Updated: Dec 13, 2022
Famous last words or a desperate attempt to save face and get in one little jab before the night's over? I'll let you be the judge. It's been a while my friends, but as we all know it can get a little crazy during the holidays and the Bramwell town council meetings always deliver on the crazy. Now I could bore you to tears with the humdrum of a small-town council meeting, but I will endeavor to sum it all up in a few abbreviated sentences. So let me set the scene for you…
Ensconced in the Bramwell Fire Station, stage left are our two wild card town council members which I will refer to as council members A and B. To be frank, I am not even sure which one is which, and in all actuality, does it even matter? Distinguishing between these two fine gentlemen appears to be irrelevant as in the whole of the meeting, I doubt they spoke above five words. It begs the questions, who are these folks, who asked them to join this party and to what end? Joining council members A and B is one whose facial hair would make even Sam Elliott jealous, everyone’s favorite ever-perky soda jerk, and our very own coal town royal descendant. Smack dab in the middle of this would-be forum is our meek and mild Town Recorder and that leaves us with the increasingly unpopular Mayor.
Amidst some very unclear vernacular regarding ghost walks, seemingly non-existent financial reports, and an odd hint at a miner's festival was a similarly, if not even more strange report, by Bramwell's chief-of-police. Butch regales the council and those brave enough (or insipid enough) to attend this assembly with reports of scintillating citations of "unlawful disposal of litter,” stop-sign violations, car accidents, and even one bizarre account of a female who alleged that she was abducted. Most likely said abductee had overdosed and succumbed to her delusions of drug-induced grandeur. I have not been to many town council meetings, so excuse my ignorance and unworldliness, but perhaps our police force has better things to do than be the town crier denouncing all the locals' indiscretions and malefactions.
The only other point of interest from the actual meeting and worthy of this writer's mention is the restoration of Town Hall. Apparently, and I strenuously concur, the Town Hall is in desperate need of attention, and no one argues this point more than I. However, what is on the docket is WHO is to complete the restoration? Frank Unger of, and I am guessing here, Past Respects, LLC has been referred by a certain council member. And so, implementing my superior methods of deduction, I conjecture that the Bramwell Town Council has an estimate in hand for what I believe to be the painting of Town Hall for somewhere in the vicinity of $40,000 - $45,000, but I cannot be bothered with such mundane figures.
What really piqued my interest, however, is the town council seems to be overlooking or perhaps ignoring West Virginia Code §5-22-1 section (c) that states, "The state and its subdivisions shall, except as provided in this section, solicit competitive bids for every construction project exceeding $25,000 in total cost." Funnily enough, a council member brazenly or perhaps flippantly admits, "We had to have several bids on the dam even though we knew which company we were going to go with" which may or may not have complied with the above-mentioned code that dictates that government contracts are to go to the "lowest qualified responsible bidder". Cue, laughter from the peanut gallery. Our typically demure and quiet Town Recorder, citing this same code, wisely speaks up and declares that if the town is required to get competitive bids she desires "to go about this the right way, the legal way, do everything by code.” Bravo, Madam. We applaud you for your integrity. The Mayor unhelpfully adds that if the exterior of Town Hall is to be restored, the entire building should be rewired. I am assuming here that the Mayor would like the electrical rewired at Town Hall. Stupidly, I admit I am not seeing the correlation of what the exterior of the building has to do with electrical wiring, but she insists, “If we are going to spend the money, we want to preserve it, it must be rewired.”
I leave the general session of the council meeting to my favorite and more entertaining portion of this local moot. I do want to lightly touch on the fact that council members A and B seem to disapparate at some point before the open forum section of the meeting, allegedly due to babysitting duties and the necessity of having to get up at 4:30AM the next morning. Humbly, I argue that one evening a month is not too time-constraining an obligation that possibly another sitter could have been arranged or perhaps, eight hours of repose can be skipped for one night in thirty? But I digress.
Act Two opens as prominent town resident Jackie Shahan speaks out about animal control or the lack thereof, particularly pointing out a member of this beloved council as the most recent offender. She judiciously states that if Bramwell is to have local ordinances, shouldn't they be enforced, if not, perchance, they should be removed.
Next up is Grant Bennett, recapitulating his past written request for an open forum format at the beginning of each town council meeting, which is promptly ignored. Grant continues with the status on the Episcopal Church inventory, again ignored. Next Grant brings up the town budget, specifically the line item "Municipal Service Fee" which the mayor talks in circles about and has each and everyone of us echoing Grant, if even in our own heads, "Where does the money go?" Piping up is town resident Dennis Marcello, who sensibly suggests what every other town from here to Timbuktu already does, which is provide a public treasurer's report. But one would question, how do we do this when there is not even a clear town treasurer as the Mayor evidently pulls a name out of thin air when asked, "Who is the town treasurer?" Further questioning the handling of town funds, Grant points out the absurdity of having three local policemen at a town meeting where there is a maximum of twenty people in attendance. Amidst questions of “are they on the clock, are they off the clock?”, council members insinuating that it does not matter if they are salary employees (which they are not by the way), and gas-lighting comments of, "I'm in favor of the police," the Mayor once again opens mouth and inserts foot by asking one of the officers present, "you want to make a comment for that?"
Finally, the Mayor advises that, although there will be a town council meeting in December on the 12th, there will be no meeting in January in anticipation of inclement weather, clarifying that the town council will take off the month in January since there is "no business in January", whatever that means. One member of the congregation sagely suggests that the town council members take the "other 29 days of the month off and continue to have our meetings Monday", but unsurprisingly is once again, ignored.
But, the Mayor being that spunky spritely lady who always needs to get that one last word in, childishly says upon seeing the chief-of-police re-entering the room, "Uh oh. Here's Butch. Is Butch gonna get paid tonight too?" The scene closes with the Mayor sitting back in her folding chair with a satisfied smirk on her face, markedly pleased with herself for her wit.
Thanks to Amy Braswell for your constant support and superior editing skills.
Don't forget friends to support the Bramwell Theatre Corporation's Christmas Tour of Homes on Saturday December 10th from 5PM to 8PM.