Albemarle Executive Foley Finds Greener Pastures

By. Neil Williamson, President

Thomas FoleyWith rumors flying around Albemarle County (and Social Media) all day, a 4 pm Stafford County announcement made it official; County Executive Tom Foley is leaving Albemarle County to take up the same post in Stafford County.  In the announcement Stafford highlighted Foley’s service and temperament as key qualities they were looking for in their new administrator:

Stafford County proudly announces the appointment of Thomas C. Foley to the position of County Administrator. Thomas Foley comes to Stafford from Albemarle County where he has served as County Executive. He will take over the reins from Interim County Administrator C. Douglas Barnes on February 1, 2017.

“Stafford County is moving in a fantastic direction on so many fronts – strong economic development, more diverse and innovative educational opportunities, enhanced and better-equipped public safety, forward-thinking improvements to our infrastructure, combining school and government functions to be more efficient and fully utilizing the awesome potential of our employees,” said Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Bob Thomas, George Washington District. “We think Tom Foley is the perfect fit for moving forward with the Board’s vision during this very dynamic time in Stafford County. We are confident that his budgeting acumen, his emphasis on developing employees and his ability to implement strategic plans are strengths that will fully optimize Stafford’s full potential.”

According to the Albemarle County Website:

Thomas C. Foley (Tom) received a Business Administration degree from Marshall University in 1985 and his Masters in Public Administration in 1993 from Virginia Commonwealth University. Tom began his local government career with the Virginia Association of Counties and, in May of 1991, he was named Cumberland County’s first Chief Administrative Officer. In 1994, he was appointed the County Administrator of Caroline County. From 1999 through the end of 2010, Tom served as the Assistant County Executive for Albemarle County and, in January 2011, he was appointed County Executive by the Board of Supervisors.

Tom is a graduate of Virginia Tech’s Institute for Economic Development (1993) and the Certified Planning Commissioners’ Program also from Virginia Tech (1992). In addition to membership in ICMA, he is a member of the Virginia Local Government Manager’s Association (VLGMA).

Tom serves on the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority, the Rivanna Solid Waste Authority, the Charlottesville/Albemarle Airport Authority, the Central Virginia Partnership for Economic Development, and the Planning and Coordination Council (in conjunction with Charlottesville and University of Virginia Officials).

Where does Foley’s departure leave Albemarle?

Many of the ongoing projects have been lead by Foley but he has a very competent staff to try and keep this process moving forward.

Unfortunately, the Free Enterprise Forum believes the high level strategic work with the Board of Supervisors will grind slowly to a halt and perhaps most importantly, the loss of the man who said “It’s a new day in Albemarle” related to economic development puts the county’s commitment to economic vitality into question.  In addition, Albemarle’s high number of high level executive departures is a cause for concern.

Further, the search for a new County Executive will demand a great deal of Supervisors time and will likely postpone significant advancement of their strategic goals. To be clear, while we are sorry to see Tom leave our community, we have work with him on a number of projects and found him to be a most agile thinker and strategist.  We wish him the best in his future endeavors.

Respectfully Submitted

Neil Williamson, President

Photo Credit Albemarle County

$2 Million of Hydraulic Planning Funds Accelerated – Now What?

By. Neil Williamson, President

In late September, the Charlottesville Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (CA-MPO) unanimously approved a resolution that read much like a list to the Santa Claus of transportation planning:

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Charlottesville-Albemarle MPO Policy Board recommends to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the Virginia Secretary of Transportation, the City of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the Charlottesville Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization to immediately initiate the process for planning the transportation improvements of the Hydraulic and Route 29 intersection and nearby roadways as identified in the MPO’s Long Range Transportation Plan (2040 LRTP) and to enact and implement the recommendations in coordination with comprehensive land use planning including but not limited to the following:

