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 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, 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: 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.