence of the citizens and tax-payers of this town. “I thought that we had Council members up there that were of a higher level of intellect and they have let us down.” Ms. Leitch lives in Bluff Point near Riverside Meadows and she says that her street is paved but she feels the unpaved roads are an embarrassment.”
After briefly wishing a few people Happy Easter, the Mayor turned to the crowd in the room and waved goodbye as he walked out alone with his head held high.