At the July 14, 2016 regular monthly meeting of the Middleburg Town Council Gary Clemens, Clerk of the Circuit Court of Loudoun County, officially swore in long-serving Middleburg Mayor Betsy A. Davis and new Councilmembers J. Kevin Daly and Philip Miller.
Councilmember Kathy Jo Shea continues to serve on an interim basis, until she can be replaced in a special election, coincident with the national elections set for November 8.
The deadline for filing to be considered for the seat Shea will vacate is August 19th.
Advice and Counsel from the “Old Hands”
Councilmember Kathy Jo Shea suggested that “an exchange of information between the seated and the incoming members of Council” might be a valuable exercise. The following reflects part of that discussion, excerpted from the minutes of Council’s June 23 Work Session.
Councilmember-Elect Kevin Daly, the minutes note, began the exchange by noting that he was “amazed” at the ease with which Council members offered sometimes complex motions for consideration.
Veteran Mayor Betsy Davis observed that “sometimes, the Council would vote on something that they did not plan to adopt” and that, in those cases, Councilmember Snyder was good at creating motions.” On the other hand, she noted, “ . . . generally, if the item was something on which a vote was scheduled, the Town Clerk [Rhonda North] has already drafted a motion for the Council.”
Councilmember-Elect Philip Miller wanted to know “what was kept in the members’ desk drawers” on the semi-circular dais in the Council Chamber.
Kathy Jo Shea replied that they were not “personal drawers for the members of Council” and Councilmember Trowbridge Littleton urged that new members remember that the drawers are used by board and commission members as well. Bundles Murdock noted that her drawer contained a copy of Roberts Rules of Order.
Kevin Daly asked if Council Members held the equivalent of regular “office hours” to stay in touch with their constituents.
Mark Snyder said he “arrived thirty to forty minutes early on Council meeting nights in case a citizen wanted to stop by and chat.” Kathy Jo Shea’s noted that “whenever a member of Council walked around town, they were conducting office hours.” “Be prepared,” she said, for citizens to approach you “at any time and any location.”
Mayor Davis said “the citizenry generally knew where they could find the members of Council” and noted that Members use the Town Office as much as they wanted. “
Town Administrator Martha Semmes also noted that incoming members could “call the staff if they received questions they could not answer.”
Shea reminded her new colleagues to remember “that they did not represent the entire Council when they spoke to individuals” and suggested that they remember to use phrases such as “I think” and “in my opinion” to make that clear.
Mayor Davis counseled being prepared with details. Complaints, she noted, are still being received “about the Route 50 construction project . . . and even though the Town had hosted many meetings on the project, people still did not understand.”
Davis suggested that, when faced with such complaints, “new members ask the citizens if they had any suggestions.”
“Sometimes they did and other times they did not,” David observed, and “when asked what they would suggest, they realized that they had nothing to add.”
“It was easy to say ‘the Town can do more,’ “ she continued, but “when you ask them what they would suggest, they usually did not have anything to offer.”
Councilmember Bundles Murdock emphasized the importance of making clear that the Town’s current major problem, the construction disrupting the heart of the Town, “involved the replacement of one hundred year old water lines, as well as the burying of electric lines and safety improvements to address dangerous conditions . . esentially addressing three issues at once.”
Councilmember Shea suggested that “if the new members were sensitive about asking “stupid” questions” they should “get over it.” Mayor Davis confirmed, council members are very supportive of each other and “there are no stupid questions.”
When Shea told the incoming members “that service on the Council would change how they lived,” Mayor Davis agreed, noting they “would always be on stage.” Always, she said be “thoughtful of what you are saying and doing.”
Bundles Murdock observed that “members would not always agree on issues; however, it was important that they have discussions and work together.” Davis agreed, noting “that the members of Council got along and when they disagreed, did so respectfully.”
Indeed, Councilmember Mark Snyder noted, “it had been a long time since anyone on the Council had a hidden agenda.”
There was general agreement that, in the words of Mayor Davis “ everyone served on the Council because they loved Middleburg.”
