November 20, 2013 by wcobserver
An account of the West Fork Parks meeting Saturday November 16, 2013
[Reader Warning: This article is written in the popular “gonzo style” of journalistic writing that makes no pretense of objectivity. Take what you want from the article. Have fun.]
-By Steve “Half Truth” Winkler-
Word on the street reached facebook comments on Nov. 14 with questions about Parks Director Dave Roebke; “Why is he such a target?”
The room was full at the Saturday morning meeting. The gathered sport enthusiasts looked like a meeting of the town’s heavy hitters (pun intended). There were coaches, parents, the new mayor, Charlie Rossetti, a sheriff’s deputy, former mayor (prior to Frances Hime) Jan Throgmorton, current council member Julie Shafer, former council members, along with spouses, ex-spouses, cousins, in-laws, and friends of the heavy hitters.
Parks Chair Brian Bowerman is the best commission chair in city government. That probably comes from years of experience heading up church committee meetings. His meetings run smoothly but I’m never sure, not being in his congregation, if I should address him as Mister, Reverend or Brother, but I am sure it’s not “Father.”
The Public Forum is the first item on the Agenda. This is when I reaffirm my role as the village
jerk watchdog by requesting that the minutes show that the executive session held last month was in violation of Freedom of Information law regarding who can be in the room of an executive session. I had made my point with Bowerman, earlier. He acknowledged the infraction, took responsibility and we moved on to the fun stuff…then the boring stuff.
I love the Public Forum segment of any government meeting. Here they
come, about ten of them. One after another in a peeps parade of citizens voicing support for Director Roebke. It was an “atta boy” love fest. After each affirmation from the podium,
Commissioner Susan Neyman would ask “why did you come here today?” She seemed perplexed.
Some said they heard rumors. Some answered to support Dave, defend Dave. Others wanted to “stand up.” One said he had heard Dave was on the chopping block.
My ears perked up when I heard the name Craig Stout whom I’ve never met. He is one of the new police commissioners, along with Jeff Baker. I had put my application in for that job and it looks like this guy Stout bumped me out. I’ll be watching him. Any missteps and fumbles and he’ll feel the full fury of West Fork’s media elite.
Stout made the “nobody’s perfect” speech; mistakes get made, problems get worked through, sort of thing. He’s okay on this one, but I’m watching.
Chair Bowerman ended the Public Forum reminding the audience that they were welcome to stay for the business part of the meeting but they would need to keep their tater traps shut. (Of course he didn’t really say that – they don’t call me “half-truth” for nothing).
Financials were reviewed. The budget discussed. The concession building was winterized. Football and cheer are done for the year.
Dave evidently invoked the ire of some tree huggers over in the recycle community by throwing some old helmets in the dumpster. He noted that they are mixed material, plastic, metal and apologized and will never do it again. They’ll be watching Dave, but do they ever look in the city administration building’s dumpster?
There was a discussion about “Homecoming” for, I assumed, pee wee footballers and cheerers. I didn’t know what they were talking about so didn’t pay much attention. But anyway, they passed a “No Homecoming” motion.
Dave suggested dissolving the three member committee that selects coaches and leaving it up to him. Susan Neyman looked perplexed. The commission nixed the idea.
Dave requested the commission furnish him with a laptop or tablet. Neyman asked if he had a “smart phone.” Dave looked perplexed. But answered yes, he could access the internet but it wasn’t practical to type on. I lost focus for a second or two thinking about how stupid my own phone is – darn thing can’t even take a selfie much less get on the internet.
City Treasurer Kristie Drymon made an appearance to announce that the city council has instructed her to zero out all outstanding comp/overtime accounts before the end of the year. Roebke is due 115 hours (total accumulated since he’s been director), $1,999. Dave didn’t show it outwardly but you could hear his brain screaming “Big Christmas this year!”
Drymon went on to explain city policy. Overtime for over 40 hours worked; 240 hours maximum accumulation; the use it or loose it rule. The council will be redoing policy; Mayor Rossetti added that there is a meeting Tuesday to look at comp time.
Ms. Neyman asked if salaried employees were eligible for comp time. Drymon replied if manual labor is involved overtime can become comp time. “That was our policy but we were not practicing it,” noted Drymon. Rossetti said there would be checks by the end of month. Politicians love to say stuff
Someone asked about the field at the Community Center. A commissioner mumbled something about dead Bermuda grass and rough infield and about somebody doing something. It was past lunch time for me.
Commissioner Neyman reminded those present about the shoe locker where new and used cleats can be had for free. She assured everyone that the old shoes had been washed. See Dave for details.
This is the point in the meeting when an alert, ear-to-the-rail newspaper guy will ask some direct questions of the commission and/or circulate in the room eavesdropping on the chatter in order to “take the pulse of the public.”
I asked Bowermen, Roebke, Neyman why they didn’t just get a space heater to keep the pipes from freezing rather than using a city crew to open pipes, blow them out, add antifreeze, close pipes every year. Dave said it only took an hour but he’d look into that.
I asked about a rumored impending lawsuit which led to a brouhaha about a FOI request for phone records and complaints to police. Chair Bowermen said that has been settled, gone away.
I asked for more details about the grant that is in the pipeline which includes surveillance equipment for the concession building which will hopefully deter vandalism. The grant is for more than surveillance. Neyman said she wasn’t ready to make public the details at which point I came unhinged and reverted to using my outside voice “There are no secrets in West Fork, I’m journalist, I have to know!” (She told me later she wanted to let State Representative Justin Harris make the announcement, politicians like to do that kind of stuff).
I realized later I never should have made the “journalist” remark. I’m having an identity problem with this since the Observer ended printing and went to online only. The city clerk Marsha Hungate even asked to see my “media credentials” and then didn’t like what I sent her. Not up to date, she said implying the Observer wasn’t a “real” newspaper. Heck, everybody knows I’m the “newspaper guy.” And if they don’t, they should know that anybody with a lap top and an internet connection can be a media celebrity these days. You really don’t even need readers.
I like the Parks Commission’s TCB style. I have criticism and suggestions from time to time, but like to think they are constructive ones. I focus on the structure and culture of the government body, how they approach and manage problems, how they relate to the public, how they manage their funds, that sort of thing.
Honestly, I don’t give a hoot about turf management or kid’s games. But, I’m glad somebody does.