Elkton’s VanRee­nen re­signs

Sup­ported chal­lengers who lost Tues­day elec­tion

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By BRI­ANNA SHEA

bshea@ce­cil­whig.com

— Town Com­mis­sioner DJ VanRee­nen, who has been the vo­cal op­po­si­tion to Mayor Rob Alt’s ad­min­is­tra­tion since be­ing elected two years ago, abruptly an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion one day af­ter the chal­lengers he sup­ported lost the town elec­tion to in­cum­bents.

Af­ter con­grat­u­lat­ing leagues Earl Piner and Charles Givens on their re- elec­tion, VanRee­nen an­nounced his de­ci­sion dur­ing the town meet­ing Wed­nes­day night.

“I have tried to make the changes that I said I would, I have done ev­ery­thing that I said and I’ve tried to do ev­ery­thing that I said I could for the last two years. The road map is al­ready set out for the next two years,” he said. “At this time, I am re­lin­quish­ing my seat as town com­mis­sioner.”

Af­ter his an­nounce­ment, VanRee­nen left the meet­ing due to a work en­gage­ment, leav­ing the au­di­ence, in­clud­ing his fel­low elected of­fi­cials, speech­less for a time.

“I think we’re all as speech­less as every­one out in the room right now,” Alt said

ELKTON

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af­ter VanRee­nen’s nounce­ment.

VanRee­nen’s de­ci­sion came as to a sur­prise to every­one, Givens added.

On Thurs­day, VanRee­nen said there were a “mul­ti­tude” of rea­sons of why he re­signed.

“Af­ter talk­ing to a lot of peo­ple, there’s ab­so­lutely noth­ing I can do with the way the board sits to make any type of ef­fec­tive change,” he said. “It’s been a 4-1 vote for the last two years, so that’s a fairly clear road map for the next two years that it’s gonna be a lot of sleep­less nights and frus­tra­tion.”

VanRee­nen backed the two new­com­ers, Bob Gor­man and Chris Zeauskas, dur­ing the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion for Givens’ and Piner’s seat, even writ­ing an en­dorse­ment let­ter to the Whig and ap­pear­ing pub­licly with them at cam­paign events. Ul­ti­mately, how­ever, long­time com­mis­sion­ers Givens and Piner drew con­sid­er­able sup­port for the com­mu­nity, earn­ing about 57 per­cent of the vote.

VanRee­nen said he did ev­ery­thing he said he was go­ing to do over the past two years try­ing im­prove things in town and mak­ing sure a “path is laid for the suc­cess

an- of Elkton long-term.”

“I’ve fought the board tooth and nail for the last two years to get it right the way I see it,” he said.

VanRee­nen said he voted for plans that he thought would ben­e­fit the town in the long run, such as in­stalling a so­lar panel ar­ray in 2015, ap­prov­ing a mini Grand Prix race down­town that is sched­uled for Oc­to­ber and the ColorVibe 5K Race that re­cently saw its sec­ond it­er­a­tion held, among oth­ers.

But he said he also voted against the things he thought would not ben­e­fit the town, such as the town­backed loan pro­gram pro­moted by Alt and fund­ing given to the Elkton Cham­ber and Al­liance to rent a West Main Street prop­erty to deny other po­ten­tial ten­ants from oc­cu­py­ing it.

He also be­lieves the cur­rent fis­cal year bud­get is “bloated,” and is con­cerned with the fi­nan­cial health of the town. VanRee­nen also did not sup­port Alt’s pro­posal for the fis­cal year 2017 bud­get, say­ing there is too much overspending in the bud­get and the use of a “line item re­bate” hides the true cost of un-bud­geted needs that could de­plete the town’s re­serve funds.

On his Face­book page, he wrote, “Even now the Town con­tin­ues to spend our tax dol­lars at an un­bri­dled pace, to in­clude an­other year us­ing Town sav­ings of $1.7 mil­lion to cover the bills. The sav­ings is quickly dry­ing up and the only way it will be re­placed by the board is through rais­ing taxes.”

Al­though he has re­signed, he does not want his sup­port­ers to feel aban­doned by him. He said he called out the im­pro­pri­eties, the things that would ben­e­fit the town and things that would not ben­e­fit the town for the past two years.

VanRee­nen said his plans mov­ing for­ward in­clude fo­cus­ing on his two ca­reers, which in­clude the man­age­ment at Wil­liams Chevro­let deal­er­ship and run­ning a first-aid sup­ply busi­ness. He said he has no plans to run in the next com­mis­sioner or may­oral elec­tions in two years.

Al­though, VanRee­nen will no longer be with the board, Alt wishes him well.

“I hope all is well for him,” he said Thurs­day.

Alt said he was “shocked” by VanRee­nen’s res­ig­na­tion, and did not know he was plan­ning to do so. He added that he’s never been in­volved in an elec­tion where a sit­ting board mem­ber did not sup­port the in­cum­bents, and that fact would have taken some time to “mend that fence.”

On Thurs­day, Lewis Ge­orge, town ad­min­is­tra­tor, said the mayor and board have not se­lected any­one to fill the va­cant seat.

Alt said “it is def­i­nitely too soon” to think about who would fill VanRee­nen’s seat, but added that it would be a joint de­ci­sion by the board. Ac­cord­ing to the town char­ter, the mayor must rec­om­mend an ap­pointee to fin­ish the re­main­ing two years of VanRee­nen’s term and he or she must be ap­proved by the ma­jor­ity of the board.

Mean­while, a pub­lic hear­ing on Alt’s fis­cal year 2017 bud­get pro­posal was held Wed­nes­day night af­ter VanRee­nen’s res­ig­na­tion.

The $13.4 mil­lion pro­posal is al­most $125,000 more than the cur­rent fis­cal bud­get and re­quires $1.785 mil­lion from the re­serve fund to bal­ance. The mayor’s bud­get in­cluded a 3 per­cent salary in­crease for all non-law en­force­ment of­fi­cers. Mem­bers of the Elkton Fra­ter­nal Or­der of Po­lice Lodge No. 124 are not sched­uled to re­ceive a cost-of-liv­ing ad­just­ment in the fis­cal year 2017 bud­get, but each of­fi­cer will re­ceive a 3 per­cent in­crease on their an­niver­sary date, per the ne­go­ti­ated agree­ment with the town. Their con­tract ex­pires in June 2017.

No one from the pub­lic made any com­ments dur­ing the hear­ing. The bud­get is sched­uled to be con­sid­ered by the board on June 1, the same day that Piner and Givens will be sworn into new four-year terms.

VANREE­NEN

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