  1. Continue the facilitated collaborative panel process to determine a potential range of reasonable options for reducing congestion and improving mobility in the general area of the Hydraulic-US 29 intersection, including the option of doing nothing.
  2. Request the CTB to combine Hillsdale South and Hydraulic Intersection planning and preliminary engineering budgets into one consolidated planning and preliminary engineering budget.
  3. Request the CTB to amend the Six Year Improvement Plan (SYIP) to advance funding for small area planning and panel discussions to begin in FY17.
  4. Request the Secretary of Transportation to authorize the MPO to lead and use transportation financial resources to conduct a small area planning process for the Hydraulic Intersection general area of the City and County, such small area planning to include transparent citizen, business and community engagement.
  5. Request the Secretary of Transportation to begin the transportation planning process so that adequate information will be available to apply for Smart Scale funding by September, 2018 should a project or projects move forward from the collaborative planning process.  Emphasis added- NW

Christmas may have come early for the CA-MPO.  On November 3rd, Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne, Charlottesville and Albemarle County have received “accelerated” funds for the Hydraulic Road Area Study. In his letter to CA-MPO Executive Director Chip Boyles, Layne wrote:

We look forward to the continued progress and movement, specifically with the Hydraulic Road Area Study, in order to keep Virginia moving through the Charlottesville Area…By leveraging funds between the two current projects (Hydraulic Road and Hillsdale Drive South), we will be able to commit funding in the amount of $1,000,000 for the study in this current fiscal year (FY 2017) with an additional $1,000,000 available on July 1, 2017.

The Free Enterprise Forum sincerely appreciates the forward thinking of the CA-MPO working backwards from the time of the next round of competitive funding; we also have a great deal of angst about the methodology that might or might not be used in creating this “transparent process”.   We also understand the a total of $10 million dollars for “preliminary engineering” was included as part of the approved Route 29 Solutions package.

Back in May of 2014, we wrote about Playing Dominos with a the series of interchanges resulting in the US 29 Expressway.  We have many of the same concerns we raised in that post:

No one believes that the interchange at Rio is the end, it is like putting in a 4 inch pipe on a 2 inch line, while the water will move freely on the larger connector it really does little good for the overall velocity of the water until you expand the whole line.

It is strategically important to recognize the proposed Shucet Solution is being offered as an all or nothing opportunity with a time deadline.  He (and the McAuliffe Administration) knows that is if  Domino #1 falls and Domino #2 [Hydraulic] starts to tilt – the eventual expressway will be well on its way to completion.

Once these first two dominos fall, we will start to see the calls for access management and more “grade separated intersections”.  The “depressed express lanes” will start at the Wal-Mart at Hilton Heights Road and will logically terminate with a set of flyover exit ramps to 250.

Currently the State has found the proper leverage points to “facilitate” a solution on the Charlottesville area.  The timing, strategy and tactics they have used have been nothing short of amazing.  They held an advisory panel of opinion leaders without a single vote or test for consensus, they truncated the timing of the process to elude the July 1 deadline of HB #2 that requires project prioritization and they are poised to get Charlottesville to give up almost two decades of opposition to the highly disruptive Hydraulic/US29 Interchange. 

Chess Master Bobby Fisher once said, “Tactics flow from a superior position”. Even when it is not in the best interest of the community, one must recognize the excellent gamesmanship exhibited by both Shucet and Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne.

Well played, gentlemen, well played indeed.

We sense gamesmanship is again at work in this acceleration process.  With the new “accelerated” funding will the CA-MPO reach out to other major users of US 29 for the panel discussions?  Considering three corners of the Hydraulic intersection are n the City of Charlottesville and one is in Albemarle County, who will drive the small area planning?  How will the City and County Planning Commissions be engaged?  Or will they?    Considering the careful wording of the CA-MPO resolution is there any community or political support for another grade separated interchange on US 29?

As usual we have more questions than answers.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson


Neil Williamson is president of the Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded non-profit public policy organization focused on local governments in Central Virginia. For more information visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org.

 

Real Estate Assessments (and E-911 Tower) Going Up In Fluvanna

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

As a part of its November 16th meeting the Fluvanna County  Board of Supervisors heard a report that Blue Ridge Mass Appraisal (BRMA) is finishing up a full assessment of the county.  It is expected properties with improvements (houses or buildings) will see an increase of 3 to 4 percent.

