Eye on Dare

"Blogging the Bog of Outer Banks Politics"

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Where's Allen (Burrus) ?

The bi-monthly meeting of the seven member Dare County Board of Commissioners was held this week with one person noticeably absent. Where was commissioner Allen Burrus?  Phone calls placed by EyeonDare have failed to come up with a definitive answer.
Normally, when a county commissioner is going to be absent or late for a board meeting, the chairman, Warren Judge, will make an announcement and give an explanation at the beginning of the meeting. However, on Tuesday, Judge never uttered a word about Burrus's vacant seat, and, the meeting went on. When called about the matter after the meeting, Judge told EyeonDare, "You'll have to ask Burrus". Phone calls to Burrus went unanswered. Another commissioner told EyeonDare that Burrus might have had vehicle trouble. A call to the commissioner's office also went unanswered.

Burrus, who must travel about 50 miles from Hatteras in order to attend meetings, has a reputation for sometimes being late, and will sometimes miss a board meeting, but, of late, he seems to have missed more than a few important county meetings. For example, he serves on the important three-member Capital Improvements Planning Committee and, according to committee minutes, has attended only one of four meetings thus far this year. With only committee members Warren Judge and Max Dutton left to discuss important business, such as the current plans to build a $7+ million county EOC/911 Center and construct a $2+ million addition to the health & social services buildings, Burrus apparently had other things to do  In addition, according to one reliable county source, Burrus has frequently been absent from the county board of health meetings, to which he is a board appointed member. So, all this leads EyeonDare to ask, "Where's Allen (Burrus), when the county needs him?

History shows that Burrus has not always been a county commissioner without controversy. He often speaks out, with few holds barred, about anything that upsets him, especially if it involves several of the beach access, bridge and other environmental issues that affects his Hatteras Island District.

And, he gained some kind of a reputation as a rebel rouser a while back when he "went off" at a county meeting and told the listening public that he "didn't care what anyone thought", but he wasn't going to go Washington, DC and stay in a hotel with bars on the windows and have to carry a gun in order to "stay safe".  At that time Burrus was countering controversy that he and other commissioners had "wasted public money by staying in $350+ motel rooms and eating at expensive steak houses", on the public till.

Later on, Burrus would be somewhat embarrassed when he, inadvertently, used his county commissioner issued credit card to pay hundreds of dollars in personal property taxes. The county tax collector caught the oversight, called Burrus and he scurried back into the office to clear the matter up.

In recent weeks, the Island Free Press, the Hatteras Island online newspaper reported that Burrus, as a private citizen, has been charged with "simple assault" on a 20 year old, ex-employee at his Hatteras Village supermarket. According to the news source, Burrus said "I fired him, but I did not lay a hand on him". However, two photos of the ex-worker, placed on the social media, Face Book, by his mother, showed bruises on the man's neck and lip, along with the statement that they were caused by an altercation with Burrus.

Of  course, Burrus, like any other person, is presumed innocent until, or unless he is proven guilty. His case is set for Dare County District Court on November 14th.

Burrus has served on the Dare County Board of Commissioners since 2006, when he was appointed to replace the late Joseph "Mac" Midgett of Rodanthe. His current term expires in 2016.

Republicans Sweep EyeonDare Voter's Poll


Republicans Sweep EyeonDare Voter's Poll

A small, unscientific poll conducted by the blogsite, EyeonDare has concluded with local Republican candidates sweeping all contests, including four commissioner seats, clerk of court and sheriff. The margin of victory ranged as high as 71% of approximately 80 votes casted, as incumbent Sheriff Doug Doughtie outpolled his challenger, ex-deputy sheriff Terry Ballance. For other poll results go to www.eyeondare.blogspot.com

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Trouble in Southern Shores

A large number of Southern Shores residents would like for their entire town council and town manager to resign.  In fact, a standing room crowd of over 100 people jammed the town's October 7th council meeting where most "demanded" that they step down, "immediately".

(Top row, left to right) Mayor Tom Bennett, Jodi Hess, Leo Holland
(Bottom row, left to right) David Sanders, Larry Lawhon, Town Manager
Peter Rascoe (Source: Save Fairway Drive Face Book page)

At issue is the manner in which the town recently handled some of its capital improvement street paving projects. Citizens say the town did not adequately inform them of the magnitude of cutting down nearly 100 old trees from the projects currently underway on Fairway Drive and Dogwood Trail, which are/were, arguably, two of the most beautiful tree-lined streets in the 50 year old community.
Town resident, Jack Sheehan told the board, "your job is to make sure
we are informed so that we can be a public that can give you support"
Also, at issue is what many say is an indescribable arrogance, apathy and lack of governmental transparency on the part of the council and its town manager.

