Please note that I am no longer updating this blog.

Please go to my new blog:

Mile 181

I may have lost an election, but I haven't lost interest.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Keeping Property Clean

Last Tuesday (Oct 27), the planning board heard complaints from citizens concerning the problem of construction debris. Our Code of General Ordinances, Chapter G - Health and Disease Protection, Article I, Section 8 - Debris from New Construction, provides that "All refuse, lumber and debris remaining both as a result of the repair of any buildings, or of the erection and completion of any new buildings, shall be removed by the property owner within ten (10) days from the completion of the aforesaid work."

The problem is, some of the "aforesaid work" is accomplished over a protracted period of time. If the work crew doesn't keep the site clean it may become not only unsightly but also a health hazard. This circumstance presently exists at a number of sites in town.

At the next Town Board meeting, I intend to introduce an amendment to our general ordinances requiring accumulated refuse, lumber and debris to be removed within ten days of creation and accumulation of the debris.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Economic Development

Economic development isn't the same as business development, though many officials conflate the two.

How to tell the difference? Business development tries to increase market share - in other words, to get a bigger slice of the pie. Economic development seeks to bake a bigger pie.

How can Oriental and Pamlico County bake a bigger pie? About half a dozen ideas come to mind. I'd be happy to share them with anyone who asks.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Campaign Heating Up

Oriental's campaign for political office is heating up.

At least six of my campaign signs have disappeared. This follows an earlier incident when one of my signs was removed from its place along Church street and later found at the entrance to Town Hall. Two anonymous calls complained that my sign was on town property. Of course, I didn't put it there. My signs are only at places where the owner requests them.

The most recent disappearance occurred this morning (Oct 23). The sign was on the property when the owner went to bed at 2:00 a.m. and had disappeared by the time he got up at 7:00.

It isn't unusual in hotly contested campaigns for signs to be stolen. Usually this is done by supporters of other candidates concerned that their candidate may not be doing well. An alternative explanation is that the thieves merely wanted a souvenir. If they had just asked, I would have been glad to provide a souvenir sign after the election.

Another possibility is that the signs are stolen by thieves concerned at my efforts to enlarge the town's police force.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wrapping Things Up

The current Town Board has one more scheduled session before the new board is sworn in. The present board has a number of issues previously discussed that I will propose be addressed at this final meeting. Here is a partial list:

1. Act on an earlier proposal for the town to assume maintenance responsibility for the portion of North Street within town limits. This will allow us to take traffic control measures such as moving the center line stripe, establishing parking and no parking zones, and stop signs as the Town Board determines, rather than having to convince DOT. The street is in good repair, it would increase our Powell Bill funds from the state, and should generally enhance our flexibility;

2. Petition DOT for the town to take over responsibility for that portion of White Farm road that is bordered on each side by Oriental. The town should have included that section of White Farm Road in its annexation of adjacent property. This would give us control over speed limits, signage, etc. and allow us to eliminate what many residents of the area see as a hazardous situation;

3. Replace the temporary rumble strips at the north end of Midyette Street with permanent rumble strips of asphalt. Our Public Works Department knows how to make such strips. Some nearby residents report the strips seem to be doing some good. The temporary strips can be relocated to Ragan Road, where residents report cars ignore the present speed limit;

4. Reduce the Speed Limit on Midyette Street to 15 or 20 miles an hour. Residents at both ends of the street report to me that trucks pulling boats to the launch ramp at 25 mph (or greater) create a hazardous situation. In one recent incident with a bicycle, witnesses believe the truck was not exceeding the posted speed limit, but the trailer still jacknifed. I hope we can act on this;

5. At the last Town Board meeting, we discussed the possibility of removing the existing limit on location of chickens kept for personal use. I plan to introduce a motion to do that;

6. We will be required in early December to submit a report on our CAMA land use plan. This board needs to lay the foundation for that report, especially if we propose any changes.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Closed Sessions

Most meetings of the Town Board are required to be held in public. North Carolina General Statutes recognize a handful of circumstances (lawyer-client privilege, negotiating a real estate deal, etc.) where meetings may be held in closed session, and some (personnel matters) that must be held in closed session. In all cases, before going into closed session, the board must declare the reason. Minutes must be kept of closed sessions and the minutes must be opened when the matter is no longer necessary to remain closed.

I have asked that at least the closed session minutes of the past two years be reviewed, and that we take action at the next meeting of the Town Board to open all possible minutes. I would like to go as far back as possible, into the records of previous boards as well, to correct this oversight.

I have found that we were not always careful to confine our closed session discussion to the reason declared. We need to be more careful in the future. As a practical matter, I think no harm was done, though we should be somewhat embarrassed. Still, we need to make most of the minutes public, except for discussions of personnel and a few other matters, which must remain closed.