BRMA sent out notices to property owners on November 4th and to date has received less than 100 telephone calls. The Board of Equalization was appointed to hear official appeals.

Supervisors also approved change orders to the E-911 project. The most significant one being the least expensive. The supervisors approve the county purchasing a 100 feet by 100 feet square from Central Virginia Electric Cooperative (CVEC). The cost is $10.

CVEC is providing the land only for a public safety communication tower. If the county no longer needs the tower, the land would revert back to CVEC.

Besides how inexpensive the land transaction is, CVEC will also provide electrical service for the tower. Fluvanna can lease up to three additional spots on the planned 300-foot tower. The county will maintain the shelter for equipment but CVEC will provide the access road.

Other change orders were to continue using a company to provide project management, moving the Columbia School tower in a different location on the same property, elimination of requirement of grading that is not needed anymore and installation of fiber cable by Motorola.

In other business, the Supervisors expressed hope that more people will find their way to Pleasant Grove farm and museum.  The supervisors approved a funding request to apply for two directional signs on Route 15 South. The signs would help tourists coming from the Zion Crossroads I-64 exit to Pleasant Grove.

The application to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)  would request the first sign be before the Routes 15 and 250 intersection saying how far and direction to the county owned park. The second sign would instruct drives to turn on to Route 53 in Palmyra.  The application is $100 per sign. There is an annual cost of $450 per sign.

Supervisors will have two public hearings regarding county code amendments at the December 21 meeting. The first is to correct referenced state code in an ordinance regarding solar panels. Don Weaver (Cunningham District) has solar panels on his property and abstained for the vote. Legal counsel said he didn’t need to but he could if he felt necessary.

Supervisors will also have a public hearing regarding the deadline for businesses to file for personal property taxes. Currently the deadline is February 1 but the Commissioner of Revenue can move it to March 15 without issue.

The first phase of the Palmyra Rescue Squad building is nearing completion. The county has increased lighting in bays, installed an HVAC building, improved the living area and improved the exterior.

Currently the squad houses the paid professional crew 24-hours a day. Volunteers also operate out of the building.

Supervisors will next meet on December 7 at 4 p.m.


https://freeenterpriseforum.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/bryan-rothamel.jpg?w=151&h=151The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS®and by the support of readers like you.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

“The Market” Seeks Approval in Ruckersville

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

clip_image006Tiger Fuel owns and operates the gasoline station at the southwest corner of the Route 33 and Route 29 intersection in Ruckersville.  Currently, they lease the food service portion of the building to Burger King. Well, if you want a whopper – you better get it soon.

On Wednesday (November 16thGordon Sutton, Director of Retail Operations for Tiger Fuel came to the Greene County Planning Commission meeting to request a Special Use Permit (SUP) for a car wash at their Ruckersville location.

The rest of the story for the highly visible corner in Ruckersville is that the current building will be demolished and a new structure will be constructed that will offer Tiger Fuel’s specialty sandwich shop The Market.

clip_image004_thumb.jpg

Gordon Sutton

Sutton indicated if he received all the required approvals in a timely fashion, he hoped the project including the car wash will be completed by end of next summer. The car wash is to be manned similar to other Tiger Fuel operations in Albemarle County.

Sutton came to the Planning Commission to request a Special Use Permit (SUP#16-005) for the car wash which is required by code. The balance of the project is permitted by right under the existing B-3 Zoning and, therefore, the SUP is limited to the car wash use.

There were no comments from the public. Several changes to the current layout are proposed.  There will only be one access point off Route 29 instead of the two that currently exist. The placement of the pumps will be rearranged to discourage drivers cut off the corner of Route 33 west and Route 29 south to avoid the stop light. The car wash will be constructed in the open space just west of the current building.

clip_image002While outside the purview of the Planning Commission, Chairman Jay Willer mentioned that Tiger Fuel will need to purchase increased water connection fees (known as Equivalent Dwelling Units or EDU’s).

Commissioner Vic Schaff  asked how much water will be used by the car wash. Planning Director Bart Svoboda said the car wash will recycle water which will minimize the consumption of water from 50-60 gallons per car at a normal car wash down to 22 gallons per car.

