Pinehurst mayoral candidate John Marcum told potential supporters at an in-home meet-and-greet Friday night that Pinehurst village government has been engaging in budget-busting and a lack of transparency akin to what we’ve been seeing in Washington.
Marcum told his audience that Pinehurst’s passion for forcibly annexing Pinewild was driven by a desire for new revenue to cover a six- to seven- figure budget deficit. The candidate said part of the village’s fiscal woes can be tied to a top-heavy management structure.
“We have a village manager with a seven year contract, paying him benefits and a salary each year greater than the governor of North Carolina gets,” Marcum said. “We have two assistant managers who are each paid yearly salaries and benefits greater than what the lieutenant governor of North Carolina gets. We’ve got about a half-million tied up in compensation to village management. For a village this size, it makes no sense.”
“They’re conducting quite a bit of public business behind closed doors, away from the public and the media,” Marcum said. “They go into the conference room with their attorney, and they say ‘Oh, we’re going to talk about this court case, or this real estate transaction.’ You see the attorney leave — for good – and the council members and the manager keep going behind closed doors. You never do hear anything about what got decided.”
Marcum, who grew up in Pinehurst, said he has fond memories of a thriving downtown. He laments the decline of downtown — the loss of drug stores, a theatre, and an ABC store, among other institutions. Marcum says he favors reforming planning and zoning regulations, and having village staff work as a partner with businesses to revive downtown Pinehurst.
(A Marcum campaign spokesperson pointed out that the ABC store got frustrated with village planners and fled to its current location on NC 5. The dispute reportedly involved the village blocking the store’s plans for a signage change and the installation of an awning to block the glare of afternoon sunlight.)
The candidate used a recent anecdote as an example of how authoritarian and top-heavy village management has become. Marcum supporters were trying to reserve village hall’s community assembly room for an event. They went down to village hall to make a reservation on the room.
“They were told the decision HAD to be approved by the village manager,” Marcum said. ” They were told the manager was gone for the weekend. (This was on Thursday.) The assistant managers were there, but could not make the decision. They were under specific orders that no one but the manager can decide who gets to use that room. My people asked if they could send him an email or leave him a message. The manager got the message, and relayed back that he would have a decision by Monday. This was such an important decision that the manager — and only the manager — would have to take four days to think about it. ”
Marcum also discussed The Village Action Team, a new political action committee which has been running ads endorsing incumbent councilman Mark Parson, council candidate John Cashion, and incumbent councilmember Nancy Fiorillo’s bid for mayor.
“Their ad points out all of these things they see as problems, and they talk about what they plan to do to fix them,” Marcum said. ”Two of the PAC’s three candidates have been on the council VOTING for all of that stuff they reportedly see as a problem. It’s just silly.”