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CBP: Town must be held accountable

PULASKI — It’s time citizens start holding town officials accountable for their decisions and actions, a group of Pulaski residents decided Thursday.
At their regular monthly meeting, members of Citizens for the Betterment of Pulaski (CBP) discussed two situations which the group says show a need for improved leadership in the town.
First, they cited a recent newspaper story in which it was reported the town failed to collect $25,000 owed on a real estate sale for four years, and, second, the loss of grant money due to “shoddy workmanship” on some downtown apartments.
CBP members said they feel the town needs to be more forthcoming to its citizens.
“I don’t know how the rest of you feel, but a lot of times when I leave (Pulaski Town Council) meetings, I don’t feel very informed,” said Sandy Payne, who led Thursday night’s meeting and attends nearly every council meeting. She said she feels the town staff rushes through information on agenda topics to the point that citizens, and possibly even council members, are not well-informed.
Payne said she doubts all council members are fully informed as to what occurred with an upper-floor apartment project in Bobby and Martha Jackson’s building at 28 West Main Street.
The project was part of the downtown revitalization effort funded primarily by a million dollar Community Development Block Grant from Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
Martha Jackson was invited to last night’s meeting to provide CBP members with her summation of the events that had her and her husband on the verge of filing a lawsuit against the town. She said the only reason they chose to reach a settlement in binding arbitration, rather than filing a lawsuit, was because they knew the town taxpayers would have to foot the bill for their damages.
Jackson said they didn’t really want to take part in the upper-floor housing project that was started four years ago, but they finally agreed because they were told the town wouldn’t be able to get the grant unless a set number of property owners would participate.
She contends that within a month’s time they became dissatisfied with the quality of workmanship by the contractor hired to create the apartments and started expressing their concerns to Economic Development Director John White, who was administrator of the grant.
She says they repeatedly asked for a meeting with an advisory board that was supposed to handle property owners’ complaints, but they were always referred to a management team instead.
Town Manager John Hawley said during an earlier interview about the Jackson situation that a conflict between the upper-floor housing program design and a DHCD manual concerning the revitalization grant led the town to believe the management team was the body to go before to resolve a conflict.
The Jacksons say they don’t believe the required advisory board ever existed, but Hawley said in the earlier interview it did. DHCD suggests in a letter to Hawley that the advisory board and management team morphed into one committee.
According to Jackson, they also requested a meeting with the town council but were told they couldn’t.
Thursday night, Jackson said she didn’t realize until after the situation was already in settlement that they could have gone before the town council during the citizen comments’ portion of the town council’s meetings.
When they were unable to get any satisfaction from the town and they learned the contractor had been paid $92,400 without their approval of the work (as required in the contract), she said they contacted DHCD to make a complaint.
The Jacksons say they never got to do walk-throughs required under the contract and that they never signed the approval because they were dissatisfied with the contractor’s work.
Based on information provided to him by White, Hawley contends the Jacksons did do a final walk-through in July 2005. He says the couple paid all or part of their 10 percent of the contract the day of the walk-through.
The check, however, was dated and cashed in April of that year.
According to the DHCD letter to Hawley, DHCD agrees that, “in many cases,” the quality of work performed on the Jackson’s property “did not meet the standards of reasonable workmanship.”
The DHCD representative goes on to say that the contractor shouldn’t have been paid until the Jacksons approved of the work, that it took too long for the town to resolve the complaints and that lead-based paint requirements appear not to have been followed.
Hawley said the town relied upon a rehabilitation specialist contracted to oversee the project to determine when the contractor should be paid. He also pointed out the specialist approved the contractor’s work.
Jackson told CBP they are now left with five apartments they cannot rent. They estimated it would cost at least $25,000 to bring the apartments up to standards so they can be rented.
“This is what you get when you put somebody in charge of something they’re not qualified for,” Jackson told the group. She contends White is not qualified to manage the grant or the town’s economic development. “He’s a minister,” she added.
“Why do they (town) hire people who are unqualified?” town resident Janet Golden asked the group. “Is it to save money, because in the long run it doesn’t save money?”
No one had an answer for Golden.
“My major concern about this whole thing is it was badly managed. These kind of decisions are killing (the town financially),” Jackson said.
Hawley said the situation involving the Jacksons resulted in a reduction in the amount of funds available for housing projects in the town. He insists no operating or general fund monies were lost due to the situation.
He said the town did not ignore the situation and even sent town employees to correct some of the problems in the apartments. He said the town contends the Jacksons do have five rentable apartments.
Clark Payne said he thinks it is time for a “serious review” of town management “from the top to the bottom.”
Group members were urged to attend town council meetings, ask questions of town government and write letters to the editor to “expose” the “mismanagement.”
Area developer Bob Strenz said letters to the editor might not be the right approach to the situation, but it is one approach.
“It has to be embarrassing to them when they see it in the newspaper,” he added.