With only four commissioners present, the SUP was recommended for approved by a vote of 4-0. The SUP request will now go to the Board of Supervisors for their review and possible action at their December meetings.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Greene Supervisors Agree To Communicate Better

By Brent Wilson, Field Officer

At the November 8th Greene County Board of Supervisors the agenda contained a “General discussion of White Run Reservoir Project”. Normally the supervisors take actions or receive reports – a simple discussion is not the norm but it proved quite effective.

Vice Chair Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) began the discussion stating that information regarding the Reservoir Project reported on social media that is not entirely accurate. The fact that the reservoir project  has been going on for 8 years has made it difficult, especially for new residents of Greene County, to keep up with project in terms of what has happened, why, what needs to happen and at what cost.

clip_image002.jpg

 Michelle Flynn

While true that each meeting is available on line on the county website, Flynn explained that there is no one place to get an overview of the project.

Supervisor Dale Herring (At-Large) agreed that it is hard to understand how the White Run site chosen.  He agreed that there needs to be a summary of the project that highlights each step of the process.

clip_image004Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway) suggested a narrative to summarize the project is needed and volunteered to do the draft of the document since he has been the supervisor who has dealt with the project from the beginning.

The general discussion evolved into how Greene County got to the point of needing a reservoir. According to Frydl, many rural communities haven’t invested in water resource and therefore water rates are artificially low and don’t pay for the operating costs let alone provide funds to expand their system. Even grants that are pursued say that Greene County needs to charge market rates for water.

Frydl continued to explain that the county is required to meet a 50 year supply plan as required by the Army Corps of Engineers. The first site reviewed was that of Carroll Morris’ property on Route 33 but the soil was not good for the dam. This led Greene to pursue the second choice which is the White Water location.

The cost of the project has been a topic of discussion for some time.  The cost is to be passed on via a rate increase for water and an increase in personal property tax that is to be done incrementally over time. Recently, there were reports of a robo-call indicating the Supervisors would vote on a tax increase at the November 8th meeting.  Such a vote was not scheduled and did not occur.

There is still much work on the project to be done – designs are yet to be completed, the dam layout has to be determined, once the specifications are submitted, cost estimates can be developed and the exact funding mechanisms will be determined.

Flynn felt that the uncertainty in the community supports the need for a summary to the public of what has been done and what has to been done. Herring agreed there is a lot of material related to the project over the years that needs to be summarized into a presentation to allow the whole history of the project to be understood.

image_thumb.png

 Bill Martin

Chairman Bill Martin (Stanardsville) stated that the public wants to know how they will be forced to pay for the water supply. Martin felt that the Supervisors need to communicate better and pledged to be transparent in the process. He proposed a town hall meeting to review the history of the project and remind the citizens of Greene of the drought when the county nearly ran out of water.

Frydl indicated that doing a summary of the project would help citizens more easily understand what has happened to date. Martin thought that more needs to be done especially with the starting of live streaming of Supervisor meetings in December.

Martin asked for input from County Administrator John Barkley. He appreciates that the Board seems to be unified in wanting to provide easily understood information on the project. And while all of the information is available over the eight years of Supervisor meeting minutes, it is very time consuming to gather all of the information over the years.

Barkley recommended summarizing the history of the project and carrying forward the actions required to design, build, maintain the water supply. Frydl agreed with Barkley and reconfirmed that the dam is needed since the current water supply cannot handle new large users and thus significantly restricts the economic growth of Greene County.

Martin asked Barkley to look at a town hall meeting with the consultants once we are comfortable with the time line on the remaining tasks. Frydl offered to do an outline and to work with Barkley to develop a presentation for the public.

It is hoped that the summary would cover all the decision points over the project to date and link back to each meeting where the issue was discussed so that citizens could easily get the details of any particular issue. In addition, the tasks yet to be done with approximate times and cost should be estimated and updated as the project moves forward.

Live streaming of the Supervisor meetings start in December as a new way to get information out to the public.

In the end, the Board of Supervisors heard the concerns from the citizens of Greene County and the board is going to communicate better.

