Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Three things for the new Southern Shores Town Council to consider.............

Communication, Communication, Communication!!!

If there is anything specific to learn from the political turmoil of the last four years it would be effective communication. The three components that I believe would help are:

Broadcast News - this is the weekly (more often if necessary) broadcast email. The concept is great and it has proven to be informative and helpful to those that receive it. Just make certain that it doesn't read like someone's campaign literature or subject specific propaganda. Consider, at least, a one time mailing of postcards to property owners to encourage more readership.

Town Meeting - this might be a sore topic with some, but based on the "Mayor's Chat" concept, I really believe there is merit to an open discussion format separate from the regular Council meetings. Currently, at Council meetings there are two opportunities for public comment. Normally, council members do not respond to or answer questions posed, which is appropriate in this venue. A bi-annual or quarterly community meeting, where the public and council members are allowed to interact and obtain answers to their concerns, would lead to the perception of more openness and transparency in our local government.

Solidarity Board - (In know it's a strange title, but I'm weary of trying to come up with a better one) a standing committee or board made up of representatives from the Southern Shores Civic Association, Chicahauk Property Owners Association, Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Dept., Duck Woods Country Club and the TOSS. The purpose of this group would be primarily informational, a forum for each organization to fully express their needs and initiatives so that a common understanding of community issues can be achieved. I would hope that a group such as this would help alleviate much of the adversity and misunderstandings that have surfaced over the last few years.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More Election Results...............................................................................

OBX Alert has more definite totals here.

Preliminary, Unofficial Election Results for Southern Shores........................

First, there were 328 early votes reported from the other polling places (Manteo and the Baum Center) for this election.  I do not have even an unofficial accounting for those votes.

Results from today's voting:

Hal Denny -      600

Don Smith -      242

So, even if you award all the early votes to Mayor Smith (not at all likely), he's still 30 short of winning. 

Congratulations Hal!!!!!!  Looking forward to you serving another term as Mayor.

George Kowalski -    415

Brian McDonald -     315

Calling the outcome for this race is a little trickier.  It's totally dependent on that early vote.  But I'm going to stick my neck out and say:  Congratulations George!!!!! If you didn't actually win this, it was an amazing run on a write-in basis. 

Good night!  By the time most of you see this post you'll already have the actual numbers, but I just had to do it.

Today's the Day!..............I'll report back on the outcome latter....................

What of the future?...................................................................................

No matter who wins the election today, the TOSS Council will be facing a number of challenges in the coming years. 

Just to mention a few:

Canal Dredging Project:  bids are in, at $1.8 Million, $800,000 over the original estimate on which the State Grant was based.  Presumably this will mean a large dip into the "Undesignated Fund" (which is also our "Hurricane" fund).  This is only Phase 1 of 2, with no guarantee of any grant money being available.  Phase 2 estimates exceed $2 Million.  Expect a move to establish a special assesment for canal properties if no other funding can be found.

Juniper Trail Bridge:  I'm not certain under what assesment or authority, but it has been said at several meetings that this bridge must be replaced within 5 years.  Estimates range from $500,000 to $1 Millioin for this project.  Having had the experience of sitting on that bridge during Hurricane Isabel in a SSVFD squad car, I believe it.  How does a culvert bridge shake in the wind?

Storm Water Issues:  two of the worst are the North end of Chicahauk and 12th to 13th at Duck Road.  Abatement of the problem at just Chicahauk is estimated at $1 Million, while the problem on Duck Road is  as bad if not worse.

All of the above are mentioned along with a number other worthy and necessary projects in the Capital Impovement Plan which the TOSS Council has adopted.  A plan that was created to address the needs for the next 5 years, with total estimates ranging from $7 - $11 Million. 

If our council is to just accomplish the major items above in that time frame they are going to have to be very creative with finances. 

More on this latter.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Mantra of Southern Shores Citizens?...................................................

Sorry to repeat the following quote.  You will find it further back in my posts, when I implored the TOSS Council not to allow this to become the mantra of the Southern Shores citizens:

"It is not the form of government, nor our laws that we are quarreling with, but the malpractices of the officers and the abuses we suffer under those empowered to manage our public affairs."

Herman Husbands, circa 1771 on behalf of the Regulators (a North Carolina taxapayer protest group).

Endorsements for Mayor Smith.................................................................

The weekend edition of The Coastland Times features an endorsement advertisement for Mayor Smiths's candidacy.   The endorsees are:

Brian McDonald - Incumbent Council Member running for re-election.

Jim Phizenmayer - Current Council Member.

Kevin Stroud - Current Council Member.

Jack Shea - Dare County Commisioner

Col. Bill Beadling - Founder and current President of  the Outer Banks Gun Club

My purpose in this post is to explore and specualte on the motivation of the these endorsees.  So let's take a look:

Brian - Originally ran for council at the behest of  Don Smith.  Brian is an intelligent, independent thinker, with a number of excellent ideas.  But, as many have observed, he will often question or actually speak against some of Mayor Smith's initiatives, only to then oddly vote for them.

Jim and Kevin - During the last election in which they gained their council seats, Mayor Smith encouraged, endorsed, and campaigned  door to door fo them.  You can find material on this election in my archive among my original posts.

The Mayor has a reputation of  "running a tight ship:", and the three above are his crew.  So their endorsement of his re-election is no surprise.

