Commissioner Smith Defends His Spending

February 18, 2019 Off By Jay Hubbard

My earlier post, Checks and Balances, appears to have struck a nerve with our appointed town commissioner, “Adam” Smith. When it was time for him to report on his departments – cemetery and library – at the February 4, 2019, Board of Commissioners meeting, Smith came out swinging. Sadly, for the commissioner, he didn’t manage to connect much that night.

Smith began with an account of all the things he’s done since being appointed to the board last August, starting with electrical work at Sunset Knoll cemetery. Four decorative lamps were installed – two at each entrance – in addition to updating several pole mounted breaker boxes, refurbished down to the circuit breakers. He even had GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) receptacles installed under each breaker box.

The invoice from Commissioner Smith’s electrician states that he added those outlets per the National Electrical Code. I did a quick search for information about GFCI plugs and found this explanation of why and where they are needed: “GFCI protection should be provided anywhere there is a receptacle installed in an area subject to moisture, as the presence of moisture greatly increases the danger of accidental shock. The National Electric Code specifies many such areas in residential dwelling units, such as, but not limited to: Bathrooms; Garages and accessory buildings; All exterior receptacles; Crawl spaces…” 

So basically, GFCI outlets are required anywhere a receptacle is needed in a potentially moist environment, such as outdoors, but nothing ever gets plugged in at our cemetery. Have you ever seen Christmas lights at Sunset Knoll? Neither have I, nor have I ever seen anything else plugged in there.

The circuits in question all serve outdoor light fixtures, and all have circuit breakers. The GFCIs were a redundant waste of money, and contrary to what Mr. Smith’s electrician might say, they were not required. All they really did was inflate an invoice.

Commissioner Smith mentioned that the lights on West Ridge Street had been working, but aren’t now because the wire has been broken. A month or so after the fixtures were installed, I noticed one morning that they were all finally burning. I remember because they were installed for well over a month – maybe two – before they became operational.

Sometime before last Christmas, a Suez public works crew removed two sections of sidewalk as part of a stormwater pipe repair on West Ridge Street. The sidewalk still hasn’t been replaced, and the lights stopped burning around that time.

Keeping underground pipes and wires safe from excavation related damage is what I do for a living. I’ve worked in that industry for the last twenty-seven years. The wire serving those lights would not have been marked by the free ‘811’ service, so it’s likely that the Suez crew damaged the wire, which is currently spliced behind the brick wall nearby. The splice is held together by three plain wire nuts; a good recipe for short circuits and tripped circuit breakers.

Next Mr. Smith addressed the unfinished paint job on the shed near the back corner of the old Coward property. Commissioner Smith said there were shrubs blocking one side of the building last summer, and that the wood elements of the structure (gable ends and doors) are rotten and need replacement.

Sorry Commissioner, the problem isn’t shrubbery; it’s a fence that stands about a foot behind the shed. There are no bushes in the area. As for rotten wood; I have closely inspected that building a few times in the last two weeks. There are a few loose or warped boards, but nothing I would call rotten.

At one point Mayor Shaw asked Mr. Smith if it would be cheaper to just sandblast the block back to its original, unpainted state, which in my opinion is what needs to happen. Commissioner Smith was unreceptive to the idea.

At that point Commissioner Smith thanked a citizen, Denise Lowe, for calling him to discuss her concerns about the cemetery. Ms. Lowe was called to the podium for a conversation where she asked, “Who was the local contractor that you used?” Smith said he was unable to recall either of the contractors’ names at that time.

Ms. Lowe then asked about leftover paint, because Mr. Drake’s invoice indicated ten gallons were purchased. Mr. Smith stated that three gallons were used, with the remainder being stored in his garage. When asked why the paint wasn’t stored at either the municipal building or the public works office, Smith stated that he hadn’t realized it would be such a big deal.

Perhaps Commissioner Smith is unaware that in Ramseur we pay the highest property tax rates of any municipality in Randolph County. That’s a very sore spot with many property owners here, and something he might have been aware of had he lived here more than four months before being appointed to our Board of Commissioners.

Ms. Lowe then questioned the wisdom of paying a contractor, especially one from out of town, for incomplete work. Smith’s response was, “Well, the thing is, this guy has worked for me for years. He’s a good guy, and I trust him. He stands behind his work; as well as the gentleman who did the electrical work.”

Wait a minute! First Smith said he that couldn’t remember who the contractors were, but five minutes later he said they’ve worked for him for years?

You can’t have it both ways, Mr. Smith. Either they’ve worked for you for years and you know exactly who they are, or you hired some anonymous people you know nothing about. Which is it?

Ms. Lowe then asked Commissioner Smith whether the contractors were insured. Smith responded, “He’s got a million dollar policy,” and stated that he was certain the contractor can provide a certificate of insurance. We’d love to see that, Commissioner.

Ms. Lowe then returned to the subject of contractors being paid for incomplete work, in particular the brick wall on West Ridge Street. Commissioner Smith argued that other than brushing a little concrete off the surface, the job is complete. Ms. Lowe pointed out that the brick was laid improperly, and Smith replied, “It looks good to me.”

At that point Mayor Shaw intervened and Ms. Lowe returned to her seat. The mayor then turned slightly toward Commissioner Smith’s end of the desk and muttered, “I’m sorry.” One wonders to whom and for what the mayor was apologizing.

Scott Floyd then rose and addressed the Board, stating his agreement with Ms. Lowe that the wall was not properly repaired and needs to be fixed. Mayor Shaw soon cut Mr. Floyd off, saying, “Look, he told you while ago that it wasn’t finished,” in direct contradiction to what Commissioner Smith had said moments earlier.

Mayor Shaw, now visibly upset, told Mr. Floyd to put his demands in writing, while Denise Lowe, from the back of the room, demanded that the money paid to Mr. Drake, Smith’s paint and masonry contractor, be repaid to the town, which was met with a burst of applause from the audience.

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