Letters to the Editor -- June 20, 2008

Birkmeyer believes council at fault in town

I must take umbrage with the editorial in the June 13 issue of the Coastal Point. You say the government is designed so that the people can have their say on issues. This is not true in Ocean View.

The hearing on the gas pump project brought a standing-room crowd, many of whom stayed for the town council meeting which followed. The best description of that meeting was “Tinker to Evers to Chance.” For those unfamiliar with this phrase, it is from a famous baseball team’s phenomenal tag team and has become a mainstay phrase.

At the meeting, resolutions were already made up ahead of time and only three of the councilmen had copies. They were presented, voted on and adopted one-two-three. Councilman Wichmann did not have copies of any of these resolutions. He vehemently protested, to no avail. The spectators (citizens) watched in horror as one after another of these resolutions were passed.

None of the citizenry was allowed any comments or questions. We sat in dumb silence as major issues were passed into law. Finally, after midnight, we were allowed three minutes (timed) to comment during “Citizens Privilege.”

Can anyone imagine sitting through hours of watching the fabric of the town being torn asunder and major departments being dismantled and not being frustrated and angry?

This is the real reason for the disruptive and unruly outbreaks that take place on a regular basis at these town meetings. No one is allowed to ask a question or give a comment during all this time. I find it grossly unfair that the citizens are continually “trashed” in the media. They are not at fault.

The town is at a boiling point and nothing can get accomplished in this atmosphere. These councilmen have obviously never heard the word “referendum.” This type of government is not what was intended. The council must behave in a manner that respectfully has the best interests for the Town of Ocean View.

Unfortunately, three members of the council are obviously acting on their own agenda.

We, the Citizens for Transparency in Government, intend to change this — and we will.

Elaine Birkmeyer, Citizens for Transparency in Government
Ocean View

Councilman says town on right path

Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to citizens of Ocean View and forwarded to the Coastal Point for publication.

A significant event took place in Ocean View on April 12. This was the election of a new mayor and a new council member. It was the largest voter turnout in the history of Ocean View. Citizens were concerned about what was taking place in their town and went to the polls in record numbers. The citizens spoke. The decisive victories should leave no confusion on how the citizens feel Ocean View should confront the challenges facing the town.

I believe that the actions taken by the town council at its monthly meeting on Tuesday the 10th of June demonstrate that the council is listening and willing to make the tough decisions that Ocean View has avoided making in the past.

Mr. Gregory, the town manager, presented to the council a program he has named “The Taxpayer Protection Plan of 2008.” I commend Mr. Gregory for the innovative approach to Ocean View’s financial situation. It is a well-thought-out plan and presents numerous areas where cash can be saved. It will require town council to make tough decisions about spending. However, I am confident that Ocean View now has a council that is prepared to make these tough decisions. A motion was presented that instructed the town manager to immediately start the process for implementation of the plan. The motion passed 4 to 1 with Councilman Wichmann voting against.

What are the goals of the plan? (1) Protect its citizens from significant tax increases in the future, (2) maintain or improve services, and (3) protect Ocean View’s most important asset — its employees.

What are the planned results? The plan will generate $2 million of cash savings over the next five years. How significant is this? (1) This represents a 15 percent reduction in the amount of cash required over the next five years. (2) Ocean View collects about $900,000 a year in real estate taxes. This is like getting a gift of two extra years of real estate taxes over the next five years. (3) Ocean View would have to raise property taxes immediately by 40 percent to equal this amount of cash over the next five years. (4) This plan will save the average taxpayer between $250 to $300 per year or $1,250 to $1,500 over the next five years. It is significant!

Mr. Gregory deserves all of the credit that we can bestow on him, but we should not forget those who laid the initial ground work. One must recognize Kathy Roth, our former town manager; Eric Magill, former councilman; and Cliff Mitchell, a member of the finance committee. These individuals, along with myself, have taken a significant amount of criticism for our stand on fiscal responsibility. I am sure that these individuals, along with myself, feel vindicated. We were taking a stand for what was right and now has been proved to be what the citizens wanted.

The council also discussed and made decisions on several other pressing issues. Revising the take-home car policy of the Public Safety Department (passed unanimously), moving the administrative staff to the top floor of the Public Safety Building (Passed 3 to 2 with Wichmann and Wood voting against), leasing the Shore house to the Historical Society (passed unanimously) and established a process to review and reorganize the Citizen Auxiliary Patrol Building (passed 4 to 1 with Wichmann voting against).

I am sure that there will be some people who will criticize the decisions made by the council. It is impossible to please everyone. However, one must look at the big picture and how the actions of the town council strengthened the financial position of Ocean View.

Hopefully, Ocean View will now be able to weather the downturn of the real estate market. The big question is what will the state legislature do about taking transfer taxes away from municipalities? It is a real possibility that municipalities will lose part of the tax. What would be the effect? This can not be predicted, but I know this. Ocean View is better prepared now than it was before June 10.

You voted. The council heard you. It is a privilege to serve the citizens of Ocean View, and I look forward to working together with the council to implement your wishes. There are still many challenges facing Ocean View. It will be exciting being a part of the solution.

Roy Thomas
Ocean View Council Member

Merediths against moving town hall

We were very concerned when we heard on the television news on Thursday that the Ocean View Council is planning to move the Town Hall to the Public Safety Building (Ocean View Police Station). To our knowledge, Ocean View taxpayers had no prior knowledge of the potential move.

We have followed the construction of the Public Safety Building from before the plans to the completion of the building. Much thought was put into the building as designed by a police architect and built to police facility standards. The building, as built, provides a safe environment for the officers, employees, prisoners and the general public.

This building has received many compliments and awards. We should be proud of what we have here in Ocean View.

Moving the town offices to this building defeats the entire thought behind the planning and construction of a secure building. This building was not meant to be an office with the public moving in and out on a regular basis. Previous plans were to rent the unused space on the second floor to other agencies, such as state police, animal control, emergency offices, etc. This would bring some additional revenue to the town.

Spending money to make town administrative offices in the Public Safety Building (approx. $200,000) would be a drastic waste of taxpayer’s money. Why would they leave a fairly new town hall facility to move everything to a couple of rooms in the Public Safety Building? The present town hall could easily have rooms added. This would be far less expensive than moving the entire town hall staff to the Public Safety Building, which would require substantial building modification. Also, the current town hall would not be completely occupied, but would require an additional receptionist to cover two facilities. This would also require additional cleaning services.

At the opening of the building, Ocean View was praised by state and county officials for building for the future. That is what the building is about. It is a wonderful addition to Ocean View, and we should preserve it for what it was meant to be. Let your councilman know that you do not want your tax money spent on this unnecessary move for the desire and convenience of a few.

It appears that there is more to this potential move than a cost-saving ploy. Ask your councilman to explain why.

Gary and Bette Meredith
Ocean View