Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Town of Southern Shores Election 2015

My motivation to retain the office of Town Councilman is to seek and promote consistency, stability, and progress.

As both an observer and participant in town government I have witnessed a decade long period of turmoil and political confusion in the community.  In 2003 the Town of Southern Shores hired the first professional Town Manager.  But, from that year to date, there have been a total of three different mangers hired, and four instances of Interim Managers being appointed to fill in between those new hires.  Due to alternating election cycles there have been, four Mayors (one serving two non-consecutive terms), and seven different council members, many serving single terms.  This, I firmly believe, resulted in several 180 degree turns in direction for town staff and services.  During this period there were several staff resignations, reductions in service, and a definite lack of progress in needed capital improvements.

Over the last six years though, I have seen a considerable amount of progress which I believe is due to a consistent direction of both staff and town resources, resulting in: the reorganization and streamlining of town staff, the restoration and improvement of services, the completion of our canal and channel dredging projects, complete rebuilds of numerous streets, along with a new process for evaluating and prioritizing capital projects.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Town of Southern Shores - Council Elections 2011

Early voting for the Municipal elections in Dare County begins today through Nov. 4 at the Baum Center, 300 Mustian Street, Kill Devil Hills. 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM – Monday thru Friday.

There are three council seats up for election, the three candidates listed on the ballot are: myself, Jodi Hess (incumbent), and Larry Lawhon. IMHO, an excellent slate.

Even though there are only three candidates running for three seats, please exercise your right to vote --- support the candidates. Spread the word!

The Official election date is Nov. 8, with voting at the Pitts Center, Southern Shores Town Hall.
6:30 AM to 7:30PM

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Article at the Outer Banks Voice...............................................................

Entitled "Where's the scandal in Southern Shores?", I believe the author, Russ Lay, has taken a fair and unbiased look at the situation involving the recent relationship between the TOSS and SSVFD.  In light of the "investigative report" by WTKR and the persistent allegations from the former Town Mayor and Manager, it is refreshing to see an unemotional, rational report from a disinterested third party.

To me, as well as, the public, the sentiment expressed in the second to last paragraph in this report is the most telling.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Claim that the SSVFD is Responsible for the Tax Increase....................

Some individuals have claimed that the main reason the TOSS had to increase taxes this year was due to the "demands" of the SSVFD.  This should be pretty simple to figure out.

Tax Increases for the '10 -'11 Fiscal year:

Dare County:  from $.26 per hundred to $.28, which equals $0.02 increase

TOSS:   from $0.0975 per hundred to $.14, which equal $0.0425 increase

Combined Total Property Tax levied in TOSS:    $.42


Requested from TOSS (under the new 10 year contract FD requests are to be in a tax levy equivalents):  $0.03 per hundred.

Granted by the TOSS Council:  $0.0275

Contract base rate established for '10 - '11 Fiscal Year:  $.0.02

Increase of TOSS tax rate due to SSVFD request:  $0.0075 per hundred


A home with a tax assessed value of $500,000.

Dare County @ $.28 =  $1,400.00

TOSS @ $.14=                $700.00

Total =                          $2,100.00

Increase over last year:      $312.50

Of the above total tax ($2,100) the SSVFD was given:  137.50

Increase over budget base:  $37.50

Obviously, the SSVFD was a component but not the cause of the tax hikes in the TOSS.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Why does the SSVFD need $523,000 from TOSS?...................................

A lot has been said about this lately, mostly in a negative sense.  What I really find interesting is that most of those who  banter about this number in shock and dismay, either ignore the plain facts, or do not wish to see them.  You may recognize those individuals as they protest that the numbers are hidden from the public, are not fully disclosed by the SSVFD leadership, or are in violation of the new 10 year contract.

It's pretty simple to sort this out through documentation found on the TOSS website.  Look at either the Town Manager's Letter of Appropriation to SSVFD Chief Bob Harvey or the contract.

There you ll find the following "black and white" facts:

1. The base rate set for this fiscal year was $344,000 equivalent to $0.02 per hundred of the property , not the $300,000 (approximately $0.017 per hundred as appropriated last year) stated by so many detractors.  In fact, more than one person has indicated that the SSVFD had "reneged" on the contract by "demanding" more than $300,000.  If the TOSS council had only approved the later amount, it would have been the council that had "reneged".

2. $50,000 of the payment is related to the new required 800 MHZ radios.  This is not part of the SSVFD budget, but an arrangement agreed upon to lighten the impact of a near $250,000 expenditure.  The SSVFD agreed to borrow this money, to be paid over a five year period.  The move to 800 MHZ is due to the replacement of the entire county communications system that will go into operation late winter of 2011.

3.  The actual budget increase is $129,000 which represents a $.0075 per hundred increase.  This was actually negotiated down from the $0.01 request from the SSVFD.

So to "sum" this up, the base for the SSVFD contract cost to the town was $344,000 + $129,000= $473,000.

