Last Roundup For An Historic Council

Final meeting in the Edwards era ends with businesslike calm

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The final full meeting of a council that has bulldogged controversy and herded history ended quietly Thursday, with the denial of outgoing Councilor Tim Fruth's plea to double council salaries starting in 2010.

The council worked its way through a light agenda that included the rejection of proposed new fence ordinance, a pledge of help for homeowners caught in a map-maker's snafu and a philosophical discussion about whether higher council salaries would make it easier for working class people to serve.

The last roundup for a council that made history on everything from growth management to securing water from Blue Ridge Reservoir also interjected a spot of color, with Councilor Su Connell gussied up in a bright red cowboy hat, Councilor Ed Blair sporting full fledged cowboy duds and outgoing Mayor Bob Edwards sporting a cowboy scarf knotted with the flair of a cravat. Councilor Andy Romance missed his final meeting for a business appointment, as he moves to get his consulting business saddled up again.

"I look to my colleague who isn't here," said Fruth of Romance, "and think about the amount of business he's had to give up to be on the council. And I know that no one does this job for the money, but I think we should reward the people who sit here in a way that is fair and equitable."

Currently, council members get $500 per month and the mayor gets $600. Fruth proposed boosting the salaries to $1,000 per month for councilors and $1,200 for mayor.

But the idea received no support from the other council members.

"I understand where you're going. It has cost me a lot of money to be sitting in this spot," said Mayor Edwards. But he said once elected officials start getting paid, salaries inevitably escalate. Once salaries get high enough to attract people who serve for the money, the quality of people who run for election would decline, he predicted. "You kind of get what you pay for, so you have to be very careful. Today, people are serving for the right reason."

"I do agree, but it has been a long time since we had people who run their own business sitting on this council," said Fruth. "It's not for a selfish reason, it's like adios."

However, his motion to increase salaries died for lack of a second.

In other action the council:

Sent back to town staff a proposed fence ordinance that would require people to get a permit for new fences, to avoid eyesores like the infamous "orange spite fence" on a stalled development on Airport Road and to protect driver's views down the street and around corners.

Several councilors objected to the detailed provisions of the ordinance and Councilor Mike Vogel objected to turning the town "into one big homeowners' association."

Agreed to help about 100 homeowners living in the Woodland Meadows subdivision change federal maps that incorrectly show their homes are in a floodplain and therefore must have flood insurance.

The original developer paid for a flood control channel that protected the homes, but never filed the required paperwork with the federal government.

For some years, mortgage companies accepted a letter from the town saying the homes weren't in a floodplain, but after Hurricane Katrina and the lending crisis, the mortgage companies started insisting on flood insurance.

The town council voted unanimously to direct staff to submit a revised flood map to the federal government, even if it means paying a filing fee of about $4,500. Homeowners faced insurance costs of up to $12,000 for a $300,000 mortgage and some elderly homeowners on a fixed income faced possible loss of their homes.

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