As a resident of Southern Shores, this blog writer has more than a keen interest in the above matter, and based upon his observation and investigation(s), here is what he has to say.

Governmental transparency:

Hands down, Southern Shores has less governmental transparency than any town in Dare County.

(A)...The most recent example of this occurred at the end of the above mentioned council meeting after 95% of the attendees had sat there for three hours, grew weary and headed home. With ten minutes left in the meeting, an item that was not on the published meeting agenda was put forth by the town manager, and clearly to no surprise of the town council.

The town manager, Peter Rascoe, asked the council to adopt a $90,000 budget amendment to the street paving program, by adding two new line items to the budget. He asked for $75,000 to be added in order to do a complete rebuild, with concrete slurry, for 1,260 linear feet of Duck Woods Drive (houses #28-#52), in order to fix a huge pothole problem, where, as councilman Leo Holland said, "we been pouring money into for a long time".  Another $15,000 was requested and approved to repair the sagging pavement on the Juniper bridge. Oddly, the length of the Duck Woods Drive "repair" was far longer than the length of the Fairway Drive project (approx. 900 linear feet), which included tree cutting. The contract for Fairway Drive had just been awarded for nearly $200,000, when the earlier budget estimates had been only $116,000.  The important questions to be asked here is "Why wasn't this item published on the meeting agenda for the public to read?"  "Given the facts, why didn't a single member of the council ask any questions (in public) about the budget change request?"

(B) ...Unlike the other beach towns and Dare County government, the Town of Southern Shores refuses to publish its "meeting agenda packet" on its town website. In fact, when this writer recently asked the town clerk for a copy of the "agenda packet" she refused to acknowledge that one existed and even stated that the town council only got what the public got, which was an outline of the meeting called "Meeting Agenda". It was only after this writer complained to a council member about the matter that one was provided prior to the meeting. It is standard procedure for all other beach towns and Dare County government, to not only publish the full packet on their websites, but also give advance copies to the press and anyone else who asks for it.

(C)...Unlike the other beach towns and Dare County government, the Town of Southern Shores refuses to provide the "individual town email address" of each member, opting only to put on its website a single email address which requires anyone writing to send a copy to all members. No other beach town in Dare County does this.  In fact, some towns, Kitty Hawk, for example, even provides each council person's telephone number on its website. The argument offered by the Southern Shores council goes like this.  "We need to be sure each member gets a copy of all emails so we will know if we are on the same page"...Jodi Hess.  "We need to be sure people don't get our email replies and 'cut and paste' and change our words"...Leo Holland.  In other words, it appears to be clear the council wants a quorum decision before dealing with any resident on any issue. This is not transparency, and may not be legal.

(D)... Unlike other beach towns and Dare County government, the Town of Southern Shores refuses to put its full Adopted Budget out in the open on its town website.  As this writer pointed out to the town manager, a "Budget Ordinance" is an outline, not a complete budget.  All other beach towns and Dare County government publishes its entire proposed and adopted budget package in easy to find locations on its website. Southern Shores only publishes a four page  "Budget Ordinance", when its entire budget package is still a scant 16 pages.  By comparison, the town budgets, as posted, by the other beach towns runs from 82 to 105 pages of detailed matter (excluding the County of Dare which runs over 200 pages).  It should be pointed out however, that this writer was able to find the 16 page document after the town manager told him he could search the past meeting minutes for a copy.  Problem is, who would know to do that?

(E)...Unlike other beach towns, you cannot easily find "Town Ordinances" on the Town of Southern Shores website. The town has a linked marked "town ordinances", but all you will find there, if you have the patience to look, is 'new and/or amended ordinances' by date only, and without any title.  Good luck with that. (Correction: EyeonDare notes that, in addition to the above, the town site does contain a Town Code link to Municode, an online publisher for municipal codes)

(F)...Unlike other beach towns, you cannot do an site "Search" on the Town of Southern Shores website. Why?  To be blunt, it is the worse written and presented town website in the county, yet it is being run by the highest paid town manager and well paid staff in the county.  Again, why?

