Written by: Elizabeth Blevins
In the Spring of this year Hope Mills Commissioner Mike Mitchell proposed making a drastic change to the town’s charter, suggesting the Commissioners serve 4-year staggered terms instead of the current 2-year terms. After prolonged discussions it was agreed to put the issue on the November ballot and let the citizens of Hope Mills make the decision.
Many citizens are leery of extending that much power to a Board that’s struggled to accomplish…anything. Just weeks before the 4-year term issue, the Board discussed and then awarded themselves substantial raises and benefit packages. The Commissioners each received a 53% increase in pay. Mayor Pro Tem Mitchell received a 48% increase and Mayor Warner received an 84% increase. Additionally, they each received a $30 stipend towards their cell phone costs, a $100 stipend to cover travel expenses, dental, vision and life insurance. It was their last notable ‘accomplishment’.
The Board has waffled back and forth on a $28,000 partnership with Up & Coming Weekly. In March, Commissioners Legge, Larson and Bellflowers voted to end the partnership once it terminated in September, but Commissioners Edwards and Mitchell wanted to keep it.
Ironically, during an August meeting, it was Commissioner Mitchell who suggested they end the agreement. While the partnership is described as a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ and no official contract was ever signed, Mitchell has since used social media and AM radio stations to announce the Board’s decision to ‘terminate’ the contract. In reality, the Board paid the contract in full and let it lapse without renewal a week ago. Mitchell took to social media again last week to blast the previous Board for entering into the agreement. Citizens should be asking why he voted to keep it during the March vote if he felt the partnership wasn’t advantageous to the town. He seemingly wasted a good deal of tax-payer’s money on something he claims was a detriment. It’s also worth noting Mitchell was not on the prevailing side in March, and therefore wasn’t technically allowed to bring the issue to the Board. It’s another example of Board members bending the rules to fit their own agenda.
Likewise, the Board has squabbled back and forth on the second phase of the lake bed project. While the previous Board voted and approved a working model, this Board has systematically voted to undo everything that Board accomplished. Ten months into their administration they’re still asking for changes to the already approved plans. Among other issues, they’re still debating whether they want one or two ladders into the swimming area. As of September 11, they haven’t made a single decision but have asked for dozens of revisions.
All of Cumberland County is aware the Board voted to end negotiations with Lone Survivor Foundation (LSF) after asking for an official financial offer. But not everyone is aware a large portion of the citizens have formed an unofficial organization in support of LSF.
Those citizens scheduled a public rally for August 16th. The rally was hosted in a local church and was an effort to bring the veteran community together to discuss ideas to help LSF sway the Board. One day prior to the rally, Commissioner Legge sent an email to town staff referring to the rally as a ‘protest’.
“It is my understanding that some may want to stop the food truck rodeo that is supposed to be a family event.” Legge also implied town staff and elected officials were planning to participate in the protest. His email included a request for an ordinance review. Hours were wasted as town staff reviewed dozens of ordinances to appease Commissioner Legge.
Grilley Mitchell worked tirelessly to schedule and advertise that rally. Mr. Mitchel is also the Vice president of the Alms House Board of Directors and the Program Coordinator. The Food Truck Rodeo hosted by Hope Mills each month, is a benefit program for the Alms House. It’s unclear why Commissioner Legge thought Grilley Mitchell would schedule a protest to disrupt the food truck rodeo, and in turn hurt the Alms House. As of September 18th, Commissioner Legge has not responded to my inquiries about the email.
These are just some of the many issues which have halted the Board’s progress and prevented the “Team Hope Mills’ mentality Commissioner Mitchell campaigned for. The Board has allowed egos and inferiority complexes to hinder their decision making to the detriment of the whole community.
I urge you to vote NO to 4-year terms in November.