HOLMBERG: Litte berg of Waverly in a pickle

Posted at 12:41 AM, May 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-08 00:41:46-04

Waverly is a small town with big troubles.

The town’s budget is so tangled, Waverly’s police officers haven’t been paid in three weeks. Two officers testified during Thursday’s town council meeting that they’re reaching the breaking point.

“You can’t push me but so far,” one officer said. “I’ve got my mortgage people calling me . . . because I’ve missed a payment.” His said is wife is having anxiety attacks “because I’m not bringing home money.”

A female officer told town council members that her sick mother and grandmother with Alzheimer’s depend on her to help out every week.

In a closed session, council members decided they would find $1,000 to give each officer to tide them over, but no one seemed to know where the money was going to come from, said those who questioned those council members.

“You can’t get an answer any which way about the way things are going,” said resident Glenn Miller, who spoke during the meeting. “Except, as far as the police department, they’re broke. They have no money. We have no money to pay them.”

During my Thursday afternoon visit to this town of approximately 2,300 residents southeast of Petersburg, I was told new mayor Barbara Gray improperly signed contracts to refurbish the town’s two water towers inside and out to the tune of a half-million dollars.

This in a town with a budget just three times that.

There are also pending expensive problems with the town’s well system, along with the typical infrastructure bills, all piling up, despite increases in real estate taxes, water and trash charges, residents said.

Which is why there’s a recall petition gaining steam to oust Mayor Gray, pushed forward by some of the very people who supported her as a council member running for mayor who now believe - as Miller said – “She’s in over her head, as far as knowledge and how to manage this.”

But the mayor’s supporters believe she’s doing just fine with the situation she inherited.

“I’d rather see her in that seat than anyone else,” said longtime resident Timothy Williams.

And most agree that the blame isn’t just with the mayor.

There’s been upheaval in the town’s power structure, with longtime leaders bowing out for a number of reasons. In the past year or so they’ve seen two town clerks leave, two town treasurers, two town attorneys and a police chief.

There just isn’t the same institutional memory, is how one longtime town crusader put it. Many of those who spoke candidly about their concerns didn’t want to be on camera or to be quoted by name because of the closeness of the town.

I went by Mayor Brown’s home twice Thursday afternoon. When reached by phone, she was cordial, but said he had no comment and would likely be too busy to discuss the issues on Friday.

Even those who are involved in the recall petition say they like her and consider her to be a fine person.

Which is one of the reasons why this little small town is having big problems.