PenMar board may be epitome of dysfunction

November 11, 2003|by TIM ROWLAND

Now that the politically correct crowd has sunk "The Reagans" docudrama, CBS needs a new gig.

I suggest "The PenMars."

Yes, things aren't as peaceful at the old Fort Ritchie military base as they used to be, back in the day when the only things that used to explode were cast-iron ordnance. Each time I write about PenMar, I think "this will be the last time because it can't get any worse." And each time it gets much worse.

Silly me. I thought the purpose of the PenMar Development Commission was to create jobs. Instead, the PenMar board has lost more jobs than the Monongahela Valley steel industry.

Let's all sing along now, "One little, two little, three resignations, four little, five little, six resignations ..."

I've seen Little Italy pastry shops with fewer turnovers.

Please, can anyone utter a sentence about the PenMar board of directors without using the word "dysfunctional"?


PenMar was established to bring new jobs to the vacated fort, which it has at the rate of about one job a year. At this pace, by the return of Halley's comet, there ought to be enough full-time employees up there to field their own intramural volleyball team. Now I know why all the board members resigned. It would look bad if the base had more directors than it had created jobs.

The people of Cascade never liked the PenMar board much because it never seemed in tune with the community's needs. So they formed a committee in hopes, among other things, of shaking up the board.

Well, that turned out to be the most unnecessary committee that ever was. Seems the board was quite capable of destroying itself. All the Cascade Committee had to do was step back and watch the board members chase each other's tails around a tree and eventually turn into butter.

Four more members resigned last week, leaving seven openings on the panel. By the time you read this, there may be no members at all. How many are left, about two? And what do they do, sit around in a darkened meeting hall playing checkers with Uncle Joe around the pot-bellied stove? So many board seats are dead, they don't know whether to have a meeting or a sance.

At least calling the roll doesn't take too much of anybody's time.

And who does the PenMar Board blame for all this dysfunctionality?

The PenMar Board, of course.

I don't have the flow chart in front of me to be able to tell you exactly who hates whom, but safe to say it breaks down into more factions than a Mongol family reunion.

Always quick to cut with stiletto-like precision to the heart of the matter, Del. Chris Shank eyed the resignations and said "That tells me there's something wrong up there."

Thanks, Chris.

And flesh-eating viruses are a bad thing.

Shank said all the shenanigans up on the mountain may force the delegation "to increase our level of oversight."

That ought to be a bucket of ice water in the faces of any board members who still may be actual board members. Straighten up or the delegation gets involved. Sends shivers down my spine.

The delegation can fix this? Who do they have in mind as PenMar's next chairman, Alan Greenspan?

But do we even need to fix it? I mean, it's going on seven or eight years without any major new developments up on top of the mountain and Washington County hasn't imploded. Any more than usual, that is.

This county does nothing better than it does nothing - and this may be the time for a call to inaction.

By some strange quirk, about half of the board members who resigned seemed to be the ones who were the main criticizers or criticizees, the grinders of the biggest axes. When the smoke clears and you look at those who remain, you see a pretty stable group of individuals. Perhaps the grasshoppers have swarmed and headed off to Utah, and what's left will begin to grow.

Or it could get much worse still.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. You can call him at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324; fax him at 301-714-0245; or e-mail him at

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