(G)...Freedom of Information Act...Public Information Requests...This aspect of Southern Shores town government may be the worse of all. Getting information from the town office is not simple, and this writer knows it. Having gotten public information on many occasions from every single town in the county, including the county, this writer has never encountered the problems that exist in Southern Shores. In the other towns and the County of Dare, an email or a phone call gets quick and good results.  In Southern Shores, you have to complete a printed public information request form, give your email address and phone number and go home and wait for a letter in the mail, as often as a week later, telling you to come and get the information and be prepared to pay 25 cents per sheet for it. In addition, the town staff will answer few or no questions without going to or directing you to the town manager, Peter Rascoe, who, by all appearances runs the office with an iron fist.  Again, why?

(H) Social media...some, but not all beach towns have a social media Face Book page. Southern Shores has such page, but it also has a reputation of deleting comments and blocking readers who ask the wrong question. It recently deleted its own set of Face Book rules which were totally stern and has replaced them with milder guidelines, much to its credit.

There is little doubt that the Southern Shores town council and its town manager has fallen from grace with its town citizens.  They have lost the trust of many people and will probably not regain it any time soon, if ever. The town, which has long been recognized as a quiet community where people got as much done by volunteering and working in community groups as it did through local government, is changing. Much of the community is getting older and most younger residents today have full time working families. The town has never been more in need of good government

Perhaps, the Town of Southern Shores really never has had good government, to begin with. Who can say?  What this writer can say is, that in the 14 years he has resided in the town, it has gone through four or five mayors and four or five town managers and has proven that higher taxes and over paid staff don't necessarily get the job done. So, what will happen when election filing season rolls around next February is any body's guess.

And, will the town's streets look better after all the money is spent. If past record is any indication, the answer is "No'.  Hardly a street has been paved in the town yet, where potholes and patch jobs didn't follow within months. For some reason, Southern Shores' leaders just can't seem to get capital improvement projects done correctly. History proves it. Just look at the recent canal dredging fiasco.  Oh, but that's another story and the huge lawsuit hasn't even been settled yet. Ahem!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Who Are You Voting For --- Take the Poll


This is the list of the currently serving Countywide Elected Officials.

Southern Shores Town Council Under Fire

Almost 100 people turned out on Fairway Drive in Southern Shores (NC) on Tuesday, Oct 14th, to hold a candlelight vigil for nearly 90 old trees that many believe were surreptitiously cut down by their town council under the guise of paving and improving the town's streets. The pleas of overflow crowds appearing at recent town meetings fell on deaf ears from the town manager and elected leaders. It was evident from the attendance at the vigil that emotions are growing stronger towards seeing that the town council and town manager will not be serving the community any longer than the law allows. More meetings were planned in the coming weeks

Southern Shores, NC residents marched by candlelight, holding dead branches from large old oak trees removed from the community's roadside. Historically, the to...wn has been so feverish about its trees that an ordinance was once passed that prohibits the cutting of dogwood trees anywhere in the town. Most residents say they are at a loss to understand the actions of their town council in lieu of the town's reputation for beautiful tree lined streets.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Dredging Contractor Sues Town of Southern Shores


Two mayoral candidates involved in lawsuit
(a) George Kowalski, Town Councilman
(b) Tom Bennett, Town Project Manager

The Town of Southern Shores is being sued by a former dredging contractor in an action that declares the town, one of its ex-employees and various contractors for the town acted in an "unlawful" manner in connection with the performance of the first phase of the town's seven mile canal dredging project.
Salmon Dredging Inc. of Virginia Beach, VA is seen here
working on the second phase of the project. The location
in the photo is Tall Pine Lane
The suit, filed in Dare County Superior Court on January 11, 2013 alleges breach of contract on the part of the town and breach of the town's implied warranty for the project's plan and specifications for getting the job done. The town was the major permit holder for the project. The plaintiff, Sampson Contracting, Inc. also alleges the town breached an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing due to the manner in which it handled and managed the project though its engineering consultants and its temporary employee, Tom Bennett, a town resident who was hired to oversee the town's interest in the day-to-day operations of the project. Bennett is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Others listed as defendants in the lawsuit are, Quible & Associates, P.C., Joseph Anlauf, P.E., Piedroba Marine Construction, LLC, Byrd Brothers Emergency Services, LLC, Environmental Professional Inc., and George H. Wood.

A copy of the initial filling of the lawsuit can be found here. The plaintiff, Sampson Contracting, Inc. also alleges the town never paid them for all the work they performed, illegally declared their contract in default, and should have had full knowledge through their consultants that the plans and specifications for the work project would not be successful.