CBP: Town must be held accountable

PULASKI — It’s time citizens start holding town officials accountable for their decisions and actions, a group of Pulaski residents decided Thursday.
At their regular monthly meeting, members of Citizens for the Betterment of Pulaski (CBP) discussed two situations which the group says show a need for improved leadership in the town.
First, they cited a recent newspaper story in which it was reported the town failed to collect $25,000 owed on a real estate sale for four years, and, second, the loss of grant money due to “shoddy workmanship” on some downtown apartments.
CBP members said they feel the town needs to be more forthcoming to its citizens.
“I don’t know how the rest of you feel, but a lot of times when I leave (Pulaski Town Council) meetings, I don’t feel very informed,” said Sandy Payne, who led Thursday night’s meeting and attends nearly every council meeting. She said she feels the town staff rushes through information on agenda topics to the point that citizens, and possibly even council members, are not well-informed.
Payne said she doubts all council members are fully informed as to what occurred with an upper-floor apartment project in Bobby and Martha Jackson’s building at 28 West Main Street.
The project was part of the downtown revitalization effort funded primarily by a million dollar Community Development Block Grant from Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
Martha Jackson was invited to last night’s meeting to provide CBP members with her summation of the events that had her and her husband on the verge of filing a lawsuit against the town. She said the only reason they chose to reach a settlement in binding arbitration, rather than filing a lawsuit, was because they knew the town taxpayers would have to foot the bill for their damages.
Jackson said they didn’t really want to take part in the upper-floor housing project that was started four years ago, but they finally agreed because they were told the town wouldn’t be able to get the grant unless a set number of property owners would participate.
She contends that within a month’s time they became dissatisfied with the quality of workmanship by the contractor hired to create the apartments and started expressing their concerns to Economic Development Director John White, who was administrator of the grant.
She says they repeatedly asked for a meeting with an advisory board that was supposed to handle property owners’ complaints, but they were always referred to a management team instead.
Town Manager John Hawley said during an earlier interview about the Jackson situation that a conflict between the upper-floor housing program design and a DHCD manual concerning the revitalization grant led the town to believe the management team was the body to go before to resolve a conflict.
The Jacksons say they don’t believe the required advisory board ever existed, but Hawley said in the earlier interview it did. DHCD suggests in a letter to Hawley that the advisory board and management team morphed into one committee.
According to Jackson, they also requested a meeting with the town council but were told they couldn’t.
Thursday night, Jackson said she didn’t realize until after the situation was already in settlement that they could have gone before the town council during the citizen comments’ portion of the town council’s meetings.
When they were unable to get any satisfaction from the town and they learned the contractor had been paid $92,400 without their approval of the work (as required in the contract), she said they contacted DHCD to make a complaint.
The Jacksons say they never got to do walk-throughs required under the contract and that they never signed the approval because they were dissatisfied with the contractor’s work.
Based on information provided to him by White, Hawley contends the Jacksons did do a final walk-through in July 2005. He says the couple paid all or part of their 10 percent of the contract the day of the walk-through.
The check, however, was dated and cashed in April of that year.
According to the DHCD letter to Hawley, DHCD agrees that, “in many cases,” the quality of work performed on the Jackson’s property “did not meet the standards of reasonable workmanship.”
The DHCD representative goes on to say that the contractor shouldn’t have been paid until the Jacksons approved of the work, that it took too long for the town to resolve the complaints and that lead-based paint requirements appear not to have been followed.
Hawley said the town relied upon a rehabilitation specialist contracted to oversee the project to determine when the contractor should be paid. He also pointed out the specialist approved the contractor’s work.
Jackson told CBP they are now left with five apartments they cannot rent. They estimated it would cost at least $25,000 to bring the apartments up to standards so they can be rented.
“This is what you get when you put somebody in charge of something they’re not qualified for,” Jackson told the group. She contends White is not qualified to manage the grant or the town’s economic development. “He’s a minister,” she added.
“Why do they (town) hire people who are unqualified?” town resident Janet Golden asked the group. “Is it to save money, because in the long run it doesn’t save money?”
No one had an answer for Golden.
“My major concern about this whole thing is it was badly managed. These kind of decisions are killing (the town financially),” Jackson said.
Hawley said the situation involving the Jacksons resulted in a reduction in the amount of funds available for housing projects in the town. He insists no operating or general fund monies were lost due to the situation.
He said the town did not ignore the situation and even sent town employees to correct some of the problems in the apartments. He said the town contends the Jacksons do have five rentable apartments.
Clark Payne said he thinks it is time for a “serious review” of town management “from the top to the bottom.”
Group members were urged to attend town council meetings, ask questions of town government and write letters to the editor to “expose” the “mismanagement.”
Area developer Bob Strenz said letters to the editor might not be the right approach to the situation, but it is one approach.
“It has to be embarrassing to them when they see it in the newspaper,” he added.