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City manager’s office remodeling irks council

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City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney

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BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Rocky Mount City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney is remodeling her office suite without the knowledge of City Council.

The situation mirrors circumstances six years ago in Savannah, Ga., where Small-Toney was forced to resign.

City staff claim the work is due to mold, but the contractor doing the job said that simply isn't true.

The Telegram talked to three City Council members, who said they were unaware of and dismayed to learn about the remodeling.

Quotes for the job ranged from $127,464 to $158,530 with the work going to DJ Rose & Sons at a cost of $89,600 only after the manager decided not to remodel the fifth-floor hallway at a cost of $41,500, according to a purchase order obtained by the Telegram via a public records request.

In addition to the cost of renovating her office and replacing the carpet, Small-Toney also spent an undisclosed amount on a new desk and other miscellaneous furniture for her office. The furniture in the office was new, purchased not long ago by retiring City Manager Charles Penny.

The remodeling is necessary due to mold, said Tameka Kenan-Norman, the city's chief communications officer.

"The improvements being done to this area are the result of mold in the ceiling tiles, leakage from the roof, wallpaper coming down and other issues that arise in any facility," Keenan-Norman said.

When asked, Keenan-Norman didn't provide documentation as to mold being found, and mold remediation isn't listed in the scope of work.

Contractor Dillon Rose Sr. said the work didn't involve mold. His company was hired to remodel the space and while working they found a small patch of mildew in the ceiling, cut it out and replaced the material.

"Mold and mildew aren't the same thing," Rose said. "We found the mildew after we started."

Keenan-Norman also said the work is being done in a phased approach and should be completed in two years.

When Small-Toney similarly renovated her office in Savannah, she spread the cost over a two-year period so the price didn't arise to the level required to be reported to the council, according to newspaper reports.

Small-Toney drew the ire of the Savannah City Council by allocating $40,000 for office renovations. The council wasn't aware of the work already in progress until an article about it was published in the local newspaper.

Rocky Mount has holds on positions — including recently in the crucial permitting department — as was the case in six years ago Savannah.

Savannah Alderwoman Mary Ellen Sprague, an accountant, questioned Small-Toney's decision to remodel while Savannah had recently laid off workers and forced the retirement of other employees.

“I think people would rather have their jobs and not be fearful of losing their jobs rather than have new office furniture,” Sprague said during a 2011 meeting set to discuss the situation.

The remodeling In Rocky Mount isn't earmarked in the city's budget and it isn't immediately clear how the work was funded.

The Savannah City Council questioned how the remodeling there had been financed.

“I’d like to see how it came about and see if there are any other accounts out there," Alderman Tony Thomas said. "I’m not going to knock the city manager for an account we need for a purpose, but if there are other slush funds out there, we need to know about it.”

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