However, much public debate still continues regarding the current fiscal health of town hall and the government, setting the preliminary stage for a heated election season next spring.
Last week, the board of trustees finalized a 2016 budget calling for $488,000 in total expenses. It also set a mill levy of 17.58, the same rate it has maintained since the early 1990s. This fiscal portrait is fairly similar to 2015, with only a slight hike in overall spending. As part of this package, the town allocated a small amount of money, totaling about $5,300, for a new capital improvement plan.
And not surprisingly, officials further widened the chasm between town hall and ousted clerk Mary Duval. Mayor Lorrie Worthey announced that the town has taken steps to remove Duval’s name as a co-signer of its accounts with Park State Bank and with its debit card.
In a previous meeting last month, Duval, who has held the clerk’s duties for a year and a half, was immediately suspended from her duties and escorted outside of town hall. This occurred following a two-hour executive session on Nov. 17. For weeks, questions persisted about concerns regarding the way the former clerk handled the town’s finances, capped by the issuing of checks with insufficient funds. Renee Price, who worked as Duval’s main assistant, is now serving as the interim clerk.
But once again, public comment dominated the show during last week’s trustees meeting, with mixed opinions about the latest state of affairs in GMF.
Long-time resident and former trustee Mac Pitrone reiterated his frequent stand that the town is not allocating enough resources towards its roads. “The roads are pre-1990,” blasted Pitrone. “They are not in good condition. They all need work.”
Pitrone stated that Michael Cullinane, the current public works director, is not getting enough support. Pitrone and other town hall critics said they are glad the town now is putting some monies into a capital improvement fund, but argued that this proposed amount is not enough. The resident also heavily criticized a possible plan to add a full-time deputy to the police force, classifying this idea as a “pipe dream.”
But long-time resident and former mayor Dick Bratton took a different view. He lauded the current work of the trustees and urged a group of critics to back off. “These guys are volunteers,” said Bratton, in referring to the board of trustees. “I get tired of hearing pot shots. I am proud of every one of you. You are doing a good job. I want to give you outstanding marks.”
Former trustee Marshall Worthey, the husband of the mayor, also added fuel to the public comment discussion, by pointing his fingers at the local media. He maintained that local media coverage has focused too much on negative comments made by a handful of people.
A group of town hall critics, including Pitrone, who are more supportive of the previous administration, have made their opinions known at local meetings. They have maintained that current town hall operations are not working very well. But current leaders say that the policies of the past offered little employee accountability.
This volatile political atmosphere could set the tone for a lively election season this spring, when the mayor’s spot and several trustee seats are up for grabs.
In other GMF news, Cullinane announced the hiring of a new person, Shawn Vigil, to assist him in maintaining and plowing the roads and doing a variety of work for the public works department. Vigil, a local resident, has done much work for contractors in the area.
According to Cullinane, the town has already recorded 12 inches of snow and has been bombarded by two major storms.