Pinehurst Village Govt: Who’s in Charge?

This is how it is supposed to work: We elect a mayor and council to oversee the work of  local government staff to ensure staff is (1) acting in accordance with good ethics and the law, (2) making wise use of taxpayer money, and (3) acting in the best interests of the community at large. 

The other day, I ran into a Village Hall ‘insider’ and had a rather eye-opening, enlightening conversation.  I mentioned that I heard “about a thousand” people had applied for the vacant police chief job.  I asked if the council had narrowed the field or decided on a candidate.  “[Village Manager] Andy [Wilkison] hasn’t said yet,” the insider said. “They are waiting for him to tell them who is getting hired.”

Say what?  

I also asked about something that has been a topic of discussion among some friends: Why are there so doggone many road signs in Pinehurst?  Check them out at the new roundabout, and throughout Old Town.  At more than one location, you find extraneous road signs blocking much more important things like — oh — speed limit, yield and stop signs.

You don’t see this kind of thing in Southern Pines or Aberdeen.  Why is it like this in Pinehurst?, I asked the insider.

“Staff told the council that’s what was needed, and the council  took  it at face value,” the insider explained.

So, either we, in Pinehurst, have the smartest, most-on-the-ball municipal staff in the entire county and state and everyone else outside of town is wrong, or our folks have really screwed the pooch.

I checked with a friend who is retired after spending some time with the state DOT and a private road-building company.  His assessment was that Pinehurst overdid the sign thing BIG TIME.   A few calls to the right people at DOT could have told village staff that, my friend said.

So, the landscape is littered with a lot of unnecessary road signs, and the taxpayers picked up the bill.  Nice.

Another interesting note passed on by another MOLE  I have within Village Hall:

A local woman, whose husband recently had a heart attack , has been lobbying village officials to place automated external difibrillators (AEDs) in public places downtown.  The MOLE tells me Andy and Village attorney Mike Newman have fought the project, expressing concerns about “liability”  (someone getting shocked, lack of training for lay people, etc.).   Never mind the fact that AEDs are all over the place in Southern Pines.  Does our village staff know something that the folks in Southern Pines don’t know?

Well, here’s what I found with a quick Google search:

AEDs are designed to be used by laypersons who ideally should have received AED training. This is in contrast to more sophisticated manual and semi-automatic defibrillators used by health professionals, which can act as a pacemaker if the heart rate is too slow (bradycardia) and perform other functions which require a skilled operator able to read electrocardiograms.

Bras with a metal underwire and piercings on the torso must be removed before using the AED on someone to avoid interference.[5][6]American TV show Mythbusters found evidence that use of a defibrillator on a woman wearing an underwire bra can lead to arcing or fire but only in unusual and unlikely circumstances.

A study analyzed the effects of having AEDs immediately present during Chicago’s Heart Start program over a two year period. Of 22 individuals 18 were in a cardiac arrhythmia which AEDs can treat (Vfib or Vtach). Of these 18, 11 survived. Of these 11 patients, 6 were treated by good Samaritan bystanders with absolutely no previous training in AED use.[7][8]   ….

… Unlike regular defibrillators, an automated external defibrillator requires minimal training to use. It automatically diagnoses the heart rhythm and determines if a shock is needed. Automatic models will administer the shock without the user’s command. Semi-automatic models will tell the user that a shock is needed, but the user must tell the machine to do so, usually by pressing a button. In most circumstances, the user cannot override a “no shock” advisory by an AED. Some AEDs may be used on children – those under 55 lbs (25 kg) in weight or under age 8. If a particular model of AED is approved for pediatric use, all that is required is the use of more appropriate pads.

All AEDs approved for use in the United States use an electronic voice to prompt users through each step. Because the user of an AED may be hearing impaired, many AEDs now include visual prompts as well. Most units are designed for use by non-medical operators. Their ease of use has given rise to the notion of public access defibrillation (PAD), which experts agree has the potential to be the single greatest advance in the treatment of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest since the invention of CPR.[17]    …..

… Automated external defibrillators are now easy enough to use that most states in the United States include the “good faith” use of an AED by any person under Good Samaritan laws.[18] “Good faith” protection under a Good Samaritan law means that a volunteer responder (not acting as a part of one’s occupation) cannot be held civilly liable for the harm or death of a victim by providing improper or inadequate care, given that the harm or death was not intentional and the responder was acting within the limits of their training and in good faith. In the United States, Good Samaritan laws provide some protection for the use of AEDs by trained and untrained responders.[19] AEDs create little liability if used correctly;[20] NREMT-B and many state EMT training and many CPR classes incorporate or offer AED education as a part of their program. In addition to Good Samaritan laws, Ontario, Canada also has the “Chase McEachern Act (Heart Defibrillator Civil Liability), 2007 (Bill 171 – Subsection N)”, passed in June, 2007,[21] which protects individuals from liability for damages that may occur from their use of an AED to save someone’s life at the immediate scene of an emergency unless damages are caused by gross negligence.

This case right here is a fine example of the problem at Village Hall.   The geriatric incumbents on the Village Council have no idea what staff is up to.  Andy and his team’s first instinct is to tell people NO, and then fight.  The Village has been involved in more than its fair share of lawsuits.  How many of these could have been avoided if a mindset had been in place at Village Hall to work with residents to reach a mutually acceptable compromise, instead of fight them?  How much could, we the taxpayers, have saved in legal fees?

Andy Wilkison and Mike Newman are not elected by voters, and are not accountable to them.  The mayor and the Village Council have failed miserably in their responsibility to properly supervise these people, and ensure they are acting in the best interests of the residents of Pinehurst.  Perhaps the village attorney and village manager positions should be publicly advertised.  Perhaps Wilkison and Newman should have to campaign for their jobs, just like the council members — against all interested applicants.

We need a mayor and a council who will keep an eye on village staff for us.  More village meetings need to be held at hours more convenient to working people.  No one under 60 can make it to 10 AM council meetings.  (We have to work for a living.)

So, the next time a candidate for village office asks for your vote, ask them if they plan to actually oversee village operations, or if they will continue to allow Messrs. Wilkison and Newman to run our government as they see fit.