Council Appoints Brent Manuel Town Manager, Commends Heroes for Icy Rescue

Cape Charles Wave

March 23, 2015

Cape Charles Town Council met March 19 at the Civic Center, and Mayor George Proto began by announcing that the Town has appointed Brent T. Manuel of Woodstock, Virginia, as the new Town Manager. The appointment is effective April 6.

Hardly a newcomer to local government, Manuel has over 16 years of experience, having served the towns of Purcellville, Strasburg, and Woodstock and the county of Frederick.  For the past 13 years Manuel was Woodstock’s Assistant Town Manager of Operations and Director of the Department of Planning and Community Development.

“While I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, I am very enthusiastic about the opportunity that awaits in the beautiful town of Cape Charles,” Manuel says.

Mayor Proto stated, “The Town Council and I look forward to his beginning, his tenure, and the contributions I believe he will make to the town.”

Councilman Frank Wendell added, “We are very excited to have him here, and the fact that he chose to live in town is a very good sign.”

Although the decision to hire Manuel was made a few weeks ago, the process had been stalled due to his difficulty finding rental housing within the town limits. But with that problem resolved, Manuel begins work in two weeks.

Mayor Proto issued Commendations to Officer Tom Potts, Sergeant Jay Bell, and Keith Lewis for a dramatic rescue at the Town Harbor on the night of March 5.  About 7:45 p.m., Lewis saw a man fall off the icy dock into the frigid water. He immediately dialed 911, alerted authorities, and attempted to assist the victim. Officer Tom Potts soon arrived, and he and Lewis crawled out on the ice, where Potts worked to keep the man above water. A few moments later, Sergeant Jay Bell arrived and joined the effort. The team pulled the victim out of the water and dragged him across the ice and up to the dock where an ambulance was waiting to transport him to the hospital. The victim has made a full recovery.


In other business, during the Planning Commission report, Councilman Wendell addressed the library portion of the Comp Plan: “What kind of metrics were used to come to the hypothesis that we will need to get a new library, or that more space will be needed?” he asked.

Town Planner Larry DiRe answered, “The current library is at 90% utilization. In the future we will need space.”

“I don’t believe this is the right time for this question,” injected Mayor Proto.

“Excuse me, Mayor, but it was in the report, so I’m asking a question about what was in the report,” Wendell insisted. “With the amount of money the town spent [to purchase the new library], we expected a little more — why after such an expensive, a substantial purchase — well, hardly a year later and we’re right back in the same place.”

Then Councilman Chris Bannon broke in: “I have to listen to you talk all the time; now you’re going to listen to me. The library –it’s more [than a library] — it’s a community center.”

“I really think we should talk about this when we meet with the Planning Commission to discuss the changes to the Comp Plan,” Proto insisted.

“I agree, “ said Councilman Steve Bennett — “but, I do agree with Frank.”

“I’m glad to hear it. I’m also a bit stunned,” Wendell responded.

Recreation Director Jen Lewis addressed plans for signage and beach safety measures. The town has budgeted $10,000 for ropes and new signage to be placed at swim area locations. Given the beach replenishment and the new geography at the waterfront, Councilman Sambo Brown voiced concerns: “We have to be careful. Now, it’s a straight drop from the beach to the channel.”

Councilwoman Joan Natali questioned, “Is this an infrastructure improvement? If it is, we can get money from the county using the Infrastructure Improvement Grant.”

“We’ll check,” said Assistant Town Manager Bob Panek.

Ms. Lewis noted that given current estimates, the town should be able to implement the new measures and come in well under budget.

Harbormaster Smitty Dize requested permission to allow returning slip owners to continue to pay on a monthly basis rather than the quarterly or yearly basis newly being imposed. Dize said that current slip holders are complaining that paying in larger chunks was causing financial hardships.

Councilman Brown questioned why the harbor was punishing folks that could not afford to make large payments, by increasing their slip fees. Dize responded that it was an effort to reduce the bookkeeping required to collect from every slip holder at the beginning of every month. Council approved the Harbormaster’s request unanimously.

In other new business, Council reviewed a request to award a $24,000 contract for painting maintenance. Councilman Wendell questioned the need for the new contract when the Town already employs a maintenance crew. “Don’t we have four people riding around all day picking up sticks — have we ever done anything in house?” he asked.

“If they’re painting, they can’t pick up brush,” said Panek. “It would be a waste of manpower.”

“Was there ever any consideration put into this? I’m not talking about technology, but can’t people with maintenance behind their names (pick up a paint brush)?” Wendell continued.

“We contract work all the time,” injected Bannon — “like grass cutting.”

“Oh yes — grass cutting. Is there anything the maintenance crew can do,” continued Wendell. “Maybe they can pick up sticks on Monday and Friday, and do something else the other three days.”

“We should let people that paint every day, paint,” Natali said.

“I think outside people would do a better job,” Brown said.

Bennett observed that the contract was unfunded and so would have to be taken from maintenance line items. “I’m confused. How are we going to pay for it? We’re not even budgeting for it,” he said. Council agreed to table the item until more information could be gathered from Public Works Director Dave Fauber.

Jen Lewis reported the status of the Dog Committee, which has discussed designating an area to be open to dogs and their owners on a year-round basis. Dog Committee recommendations are:

1. Change the summer beach hours to prohibit dogs on the beach from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day. (Current prohibition is 9 a.m.-9 p.m. from April 1 through Labor Day.) The change would require a public hearing and Council approval.

2. Remove buckets from Doggie Stations in favor of regular trash receptacles. Staff to ensure that baggies are available at all Doggie Stations.

3. The Police Department should work with residents to enforce the town ordinance. A conversation between violators and a police officer would be enough to make noticeable changes for such issues as feces throughout Central Park and private property, as well as adhering to the leash law.

Councilman Wendell questioned Chief Jim Pruitt about how active the police would be in enforcing the dog ordinance. “Will the police even be patrolling the park?” he wondered.

Pruitt responded, “We’ll be where the people are, but I’m not going have one of my officers spend six hours of their shift just to be sure somebody’s dog doesn’t poop in the park.”

Lewis concluded, “This is a start. It falls on all of us to ensure that the public is aware of the regulations, as well as the effect pet waste can have on the environment.” Council agreed to let the Dog Committee continue down the current path, noting that the issue would be revisited soon.

The only public comments came from this reporter, who said: “I would like to address the issue of signs and safety at the beach. I know we have it budgeted, but I would urge you to follow through to be sure we have adequate signage and safety issues. The drowning last summer was an outlier event, I understand that, but we need to make sure it never happens again. It can be simple — even have some teenagers with whistles to warn and keep kids away from the dangerous areas.

“I would also like to address the basketball courts,” this reporter continued. “You all worked so hard to take them away, and I worked very hard to save them; I will work just as hard to put them back. We have the spot: move the skateboard park — parks are for dogs anyway; skaters will skate anywhere. They [the courts] were so important to this town, to our culture, especially for the underserved kids of the Eastern Shore.”



One Response to “Council Appoints Brent Manuel Town Manager, Commends Heroes for Icy Rescue”

  1. Deborah Bender on March 24th, 2015 5:42 pm

    So NOW the library is the community center — are you kidding me? Now the town wants a bigger library? This is ridiculous to say the least. The library brings no revenue in for the town AT ALL! For that matter the library is not even self sustaining. I say, enough about the library and how about we worry more about children drowning up at the beach — or should I say mud front?