BERRYVILLE — The Town Council on Tuesday adopted a policy for responding to complaints and requests for assistance from the public.
Councilwoman Diane Harrison, who suggested the policy, cited two reasons why she believes it’s needed.
One is that “we want to be sure we provide the best service we can to citizens,” Harrison said.
However, no one person can know everything about everything. A particular council member may not have as much knowledge of a particular issue or situation pertaining to a resident’s inquiry as another member, she reasoned.
“We’ve got to be careful about what we tell people,” said Councilwoman Donna Marie McDonald. For instance, if a council member gives a resident spontaneous advice about how to handle a matter, and then the member or resident finds out that the advice goes against town regulations, the resident likely will be unhappy, she said.
Under the policy, when a council member receives a complaint or request, he or she will notify the town manager — or his designee, if he is unavailable — and the town clerk. The manager will acknowledge receiving it, investigate it and take any action deemed appropriate. The resident who made complaint or request, as well as the council, will be informed about the action taken.
“While it is expected that the town manager may consult with individual town council members while reviewing a matter and working toward resolution, town council members should permit the manager to perform his/her duties without interference,” the policy states.
Basically, any council member dissatisfied with the manager’s actions must forward his or her concerns to the manager, who will give a response. If the council member remains dissatisfied after receiving the response, he or she must forward the concern to the appropriate council committee chairperson, who will bring it up for discussion during the next regular full council meeting. The council then will determine whether to tell the manager to take additional or different measures to resolve the situation, according to the policy.
If the complaint or request is deemed an emergency, the council member who receives it must advise the person to call:
• 911 if a firefighting or emergency medical services crew is needed, electrical lines are down or there are other eminent risks to lives,
• 955-1234 for problems such as water line breaks, sewer blockages and street maintenance needs, or for other matters,
• The town manager directly.
The policy was approved following a motion by Harrison that was seconded by Councilwoman Kara Rodriguez. McDonald abstained from the vote but didn’t say why.
Councilwoman Erecka Gibson mentioned that when residents approach council members, sometimes they don’t have requests or complaints; they just want their opinions about issues to be heard.
The policy will come into play, Gibson said, when council members are “trying to fix something.”