Council then unanimously approved Resolutions of Appreciation for outgoing Councilmembers Trowbridge Littleton, Bundles Murdock & Erik Scheps.
Construction Traffic: Nearing the End?
Town Planner Moore reported that work on stage 3 of the Route 50 Project would begin the week of July 21.
Motorists and pedestrians, he noted, “could access Marshall Street from Pinkney Street; however, access through Jay, Hamilton and Liberty Streets would be closed
Economic Development Coordinator Cindy Pearson, updated the Town’s “traffic detour map,” and trolley map printed here on page 3 and posted on line at . . . . www.middleburgva.gov.
Pearsons also reported that “she has been in talks with the Virginia Regional Transit Authority about the possibility of offering free trolley/bus rides in Middleburg.” The “trolley,” she said, would ideally “make stops around town to get people from the parking lots to the main street, with there being different stops throughout the town.”
When Mayor Davis asked whether the intersections at Pendleton and Madison Streets would be open, Middleburg Police Chief A.J. Panebianco said, “yes” once the contractor moved the traffic lights. “It would, however, still be a challenge to get into the Exxon,” he noted, “as the intersection at Liberty Street would be blocked off. “
In Panebianco’s opinion “those who would have the most difficulty with this phase were the residents of Chinn Lane as they would have challenges getting in and out in the morning.”
Gas Leak Emergency Response
In an informal review of the Town’s response to last month’s gas leak in Middleburg, Councilmember Bundles Murdock told her colleagues she, herself, had received a “reverse-911 robo-call” but she was receiving information that led her to believe “a lot of people” didn’t get one.
When people tried to call the Town Office, she noted, “the staff had been evacuated.” She suggested that, if possible, Town Staff “evacuate to the Police Department in those situations” and that the “Police Department designate one room in their office as an alternate so the Town Office would not be out of commission.”
The Town office phones could also be forwarded to the Police Department in such cases, “so they could be manned.”
Mayor Davis asked whether the Town’s automated phone alert system could be activated remotely in such situaltions. Town Clerk Rhonda North “confirmed she could as long as she had access to a computer and the Internet.” During the gas leak evacuations, however, she did not have access to a computer.
When Mayor Davis asked “who decided who received calls from the reverse 911 system, North replied “those calls were not initiated by the Town” but through the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Department. Noting that “the evacuation was only within a one block radius,” North suggested the Town “ask the Sheriff’s Department how they defined the parameters” for generating reverse 911 calls.
Councilmember Shea asked about emergency generators for the Town Office and the Police Department buildings, Town Administrator Semmes said she had asked Town staff “to look at moving the old generator from the wastewater treatment plant to the Town Office.”
When Mark Snyder suggested the Town look at other, more dependable, options, Semmes observed that a new generator might cost as much as $60,000. Ougoing Councilmember Littleton suggested one adequate for the job could be had for as little as $15,000.
80% of Police Fleet Destroyed
Chief of Police A. J. Panebianco reported that the Town’s insurance carrier had declared four of his department’s five vehicles “totaled” during the recent devastating hailstorm in Middleburg: a Chevy Impala; Dodge Charger ; an aging Ford Tahoe; and a Ford Explorer. The one vehicle that escaped damage he said, “had a blown motor and “the Town was getting rid of it anyway. “
Middleburg, he said, would receive $32,200 from its insurance reimbursement, which would take care of all but $3,000 of the cost “to buy and equip another new vehicle from the State Contract.”
On the brighter side of the storm, Panebianco noted, despite some very serious damage, “most of the town” seemed now to be in “good spirits” and best of all, despite all the property damage, no people were hurt or killed.
National Night Out
Final preparations are underway for the Middleburg Police Department’s much anticipated celebration of “National Night Out.” Now set for August 2. Chief Panebianco returns to the dunking booth this year and personally challenged Town Council members to step up and pitch him, literally, in.
“Fake one hundred dollar bills have been floating around Middleburg,
Chief Panebianco reported. The Police Department, he said, has already purchased and distributed detection pens to all the Town’s businesses.