WAYNE CREED Dishes it out to Town Council (Again)
By WAYNE CREED
April 20, 2015
On this day, April 16, 2015, the Cape Charles Town Council met for its Regular Meeting, and Mayor George Proto announced it to be National Proclamation Day. Town Council then proceeded to the business of approving several new proclamations, including National Safe Boating Week Proclamation, National Police Week Proclamation, Building Safety Month Proclamation, National Public Works Week Proclamation and Municipal Clerks Week Proclamation. After each proclamation was approved, Mayor Proto read every word, every line in its entirety. If the CIA ever finds that they need a new, cutting edge torture procedure to use on terrorists, Proto may have just come across it for them. Half-way through proclamation recitations, even the most hardened individual would divulge any information just to make it stop.
This meeting was the first time new Town Manager Brent Manuel was in attendance proper; however it was Assistant Town Manager Bob Panek that did all the talking. During his report on the Cape Charles Community Trail, Panek seemed firm on following the precedent he set on previous adventures such as the overpriced and underperforming, yet exquisitely malodorous wastewater system, using a finely honed skillset of naiveté and hubris to once again drag hapless Cape Charles down the rabbit hole of benightedness.
During his report to Council, Panek informed them that the $95,000 engineering study was a teeny bit off. That is, after receiving actual bids on the work, the cost would be $350,000 more than was stated in the engineering study. There is no grant money available to make up the difference, so in typical Cape Charles fashion, the plan is to cut corners by sacrificing citizen safety. Just as the town was too cheap to place warning signs at the beach, and the lack of those signs led to the tragic drowning of a child last summer, they now plan to just use half the amount of lights to illuminate the trail at night. Of course, once someone gets raped or murdered, and the publicity might begin to affect the amount of cash being stuffed into the tourist tills, the Town will then add the additional lighting.
On the bright side, Chief Pruitt did display his new chest video camera, so I guess we can all sleep well knowing that bit of technology is now in place.
As a note, the firm that produced the engineering study for the trail (handpicked by Panek and Co.) is the same one the town used to design our magnificent series of Finger Lakes (Lake Cape Charles) that surround Central Park. A question still lurking: while the Mayor was handing out all these proclamations, where’s the one for National Ineptitude Day or National Lack of Due Diligence Day?
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Ironically, although Councilwoman Natali had just peppered Code Enforcer Jeb Brady about the progress of the old school renovation (important to keep track of the paint pallet), she and her fellow Council mates were oddly mute, not asking a single question in regard to the $350,000 Community Trail shortfall. Given that Councilman Wendell was not there to rip into this juicy morsel like an agitated wolverine with anger management issues, they probably thought it best to sweep this latest fiasco under the rug as quickly as possible.
On June 28, 2014, the town entered into a contract with Echelon Resources, Inc., to sell the former Cape Charles School, then valued at over $900,000, for $10. It was a tough negotiation, but to sweeten the deal, the town agreed to give the insurance proceeds in the amount of $41,000, which came from earthquake damage sustained on or about August 23, 2011. (The cost to actually repair the earthquake damage turned out to probably be around $1,000.)
But rather than give the money outright to the developer, the plan had been to credit it against water and sewer hookup fees that would be owed the town. And so the matter stood for more than two years. But suddenly, Panek announced at the meeting that since the renovation is expected to be finished in early June, the town was required to pay the developer the $41,000 from the General Fund — even though no such expense was included in the budget. The vote to allocate the funds was approved unanimously. The developer (J. David McCormack) still hasn’t paid a penny for connection fees, and also has yet to be billed for any water used during the months of construction.
For those who have enjoyed using credit or debit cards to pay the town, that free ride is about to come to a close, as a fee of 3% will be assessed beginning July 1. Cape Charles pays $7,791 in fees for regular transactions, and has accumulated over $14,000 for Harbor transactions. This fee has already been applied to the harbor, and the hope is that the 3% will alleviate a big chunk of the remaining fees the town has to pay by offering this service.
On a similar note, during the Harbor report, Harbormaster Dize reported that due to several deadbeat boaters, the Harbor has $70,000 in delinquent payments.
As far as fees go, the Historic District Review Board, tired of being pushed around and abused by unscrupulous developers, is in the process of adjusting the fees for applications, as well as the fees that are paid when an applicant “either modifies their initial plan and\or requires a special meeting due to not abiding by the Certificate of Appropriateness.” The new structure is proposed to be $50 for the initial application, $100 for a modification, and $150 for a special meeting (to deal with a stop work order from the town). Mayor Proto voiced some concern that the fees could be higher, to put “more sting” into them. The Historic Review Board has some time before this is finalized, and still may be able to double or triple these fees before they are enacted.
During the Recreation report, Director Jen Lewis was questioned by Natali about why there was very little signage regarding driving golf carts on the boardwalk. It turns out that one of Nataili’s acquaintances was accosted by police for this very violation. The boardwalk is considered part of the sidewalk system, so according to town ordinances, vehicles such as golf carts or bicycles are forbidden. But there’s a Catch-22: the boardwalk is also part of the proposed Cape Charles Community Trail, which does allow the aforementioned modes of transportation. The question before Council is whether or not they should engage the services of an engineering firm to perform a study that might somehow provide a solution to this engaging dilemma.
Although Scooby Doo and the meddling kids from Mystery Incorporated have not been able to come to Cape Charles as of yet, the mystery of the excess million gallons of water is still unsolved here in town. A frustrated Steve Bennett, after tossing his report in the air, addressed Public Works Director Fauber about why the town’s new treatment plant was processing over a million more gallons of wastewater vs. the fresh water going to consumers. “I just — I can’t believe, I just don’t understand how you cannot know where all the water is coming from. Is it reporting, or is your record keeping wrong?”
“I believe it’s infiltration,” replied Fauber. “It’s the rain.”
“Now, this has been going on for some time,” offered Mayor Proto. “Do you think — hmmm, can we have a plan to find out? What do you think, Steve?”
“I don’t think he can,” said Bennett. “He doesn’t have one (a plan).”
Actually, Mr. Fauber does have a plan — after the manhole covers are repaired, Public Works will use video to survey the entire system, hoping to discover the source of the mysterious excess million gallons.
Our biggest fear is that we may discover that the cause of the excess millions is in fact the Creepy Heap from the Deep (a large, crab-like, orange sea monster with big, monstrous claws, one eye, web-like fins, a crescent-shaped tail and a scruffy patch of sea weed on its head). Without Scooby and the gang to save us, what will we do?
Scooby Doo, where are you?