Jack Shea - This is a surpise to me.  I really can't see Mr. Shea approving of a number of situations the Mayor has created, so I can only speculate that this is some form of partisan or ideological consideration (although I believe Don is regitered as an Independent).  As I believe the majority of sentiment in this election transcends party lines, this might be a "mis-step" of an endorsement.

Col. Bll Beadling - Without Col. Beadling and a few others, there would not be a county range and of course no Outer Banks Gun Club, of which I am a charter member.  I am both surprised and disappointed that he would choose to enter this fray.  He is not a Southern Shores resident, I know of no issue regarding the make up of our council that would involve the OBGC and I don't think he is aware of the miriad issues that the citizens of Southern Shores have faced.due to the current administration.  Apparently, both Don and Town Manager Charlie Read (former Secretary of the OBGC board?) are club members.  I have to wonder whether Col. Beadling would have made this endorsement if I had not withdrawn from this race. He would have had to make a choice of one member over another.

Something that I have to point out as ironic is, that in his original campaign for Mayor, one of  the planks in Don's platform was his opposition to "the good old boy" system he said existed at the time.  During my four year term on council I was not approached by nor saw any signs of the existence of the "good old boys".  Excluding Col. Beadling, what does the above list look like?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

About that "Special Message"...................................................................

To understand the numerous ironies embedded in the Mayor's message to the SSVFD, you about had to be there, to witness the true facts as they unfolded. For a better understanding of the background and to recognize the irony is his statements go back into my archive and review the posts of June 4th and 10th of 2008. In addition, take a look at George Kowalski's blog regarding the contract negotiations, and review the Town Council Minutes of June 3, 2008. I believe you will then be able to develop a true picture of the situation.

When reading the meeting minutes, realize that this is not a "word for word" account but a synopsis of what was said. I could swear I remember that the exact text of the Mayor's statement was originally attached to the posted minutes, but is no longer there.

To convey an idea of the demeanor in which his statement was delivered I have to relate these two comments from the audience: The lady sitting next to me, "That was scary, is he always like that?", or the minister's wife, who in the public comment period at the end of the meeting was inspired to throw her arms up in the air in frustration and loudly proclaim "I can't frickin' believe this!".

There are two points in Don's email that I can only describe as egregiously disingenuous:

1. He refers to the SSVFD, Dare County EMS, and SSPD, as having "tireless dedication to serve, manage, and administer first-class organizations". These are the very same people that he insulted and forced to walk out of the June 3, 2008 meeting. Remember this, they were present at this meeting for an awards ceremony, to celebrate the saving of two lives (one of the victims was actualy present). Why would he seek at that time, the dissolution and forced take over of a "first-class organization"?

2. Although he professes at the end of the email that he has ".....always had a deep respect for the SSVFD" and further states ".....ask yourselves how you would feel if you were unjustly attacked?", I believe Mayor Smith has failed to recognize the ultimate irony of all.

Mayor Smith's Special Message to SSVFD Members.................................

Following is the full text of Mr. Smith's email to the Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Dept. membership, less his telephone number and email address:

"I want to send a personal message to our public safety professionals, many of whom I count as dear friends.

My family and I served proudly for many years with the Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Department. Merrie and I were proud members for many years. Merrie was a member for approx 12 years and myself for almost 13. I was deeply proud that Merrie was the first women member of the department and helped in organizing the rehab group, and was awarded firefighter of the year. Long before moving south, I earned a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice and most of my classmates were emergency services personnel.

During my service with SSVFD I learned many lessons including; the SSVFD, Dare County EMS, and SSPD are truly outstanding and among the best in the nation. I also learned that it takes tremendous motivation, outstanding skill, and tireless dedication to serve, manage, and administer first-class organizations like this. My hat is off to everyone who serves!

This past year we were successful in negotiating the first long-term contract with our Fire Department. It is not a buzzword when I say it is mutually beneficial - it is a fact! Everyone benefits from having our great relationship cemented by long-term strategic planning. The negotiations were not easy and at times they were challenging but that is the true nature of business negotiations. As stewards of the public trust it is the responsibility of the mayor and town council to obtain the best possible outcome for the town. At some point in time, all of Town Council and our Town Manager participated in these negotiations and all were totally committed to the development of a fair and objective long-term, mutually-beneficial agreement and that is what we got. I was pleased with the results, proud of closing the deal with Chief Bob Harvey and presenting the results to Town Council who approved it unanimously.

November 3rd is Election Day and I would like to extend an offer for any member to feel free in contacting me with any questions or concerns they may have. I continue to be disappointed with the false rumors that are going around and would urge everyone to get the facts before voting. I must say that my family including my Dad have a total of over 30 years as members and do not feel it is fair to paint us as anti fire department. We have always had a deep respect for the SSVFD and ask yourselves how you would feel if you were unjustly attacked?"

Don Smith

Friday, October 23, 2009

Of like mind.............................................................................................

Read George Kowalski's blog I can atest to the validty of his statements regarding the rencent "unpleasantries" between the SSVFD and the Mayor, I was present on a number of occassions when the issues were brought up and I'm just as convinced that if the Mayor is re-elected this animosity will continue

Where were you, Mr. Van Curen?..............................................................

Who is Mr. Van Curen? He is a Southern Shores resident that recently wrote a letter to the Editor of the Outer Banks Sentinel entitled "Where were you, Hal Denny", and a long time supporter of Mayor Smith. If my memory is correct, he has written similar letters during previous campaigns involving Don Smith or in support of Don’s agenda.