It sounds like how the system should work.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Ballot Box Capital Spending Exceeds $1.3 Billion

By. Neil Williamson, President

In case you did not notice, earlier this week there was an election.

In addition to the Presidential race, several localities had so called “Bond Issues” on their ballots.  Albemarle County was one of 17 bond issues presented by 6 localities this year – This represents over $1.3 Billion in capital spending – not surprisingly all passed by fairly significant margins.    bond-chart-2016

The Free Enterprise Forum does not question the need for any of these projects but we do wonder if the ballot box is the proper place for determining their priority in the community.

Voters are provided a binary choice of support or not support a distinct number of capital projects in a particular government function but they are not told (on the ballot) the impact on their local budget or the other capital improvement items that might have to be postponed in order to pay for the proposed bond referendum.

Interestingly, this year when voters in four localities were provided the option to institute a meal tax – it failed in three of the four localities (Passed Matthews County 54%).  The lesson, regardless of the actual impact, if you do not call something a tax the citizens will be likely endorse it.

The Free Enterprise Forum is very concerned that referendums [and fees (i.e. storm water)] are providing local government a new way to generate revenue and duck responsibility for making the hard choices that result in tax increases.

In addition, it seems that the manner the ballot question is phrased also has an impact on the success of the effort.

Tuesday, Augusta County residents were asked not about a bond issue but a straight spending question.

Shall the Courthouse of Augusta County be removed to the Augusta County Government Center Complex in Verona, Virginia, and shall the Board of Supervisors be permitted to spend $45,000,000.00 therefore?

Voters (66%) said no.

But Henrico Schools Bond referendum asked a 6 times larger spending question in a completely different way:

Shall Henrico County, Virginia, be authorized to contract a debt and issue its general obligation bonds in the maximum aggregate principal amount of $272,600,000 pursuant to the Public Finance Act of 1991 to finance school projects and the Henrico County School Board’s Capital Improvement Program, including capital improvements to schools, furnishing and equipping of schools, acquisition of future school sites, and such other school construction, renovations, and improvements as may be required by the actual education needs in Henrico County?

It seems to this observer that voters strongly favor financing options for municipal spending even absent tax ramification information but push back on the concept of making specific spending decisions.  The language of the ballot question matters.

More importantly perhaps is not how voters are asked but should they be?

The self governance part of our philosophy appreciates the apparent citizen involvement in the process but the cynical portion questions if by limiting the choice to a binary yes/no decision they are truly engaged.

Shouldn’t those we elect make the tough choices between adding classroom space or adding a firehouse?  Aren’t they in the best position to evaluate competing priorities?

The reality is each and every one of the bond referendums that passed will be repaid using local tax revenue but not one of them said in the ballot question how the amount borrowed equates to the property tax rate increases during the term of the bond.  .

Considering the significant disclosures required when we as private citizens take on debt (car, auto, etc.) is it too much to ask for a truth in lending statement for over $1.3 BILLION in capital spending?

The Free Enterprise Forum believes such fiscal clarity should be an integral part of such ballot questions.  Unfortunately, we doubt such change will be made any time soon as that might negatively impact the passage rate and require elected officials to make the tough capital budget decisions.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President


Neil Williamson is president of the Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded non-profit public policy organization focused on local governments in Central Virginia. For more information visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org.

 

There You Grow Again–Albemarle’s Latest Government Expansion

By. Neil Williamson, President

“They think that the cure to big government is to have bigger government… the only effective cure is to reduce the scope of government – get government out of the business.” – Economist Milton Freidman

Freidman’s prescription for big government came to mind as Albemarle County is now hearing from their various departments regarding their increased staffing needs in a series of reports and presentations in preparation for the FY18 Budget cycle.

Tonight (11/2) Community Development is charged with supporting their request for two additional planners and a new administrative position.  It is unfortunate that this departmental analysis does not calculate the unprecedented increased demands of Planning Commissioners and Supervisors that are far beyond the mandated legislative review.  We will say it again the best economic development strategy is to make it easier to develop in the development areas.

