While being sworn in as a new member of the Cape Charles Town Council, former Mayor Dora Sullivan, while gazing towards Bob Panek at the back of the room, broke into song, “I’m back in the saddle again, I’m back in the saddle again!” While Sullivan, Buchholz and Bennett took the oath of office, Ms. Sullivan’s rendition, which at times sounded like the Virginia State anthem being played through an electric razor, also, through tone, meter and rhythm, created an eerie semblance to the Miranda warning. The irony of singing Gene Autry’s theme song was not lost, as it was revealed during departmental reports that Ms. Sullivan’s prime legacy, the poorly designed, overpriced, and underperforming wastewater plant has been racking up serious fines for dumping high levels of pollutants into the Chesapeake Bay.
During the public works reports, Councilman Frank Wendell hammered away at the numbers. While the plant was hit with $70,000 in fines last year, it was recently discovered it has also been fined the two previous years. When questioned about the total of the fines, town staff was apparently affected by a contagious bout of memory loss, as no one could quite remember the exact amount of the fines. Sources familiar with, and who have been following the downward trajectory of the plant tell the Mirror that those numbers are close to $36k and $40k for the two previous years, and that in total, the fines are probably at or over $140k.
The supposed cause of the malfunction has to do with the consistent failure of mixers, which seem to blow out every few weeks. This failure has been going on for several years, however, staff apparently has not contacted the maker of the mixers to try and trouble-shoot the problem, but have instead just kept buying more and more, replacing the part each time it failed. Which seems to defy logic; if you replaced an alternator on your car, and if it failed a few weeks later, and you replaced it again, and it failed once again a few weeks later, wouldn’t you go back to the manufacturer to try and figure this out? Maybe get your money back? Start to look for equivalent parts from someone else?
The plan of action, as it stands now, is to have Virginia Rural Water come in and try and figure out why the plant is so messed up, and maybe why the mixers keep failing at such an alarming rate.
While taxpayers are on the hook for all of this, it should also be noted that, for close to two years, Councilman Wendell has requested that the town’s current debt be listed as part of the treasurer’s report. Wendell’s point is that this information should be made readily available to the public. The figure is still not part of the report.
The Town is currently being sued by a private entity. While most would consider this part of the public record, the Town has so far not released this information. Once again, Wendell questioned why this information was not being made available. Staff responded that they wanted to get a legal opinion before releasing any of the details.
Council passed the FY16-17 budget unanimously.
Back in the Saddle Again!