I pose the question in the title of this post as a retort to Van Curen’s blast at Hal Denny’s record of attendance to TOSS Council meetings. It seems he adheres to a theory that there is some correlation between presence at these meetings and the ability to judge the status and performance of our town government.

Based on his statements one might assume that he must personally attend these meetings himself in order to observe Hal’s lack of attendance. Now, Mr. Van Curen may have attended the one specific meeting he cites, I was unable to attend that one myself (due to an issue at work). But I do know him by sight, and I believe I would have noted his presence at the eighteen or so council meetings I have attended in the last year.

This brings me to the following questions:

Where did Mr. Van Curen get this information?

Is someone in TOSS government tracking citizen attendance at these meetings? Or are there just specific individuals being watched?

In all honesty, I personally believe that this letter was just a political ploy as an attempt to cast doubt on Hal Denny’s ability to judge the Town’s current status and formulate future decisions. There are many other resources and means of determining the performance of the TOSS.

Now, if you feel you must agree in regard to Mr. Van Curen’s theory that attendance at these meetings is vital to understand the state of Town government and it’s affairs, I must pose the following:

I would have to be the ultimate expert and “Guru” of all matters related to TOSS. I began regular attendance to both monthly council meetings in May of 1986. My best estimate of attendance is +/- 300 meetings not including various committee meetings (some on which I served) and special council/retreat sessions. If you wish to verify this, contact the Town Clerk, Carrie Gordon, I was even at the meeting when she was introduced as a new hire.

In my “expert opinion”, if you care about this community or have any concern for the future of our town, you must Vote Hal Denny for Mayor!

Monday, October 19, 2009


I've been patiently waiting for Southern Shores politics to heat up, given the upcoming Mayoral election (Nov. 3), between incumbent, Don Smith and challenger, Hal Denny. With only three weeks left to campaign, I believe I'm beginning to see things stir up a bit. More on this later.

First there are a couple of things I must say:

1. In all of my previous posts I have attempted to provide alternate means for, you the reader, to verify my statements, either by reference or by direct clickable links. If, as some have suggested, my posts seemed overly negative I can only say that I am not responsible for the statements, ideals, or actions of others. I can only interpret and report as I witnessed them. As always, "trust but verify", there are numerous resources and other witnesses to the matters I have reported.

2. Yes, if you heard that I had originally filed and then later withdrawn as a candidate for Mayor, that is correct. After discussing this with Hal Denny I withdrew. Hal is a past Council Member and Mayor of Southern Shores. If you are a registered voter in Southern Shores, I contend that it is in your best interests to vote for Hal Denny as our next Mayor.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Update ..........................................................

It's old news now. But, had I promised that I would post here that the Town of Kitty Hawk has decided to discontinue any further consideration of the TOSS proposal for fire service.

This the first opportunity I've had today to access the Internet.

I hope that this leads to a more careful contract negotiation process.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What's going on?...............................................

Well, it appears that the TOSS Council is prepared to do something. They have cut-off negotiations with the SSVFD, and have supposedly been informed by the Town Attorney not to discuss anything with SSVFD personnel. For the first time ever, I have had a Council Member fail to return a call to me.

But, I am happy to say that Kitty Hawk Town Manager will return a call and responds to questions as best he can. Given the circumstances, I called Mr. Stockton and asked if there had been any further contact with the TOSS. He indicated that KH had received a proposal from the TOSS which was currently under consideration. He gave no details and I asked for none.

Of course, the KH Council would have to discuss the proposal and possibly negotiate further before arriving at a decision. I think that the earliest they could act would be at their March 2nd Council meeting. Look for a closed session for this to be discussed.

Unless they dismiss the proposal outright, I would suspect they should expect visitors from Southern Shores at their future meetings until the matter is resolved.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Matthew 7:12 ..................................

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Socrates: Do to others as thou wouldst they should do to thee, and do to none other but as thou wouldst be done to. As translated by Earl River 1477.

Jesus, at the Sermon on the Mount: All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.

Otherwise known as the Golden Rule, these or similar words appear, not only, in the New Testament, but also in the Talmud, Koran, and sayings of Confucius. In everyday life we see the wisdom of this at work any time there is interaction among our fellow human beings.

To a certain extent I write this in answer to the comments from both Ray and Peggy concerning my last post.

If I seem to be defending the SSVFD or it's leadership, as an observer at most of the public meetings (FSAB and Council meetings), it appears to me that they are simply responding in like kind (do ye even so to them) and I don't think I'm the only person with that opinion. When they perceive a threat they reciprocate. You can see that in the comments referenced on OBXAlert.net. I don't feel that their initial reactions were like that, but you have to remember that what we see now is the culmination of a process that began nearly two years ago. I firmly believe that any reasonable person dealing with this situation would have reached the limit of their patience by now, Town Council members included.

Like Mayor Pro Tem McDonald stated when another member of the Council protested that the SSVFD was acting like an independent vendor:
If you treat them like a vendor, they'll act like a vendor.

How do we arrive at a reasonable solution to this problem? Who should break this cycle of threat and counter threat? In my opinion, it is up to the Council to put a stop to this. They need to quit concentrating on the minute details of the contract, step back and take a look at the overall situation. The leadership of the SSVFD may be responsible for a component of the community, but it is the Town Council that is responsible for the community as a whole.

