Council members engage into intense matters in New Year

The second half of the January Colonial Beach Town Council work session was filled with everything from reactivating the Housing and Redevelopment committee to deciding on a company to look at the efficiency of the current town employees and systems to the final decision on nonprofits and water bills. Gary

At a recent Town Council meeting, Councilman Jim Chiarello discussed the issue of water usage among businesses in Colonial Beach.

Seeber, councilman and contact for Public Works, stated that Town Attorney Andrea Erard had looked further into the bond that the town has on monies from earlier waste water treatment plant work. According to Erard the billing of water and sewer for tax exempt organizations had to start in April.

Town Council (TC) had decided to send bills in June for the July, August, September quarter at the first  half of the January work session. As there was a small chance of the bond being called in, due to wording in the contract, it was decided to send bills in March for the April, May, June quarter. All non profit organizations, including churches, fraternal organizations and clubs will be billed the rate of 210 per quarter for each connection.

For some organizations this is one connection alone. For others, including St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church, it is as many as five separate connections. New council member Linda Brubaker spoke earlier on behalf of St. Elizabeth’s in the hopes of keeping down the amount billed. She did agree with all non-profits being billed for the April first due date.

Town Manager Val Foulds explained that the bond holder wants the information on the number of connections and the amount of money coming into the system in order to make sure the system was sustainable. Foulds continued that all commercial businesses in town have water meters and that other than a few business that use a high amount of water, they pay the same rate as homeowners. Luke Sydnor stated that Pearson’s seafood was one of the high-use businesses. He said that Pearson’s Seafood had 35.2 tons of ice made using town water, but would be going out of Colonial Beach so not going back into the sewer system. He further said that the sewer charges were excessive due to the fact that not all water used went back into the system. Sydnor continued that there were homes in town with apartments attached that were only being charged one water and sewer connection fee.

Councilman Jim Chiarello asked if they could put a meter on the ice machine and if they could then give a sewer discount to Pearson’s. Gary Seeber said “We would have to change the ordinance, but I’m all for fairness.”

Diane Pearson stated that she had addressed this issue since the 1980s and that she was instrumental in businesses being required to have water meters. She said prior to her forcing the issue only a couple businesses had meters, but not restaurants or beauty shops.

Seeber responded that in the olden days in CB it mattered who you were and who you knew on what you paid for your water in town. He went on to say that it was no longer true as the council and town employees worked to be fair and charge everyone what was set forth by law and ordinance.

As the work session continued Seeber introduced the members of the Housing and Redevelopment committee (HRC) in town. The committee has existed since 1978. It was put together when the town received grant funds to help low income homeowners do repairs to their homes.

HRC allows for a repair of up to $2500 per application with each homeowner allowed up to three applications total. The repairs are for safety and health issues within a home. Some have included things such as a ramp being built onto a home to window repairs to added insulation to help keep a home more weather resistant.

As the committee has not done anything in several years, the only remaining members are Cheryl Cramer, Anna Payne, and Tommi Moeser. They are looking for several more members to join the committee. Applications to join can be obtained by contacting Town Manager Val Foulds at Town Hall at 224-7181.

The committee is also interested in applicants for help. It is required that the applicant own their home and also live in the home. They cannot rent out the home to anyone else. The home must also be within Colonial Beach town limits. There is a limit on the homeowner’s income, but the amount is determined by family size. For more information you can contact Town Hall who can put you in touch with the committee members.

In further council news, they had received proposals from two companies, Whitestone Partners and Springsted Inc. to assess the current town employees and structure of employees. According to the proposal by Whitestone Partners the questions they have been asked to answer by TC include: “Is the current employee structure as efficient and effective as it could be? Do we have the correct positions to serve the community? Are the job descriptions accurate and up to date? Is the Council effectively communicating goals to the employees? Are the employees effectively executing against these goals. Is there an appropriate performance management system in place? Do our current employees have the right skill sets to succeed? Do their skills need to be augment through additional training? Is the town compensating its employees appropriately?”

Councilman Jim Chiarello had been in touch with both companies and stated that Whitestone Partners returned calls very quickly while Springsted Inc had not returned several calls. Whitestone’s bid for the initial work which includes assessment of all main positions, assessment of key salaries, and working with management to write accurate job descriptions would be $16,700. Springsted Inc.’s initial cost would be right at the same amount.

The second portion of the proposals have to do with helping the town work toward publicizing the town to outsiders and expanding the tax base in both residential and commercial areas. Whitestone’s bid was lower on this portion by several thousand dollars. According to the councilwoman Wanda Goforth while Springsted’s proposal looked more impressive it seemed to be filled with a lot of boilerplate while Whitestone’s seemed to really focus on the town of Colonial Beach.

After a few minutes of discussion TC decided to authorize the initial $4500 of the contract to Whitestone Partners and work with them to start the process as soon as possible. Whitestone will begin by meeting with council members, management members, and then shadowing various town employees. The process should take approximately 90 days according to Chiarello.

Further discussion of the rest of the process, including a member of Whitestone Partners being available, will take place at the next regular council meeting on February 14 at 7 p.m.

Posted on Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 3:42 am