Stormy Session Prompts Departure of Robbins's Finance Director
First Version of Story
The fact that Vicky Strider was no longer the finance director for the town of Robbins was originally reported in this brief story that appeared on thepilot.com on Tuesday.
The original story, with comments included, can be read by clicking here.
Robbins is looking for a new finance director to replace Vicky Strider following a sometimes contentious session of town commissioners last week.
"Vicky did a lot of work for Robbins," Mayor Theron Bell said. "She did a lot of things that weren't even part of her job, like picking up trash paper off the streets. We hope the manager will find somebody soon to take over and help us move forward."
Bell is out of town on vacation, but spoke by telephone Tuesday morning.
The meeting started at 6 p.m. and ended about 11 p.m. There were a number of important items on the agenda, which included acting on a Robbins Economic Advisory Panel (REAP) budget amendment and renewing two county/town contracts to discussion of ways to improve the appearance of Robbins. County Commissioner Nick Picerno and Craig Kennedy, Republican nominee for county commissioner, were among the visitors.
Commissioners Lynn Loy and Joey Boswell were not present. At Bell's request, the agenda was changed to put the question of the REAP request first in order of new business. The room was nearly full of theater supporters, all clearly expecting the consensus reached at the last meeting of the NCSTEP committee and REAP's recommendation to be approved quickly for grant funds to be used for purchasing the old Village Theater.
That didn't happen. Discussion began with no motion on the floor, and quickly turned to questions about other money from the STEP grant and how it had been used. Terri Holt and Claire Matthew asked about other applications for targeted REAP grants (such as the Village Theater application). Town Manager George Hayfield was at the lectern trying to reply when Strider interrupted him a number of times.
"That's not so!" she said as Hayfield was telling Holt about funds used to advertise Farmers Day coming from STEP rather than the town's general fund. She attempted to correct him a number of times.
Matthew and Holt worried about whether the town would be liable if its STEP money was used to purchase the old theater. There were questions as to who would own the building.
Hayfield explained several times that, once the foundation received the $75,000 from their targeted REAP grant, then a nonprofit organization would assume both ownership and liability risks, if any. The town will benefit if it makes it, but won't be at risk, he told the board.
Theresa Thomas, president of the Village Theater Foundation, also assured the commissioners that the foundation and its board will be the responsible party.
"If we don't make it - and we expect to make it - but if we don't and have to sell the building, the money will go to town beautification and the (Robbins Area Public) library," Thomas said. "It's in our bylaws."
After some 45 minutes, new commissioner Harold "Rocky" Davis moved that the REAP recommendation to amend the budget to make the targeted grant be approved, and it passed without objection.
Both Holt and Matthew expressed support for the theater project but stressed they had some questions about details and how it would work.
On Friday, a public notice went out that the Robbins Town Board would hold an emergency session late in the afternoon for the purpose of naming an interim finance officer, as the law requires. The board gave Hayfield that authority, and he will sign in the capacity of finance officer while he advertises for someone to take Strider's position.
She cleared out her desk that Friday morning and left by noon. Robbins is making no official statement as to whether Strider resigned or was dismissed. Hayfield said he cannot comment, as it is a personnel matter. Strider had held the job for several years, beginning in the position when Robbins was still under its former mayor/council charter.
After approving the contract renewals, acting on a request by Holt, commissioners went into closed session to discuss a personnel matter. Under the manager/council charter adopted only a few years ago, the board has only two employees: the town manager and the town attorney.
All the rest are hired or fired by Hayfield, as the authority of town managers is established by statutes enacted by the General Assembly.
'Look at Big Picture'
That session lasted some time, and the board adjourned without taking any action in open session other than to offer the floor to Kennedy for anything he'd like to say.
"I am a proud citizen up here on this end of the county," Kennedy told the board. "I am very proud of things I heard tonight. The theater is great. I am a big fan of the arts and those things, and those are things that are going to help us."
Kennedy wanted to talk about the county's need for a comprehensive water plan and Robbins' role in finding a countywide solution.
"I want you to look at the big picture - and I know you are having meetings about water - and that's the main reason I am here tonight," Kennedy said. "I want you to know you have a friend, once I am down there. I am going to help you, but you are going to have to help me."
Buying water from other counties, like Robbins does at present from Montgomery and Chatham counties, puts Moore in the position of being a victim.
"We have got to get to the point where we can supply our own water," Kennedy said. "That way we would not be a victim anymore. I like your urgency, Terri, on moving forward. I am working with Ray Ogden and also working independently to put businesses here. I can't sell what I don't have.
"Right now, I don't have water. Got plenty of sewer capacity, but I don't have water. I know the question is, if the county comes in, what does Robbins gain and what does Robbins - or the county - lose. To be honest, my personal opinion, I think it is something we need to look at, and we need to move on ... soon. As a town, as a community, and as a county, I think we need to get over those hurdles."
Businesses are looking to grow now, he said, despite the appearance of the economy - but they need places with infrastructure in place.
"Let us get this board together," he said. "We need to do something right now."
Contact John Chappell by e-mail at email@example.com.
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