They need to take control of the their discussions and take the first step by silencing any vitriolic ranting or outrageous statements from their own membership that will produce anything but a good result. If the majority of the Council sits silently while even one of their members is allowed to spout threats and half truths, that silence may be interpreted as approval by the audience. If not approval, then the silence creates an unknown. The unknown produces fear. Fear results in defensive action. Together the perception of approval and the atmosphere of fear results in this cycle of threat/counter threat that prevents both parties from arriving at a mutual agreement.

Maybe I'm naive or I've over simplified the situation, but I truly believe that instituting the Golden Rule is key to resolving the issues between the SSVFD and the TOSS.

To be fair, I have spoken privately with several Council members, and they certainly don't realize and do not intend to appear unconcerned or arrogant. I believe their inaction and seeming approval comes from a misplaced sense of propriety and courtesy in regard to their fellow Council members. They are simply unaware of the appearances and perceptions of their audience. In fact, now that I am an observer, I find myself wondering if I didn't exhibit the same behavior and produce similar perceptions while seated as a Council member.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Disappointed, disheartened and confused..............

I had hoped that I would have something nice to relate for a change, but based on today's posting at OBXAlert.net, things are not going well in regard to the negotiations between the SSVFD and TOSS.

I viewed this report to be so inflammatory that I contacted both Chief Harvey and Deputy Chief Shrader to verify the validity of those statements. Both have confirmed to me that the quotes originate from a recent email copied to the Town Attorney, Town Manager, and Council Member McDonald. This email was thought to be confidential and was intended as an internal communication regarding the production of a contract and part of the negotiation process. Although these statements are factual, they are quoted out of context, from a lengthy memo dealing with multiple points of discussion. I was assured that this email had not been released by the SSVFD.

It appears that someone at Town Hall decided to “leak” this email with the intent of influencing or sabotaging the negotiations. I can only interpret the article as being negative to the SSVFD.

I'm fairly certain the Town Attorney wouldn't be happy with this, and I hope the Town Manager would know better than to do such a thing. Having known Brian McDonald for a number of years now, I cannot imagine that he would have made this public or condoned such.

So, who did it and why? If it was a Town employee, I believe there is something in the Town policies regarding the proper release of documents. If it was a Council member, this could only be interpreted as malicious in intent, and should be subject to censure by vote of the Council.

Perhaps the guilty party will have the guts to “own up to it”. If so, perhaps this person could explain how this would help in the timely completion of a contract negotiated “in good faith”.

The logic in this whole situation regarding the SSVFD contract is totally lost on me. If the TOSS intent is to abandon the volunteers that have faithfully served over the last 25+ years for a more expensive and complicated alternative, they should go ahead and do it. Let's get this over and done with (I know that's not a proper sentence). If the true intent is to salvage the situation and rebuild a trusting relationship with the volunteers, looks to me like they need to change the direction and tenor of the discussion now.

Ultimately, this situation will come to a conclusion, which at this point doesn't look pretty. In fact, there is considerable potential for this to end up causing actual financial hardship and damage to the citizens of this town, if the Town Council dosen't put a stop to this game playing. Some Council Members may not feel that's true, but I do hope that they are ready and willing to stand behind their decisions, and be prepared to provide relief to us (the taxpayers and citizens) in the event that we are negatively impacted by their actions.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

There appears to be hope.............................

At last night's Mayor's Chat and Town Council meetings it was obvious that both the SSVFD leadership and Town Council wished to limit discussion and comment regarding the Fire and Rescue Contract. The atmosphere at both meetings seemed to indicate that the current state of affair was at least a notch above “cautiously optimistic”.

Mayor Smith, Town Manager Read, and SSVFD Chief Harvey each spoke briefly regarding the matter indicating that after approximately 12 hours of meetings the negotiation of the contract is progressing in earnest. I believe we have Mayor Pro Tem McDonald to thank for advancing these talks and leading the Town Council toward a more productive, good faith negotiation process.

This was much more encouraging than I had expected and obviously much different than the 100+ spectators had anticipated. Because the maximum legal capacity of the Pitts Center was exceeded, many of the SSVFD firefighters in attendance gave up their seats so that more citizens could stay. Once everyone was seated, those left standing had to leave.

Hopefully, my next post on this matter will be to announce the successful completion of negotiations.

Monday, February 2, 2009

What are the options? What's going to happen? ........

Disclaimer: The thoughts and observations expressed in this post and throughout my blog are my own. Although, I may have some interests and personal concerns I have attempted to represent only what I have personally witnessed (have first hand knowledge of) or I am able to cite and create links, allowing the readers to decide for themselves. I do not represent the SSVFD, Inc, or it's leadership, I am a member/firefighter in that organization. Although, a former council member, I obviously do not represent the TOSS. I am a resident and taxpayer concerned with the efficient and effective operation of local government. I hope that you have found my postings to be informative and useful in keeping up with current events.


It appears that the TOSS Town Council will be holding a closed door session with their Attorney at 2:00 PM today (ref: OBXAlert.net). I'm hoping that cooler heads will prevail in their discussions and in the implementation of their decisions. As you may see from my prior posts, the emotions are high, a lot of posturing has occurred, and almost identical facts have been batted back and forth. All this effort, over a two-plus year period, has brought us to no good result.