Clearly some of the perceived need for additional Community Development staffing is driven by the increased demand for staff at project community meetings, and citizen advisory councils.  Rarely, if ever, are such increased staff costs calculated as a new “engagement initiative” is developed.  The Free Enterprise Forum has long complained about the increased complexity and cost of such regulatory hurdles on private developers, this report exposes the increased cost of regulation on taxpayers in the form of expanded government staffing.

Albemarle’s Community Development FY16 staffing is 66.5 Full Time Employees (FTEs) and a payroll of around $3.75 Million dollars (an average salary+benefit cost of ~$56,000)

CDD funded positionsBut the question before the Supervisors should not be just how many planners, inspectors and managers they have in the department but how efficient and effective are those employees.

 

The report highlights the variable nature of the development review process:

CDD workload is largely a function of the number of applications submitted. Most applications (e.g. site plans, subdivisions, rezonings) have State defined timeframes for acting on the application and some applications (e.g. VSMP) are automatically approved if CDD does not meet that timeframe. Recognizing the County doesn’t control the number of applications and has legal timeframes for acting, the remaining strategies for managing workload are to 1) adjust the staff resources to match the workload and 2) adjust the expectations to match the workload.

While the report is accurate regarding state mandated timelines for review, Albemarle also has a significant pre-application process and does not start the state clock running until they accept the application as complete.  This increases the timeframe, and cost, for a project to gain approval.

In addition, not all development reviews are created equal the site plan for the bank on the corner should be significantly easier to manage than the Stonefield development.  The charts provided regarding rezonings and site plans fail to capture the differentiation between complexity of reviews.

The staff report also contradicts itself regarding the philosophical underpinnings of the department.  In an early section of the report, staff suggests reviewers are in a high pressure position:

Additionally, given the adversarial nature of development review, that additional 10 hours/week adds considerable stress to those workers and decreases the discretionary time to “decompress”. This can accelerate burnout and increase turnover.

Later in the document, staff suggests the exact opposite for some applications:

Finally, these applications are much harder to track in terms of review efforts, as they often call for a collaborative approach, rather than formal submissions, to address comments raised by staff, the public, Planning Commission or Board. While this informality in process improves the overall review quality and provides for better customer service, it makes it makes formally defining a “review” difficult.

So which is it, adversarial or collaborative approach results in a more time consuming review?

Then there is an issue of turnover in the department.  Ignoring significant retirements, over 18% of Community Development’s workforce left the employ of Albemarle County in FY16.

CDD TurnoverThis “brain drain” is distressing and expensive as it is anticipated that it takes a minimum of 6 months to bring a new employee to the level where they may work independently.  This Albemarle exodus might present the best argument for increasing the staffing levels or it might be a canary in the coal mine suggesting the policies and procedures are not supportive of good, efficient planning practices.

As we watch the Albemarle Planning Commission meet on a quarterly basis to discuss “big topics” where they have little to no jurisdiction, the Free Enterprise Forum has to ask “Who is calculating the cost of such a meeting to the taxpayer?

As applicants are routinely requested to defer their state mandated right for a “speedy” hearing to provide the commission or board their requested more detailed information in an additional meeting, it is important to recognize it is not just the applicant that is incurring cost – it is the taxpayer.

While we appreciate the limited metrics provided by Community Development staff, we believe better metrics could be developed for this important review.  In addition, we would welcome a review of the Development Review Task Force recommendations that were finalized and presented to the Supervisors almost a decade ago (2007) but never fully enacted.

Despite our misgivings, we predict Community Development will get the two new planners and one more administrative person to bring their headcount to nearly 70 employees.

Increasing employees, increasing payrolls and ever increasing complexity of regulatory regimens – this, unlike Freidman’s prescription, – will continue to grow government, increase cost and reduce our regions economic development opportunities.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President


Neil Williamson is president of the Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded non-profit public policy organization focused on local governments in Central Virginia. For more information visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org.

