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.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The WTKR News Report...........................................................................

Like Ray at the Eye on Dare blog, I found the actual investigative report to be somewhat anti-climatic, although I cannot agree entirely with EOD's summation.

There are a number of talking points that need to be looked at more closely to get to the true facts.  These would be as follows:  the budget increase, motivation, and voter fraud (?).

I will continue along this course with more posts to follow.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The SSVFD/TOSS Contract....................................................................

This is the one point that completely mystifies me when it comes to how the SSVFD's detractors and some currently seated Council members cite it.  It is as if those opposing the SSVFD don't want to know what s in it, don't want to read it, and claim that the SSVFD is violating it.

There shouldn't be any mystery, misunderstanding, or misrepresentation; it's available in it's entirity right here.

The product of two years of haranguing and the second re-write in the same period, the SSVFD/TOSS service contract was accepted and approved by unanimous vote of the Council (Smith, McDonald, Hess, Stroud , and Pfizenmayer), February 24, 2009.

Mayor Smith's words on this contract:

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.
The entire statement and a full chronological account of the "unpleasantries" between the TOSS and SSVFD can be found by  reviewing my old posts from 2008 - 09.

Note the reference above to "it takes tremendous motivation, outstanding skill, and tireless dedication to serve, manage, and administer first-class organizations like this".  An entirely different representation than he now espouses.

The Poteskeet Trail Controversy.............................................................

Take a look at the Town Council minutes dated October 28, 2008, it took me less than 20 minutes to find on the town website.

       Capital Improvement Plan Amendment-Engineering fees (CIP)

The Town Manager (Read) stated Joe Anluaf, Tow Engineer, found in the CIP under the FY2010-11 recommendations a portion of Poteskeet Trail listed with Trinitie Trail and Old Passage.  Mr. Anlauf requests council consider that tis section be included in the engineering costs as part of the FY 2009-10 recommendations that Council approved at the October 10, 2008 CIP meeting (I cannot find minutes of that meeting on the TOSS website)which would include all of Poteskeet. can read this paragraph yourself at the TOSS website.................................................

Mayor Smith moved to approve to include that portion of Poteskeet Trail described in the FY2010-11 section of the CIP as recommended by Joe Anlauf as part of the engineering fees he is developing for the FY2008-09 CIP.  Council member Pfizenmayer seconded.  The motion passed with  Mayor Smith and Council Members McDonald, Hess, Pfizenmayer and Stroud voting aye; no council member voting no or absent."

Obviously Council members at that time recognized the need to rebuild all of Poteskeet and planned to do so.

The Timothy Spear Affair........................................................................

Sounds ominous, but again, this was on the council agenda, was discussed (more like argued).  Mayor Denny presented a statement of explanation at one of the council meetings.   At most this is a true " he said - she said" or school yard "yes, you did - no, I didn't" argument.

GS 143‑318.10. All official meetings of public bodies open to the public.

(d)        "Official meeting" means a meeting, assembly, or gathering together at any time or place or the simultaneous communication by conference telephone or other electronic means of a majority of the members of a public body for the purpose of conducting hearings, participating in deliberations, or voting upon or otherwise transacting the public business within the jurisdiction, real or apparent, of the public body. However, a social meeting or other informal assembly or gathering together of the members of a public body does not constitute an official meeting unless called or held to evade the spirit and purposes of this Article.

In the previously posted petition where you see the word "secret" please substitute the phrase "openly discussed at regular, advertised Town Council meetings".  Council agendas are generally established well in advance of the regular meetings; all agenda materials and supporting documents are put together in the form of a "council book" the week before the meeting.  If the council member would just read that material they would be reasonably prepared for the meeting.  

Do council members ever contact each other privately to ask others opinions or promote their position on specific topics?  Certainly, wouldn't you want them to, rather than try and hash things out at the meetings? That's the way things were done when I served on the council with former Mayor Smith.

Having attend most every meeting, I believe I have seen open discussion, deliberation, and votes on each of the "secret" matters noted in this petition.

By the way, how much credence do you give a document such as this one, presented anonymously by an author that failed to sign or identify themselves with an email address like Annie ?  Would you sign it?

What kind of material has been circulating?............................................