The options I see available to the TOSS Council:

1.Turn back the clock at least two years and revisit the SSVFD/TOSS contract that had held and served both organizations well for over 20 years. Hold an open meeting with the purpose of establishing a genuine process that would result in a fair, good faith negotiation of both the SSVFD budget and contract. Do what ever is necessary to regain the trust of and trust in the SSVFD, Inc., even if it means the public censure of their own Council members or written notification to the SSVFD Board of Directors of any transgressions of either the Department itself or of it's representatives.

2.Continue on the path of “ramping up” by obtaining court orders to: either restrain the leaders of the SSVFD from conducting department business or participating in SSVFD activities and/or seize the fire stations and padlock them. Locking out the entire membership.

Outrageous! Unthinkable! You might say. But there is a precedent to this as demonstrated in the actions of the Town of Kitty Hawk during the mid-nineties regarding the KHVFD . At the time, actual accusations of fiscal wrong doing resulted in the loss of trust on both sides. The Fire Chief was served with a restraining warrant to prevent him setting foot on KHVFD property, attend any meetings or responding to any emergency calls. The possibility of padlocking the station was threatened but, to my knowledge, was not actually done. (This possibility was
mentioned by TOSS Town Manager last year.)

After an extensive investigation by the North Carolina SBI, no charges were filed, and all allegations were dropped. But, I have always felt that this situation resulted in the demise of the KHVFD. I don't believe an acceptable level of trust between the two organizations was ever re-established, leading to the creation of the Town's paid KHFD.

3.Announce the formation of a new municipal FD as a TOSS agency, and hire a town Fire Chief This would most likely require a law suit in order for the TOSS to claim the SSVFD assets,unless the TOSS can find a legal precedent allowing government to forcibly dissolve a private corporation.

Another possibility that I would offer, and I would prefer, if all other reasonable efforts were exhausted would be:

Arbitration: Ideally this would take place before an actual courtroom judge. Assuming that a judge would be impartial, could not be influenced by either party, and the decision rendered would be binding, everyone could resume business as usual.

Unfortunately, my research in this area has turned up no precedent for this in North Carolina. You would think that some agency such as the NC Department of Insurance or State Fire Marshal's Office would act as an arbiter, but sadly there is no such possibility.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Turn-about is fair play, is it not?...........................

The following letter was conveyed to the TOSS.

27 January 2009

Mayor Donel C. Smith
Town of Southern Shores
5375 Virginia Dare Trail
Southern Shores, NC 27949

Dear Mayor Smith:

The Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. Board of Directors, conducted an emergency meeting on January 26, 2009, in response to your seven day “deadline” for responding to a de novo proposed contract presented by the Town on January 20, 2009.

After a thorough review of your proposed contract and the facts surrounding the Town’s recent actions, the Board made the following findings:
1.The Town of Southern Shores has breached the Fire Services Contract dated July 1, 2008, by violating the terms of the contract, specifically paragraphs 1.(b), 2. and 9.

2.Further that the Town, by communicating its ultimatum to accept a contract without recourse, including public comments made by the Mayor to that effect, that further violates paragraphs 1(b), 2., 3(a& b), 4., 5., 6., 7., 8., and 9. has further breached the mutual promises and agreements upon which the contract is based.

3.That by refusing to negotiate after more than four requests and notices, while publicly asserting that it was negotiating, even to the extent of deceiving certain members of the Town Council, the Town has expressed its intent to extort a contract that is unfavorable to the Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Department, Inc., including provisions that would supersede the current contract thereby canceling the mutually agreed upon terms and conditions.
4.That the Town of Southern Shores has yet to respond to the proposed long-term contract submitted to the Town on October 28, 2008 through the Fire Service Advisory Board.

5.That through its actions, the Town appears to be engaged in an effort to seize the assets of a private not-for-profit corporation without compensation.

6.That the terms demanded by the Town in its proposed contract would cause grievous and irreparable harm to the corporation, its individual members and retirees, the residents of Martin’s Point who are served by the Corporation, Dare County and indeed the residents and taxpayers of the Town of Southern Shores.

7.That the ramifications of the Town’s actions will also negatively impact other communities including, but not limited to the Town’s of Duck and Kitty Hawk.
In consideration of these findings, the Board passed a resolution declaring the Town of Southern Shores to be in breach of the Fire Services Agreement dated July 1, 2008 and hereby terminates the Contract and Agreement for cause, effective immediately upon delivery of this letter. The Board empowers the Fire Chief to deliver this notice of termination at a time and place that is convenient. The Fire Chief is also instructed to deliver a proposed contract meeting the needs of the Fire Department and the citizens of its service area at the same time.

The Town is offered a period of seven (7) days from the effective date and time of this notice to accept the contract delivered with this notice or negotiate, in good faith, a mutually acceptable alternative. The Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. will continue to provide Fire and Rescue services during this period without compensation.

The Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. is composed largely of residents and taxpayers of it’s service area and remains committed to serving the communities of Southern Shores and Martin’s Point. The Department is frankly tired and disgusted with the continuing political games foisted upon it by the Mayor and representatives of the Town. In the interest of resolving this matter quickly in a manner that best serves the public interest, and because of the recent experience with administrative incompetence and dishonest posturing, we respectfully request an opportunity to negotiate with representatives of the Town other than the current Mayor or Town Manager.

If we are unable to negotiate a reasonable solution to this matter within the seven day period, The Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. will deliver notice to the office of the State Fire Marshal and Dare County that we no longer provide contracted fire service to the Town of Southern Shores.
To protect the interests of our friends and neighbors, we will continue to provide emergency and non-emergency responses to calls for assistance with in the Town as mutual aid, without contract at least through June 30, 2009.