Photo Credits: Albemarle County

Greene Discusses Schools Expansion

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Growing at over 7% a year, Greene County’s is in the top 10 Virginia localities for population growth.  More people translate into more children going to school.  Superintendent Andrea Whitmarsh and the School Board have been working with the Charlottesville architectural firm of VMDO   to develop a prioritized plan to expand the Greene County schools to meet the demand – including a new elementary school.  Prior to the Supervisors meeting of Tuesday, October 25th the supervisors held a joint work session with the School Board.

VMDO’s Robert Moje and Bruce Powell have helped the school system refine the facilities study  and have prioritized the projects into Short Term, Mid Term and Long Term groups with the Short term/High Priority projects ranging from $16.7-$19.0 million comprised of…

H1A      High School Dining / Kitchen / Media Center

gcps-expansion

S1          Monroe Drive Reconfiguration

S2          William Monroe High School and Nathanial Greene Elem. Parking

S4          Ruckersville Elem. Parking / Circular

M1A     Middle School Dining / Kitchen / Media Center

In addition, Whitmarsh pointed out that there would also be some additional staffing required.

Supervisor Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) asked VMDO if there were cost efficiencies to do the high school and middle school projects at the same time since they both need some of the same projects.  Moje said that yes there are potential savings but the amount of funds available will decide if similar projects can be combined and the savings realized.

Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway) brought up the issue of the reduction of debt payments that grow each year as a source of funding for some of the projects.  In FY 2017 there is a reduction of $230M, in FY 2018 the reduction increases to $333M, FY 2019 = $515M and by FY 2020 = $827M which is a cumulative total of $1,905M in four years.  After 10 years the cumulative reduction in debt service is $7,273M and it grows to over $18 million by the FY 2033.

$(000)  
Fiscal Year 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024
Per Year $230 $333 $515 $827 $843 $855 $867 $880
Cumulative $230 $563 $1,078 $1,905 $2,748 $3,603 $4,470 $5,350

 

$(000)
Fiscal Year 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030 2031 2032
Per Year $933 $990 $1,002 $1,301 $1,764 $1,764 $1,765 $1,766
Cumulative $6,283 $7,273 $8,275 $9,576 $11,340 $13,104 $14,868 $16,634

 

$(000)
Fiscal Year 2033 2034 2035 2036 2037
Per Year $1,768 $1,766 $1,764 $1,764 $1,764
Cumulative $18,402 $20,167 $21,932 $23,696 $25,460

 

The discussion shifted to the timing of when the Short Term projects could be completed which Moje indicated it would take 9 months to design and approve and about 18 months to build which would be by September, 2019.

The question of timing relative to the next budget cycle was brought up by Whitmarsh and she explained that it is critical that the Short Term projects be included in the next budget cycle in order to keep the project moving forward.  Board of Supervisors Chair, Bill Martin, had concern about needing to know how much additional cost the project would add to the taxpayers of Greene County.  Moje suggested that Short Term projects design phase be started and the actual construction could be decided in early 2018.

Supervisor David Cox (Monroe) requested a complete detail of all of the debt service by year by project which was agreed to be provided to him this week.  Frydl clarified that the School Board doesn’t need the approval of the Supervisors to spend up to their approved budget.  Cox complimented the School Board in presenting the project to the Supervisors which is a change on how these types of projects have gone forward in the past.  Martin reconfirmed that he needs to be able to understand the impact of taxpayers to their tax rate in combination with the cost of other projects, primarily the water impoundment.  Frydl suggested that the School Board go forward with the project similar to the manner the Board of Supervisors is progressing with the water and sewer project.

The Free Enterprise Forum applauds the School Board and Whitmarsh for being being proactive with the Board of Supervisors regarding their projected capital needs.  We also recognize the Board of Supervisors must balance the capital needs of the entire county.  While schools are the largest portion of any localities operating budget, the Board of Supervisors must accumulate all reductions in Debt Service as a source of funding of all projects needed in the county.  This public list of “needs” is accumulated in the Capital Improvement Plan  which is a county wide list and prioritization of capital projects year by year so that the Board of Supervisors can prioritize all of the needs of the county vs. debt service reductions vs. tax increases.

In addition, the Free Enterprise Forum believes it is important that all calculations include the annual contribution of unspent operating expense being rolled into the capital projects fund (projected to be $1.3 million for the schools by the end of this school year).

