Board of Commissioners, Six Month Report Card

May 21, 2020 Off By Jay Hubbard

It’s been about six months since the four people we elected last November were sworn into office. Since that time the new board members selected Tanya Kenyon to serve the remainder of Mayor Caudle’s unexpired term as a commissioner, and last month the board voted to appoint Tim Matthews to the fill the seat vacated when Randy Cox resigned a few months ago. Both appointments were the unanimous decisions of the voting members.

Earlier this week the board held it’s monthly pre-agenda meeting and what a difference this new administration makes! For one thing, the meetings run more smoothly now, and stay focused on constructive discussions of the topics at hand. Gone are the bumbling and backbiting of the past. The mayor and our town clerk, Carol Akers, work well together to assemble each meeting’s agenda, making certain that all issues in need of attention are addressed, and the board moves through each item in a professional manner. They don’t always agree, but discussions are respectful and in the end they either vote or table the issue until more information can be provided and in most cases consensus reached. This is how a governing board should operate.

I picked up on something Commissioner Kenyon said the other night, to the effect that the current board needs to develop plans and routines that can be left in place for the next group to use when the current board members are no longer there. I couldn’t agree more, but I also couldn’t help noticing, during the same meeting, two instances in which plans adopted by previous boards, a ten year plan for parks and recreation, and a comprehensive land use plan, developed ten and twenty years ago respectively, have not been fully utilized or kept up to date since their adoption.

This again proves that Ramseur must transition to a manager-council form of government as soon as possible. Having a professional town manager provides the continuity needed to prevent well developed plans like the ones mentioned above from getting lost in the shuffle as elected officials come and go, and would allow our commissioners the time they deserve to study the issues before them and make informed decisions. Expecting six people who are collectively paid about $1500 per month to manage the complex day to day affairs of a municipality of any size is an exercise in insanity and is an idea doomed to failure.

I would challenge our current board of commissioners to set a goal for themselves; find the means to hire a town administrator and develop a plan to transition our local government to a manager-council form before the next municipal election is held in 2021. That doesn’t mean we should expect them to hire anyone by that time, but they should be well on their way to developing a timeline and budget for doing so by then.

There are many areas where Ramseur can either reduce spending or increase revenues, as the new board has already proven. A few changes in how Ramseur Lake is operated, I’m told, generated more revenue for the town in the one month it was open before the pandemic shutdown than the entire 2019 season. Additionally, Commissioner Parrish spearheaded an effort to begin selling off surplus property last month which had already generated over $28,000 for several departments.

Commissioner McIntosh, with assistance from Mayor Caudle and others in the office, has been scrutinizing our water billing system and fixing numerous problems that cost us thousands of dollars in lost revenue over the past few years. Commissioner Cranford was at one time studying our options with regards to operation of the library and the possibility of turning it over to the county. I’m not sure where that idea stands at this point.

Since public libraries are open to everyone, whether they are tax paying citizens of our town or not, it seems to me that the lion’s share of the operating expenses of each branch library ought to fall on our county government. I don’t recall how much money we spend operating the library each year, but such a change would certainly result in more resources available for other things we’d like to do, such as expanding the museum’s operating hours, enlarging and improving the cemetery, or funding a qualified town manager in the not too distant future.

At the pre-agenda meeting Tuesday night Mayor Caudle requested that the board develop guidelines for Commissioner Matthews’s new role in economic development and community outreach. She rattled off a long list of possibilities that sounded more like an effort to overload the new commissioner than anything, and It’s no secret that the mayor lobbied the commissioners to appoint someone voters soundly rejected last November. Thankfully cooler heads prevailed.

Tim Matthews has been an active citizen in our community for years. He owns several businesses and administers the Ramseur Events Facebook group. No one loves their hometown more than Tim Matthews and, as I have said to him many times, he is a one-man chamber of commerce. I am not aware of anyone does more to support and promote our local business community than Tim Matthews. He stepped up and applied for the position as directed by the board members and in my opinion he was the most qualified person for the job. We now have the most diverse governing board in the county, with a pool of talent, skill, and experience that will make our community stronger and more desirable to future residents and business interests.

For those who tuned in late, on Tuesday night the Board of Commissioners voted to hire Rigo Madrid to act as Ramseur’s financial officer. I’m not sure what date Mr. Madrid plans to begin working for us but I hope we will all welcome him to the team and support him in his work. He will be a valuable addition to Ramseur’s professional administration. After a closed session at the end of the meeting the board also announced that Captain Arron Presley’s position as interim police chief has been made permanent. Congratulations to both these fine men.

Finally, as many of you are aware, last year the previous board voted to enter a contract with Jill Wood to lead our planning/zoning board in re-writing our entire zoning ordinance book. As that process was getting underway the legislature made statutory changes that required even more re-working of those ordinances, and to top things off, our comprehensive land use plan, which much of the zoning and planning processes rely upon, is now roughly twenty years old and in dire need of revision. That’s a lot of work to be done over a few short months, and it is very important as it affects how our town will grow over the next few decades.

Currently the planning/zoning board has two vacancies, one regular member seat, and one seat for an alternate. As some of you know I briefly held one of those seats earlier this year but stepped aside when it became clear that I could not give that work the attention it deserves and continue meeting my other obligations. If you have the time and feel the need to contribute to your town’s future, this board could certainly use your assistance and input, and there are plenty of opportunities to serve your community in other ways. So if you are looking for a way to help our community grow and prosper, please contact any of your elected officials or the staff in the municipal office and they’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.

Y’all keep up the good work