We look forward to a timely resolution to this matter.


George Kowalski, Chairman
CC: Town Council
Town Manager

Friday, January 30, 2009

Another comment I made at Topix.net.........................

"It is not the form of government, nor yet our laws we are quarreling with, but the malpractices of the officers and the abuses of power we suffer under those empowered to manage our public affairs." Herman Husbands circa 1770, Regulator.

Look up the Regulators in your North Carolina History.

I recited this quote, to this seated Council at one of their regular meetings. Warning them to not allow this (qoute) to become the mantra of the Southern Shores citizens.

Obviously, they weren't listening or it just went "over their heads".

Postings on Topix.net Southern Shores Forum.........

This is a short response I wrote to someone using the alias "SS taxpayer" posting questions on topix.net. Very early this morning I had typed up one of my usual (long) well cited and noted posts, which quite promptly disappeared when I hit the enter key.

After giving more consideration to SS taxpayers questions, instead of a 500+ characters with references and citations of meeting minutes as I had, here's the short answers (questions in fact).

How do you inform, educate, or negotiate with an organization who's top leadership will not listen, read, or negotiate in good faith? An organization whose leadership seems only interested in ignoring facts, demanding budget cuts with no logical explanation, and presents "take it or leave it", "in your face" contracts with the threat of going elsewhere. BTW, would they be proud to send the same exact contract to KH? I think not, they would certainly get an answer from KH in less than the required seven days.

While at the same time publicly praising the high standards and performance of the fire department.

Ever deal with someone that felt they had to compliment, and praise you before they gave you the shaft?

Is it any wonder the SSVFD never received permission to purchase the trucks? The Council would never comment, acknowledge, or respond.

I further pose: Would it be better for the SSVFD to reduce service levels and risk loss of their Class 5 Insurance Rating? Which I would interpret as violating the terms of their existing contract. Or act to maintain it? I believe the former would be the most beneficial to their customers, the individual taxpayers.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Meant to mention this before..........................................

Remember the deadline I mentioned regarding the SSVFD Contract?

The contract was conveyed to the SSVFD on the 20th with the requirement that it be returned by the 27th.

I dropped by Town Hall on the 27th to see if I could talk with either Mayor Smith or Charlie Read, both were out of town for the week.

What was the point?

Have you seen this?..........................................................

This is being distributed by email under the pen name Thomas Paine. Being a History Major, that just cracked me up.

Mr. Paine was a British transplant to the colonies and was the pamphleteer of the American Revolution. Author of the pamphlet entitled Common Sense (appropriate for the current circumstances) advocating colonial America's independence from Great Britain.

Please Help Save Our Volunteer Fire Department

The Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Department is a non-profit corporation that has served the Town of Southern Shores and Martin's Point for nearly 30 years. On January 20th, The Southern Shores Town Council, in a political dispute about control and power, gave the Fire Department an ultimatum to sign an unbalanced and unfair contract or risk being taken over by the Town.

The Mayor says that this is about fiscal conservatism and lower taxes.

That's Not True! The current structure provides the most cost effective Fire Department in the Outer Banks. This year alone, Southern Shores Volunteer Firefighters contributed more than 15,000 hours of their time to provide Fire and Rescue services that would cost millions without them.

The Mayor says that the Fire Department is demanding a 69% increase in funding for next year.

Not Even Close! The Fire Department has not submitted a budget request since it is not yet even due! He dishonestly made his numbers up to take control of the Fire Department. The Southern Shores portion of the Fire Department budget for the fiscal year 2008-2009 is only 16% higher than it was in FY 1997-1998. During that same 11-year period the Town Budget has grown by 76%!

The Mayor says that the Town has negotiated in good faith with the Fire Department.

Wrong! Despite numerous documented attempts by the Fire Department, the Town has refused to negotiate a contract.

The Mayor says that the Fire Department has spent a lot of money without consulting the Town.

Incorrect! The Fire Department has projected its capital needs for years and has informed the Town of major items for more than 5 years. Last year, the Fire Department presented a 5-year strategic plan with expected dates for capital expenses and has kept that schedule. The Town, however, does not have a plan.

The Mayor refers to the Fire Department as "Formerly Volunteer."

That's Just Deceptive! Last year, in response to the increasing administrative workload of running a Fire Department while meeting new requirements and regulations, the Volunteer Membership of the Fire Department voted by an overwhelming majority of 85% to hire a paid Fire Chief. They also chose to hire the existing Chief, who had been elected by the majority of the members 4 years in a row. Except for the Chief and a part time Administrative Assistant, all of the 60 members of the Fire Department, including the Board of Directors are Volunteers.

Why Would the Mayor Tell You Things That Are Not True?

He wants control. He even wants to control the tax rate and spending of tax money raised from Martin's Point so that he can shift costs.

He wants to control the assets of the Fire Department to help balance a Town Budget that is out of control. He and other Council members were elected after promising Capital Improvements and Lower Taxes.

Have your taxes gone down? No!

Have the Streets and Canals been fixed? No!

Have Services been cut? Yes! Lifeguards, Chipping, Public Works, Codes & Police among others.

Yet Town administrative salaries have gone up sharply and the Formerly Volunteer Mayor and Council receive monthly stipends.

The Mayor is simply not as good as his word.

What do they call it when Government takes over private companies? Socialism!

