April 27, 2011 by wcobserver
We’re not sure if Ollie Hardy ever really laid the blame for the mess on Laurel or if he ever took responsibility. After all, we all make mistakes so why seek to blame ourselves or others? Because, to blame means to point to what or who was responsible for something that went sideways. Blame can sometimes be a waste of time but if one sees blaming as way of trying to determine what went wrong to prevent it from reoccurring then blame seems appropriate.
We’re not sure if Ollie Hardy ever really laid the blame for the mess on Laurel or if he ever took responsibility. After all, we all make mistakes so why seek to blame ourselves or others? Because, to blame means to point to what or who was responsible for something that went sideways. Blame can sometimes be a waste of time but if one sees blaming as way of trying to determine what went wrong to prevent it from reoccurring then blame seems appropriate. West Fork went for over two years without a planning commission. That neglect got the city into one fine mess and has lead to aggravation and unnecessary angst. It has contributed to fomenting ill will among neighbors. It delayed paying attention to annexations, lot splits, lot line adjustments, building permits, sign permits and the rampant code violations that are engulfing the city. One doesn’t need to look hard in West Fork to find the junk yards, trash piles, bush piles and deteriorating buildings (one is city hall itself).So what happened? Who or what is to blame – who’s responsible? The city had a good planning commission, in fact, just a few years ago the city also had a technical committee that studied issues then reported to the planning commission for action. They developed comprehensive plans for a future that embraced the idea of controlled growth. The commission established zoning ordinances, and procedures for building permits, lot splits, and subdivision regulations. What the city lacked was the will to follow its plans and obey its own laws. There has never been a code enforcement officer. The idea of intelligent planning and municipal law enforcement didn’t resonate with enough citizens enough to tip the scale toward progress. The planning commission disintegrated when its chairman at the time, Charlie Rossetti , resigned . Evidently the once vibrant commission had lost interest and existed solely on the strength of Mr. Rossetti’s personality. A new chairman was elected but no meetings were scheduled. The commission died. Mr.Rossetti ‘s political ambitions moved to larger venues… he ran unopposed and was elected to the city council last November.Jan Throgmorton was mayor when the commission began to dissolve. She never replaced commission members whose terms expired or took action to revive the Commission. Whether she was unable to recruit citizens to serve in her administration or whether she didn’t regard the commission as a desirable part of city government is speculative. The fact that West Fork was in violation of state statues didn’t seem to influence her inaction. The duties of the Commission were assumed by a city employee, “Butch” Bartholomew who in his role as city business manager was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the city. Mr. Bartholomew, who is paid as the public utility (water, wastewater, street) supervisor operated as the unpaid business manager, building inspector, and basically operated as a de facto mayor. Frances Hime was elected mayor in November, 2010 and inherited leadership of a city that showed a blatant and widespread disrespect and violation of its own ordinances in almost every category. Zoning laws are ignored, animal control ordinances ignored, police warrants, water bills, business licenses, sign regulations and crumbling infrastructure. She began acting like an elected mayor, who according to the Municipal Officials Handbook is responsible for the day to day operations of the city.She announced her goals and intentions (available for all to read on www.wcobserver.com).One might think the citizens would applaud her tireless effort to bring the city to respectability. But it hasn’t happened that way. The eight council members resist her mayoral activism. The opposition is led by Mr. Rossetti who opposes the mayor’s reform- minded actions. With emails to other city council members and at last week’s meeting he has strongly requested the mayor report to the council on her every move – who she meets with, and what they discuss… on a daily basis. Political loyalties are apparent on the city council. It was clear during the election that Ed Stout and Julie Shafer were aligned with Jan Throgmorton. Joan Wright was appointed by Throgmorton. Council member Rodney Drymon and his wife Kristie Drymon (a Throgmorton relative) who serves as City Treasurer are clearly resistant to any changes in governance proposed by Hime. Rodney Drymon’s motion to close the meeting to any business, other than discussing the search for new city attorney, delayed the seating of a new planning commission. That obstructionist action was supported by the entire council. Charles Rossetti seems to have appointed himself to a job that doesn’t exist. There is no chairman of the council, there is no council foreman, no one is charged with giving assignments to the mayor except the voters and the rule of law.