Writing about problems facing Ramseur and the errors made by commissioner X, Y, or Z in any given meeting can be really depressing, and this blog is not and never was meant to be a personal attack machine. Four years ago, when I started this, questionable decisions were being made by several of our then-commissioners and I decided to shine a light on that. Some of those people chose to make it personal, so we all went down that road together. It got really ugly, and I didn’t like it, but I would do it all again the same way in the same circumstances.
Those of you who read these pages back then have probably noticed that almost all those articles are no longer visible. They’re all here, but I chose to hide them. Those people no longer serve our community as elected officials. In fact, one of those people has thanked me, on more than one occasion, because now that person is living a less stressful life and enjoying it. I see no value in leaving that sad chapter of our local history here where it can be found and dredged up for no other reason than hurting people.
I’m not here to “get” anyone. I’d much rather be spending my time playing music, painting, or playing with my grandchildren. I’m only here to point out that there are better ways to manage our affairs, and if a commissioner or the mayor, or even a town employee, depending on the circumstances, does something questionable or really stupid, I will shine a light on them. If you don’t want to see your name on this website, don’t do stupid stuff.
I re-watched the last two regular meeting videos today with one goal in mind: to find some positive things to tell you about Ramseur’s local government.
At the December meeting, all five commissioners voted to approve a resolution in support of the “Year of the Trail“. We’ve spent some serious money developing our segment of the Deep River Rail Trail, most of it, to my knowledge, from grants. Walking trails are great community assets, and this one will be even better once the state comes through with funding to finish it and tie all the other pieces of it together.
Another positive development of note is the return of local artists and artwork to our municipal building. Commissioner Brower has taken the lead on this project, beginning with a month-long display of artwork by local photographer Gloria Spinks in January, followed by a display of work by Darrell Williams this month. It sounds like the display area is not open to the public anytime the offices are open, so check with the office or the town website and be sure it’s open to the public before you make that long drive across town.
In December the board discussed costs and options for updating our water treatment plant to a chloramine-based process with Mr. Helton, our public utilities director. These changes will result in cleaner water overall and require less flushing at the end of the line on NC-22 south of town. The upgrades will also make our water compatible with treatment processes used by every other water operator around us, making it easier to work with our neighbors to meet the growing water needs of the eastern Randolph community. The upgrades will be expensive and take months to complete but are yet another step in the right direction.
Commissioner Parrish announced the award of a $35,000 grant to the fire department. He indicated that the funds would be used for purchasing new radios, and then the commissioner talked about a budgeted capital outlay of $62,000 to $65,000, but that only about $33,000 of that money will be needed. It was unclear whether this outlay was for the radios or for something else.
Our fire department, under the leadership of Chief Jay Ledwell, is in good hands. Chief Ledwell and his peers have learned where to find and how to win numerous grants over the years, and I thank them for their continued service to our community. You might have noticed that I don’t spend much time examining the particulars of fire and police expenses. That’s because I trust our fire chief and Police Chief Presley to know what they need and how to ask when a need arises.
I also try not to burden any of our department heads with requests for public records, and I ask for far fewer than I’d like to see most of the time. Their jobs are difficult enough, having to win approval from a committee for almost every decision they make and I hope that in the near future, we can streamline the chain of command so they all answer to a town manager.
Apparently, buzzards are still a problem, roosting on the water tanks. I like buzzards. They provide a valuable public service, cleaning up dead things that, left to rot, can become dangerous disease vectors, but if the birds are damaging the water tanks we need to find a way to keep them off the structures. Perhaps a wire barrier could be erected to prevent them from being able to roost, but I don’t know the rules, and turkey vultures are a protected species.
Captain Jessup gave a well-prepared presentation to the board regarding portable, radar-equipped speed limit signs the department wanted to purchase. The signs show drivers their speed and record the time of day and speed of each detected vehicle. In theory, this will alert drivers when they may be going too fast, and provide law enforcement with data they can use to deploy personnel more efficiently and issue citations to violators.
From what I gathered the cost of one sign and several mounts, which will allow it to be moved around town, was a bit under $4,000. The purchase was approved and the sign should be appearing soon on a street near you, along with a couple of sets of portable speed bumps. These are useful tools that will hopefully result in fewer drivers speeding through our neighborhoods. Money well spent.
That topic was followed by a report from Commissioner Cranford regarding the library, which the county government is in the process of taking over from us. This is an idea I began supporting several years ago when there was much debate over a new roof for the building. I understand that the town retains ownership and maintenance responsibilities for the building, and the county is handling day-to-day operations.
These are all positive steps toward creating a more modern, efficient, and responsive local government for Ramseur taxpayers. It is a little sad that the most animated discussion of the evening was about how to dispose of a piano someone donated to the library long ago. It is sadder still that so many of our commissioners, all members of the board for more than a year now, do not understand that there is a statutory process for almost everything the government does, including disposal of surplus property, but let’s not dwell on that today.
The discussion moved on to Sunset Knoll cemetery and a fence, installed in 2019, that leans badly anytime the wind blows. That is due to the fact that whoever built the fence didn’t install any support beyond the hollow plastic posts stuck in the ground. It too will be sold as surplus property on GovDeals.Com.
During one of the meetings, there was a discussion about library funds. Government is complicated, and certain funds have to be kept separate from others, such as the enterprise funds for water and sewer, the Powell funds that help us maintain our streets, and Hinshaw funds, which I can’t find a reference to anywhere online other than in Ramseur budgets. I might have this wrong, but it seems like the Hinshaw funds were privately donated to the town sometime in the past, invested and the interest earned earmarked specifically for our library to buy books. Rules must be followed.
In parks and recreation news, Commissioner Kearns presented the board with a $22,000 quote to get the tennis courts at Leonard park repaired and resurfaced. No action was taken, but it sounds as though that maintenance has been neglected too long and now the courts are unfit for use, and there’s a popular thing called pickleball that uses a similar playing area and, apparently, there’s some demand for that.
Maybe resurfacing the tennis courts is a good investment, maybe not. I’m not in a position to say one way or another, but it is a shame that they haven’t been maintained. Now we face another big expense to fix something that might have been preventable with regular inspections and maintenance; things a town manager would keep up with no matter who we elect to sit on the board every other year.
Finally, the town will soon be fully switched over to the new “Southern” accounting system they’ve been working on for a few years. This should result in better, more reliable accounting, and therefore better budgets. It was also announced that the LGC (local government commission, a part of the NC Department of State Treasurer) has accepted our budget audit for the fiscal year 2019-20, and progress is being made on the audit for FY 2020-21. A thank you is due to all involved in getting that work done.
So, you see, not everything I write is bad news, and I am more than willing to give credit where credit is due. The problem is that there’s so much still being done wrong and those things need to be pointed out so they don’t get swept under a rug or forgotten. I’ve only reported on two meetings this year and I’m still not finished pointing out the major problems I see.
Now I have a question.
It’s said that the articles I write are full of lies. If you’re one of the people saying that, please drop me a note at RamseurWatchdog@yahoo.com and tell me what part of what article I’ve written is a lie. I might miss a detail or make an assumption once in a while based on incomplete information, but every word I publish here is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth as I understand it. Why would I lie? That would destroy my credibility. What good would that do me or anyone else? What would I accomplish if I published a document with fake numbers or anything else in it? I’ll tell you what. Nothing.