The November 23 meeting of the Stevensville Town Council began with an admonition by citizen Jim Crews regarding procedure. He said that a recent swearing in ceremony was held where a quorum of the council had gathered but there was no public notice, which is required. He also said that the council went into executive session to discuss a former employee but they also discussed a form of action in the closed meeting. Crews said any action should have been discussed in an open meeting. “The public was left out of the decision-making process,” said Crews. “Our right to know and participate has been violated.”
New Town Attorney Greg Overstreet introduced himself to the council. He said that shortly after being sworn in, he was hospitalized with COVID-19, but now he’s back. “I am indeed your city attorney and very excited to be so… I love municipal law and that will benefit you guys.”
JohnPaul Poelman, a CPA with Strom and Associates P.C., discussed the findings of the Town’s recently completed 2020 audit. Poelman said that the audit identified five material weaknesses and 10 significant deficiencies. He said many of the items could be the result of the frequent turnover in staff and could be resolved through consistency in the financial department. Some problems that were identified included:
• Excess reserves being held in the building code enforcement fund. State law requires limiting the amount in the fund to what is needed to enforce building codes for 12 months. The recommendation is to restructure the fees.
• Late filing of reports – The Town’s budgets, audits, Annual Financial Reports and quarterly tax reports have been filed late.
• Reporting based on accounting records – The Town’s FY2020 AFR did not match underlying accounting records.
• Bank account reconciliations weren’t being done consistently during 2020.
• Some transactions were mis-coded.
• A change in accounting principle caused some errors.
• Short term interfund borrowing – The Town moved money from one fund to another to cover cash shortages. According to Poelman, these funds should be paid back annually, which was not being done.
• Improperly restricted cash – Cash that is moved from one fund to another should be reported as “unrestricted” rather than “restricted.”
• Backdated deposits in transit – The auditors recommend not backdating deposits, but instead recording them at year end as revenue still owed to the town.
• Due from other governments – Grant revenues from FAA and CARES Act were underreported in 2020.
Following the presentation of the audit report, the council approved a corrective action plan. According to Mayor Brandon Dewey, the state is concerned about the turnover in the Town’s finance department and wants a more complete corrective action plan. That has been created and satisfies the state’s requirement. The plan will correct the deficiencies that resulted in the findings in the FY2020 audit; reconcile and balance the financials through the current period; and prepare the FY2021 AFR. In the plan’s cover letter, Dewey wrote, “This plan is designed to accommodate cross-over in administrations and turnover in staff, with full implementation possible regardless of the personnel in various positions.”
Council member Sydney Allen moved to adopt the FY 2020 corrective action plan. In public comment, Jim Crews said, “I looked at this and I don’t see a real plan here. Who is going to do this? Rumors are that there is not a treasurer here anymore… How much is this going to cost the town to do this…”
The motion to approve the corrective action plan passed unanimously.
In other business:
The council approved replacing yield signs with stop signs on the north and south sides of W. 3rd and W. 4th Streets where they intersect with Buck Street. The request was made by Wayne Dreese who lives on Mission Street. He said to the council, “People just go through on 3rd and 4th – they don’t yield. I wondered if there’s a chance of getting stop signs put up.”
In public comment, Jim Crews said, “You need to put up some kind of warning to let people know that a change has occurred. Also, you should get a little more input before making this change. And how is it going to be enforced?”
Leanna Rodabaugh said, “I live right in that area… It’s not just put up stop signs. People need to slow down in this town. Stop signs are good… but we need some kind of enforcement.”
The motion passed unanimously.
The council unanimously approved an airport land lease of Lot 14, Block 1, to Dave Harriton and Brad Condra for a new hangar.
The council considered an agreement with Robert Peccia and Associates to provide services for the Transportation Master Plan. This would authorize the town to move forward with the project. The mayor said this project would most likely be completed by September 2022. Council member Paul Ludington questioned the agreement because no monetary amount was specified. The motion failed on a 2-1 vote, with council member Sydney Allen voting for and Ludington and council member Karen Wandler voting against.
The council held a special meeting on November 24 to consider the negotiation and sale of the surplus property on Willoughby Lane. Two offers had been received but both were considerably lower than the listing price of $249,000. Based on a recommendation from Max Coleman, representing the listing agent, that the parties that had made offers be asked to come back with their highest and best offers, which also allowed for other offers to come in. A motion to do that passed unanimously. Before the vote, at least one member of the public made a comment implying that the sale was being rushed through in the last month of the current administration’s tenure to cover some shortfall in the Town’s finances.
“I am going to clarify to everyone that is here the Town is not broke,” said Mayor Dewey. “By no means did the audit [report] last night reveal that the town is broke. In fact, reserves have increased by $900,000 in my administration… this idea that we are going bankrupt is ludicrous, that is not what the audit reflected… We are not selling this property to cover our behind because the Town is going broke. We are selling this property because we do not need it and it would be a nice addition to the general fund… we are sitting on property that we are very clearly not taking care of… we have no use for the property and we are selling it and it is advantageous to do so now…we are doing this because it is in the best interest of the taxpayers and that is their decision to make right now. Stop saying we are broke…”
Another special meeting was held on November 29 to consider the matter again. Before the council could address that, citizen Leanna Rodabaugh made a public comment.
“Last meeting I lingered after the meeting and all of you were still here having another meeting,” said Rodabaugh. “I made some comments and I got hollered at, told a lot of things, called names.” Then Rodabaugh read a prepared statement.
“We don’t have the knowledge to know the background of every individual… You the council and mayor have called me stupid. And that taunting causes much pain in my life. Not that I believe I am stupid. I know I am not.
“My first husband was a wife beater… He used any excuse to hurt me. He called me stupid and fat. Usually just before a beating. Calling me stupid has had its ramifications. I left the council meeting last Wednesday afternoon devastated. You would think that after so many years the word stupid had lost its power on me. Apparently not. You the council and mayor of Stevensville lashed out screaming the word stupid… You don’t know my background. You didn’t know the words that can proceed physical damage in my mind. I left in tears and covered in a fear that should have been long gone but you were all so hateful, so upset, so mad. I feared for another beating. In reality, I knew that wouldn’t happen but still the fear erupted. My mind literally froze in shock. I have a white spot in my hair among the grey that was caused by my husband pounding my head into the gravel. It’s the only reminder of what happened. Until last Wednesday when you in your greater wisdom called me stupid.
“I would suggest that all of you resign. But you won’t. I think that you’re too proud of your position in the town although I certainly am not. I suggest you ask forgiveness of your higher power, maybe of me, but you won’t. Think before you call someone a name. Realize that you are sitting there as servants, not leaders of Stevensville. And above all be an example of civility.
“Everyone in this room except Jenelle [town clerk] and Jaime [council member] called me stupid. I have been called all kinds of names by this town but that one got to me. If that was your point and what you wanted to accomplish you succeeded… I had 11 years of that. Stupid. So figure out another name for me please. Hopefully it won’t be stupid.”
The Town received four offers on the Willoughby property: $194,900, $251,000, $260,000 and $259,000. Ludington made a motion to accept the highest offer of $260,000. The council voted unanimously to accept the offer, with the offer of $259,000 as the back-up offer.
The next council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, December 9 at 7 p.m.
Agenda items include: reconsideration of the Transportation Master Plan Agreement with Robert Peccia & Associates, Inc.; indemnification of Mayor Brandon Dewey in the matter of Dewey v. Rodabaugh, and Resolution No. 498, establishing a special fund for street lighting on Main Street.