Public Works Needs Better Management

***An Earlier Version of This Article Contained Incomplete Information***
***A Correction Has Been Inserted Into the Body of the Text***

In a previous post, Ramseur He-Man Woman Haters Club, I pointed out the gross misogyny of several members of our Board of Commissioners  toward Vicki Caudle, the only woman currently serving on the board.

Caudle

During a discussion at the most recent board meeting regarding the duties of our public works contractor, Suez, Commissioner Grant Cheek was adamant that Suez is not responsible for cleaning and stocking public restrooms in our parks, and insisted that Commissioner Caudle should handle those duties herself. According to Mr. Cheek, Suez is too busy working water leaks, repairing fire hydrants, and removing brush from his property to bother with such menial work as maintaining restrooms in a public park. You can view the full discussion in the video below.

A little later in the same meeting, Commissioner* Smith gave an update on activities at the cemetery, one of his two assigned departments. He informed the board that he had finally gotten the cinder block storage building painted and that plans were underway to have the poor quality masonry at the West Ridge Street entrance repaired. Then, almost as an afterthought, Mr. Smith stated, “Public Works is taking care of the fire ants“.

Public Works, as we all know, is one of Commissioner Cheek’s departments (Water/Sewer, Streets, Public Works), and we all know how Mr. Cheek feels about sharing his resources and responsibilities. He had just finished lecturing Commissioner Caudle about how the Suez contractors are so overloaded with work that they can’t spend thirty minutes keeping the restrooms in Leonard Park clean, but he apparently has no problem with the same workers spending several hours walking around Sunset Knoll cemetery treating fire ant hills.

Overman

Over the past few days we have experienced prolonged heavy rains that led to much flooding in the Ramseur area, and the Pell Reservoir (Ramseur Lake) was affected as well. Sunday Commissioner Caudle posted an image of the flooding there, and thanked Lake Warden, Keith Sykes, and Commissioner David Overman for their efforts in securing boats and other property during the rain.

I spoke with Commissioner Caudle about an unrelated matter earlier today, and mentioned seeing her post on Facebook about the flood. She volunteered that she had initially tried to contact Mark Grose, who manages our water treatment plant and is the primary point of contact for Suez in Ramseur, to assist Mr. Sykes in securing the lake property and mitigating as much of the flooding as possible. She got no answer. She eventually reached Commissioner Overman and he immediately stepped up to help.

[CORRECTION: Commissioner Caudle contacted me late this evening, 4/15/2019 and stated the following, “The lake warden actually called Mark Grose, who was working in another location. Sorry if I made it sound like I called him. I later learned that Suez is not on call for this type of response.”

My apologies to Mark Grose and his Suez crew for any embarrassment or inconvenience this has caused. – JH]

I spent almost twenty years working in the utility industry protecting underground infrastructure from excavation related damage, and the companies I worked for were required to maintain personnel on call 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. In fact, I have never encountered a utility company or municipality that didn’t have some sort of emergency call-out system in place.

I would expect that Suez has a similar after hours response plan for Ramseur, but if that is not the case our Board of Commissioners should demand that such a plan be drawn up and implemented as soon as possible. Mr. Grose did eventually respond to Commissioner Caudle’s call and opened a valve on the dam to lower the water level in the lake.

All of the issues mentioned above – restroom maintenance in parks, water leak and fire hydrant repairs, fire ant control at our cemetery, and flood control and emergency assistance at Ramseur Lake – are activities that any reasonable person should expect to be handled by a municipal public works department. Suez operates Ramseur’s public works department, and Commissioner Cheek is the sole commissioner in charge of that department.

Cheek

The fact that Commissioner Cheek is so unwilling to share responsibility for such a large important department with ALL of his peers and the departments they manage is proof that he either doesn’t understand the role of local government in providing these services, or that his personal dislike of certain board members has so clouded his judgement that he cannot perform his elected duties in a professional and consistent manner. Why else would he lecture Commissioner Caudle about why public works should not be maintaining restrooms in a public park, but not protesting at all when Commissioner* Smith stated that public works was handling a fire ant problem in a public cemetery? You can’t have it both ways Mr. Cheek.

We do not need separate departments for park, street and cemetery maintenance. All are functions of a properly managed managed public works department and no individual commissioner should ever wield as much authority over as many vital services as Mr. Cheek currently holds; never mind his conflicts of interest in the water department.

Commissioner Caudle tried to hold discussions that would have included this sort of reform when she took office in December of 2017 r shortly thereafter, but Mayor Shaw, Commissioner Cheek, and Commissioner Cox would not allow the discussion to take place. It has become painfully obvious to any rational adult watching this play out that such reforms are desperately needed in Ramseur.

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