Please help us stop this dishonest attempt to socialize our Volunteer Fire Department. We need your help to prevent the loss of our Volunteers. We need you to help prevent unnecessary increases in your property insurance and the cost of your Fire Rescue services.

Please act today and call or email the following Council Members and tell them to:

"Stop Trying to Ruin Our Volunteer Fire Department and Leave Martin's Point's Money Alone"

Don Smith- 252-261-4093 donmsm@embarqmail.com

Jody Hess- 252-261-0102 

Brian McDonald- 252-255-5118 

Jim Pfizenmayer - 252-261-0643 

Kevin Stroud- 252-261-8464

I'm still considering the "socialism" part, not certain about that one. But, I can vouch for the accuracy of the statements, both those attributed to the Mayor and the counter points. I have witnessed most of the statements first hand and you wil find most of the counter points either mentioned directly, or supported in my previous blog postings.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Random thoughts on the matter......................................

I was trying to figure out how a Fire and Rescue contract might be worked out with Kitty Hawk. Would they be able to meet or beat the SSVFD price of service.

Currently, the SSVFD budget represents a tiny bit less than $0.02 of the TOSS $0.975 tax rate, but let's round that out to a solid $0.02. Which would generate approximately $300,000.00 for the budget(current budget $292,000.00).

Based on the figures I found on the Town of Kitty Hawk website, it appears that the KHFD represents around $0.04(.0421)of the town's $0.18 tax rate. One advantage, though, would be that KHFD does have it's own Ocean Rescue service which could be extended I presume at that rate.

The TOSS contract for the Life Guard Beach Service this year was $128,000.00 .

Now, I'm certain our Town Council would want to keep it as close as possible to current expenses or less, but this isn't looking too good so far.

I guess the KH Town Manager could set a lower price, but I think the KH taxpayers would want to be assured they were not subsidising the TOSS taxpayers. They might even think KH should make some thing off of the deal. Wouldn't you if the situation was reversed?

Let's see, up to $600,000.00 as compared to $420,000.00. Do I need to do the rest of the of the math?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I was just too curious......................................

Reading the article in Sunday's Coastland Times regarding last weeks contract discussions, I didn't see among the quoted statements, some thing Mayor Smith said.

He was quoted as saying, that as far as he was concerned “this is it” (in reference to the contract document). My memory is that he further indicated that contract needed to be signed and returned within seven days, or “other means” of service may have to be arranged. Since the existing contract already includes a clause that would take effect in the event the TOSS chose to create it's own municipal fire department, I became quite curious as to what other possibilities might be available.

So, I decided to call our neighboring towns to see if they had been approached. Here is what I found:

Town of Duck

According to Town Manager Chris Layton, our Town Manager Charlie Read had approached him regarding the possibility of contracting for fire service in Southern Shores several months ago. He indicated that their response was that the Town of Duck was only interested in providing services within their own district.

Town of Kitty Hawk

I spoke to Town Manager John Stockton who indicated that he had been approached by Charlie Read in the “last couple of weeks” and that Kitty Hawk would be “willing to consider a proposal from” the TOSS. I'm not really surprised. If you were to present your current contractor with a contract designed to fail, you would want to have something else lined up.

Now I wonder, would Kitty Hawk accept the same conditions in a proposal as detailed in the contract just presented to the SSVFD? I guess we will have to wait and see. I'll try to keep track of any further progress in this matter, and post updates.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

What's the problem?... What's the Plan?......................

These are the questions I posed during the public comment portion of the last Council meeting. Of course, they don't normally respond during this part of the meeting, but I had hopes that someone would before the meeting closed.

No one addressed them and I'm not very confident that the Town Council would have a consensus in answering either question.

As a whole our Council has had nothing but the highest praise for the performance of the SSVFD, often citing instances of sterling service. To the best of my knowledge there has never been a complaint filed or voiced by the TOSS citizens, staff, or Town Council regarding either the manner or timeliness of their response. The Town's FSAB found that we had an “outstanding volunteer program” with strong leadership, at a bargain price.

It seems to me that if there were any severe problems in the SSVFD it would be exhibited in the overall performance of the department. Example: poor leadership leads to poor morale which results in poor performance. Something I contend would show up quickly in a volunteer environment and be quite difficult to mask.

All serious discussions I have witnessed have involved overall control of the SSVFD budget and assets. These two issues have resurfaced over and over again. It is as if after 25 years of operation the SSVFD can no longer be trusted to manage their own affairs and the TOSS must have possession of or full ownership of the assets (land, buildings, equipment, and funds).

Talk about a morale booster; tell a dedicated group of volunteers that you appreciate their work, and they can risk their own lives to save your property or lives if they choose to do so, but you cannot trust them to properly conduct their own fiscal affairs.

I thought the current Town Council pledged to run the TOSS as a business? Do you attempt to resolve issues of trust at that level by modifying a contract? I you don't trust a contractor to that extent why are you even contemplating a contract?

Ok, so what about this new Contract?...........................

I have a copy of the contract and have considered posting it, or the most onerous portions of it, for my readers to see.. I have chosen not to, primarily because I'm not certain what it is.................really!

Even the Town Council members couldn't seem to agree at the meeting on the 20th, when Mayor Smith read a prepared statement and presented the contract.

In his statement (I cannot quote word for word), Mayor Smith seemed to indicate that this was the contract, that the SSVFD needed to respond (sign?) within seven days, or “an alternative means” (of service?) would have to be arranged. He seemed to indicate that this was final and non-negotiable.

