Sussex County Delaware

Letters to the Editor
Fenwick Island News

Fenwick Resident: 'This
Shouldn't Be So Difficult'

Editor's Note: Carol Hughes made the following statement at the Fenwick Island Town Council meeting of Friday, March 7, 2003, and has provided it to Sussex County Online for publication.

To the members of the Town Council of Fenwick Island:

An agenda item today includes a FOIA remediation of the absence of public participation concerning hiring a new full time police officer and Officer-in-Charge in November. I know that there were issues regarding the financial accountability of our town in the summer and fall of 2002. I now know that our town's checking account has not been reconciled for four years. I now know that our town, as of the last council meeting, has been paying 73% of its bills. Not an acceptable record, I may add. Would it be okay if I only paid 73% of my town taxes? Anyone, who has been in attendance at previous council meetings, is aware of additional managerial practices that are currently in question.

The conflict with Chief Dickerson erupted very quickly. In my opinion the decision to terminate his employment was equally as abrupt. We need to review the effectiveness of council's procedures for consistent and regularly scheduled evaluations of employee performance. In my professional experience, it takes much longer to prove chronic unsatisfactory performance.

Council was responsible to know the first time the checking account was not reconciled. This management failure alone indicates that there has been no evaluation or supervision of employee performance. It is hard for me to believe that an employee who worked satisfactorily in a position for twenty years abruptly became grossly inept. What has become apparent is that this council has become has proven its own unsatisfactory performance.

I know that, one day, I was surprised to read in the council minutes, that were delivered to our homes by mail, that a new resident, Mrs. Sears, a widow living alone at the end of Glenn Avenue, should have a street light to remedy the darkness. According to the town council minutes, "She is the only year round resident within a three block area." Mrs. Sears is my Mother. That was in 1983. We need to improve communication with ALL of our residents, both full time and part time. The information currently on the website is not at all informative.

My professional experience has enabled me to easily recognize micro-management. That is exactly what is taking place in our town management. A capable staff should be able and expected to perform productively. When the agenda for a council meeting includes a FINANCIAL REPORT, there should be a REPORT that specifies what year to date expenditures are, what year to date income is, what year to date checking, savings and investments are.

A while ago, I became determined that Fenwick Island required new leadership. My motivation came from council's refusal to allow our lifeguard stands to be painted, each a different color. I clearly remembered, as a child, being told to look for the color of the umbrella or the roof of a certain building. How easy, and much safer, it would have been if my Mother and Daddy had said, "Stay in front of the orange lifeguard chair."

I mention this because, I am ashamed to say, that year, during town elections, I voted for ANY new name. I knew nothing about issues and candidates except for my vehemence regarding the lifeguard chairs.

Now, I am addressing some of the very same people for whom I voted. And now, doesn't the issue of the lifeguard chairs deserve a BIG, "What was I thinking!" I am not proud of my voting record.

We desperately need a town manager. We desperately need for our council to become entirely engrossed in policy and comprehensive planning for our town's future. We have a wonderful and extremely desirable community. The partnership of residents and businesses, many of which are owned by residents, have an endless potential of making Fenwick Island, Delaware, ALL that it can be. PLEASE, do whatever it takes to lead us to the fulfillment of our potential. I have been enlightened by a comment shared with me, "We are one mile long and three blocks wide." I ask, does it really have to be this difficult?

I respectfully request that my letter be included in the minutes of today's meeting.

Carol Hughes
Fenwick Island

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