We need to be scrupulous about complying with the open meetings act.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Oriental's animal control ordinance allows its citizens to keep chickens for their own use - as long as they are kept at least 300 feet from the nearest dwelling. It is pretty clear this is a backdoor way of prohibiting chickens.

We had an inconclusive discussion on chickens at the last Town Board meeting. At the next meeting, I hope we agree to remove the 300 foot restriction.

I like being around chickens. Having grown up on farms, I have fond memories of feeding chickens, gathering eggs and less fond memories of keeping chicken coops clean. There is a national movement underway to promote urban chickens, part of an even larger effort to promote local food growing. I see no reason Oriental shouldn't be a part of this effort.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Good Audit

I'm not a trained accountant, but I once served as Chief Financial Officer of a private equity fund and as government contracts officer of two different companies. I have been through audits before, and was beginning to lose confidence in the vigor of the town's recent audits.

Last summer, when I learned we would be able to hire a new auditor to review the town's accounts and procedures for the fiscal year that just ended, I called for a special board meeting to change auditors. We don't yet have the written results, but preliminary indications are that our new auditor is doing a fine job. He has already uncovered a number of areas where the town's procedures did not meet the requirements of NC general statutes, and other areas where he has suggested improvements.

A good audit is not one that takes a cursory look at the books and declares "you have no serious deficiencies." Rather it is one that takes a thorough, probing look and makes concrete suggestions. We are undergoing a good audit. I look forward to the written report.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Public Safety

At the 13 October special meeting of the Town Board (called by me and Candy Bohmert), the Board of Commissioners directed the Town Manager to initiate the hire of two part time deputy policemen and to begin efforts to establish a neighborhood watch program for Oriental.

It was clear from the public comments at the meeting that most attendees shared my view that we have tried a one-man police force and it doesn't work. I asked for the special meeting because I thought the matter too urgent to wait for the next regular meeting. I hope we will be ready to move on the first part-time hire by October 23.

The Board recognized that part time hires will be only a temporary solution and that we should consider at least one full-time hire as a possible longer-term measure. The procedure to hire another full time policemen can be expected to take at least ten to twelve weeks. We expect the newly elected board to take this up in December.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Oriental Long Range Plan

On October 6, the Board of Commissioners approved the Long Range Plan developed over the past three years by the Long Range Planning Committee. By this action, the plan was turned over to Oriental's Planning Board to be incorporated in the Comprehensive Plan for Oriental, now being drafted.

As a member of that committee, I am proud that its work proceeded with particular thoroughness and care. Key contributions were made by Ben Hollowell, the Chair, who brought his broad familiarity with Oriental's history; Barbara Venturi, who brought her expertise in database design; and Dee Sage, who prodded, organized, drafted, and kept the whole project on track. Among the other members, important contributions were made by Teri Reid, Christy Foster, and Jennifer Roe.

The text is on the town's web site at:{C3BC4B43-0B27-4656-9A9A-46D5E9C0DEFB}

Pamlico County Comprehensive Transportation Plan

At the October Town Board meeting, the board approved a resolution adopting the Pamlico County Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) for Oriental. This plan, which was prepared by NCDOT with cooperation of the Down East Rural Transportation Organization (DERPO), establishes transportation requirements looking ahead thirty years.

The plan is on line at:{4B6C2CFF-3843-41DE-829A-DB9FF719B4DF}&DE={18C9014F-9283-4C2D-9EFF-02AF4E6FBB8B}

For the past two years, I represented Oriental on the Pamlico County Steering Committee for the CTP. The plan includes a requirement for a bicycle path from Dolphin Point to Oriental Village, a requirement for sidewalks along highway 55 beyond town limits, and a requirement for a public transportation routes. We had asked for all of these.

We successfully opposed inclusion of four lanes from Bayboro to Oriental and a proposed bridge from Cherry Point to Minnesott.

Next step: approval by county commissioners at their November meeting.

After county commissioners adopt the CTP, Oriental needs to develop its own CTP, building on the 1988 thoroughfare plan and work done to date on the Duck Pond Plan and the Whittaker Creek Greenway Project for a bicycle and pedestrian path connecting Dolphin Point with Oriental Village.

Oriental Police Department

Last spring, Oriental's police deputy unexpectedly resigned. The town commissioners decided to try a one-person police department. That trial has not worked out as well as the commissioners had hoped. Providing police protection for Oriental appears too big a job for one man.

Sheriff Sawyer has been extremely helpful in providing back up to our only policeman, but response time is a problem because Sheriff's Deputies have much further to travel than our local policeman. In recent weeks the County Sheriff has responded more frequently to incidents in Oriental than has our own Chief. Last Wednesday morning, thieves stripped an SUV parked at the corner of Oriental's two main streets. The County Sheriff responded to that incident, as well.

I believe we urgently need to recruit a well-qualified part-time policeman as an interim measure, and review our long range options, which may include a full-time deputy. The Town Board will have a special meeting at 5:00 October 13 to address some of these issues.

We should put public safety first.