By ZOË WATKINS
Having been established since 1852, Wartrace has seen its fair share of ups and downs.
Recently, the town has seen confrontations between its mayor and aldermen in addition to continuing challenges in its water system and downtown developments.
But those in its elected office as well as town employees and residents say they still feel dedicated to making the town better and better each year, despite the tensions.
“It seems like we’re in a rebuilding mode,” said Alderman Joe McCurry, referring to some of the town’s challenges — chiefly, the chastisement of Mayor Brian Ross at the October BOMA meetings.
“We’ve got in a heck of a mess, but what we’re getting out of it,” said McCurry.
Critiques of Mayor Ross that were brought up during the October meeting claimed he “micromanaged” employees and approved of transactions (such as selling town property and giving a town-owned utility trailer) without the Board of Alderman’s approval, according to McCurry.
“He gave a utility trailer away. The governmental tag was still attached to the trailer,” he said. “You don’t do that. You surplus it, then you sell it.
“We’ve had streetlights removed without asking us. Could be a safety issue,” McCurry added.
He said these are just a few examples of issues that have been going on since Ross took office in January.
“I know a little bit about politics,” said McCurry, who is entering his third year as an alderman. “You have to slow-walk things. You have to ask permission. There are budget constraints. There are budget allocations. There are line items that you have to follow because at the end of the year, we’re accountable to that.
“Brian, number one, is a good man, and I like the young man,” said McCurry. “The Aldermen control the functions of the town. The department heads — which would be the town recorder or water manager — control the employees. We had trouble with micromanaging. We lost two very good water managers.”
Some, on the other hand, feel Wartrace needs to do more.
One former Wartrace town employee — who wished to remain anonymous — reached out to the Bedford County Post through email, stating, “I am a former employee of the Town of Wartrace and would like to let you know that 4 employees have quit since the new Mayor took office. His continued full time appearance, lack of knowledge of his role as Mayor and thinking he can spend any amount of money is why this town is in the shape it’s in, along with the Boards lack of courage to do something about it.”
Alderman Ben Cataldo made the original to ask Ross to step down during the October study session.
McCurry said that the town attorney had met with Ross three times, according to McCurry, in addition to executive session, private meetings, and phone calls with aldermen.
“We can’t fire him; he’s an elected official,” said McCurry. “We didn’t know what else to do.
“I care about Wartrace. I’ve lived in Wartrace for almost 40 years. I love the town. I want us to prosper,” he said. “We are now, as the collective group of aldermen, catching flak from previous administration, things and stuff that has gone on — and I’m not throwing stones — that were trying to get taken care of.”
On the positives, McCurry cited they have a new water manger; that they are putting in new pump and meter stations and that their water loss levels have gone down. He also said people are continuing to invest in Downtown Wartrace and that the old Walking Horse Hotel will soon see developments.
“It doesn’t appear to be, but internally, we are growing and prospering,” said McCurry.
When asked, Ross told the Post he plans to remain in office and has laid out a “game plan” with the aldermen. Wartrace’s next study session will be Nov. 16 at 5:30 p.m. at the Town Hall.