Here's an example:

Concerned Citizens of Southern Shores, NC
Alarmed by the current investigation by WTKR News Channel 3, the CBS Affiliate in Norfolk Virginia, we the undersigned residents of the Town of Southern Shores, County of Dare, North Carolina hereby submit this second petition calling for and independent investigation of the alleged Official Misconduct on the part of certain members of the Town Council of the Town of Southern Shores, North Carolina.

Specifically we petition George E. B. Holding, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina and Frank Parrish, District Attorney for North Carolina's First District refer the following allegations to the Federal Bureau of Investigation:

-  Reasonable belief exists to support allegations that Mayor James (Hal) Denny, Mayor Pro-Tem Jodi Hess and Councilman George Kowalski hold frequent secret Council Meetings and communications to the exclusion of council members James Pfizenmayer and Kevin Stroud and the citizens of Southern Shores in violation of North Carolina General Statute: Article 33-c GS: 143-318-10 (d).

-  Documents exist to support allegations that Mayor Denny unilaterally conducted secretcommunications with NC State Representative Timothy Spear directing Spear rescind the previous Town Council's unanimous resolution calling for Local Legislation establishing Special Elections to fill vacancies on Town Council. It is further alleged that this act was done with the intention of excluding Pfizenmayer, Stroud, and the citizens.

-  Mayor Denny with the secret support of Hess and Kowalski changed the priorities of the Town's Capital Improvement Plan to rebuild Poteskeet Trail before other town roads.  NOTE: Denny owns and resides at 85 Poteskeet Trail and he stands to benefit personally and financially by this action.

-  The news investigation indicates that Denny, Hess and Kowalski have secretly met, communicated and colluded with Southern Shores Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bob Harvey to modify a brand new 10 year contract and awarded them an additional $1.3 M.  This was done secretly and to the exclusion of Pfizenmayer and Stroud.  NOTE: Kowalski was the Chairman of the Board at the Fire Department when the 10-year contract was unanimously ratified by the Fire Department and the Town Council and Kowalski is still a high ranking member of the Fire Department and his votes on this matter benefit him and his organization personally and financially.

This is one of many transmittal's that have made the rounds here.  Let's take a look at each of these individually.

WTKR News Channel 3 Expose of Southern Shores.................................

I had hoped to ignore the anonymous email and petitions being disseminated by unknown persons and/or the Concerned Citizens of Southern Shores, NC. In retrospect I guess I should have been commenting on their activities all along.

WTKR News is running a teaser of their report on the Southern Shores Council and the SSVFD tonight at 11:00 PM. I'll with-hold judgement on this until I've had the opportunity to see what they've produced. It appears to include interviews with former Mayor Don Smith, former Town Manager Charlie Read, Council Member Jim Pfizenmayer, SSVFD Fire Chief Bob Harvey and a concerned taxpayer - Dan Osman, the former Mayor's son-in-law (who certainly has a perfect right to express his thoughts and concerns). There ay be others, we'll have to wait and see.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

My Latest Post........................................................................................

Is actually located on George Kowalski's blog (STUFF!), the link is located in my blog list on the right. The piece I wrote is "Talking Trash in the Town of Southern Shores". While you're there read some of George's other STUFF!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Congratulations and Kudos to the Southern Shores Town Council................

These congrats are due to the Council's decision to hire Mr. J Peter Rascoe as our new Town Manager.  It's my opinion that he was the top pick among the applicants the last time (two years ago).

Hired as County Manager by Chowan County in 1999, he walked into a financial predicament that makes our budget woes look like the proverbial "cake walk".  For more background do a search on Peter Rascoe  in the Daily Advance website.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Goodness! It's been a while......................................................................

I'm trying to get back to this blog, but truely haven't had the time.  I have been attending as many meetings as possible and can report that, so far, the deamenor of the Southern Shores Town Council as a whole has changed considerably.  The meetings are more subdued, congenial, and most importantly more productive.

My distractions through December and January have been, family, dog training, and a rather complicated project at work.  The work project (virtualizing our servers) has been much more complicated than I could have ever imagined, but will be worth the effort once all the loose ends are tied up.  Through the "high availablity" that is only possible through virtualization, we will have a level of redundancy, mobility, and a disaster recovery capability that is truely "mind-boggling".

My new German Shepherd, Ruger Casa de Perros (18 months), is showing a lot of promise in his training, and appears to be ready for his first Schutzhund trial.  I hope we will be able to obtain his BH (Obedience) title in March.  But this will require doubling up on the training sessions over the next few weeks  to develop a little more finesse in the required routines.