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‘Suitable copy for framing’ perplexes federal officials

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

 

Dublin Town Manager Bill Parker caused quite a “ruckus” recently when he questioned a federal agency about a new policy requiring the town to use a “Non-Discrimination Statement” on “all correspondence.”

Parker received an email from the Wytheville Rural Development office for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) informing him of the new policy from Washington D.C.

The email “was written so that you didn’t really know what they were asking us to do, so I emailed back and asked if (the USDA representative) could clarify” the requirements, Parker told Dublin Town Council.

“In typical fashion,” he said, the woman “had no idea how to clarify it or what was going on. As you can see, (the statement is) quite lengthy.”

In an effort to clarify what “all correspondence” includes, Parker said he emailed the woman to ask if the statement has to be on all town letterhead and the water-billing card. He noted that the full statement wouldn’t fit on both sides of the water bill, much less one side.

It was his next question, made in jest, which caused the ruckus.

“I asked if it had to be posted in the office, could they please send us a suitable copy for framing,” the town manager said. “I did that on purpose and believe it or not, ‘a suitable copy for framing’ actually caused more ruckus. It went all the way to DC because they didn’t think we really needed a copy …”

Mayor Benny Skeens interjected, “Congress is probably going to vote on it next week.” He suggested the statement should be framed and printed on parchment.

In the end, Parker said, it was determined the abbreviated statement “This institution is an equal opportunity provider and employer” has to appear on the town letterhead, but not on the water bill, “even though that’s what the (USDA) money was used for.”

According to Parker, the town received USDA funds in 2007 for a water system upgrade. “I assume that since we received grant monies that we will be required from now on to comply with this USDA regulation,” he said.

As for a framed copy of the statement, Parker told council members there is one on the counter if they want to stop by to see it. It’s not from the feds, he made his own.

Skeens pointed out the town will be able to use any letterhead it already has in stock before the statement is required. “If you don’t’ see (the statement) for a while, it’s because we’re still using what (letterhead) we have boxed up,” he said.

“Your federal dollars at work,” Parker said.

“Well, they’re doing something. That may be the only thing they’ve agreed on in Washington“ Skeens added.

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