Someone might say, still, the SSVFD is getting that $50,000,true.  But, it doesn't matter whether it is the SSVFD, another vendor,or a new town FD, those radios have to be bought by or for someone.  It is an unfunded mandate which is a responsibility of the towns as agreed upon with Dare County.  Don't blame the county though, this situation was to be faced at some point, but accelerated by requirements of the FCC.

Due to a minor injury (I hope), I am now functioning with a patch over my right eye.  It never occurred to me that composing a post nor locating the mouse pointer with one eye closed could present such a challenge,   Hopefully the above and future posts over the next 24 - 48 hours makes as much sense to the reader as it did to me.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Referring to Budgets................................................................................


In the past and up to this point when I have referred to the SSVFD budget I have been focused on the TOSS budget for the SSVFD, what the town has set aside to pay the fire department.

This is not the full extent of the operating budget for the SSVFD.  The department also contracts with Dare County to provide service to Martin's Point.  I had already decided to post something regarding this distinction but had not really formulated what I would say, then I ran across an interesting post by Deputy Chief  Dave Shrader in a local forum:

Here are some real budget numbers for you:
FYE 2005 Total Budget=$312,556 TOSS paid $234,410
FYE 2006 Total Budget=$596,777 TOSS Paid $538,105 ($238,105 +$300,000 toward new truck)
FYE 2007 Total Budget=$386,081 TOSS paid $286,771
FYE 2008 Total Budget=$447,711 TOSS paid $291,400 (+ transfer in June of $100k)
FYE 2009 Total Budget=$494,398 TOSS paid $311,250 (used $ 77,422 from Reserves)
FYE 2010 Total Budget=$553,322 TOSS paid $300,000 (used $185,000 from Reserves)
FYE 2011 Total Budget=$558,798 TOSS paid $473,000 (+$50,000 separately for 800 mhz radios)

Let's look at some budget numbers.........................................................

First of all, what does it take to run a fire department?  The SSVFD operates two stations, East Dogwood and South Dogwood, in order to keep all properties in the fire district (which includes Martin's Point) within four miles of a station. The SSVFD has held a Class 5 Municipal rating since 1997 (up from a 9S, the lower the number the better the rating). The net effect of achieving that rating in '97 was that for every $100 the SSVFD cost the average improved property owner, their insurance costs were reduced by $300.

To maintain that rating the SSVFD has to have a Class A Pumper under 20 years old and a Truck (if you want to know the distinction send me a note) at each station. Other than apparatus the rating is based on response time, training records, pump test records, hose test records, hydrant maintenance records, the average number of responding personnel, the presence of required equipment on each apparatus, and the dispatch center.  These were the requirements of the federal ISO in '97. Just 2.5 points more in the score would have given the department a Class 4 rating.

Besides the insurance rating, the fire department also has to meet most of the requirements of OSHA and NFPA.  On occasion the NC Dept. of Insurance may set additional requirements.  You can't keep everyone in the district in the same insurance rate with one station, and you can't just have people jump in a truck and take off to fight a fire anymore. There are too many requirements, too many rules (good for safety), too much of an impact on the public's insurance expense.

So lets look at some numbers.  Our neighboring departments of Duck and Kitty Hawk at one time were independent incorporated vendors just as the SSVFD is now.

Duck - The DVFD is still an incorporated volunteer organization in the town of Duck, but due to a smaller pool of year-round residents, has become more dependent on paid personnel to maintain their response levels.  At the request of the DVFD their paid people are hired as town employees.

Stations:    1
Paid Chief: 1
Paid Deputy Chief: 1
Paid Fire Officers: 3
Volunteers:  30

2009 Budget:    $604,000
2010 Budget:    $654,000

Kitty Hawk - Now a town combination department, mostly paid, but with some volunteers, in the '90's the department was an independently incorporated VFD which fell into disfavour with their town government.  There were accusations of misappropriation of funds, an SBI investigation, and threats of walkouts by the volunteers and a threat of lock-out of the firefighters by the town.  Although no wrong doing was found and no charges were filed, the KHVFD didn't survive, as the volunteers dwindled and the town hired a paid Chief.

Stations:  1
Paid Chief:  1
Paid Fire Officers:  2
Paid Fire Fighters:  5
Volunteers: 18

2009 Budget:  $1,300,000
2010 Budget   $2,000,000

All the numbers above were gathered from either official Town or Fire Department websites.

SSVFD - Serves both Southern Shores and Martin's Point

Stations:  2
Paid Chief:  1
Paid Fire Officers:  0
Paid Firefighters:  0
Volunteer Fire Officers, Firefighters, and Support: 40+

2009 Budget:  $300,000
2010 Budget:  $523,000

Assuming the service levels in all three districts are similar and acceptable to their corresponding towns, which of these three do you honestly think has been the best bargain?

Be aware of this fact:  no one on any side of this issue has cast any doubt or complained about the services provided by the SSVFD.  In fact, the department has received only the highest praise from citizens, council members, and it's peers in the service; not just in Dare County, but throughout the surrounding region.