The initial phase of the dredging contract was disrupted numerous times by permit delays, permit modifications, change orders and apparent miscommunication between the town and others involved in the contract. The contract initially called for the work to be done using a hydroclonic dewatering system, a method that the plaintiff alleges its subcontractor, Piedroba Marine Construction and the town's engineer(s) should have had sufficient reason(s) to know would not work.

Eventually, a geotube dewatering system was put in place at the direction and acceptance of the town's engineer, however the plaintiff was soon declared by the town to be in contractual default and that method was abandoned. The plaintiff alleges it was then required to work with a new subcontractor, Byrd Brothers Emergency Services who replaced Piedroba Marine Construction. Byrd was able to complete the job by dewatering the dredge spoil in a large man-made basin on lands leased by the town at considerable extra expense.

During a meet-the-candidates forum recently held in Southern Shores for the November 5th municipal elections, Tom Bennett, the town's dredging project manager from 2010-2012 who is currently running for mayor and George Kowalski, a current town council member who is also running for mayor spoke about the dredging project's second phase. They said the second phase of the seven mile project is expected to clean out twice the amount of canal mileage as the first phase and will cost the town half as much money. However, no mention was made of the lawsuit on the first phase and what it may cost the town in damages and attorney fees.

An earlier inquiry from Eyeondare to Kowalski about the matter was also not acknowledged.

Footnote: Related blogposts

Monday, September 22, 2014

If Stan Can, He's A SuperMan !



EOD received the usual hand full of glossy political flyer's in his mailbox today, along with the Sunday edition of the Coastland Times. The paper contains a half page ad endorsing Stan White who is running for re-election to the state senate. The Times ad says it was paid for by the Stan White Campaign and endorsed by Stan White.

The local newspaper ad stated..."In the Senate, Stan will  reinstate the $1 billion that the General Assembly cut from our local schools".  Stan will  rehire the thousands of quality teachers and school aides who lost their jobs". Stan will restore lower class sizes to ensure our children receive the attention they need." Stan will reverse cuts to community colleges, keeping tuition affordable so students can get the education they need and North Carolina businesses get a skilled workforce."
Senator Stan White
The emphasis in this ad is clearly on what Stan White will do if elected.

Meanwhile, another glossy, Elect Stan White ad, which was in the mailbox with the newspaper, and paid for by the Democratic Party of North Carolina, said "Stan will fight to hire back the 3,400 teachers and classroom aides who were fired because of state cuts in education, so we can reduce class sizes and prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow."

Now folks, saying you "will" do something and saying you "will fight" to do something is two entirely different things. Does Stan White think Dare County voters are more naive than other voters in his district, or his own state Democratic party?

One thing is sure. If Stan White does get re-elected and if he does what he says he "will" do, while serving as a Democrat in a Republican controlled legislature, EOD is ready to say "If Stan Can, He's a  Superman!"

Meanwhile, the one thing that still rings in EOD's ears is the statement made by White while he was a county commissioner. White said, "If the voters (Dare voters) vote to repeal the sales (sand) tax, they won't be able to dodge the property tax". White was clearly telling the voters he would raise their property taxes, if that happened.  It did happen, but White was voted out of office the next year.

Just how cocky can politicans get these days?  Well, read the campaign flyers. EOD bets your mailbox is full of them.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Democrats Losing Ground in Dare County


Dare Democrats Losing Ground with Voters

For the first time in local history, Unaffiliated voters outnumber both Democratic and Republican voters in the County of Dare.  Once a Democratic stronghold in northeastern North Carolina, Dare County has been slowing losing ground to the Republican Party in recent years, and more recently Unaffiliated voters, mostly discontented Democrats have slowly taken over as the largest voting block in the county.  In fact, the local Democratic Party is the only one of the four available voter registrations to lose ground in the first eight eight months of 2014.

As of June 17, 2014, the Dare County Board of Elections reports that the county has 27,668 registered voters, consisting of  9,686 Unaffiliated (up from 9,198 in January), 8,210 Republicans (up from 8,037 in January), 9,615 Democrats (down from 9,691 in January) and 157 Libertarians (up from 135 in January).

See related blogposts:
 EXCERPTS:  Interesting, much of the discontent that has been expressed and/or displayed around the county during the past year by Moral Monday, teacher and womens' activists appears to have had very little, if any, effect on how new voters are registering to vote. And, arguably, all of the above could well be chasing voters away from the Democratic party and towards the Republican or Unaffiliated voter camps.
EXCERPTS:  "voters can expect the challengers to zero in on what many describe as the dismal condition of the Dare County budget and its growing impact on the citizens of the county"

Wednesday, June 18, 2014