Council member Hess recognized this and objected. This lead to further discussion among the Council members as to whether the contract had been negotiated, ultimately arriving at the conclusion that it had not.

Council member McDonald disagreed that this was an ultimatum and indicated that this was a draft intended to initiate negotiations. I believe this sentiment was reinforced by comments from the other Council members. The published Agenda for the council meeting referred to this as a “draft” contract, while the Broadcast email refers to it as “proposed”.

If it's a draft, why is there a “drop dead” date of January 27th? The current contract is in effect until the end of June.

Judging from my use of the words “seem”, “indicated”, and “believe”, I hope you can appreciate my predicament and understand why I have not posted the contract. After all, if it is actually a proposal and allowance is made for negotiation, the onerous points may not even appear in the final draft. It really did not look like the council had their act together on this.

None the less, the Town Council did vote 4 – 1 to present the contract to the SSVFD Board of Directors.

To add to the confusion, the copies of the contract presented to the Fire Chief and Chairman of the SSVFD were not complete, containing only the first two and last pages. The Town Manager had new copies made for them after the meeting.

What's with these Broadcast Emails from the TOSS?

The TOSS has distributed two Broadcast emails regarding the SSVFD. The first was sent on Jan. 14 and the latest on the 23rd. For some reason the text of the email from the 14th is not available on the TOSS website, the notice from the 23rd can be seen here.

Broadcast Email from Jan.14th.

As many are aware, the Town Council has directed the Town Manager, in conjunction with the Town Attorney, to negotiate a new contract with the Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. (SSVFD). It has taken some time to gather the necessary information and input from various sources, but the Town is hopeful that a long-term, multi-year, and mutually beneficial agreement will be reached in the near future.
Due to recent questions that have been posed to Town staff members and others, we would like to clarify a few items of information which may not be commonly known to the citizens of the Town:
1.The SSVFD is not a department of the Town. It is a separate, not-for-profit corporation.
2.Unlike a Town department, the relationship between the Town and the SSVFD relies on a contractual agreement under which the Town appropriates money to the SSVFD in exchange for the SSVFD providing fire services to the Town and its citizens.  Other than through the terms of this contractual relationship, the Town exercises no control over the SSVFD.
3.Similarly, the SSVFD is not a Dare County department, but contracts with Dare County to provide services to the residents of Martin’s Point.
4.The current Chief of the Fire Department, Chief Bob Harvey, is not an employee of the Town. Chief Harvey was a volunteer member of the SSVFD who the Board of Directors of the SSVFD selected and hired as their first full-time paid Chief.
Thank you for considering this information. If you have any further questions or concerns regarding the relationship between the Town and SSVFD please contact the Town’s staff for assistance.

The email above was sent out of cycle and seemingly out of the blue. When I saw it my first reaction was “Oh no, not again!”.

I'm still curious as to why this was sent and what was the reason for sending it at that time?

The bullet points are factually correct, but what is the point that the is TOSS trying to get across to the public?

One thing I did learn from discussion among Council members at the the Town Council meeting on the 20th was that first paragraph of the first notice was incorrect. Although Council had directed such, neither the Town Manager nor the Town Attorney had actually negotiated anything with the SSVFD. According to the SSVFD representatives at this meeting, the SSVFD had attempted to engage the Town Manager in negotiations multiple times in the course of the previous two months.

Can You Believe This?....................................

Based on the new contract proposal presented by Mayor Smith this past Tuesday, it appears that the Southern Shores Town Council is out to break the SSVFD again. As pointed out by the TOSS in two unusual Broadcast emails, the Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Dept., Inc. is a private, non-profit corporation which provides fire, rescue, and emergency management services to the TOSS.

The SSVFD has been both the first responding agency and the majority source of manpower available on a moments notice, handling anything from fires in structures and wild land to first aid, life support, vehicle extrications, Hazardous Materials incidents, structural collapse (technical rescue and recovery), drownings, land search for lost people and assist patients into their homes or vehicles.

All of the above services provided by a dedicated staff of volunteers. With close to 500 dispatches a year these services are provided to the citizens and visitors of Southern Shores and Martins Point on a daily basis.

Emergency Management Services may be a surprise, but the SSVFD has become the Emergency Operations Center for the TOSS. Providing a hardened shelter, with power, food, and a communications center (fire, rescue, police, Coast Guard, and Ham radio), for the SSVFD, SSPD, Dare EMS, and TOSS staff.

All of the above services have been provided in the past 25 years by mutual agreement between the TOSS, Dare County and the SSVFD in a boiler-plate contract.

Suddenly, these past two fiscal years, the TOSS has found the original agreements to be lacking in some form or fashion, leading to often heated discussions, confusion, and the formation of a Fire Service Advisory Board.

The FSAB, was created by the Town Council to investigate the needs of the SSVFD and provide a venue for the formation of recommendations regarding the future relationship between the SSVFD and TOSS.
Contentious at times, this board explored all aspects of the the SSVFD's operations, budgeting (operating and capital), and planning (both near and long term) and produced a position paper presented to the Town Council on October 28th, 2008.

Take time to read these minutes and I think you will see the “cool” manner in which this report was received, pay special attention to the seemingly negative comments of Council members Pfizenmayer and Stroud who were both seated members of the FSAB. Although it appeared the Council would consider these findings, it is now quite apparent that the work of this Board of volunteers has been set aside in favor of some other agenda.