Tuesday morning breakfast was finished by 0730. Vicky and I were in Robert’s office with Andy. The rest of the girls were in their offices upstairs. Lorrie was still using her corporate office and not the one at Morton Field with the baby and the increased threat level caused by the bounty.
With Lorrie here that meant that most of the security was here or could be in training. Most of Andy’s new members to OPS team were at Fort Smith or on the way.
Robert and I went over yesterday’s dark web posts and responses while I was waiting on the rest of the girls to come down. When they arrived we walked over to the meeting room and the discussions began about going back to Portugal.
The discussion was lively and heated at times, almost to the point of being ordered not to go by the girls. But discussion and the taking of most of the OPS men plus the possibility of more diversity in income was a plus. The feeling was that one might open the door for more foreign contracts. We needed to at least give it a shot to see what our options were.
I filled Andy in on the trip to Portugal and my instructions to Robbie along with the possibility of a security contract, our first with a foreign nation.
I knew that even if we succeeded in getting such a contract, it would only be the beginning. The paperwork and getting all the necessary approvals would be a quagmire.
I wanted to impress with security on my visit so the planning began. To help things along in our favor the Air Force had scheduled two flights a week to Turkey to bring back classified materials. Materials that were to end up in Texas and North Dakota; they were nuclear weapons storage sites. The planes were empty on the flight over – at least so far.
We would use those flights to shuttle equipment to Portugal. Logistics were going to be a mess. Andy and I decided to assign Ed to handle all of that since he had been there with us on the first visit.
At 0930 Jason and I left to go to the county meeting in place of Marcy with 8 security men. Jason went because he knew nearly everyone involved in county politics and could make introductions. I had been going to do this for two months but there was always something that came up, but not today.
We were there fifteen minutes early so there were plenty of seats available. Only a few business owners and county officials were there. I did know the couple who owned the hardware store where we seemed to spend a bundle of money every month.
I went and spoke with them for a few minutes until more people started to arrive, then I went to the chair I has chosen and sat down with my coffee mug, with two of my body guards behind me and the rest around the walls in chosen spots.
As was the normal power play, the county officials were ten minutes late. Department heads from all the county agencies were in first. The county manager Matt Monroe came in moments before the commissioners.
Duke Justice, Clarence Hallworthy, Penny Ames, Larry Barton and Roland Pennywell – the county commissioners – were the last in.
Matt began by introducing all the county dignitaries and department heads. Then he began the process having every department give a report on progress on departmental goals and updates from the previous meeting.
I made notes as they spoke with minor agencies being the first to speak; libraries, sewer and water, EMS, county health department, preservation and hysterical society, county environmental and so on. Once in awhile a department head would ask if there were any questions. Answers were the usual run around.
It was an hour before the department heads I wanted to hear spoke;
“County roads is on track to stay within our budget for the year. In order to do that we reduced the amount of roads grass cutting by fifty percent and reduced the number of roads getting tar and chip treatment this year. Some equipment purchases were reduced to achieve our budget goals and a couple vacated positions were not filled,” Nathan Moore said. He started to sit down without asking for questions but before he could – “Excuse me, but what equipment purchases did you eliminate?” I asked.
“Two of the larger mini excavators were eliminated,” he replied.
“So what did you do with the money?” I asked.
“What do you mean? It kept us with in our budget,” Nathan replied.
“According to minutes from your previous meetings the extra cost of the extra snow removal was covered in a grant from the federal government. There is nothing in the minutes to indicate that there should be any expenditure that would carry it over budget.”
“The two excavators should be one hundred and seventy five thousand dollars. The two employees with salary benefits and vehicle savings should be another one hundred and fifty thousand in savings. You cut contract road side grass cutting by fifty percent. The grass cutting contract was budgeted at one hundred thousand saving fifty thousand dollars.”
“Based on the tar and chip published bid award the contract was nine hundred thousand this summer. How much did you cut out of that; two, three hundred thousand? That makes over half a million dollars. Where did it go?” I asked.
“You do not understand the budgeting process,” Matt interrupted.
“Oh, I understand the budgeting process completely. You have a set number of funds to work with. From that you pay for the things you are obligated to pay. If the cost of those things are less than budgeted you have more money to buy other things or it goes in back into the general funds.”
“This is government- nothing ever goes back into the general fund. Government departments go on a spending binge the last weeks of the fiscal year. So where did the funds go or are where are they going?” I asked.
“I am not able to answer that,” Nathan replied.
“He does not have to answer that, the budget process is not open to the public until the year end reports are completed and then only by a freedom of information request. Let’s move on,” Matt replied as Nathan started to sit down.
“I’m not finished yet, county roads should cease using the tar and chip and begin a policy of black topping the roads and any extra money in the budget should be set aside for that purpose. The only thing tar and chip does is disguise how bad and rough the roads really are.”
“I’m not against education but every year you give several million a year to the school board above their budget, and test scores don’t move up and in some instances have gone down. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. You have extra money – it’s past time to fix the county roads,” I said.
The next department to report was planning and zoning with a report that new house construction was up three percent and tried to go back to their seat.
“Why only three percent when the national average is six percent given the upturn in the economy, Delaware is over ten percent the rest of the state is over six. Could it be the rules and procedures are stifling county growth? Just when is the rough draft of the proposed new zoning rules going to be released?” I asked.
“It’s going to take several more months,” was the reply.
“Why several months? The rough draft should have been done in thirty days and submitted for review and changes. The new rules should have in effect by now,” I said.
“It takes time to review what different counties have done and put our own in line with them,” he said.
“That’s the problem right there. If I remember the declaration you were given you were directed to change, remove and update the existing rules not use some else’s and modify them. What jurisdictions are you using this time – San Francisco or Sacramento – that are seven hundred pages long to build a single story house? You and every one in your department working on this should be fired for insubordination,” I said.
There was a look of horror from county officials and I was only getting started.
Edit by Alfmeister
Proof read by Bob W.