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Albemarle is Losing Faith

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

leavingyourjobAs anticipated as the sun rising in the east, it is with absolutely no surprise that Albemarle County’s first Economic Development Director, Faith McClintic, will be leaving her position later this year.  In her short  18 month tenure, McClintic often found herself at odds with Planning Commissioners, some members of the public, this writer, and some elected officials.  In addition, she found herself without product as she said in August of this year:

“If a manufacturer calls interested in locating near a highway, we tell them, ‘We have nothing for you,’. Prospect businesses are looking to move within three to six months if they are not looking to build. We tell them, ‘We have no product ready to go today.’” – Faith McClintic, Albemarle County’s economic development director

In her first days she was greeted with the ill-fated Deschutes Brewery proposal, which started prior to her arrival.  The public debate was rancorous and at times mean spirited.  Despite the outcome, McClintic was respected for her professionalism in the line of fire.  One of Da Lessons from Deschutes foreshadowed her departure:

Albemarle Economic Development Director Faith McClintic is a sharp, smart, economic development professional with a daunting task ahead of her.  There has been relatively uniform approval of the job McClintic has done thus far (even from those opposing the CPA).  It will be interesting to see if McClintic is able to maintain her high level of performance in the face of Albemarle’s competitive disadvantages  or is recruited away to a more “business welcoming” locality. [emphasis added-NW]

One year ago (10/22/15) when we wrote of our concerns about the Planning Commission attempting to improperly influence staff, we thought the writing was on the wall for McClintic.

The Planning Commission does not want the unvarnished truth for it will call into question much of the planning assumptions they have been using to design their designated growth areas. They fail to see how their planning paradigm has pushed quality businesses (read JOBS) from Albemarle County.  No, they want to influence and shade, if not change, the professional reporting from Albemarle Economic Development staff.

One sure way to run off a professional is to treat them in an unprofessional manner. [emphasis added-NW]

Perhaps, that is the underlying goal.

Well after 18 months, a shorter duration than many Albemarle rezoning applications, Albemarle has now lost Faith

We wish her well as she moves forward with her career at the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) in Richmond.

At this point we have to ask, — Now that we have lost Faith, where do we grow from here?

How does a community that seems to be philosophically schizophrenic about the definition (and need) for economic development compete for new and expanding business?

Even as Albemarle is considering innovative economic development investments, will the Economic Development director position survive?

If it does, how do you believe other economic development professionals will view this job posting?

As usual, we have more questions than answers.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

Neil Williamson is president of the Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded non-profit public policy organization focused on local governments in Central Virginia. For more information visit freeenterpriseforum.org.

Photo Credits: Quotesgram.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is The Jury Still Out on Albemarle Courts Relocation?

By. Neil Williamson, President

Tonight (10/24) the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will take “public input” regarding the albemarle-courthousepossible relocation of their courts system.  Of the five options on the table, all but one keeps the courts in the City of Charlottesville. While the Free Enterprise Forum would like to have a favored option, we do not believe the case has been made for any option — considering how far along the process is, we are astonished at the basic questions that remain unanswered.

To review here are the five options:

OPTION 1: DOWNTOWN/LEVY EXPANSION
OPTION 2: RELOCATE COUNTY & CITY GENERAL DISTRICT COURTS TO COUNTY OFFICE BUILDING MCINTIRE

OPTION 3: RELOCATE COUNTY GENERAL DISTRICT COURTS TO COUNTY OFFICE BUILDING MCINTIRE

OPTION 4: RELOCATE COUNTY GENERAL DISTRICT COURTS & CIRCUIT COURTS TO COUNTY OFFICE BUILDING MCINTIRE

OPTION 5: RELOCATE COUNTY GENERAL DISTRICT & CIRCUIT COURTS TO COUNTY SITE

As we examine the decision matrix provided by the county, we have many more questions than answers.

Here are our top ten inquiries:

  1. Has the city offered any economic incentives to support any of the City based options? (see last week’s blog post)
  2. Why does option 1 (stay downtown) cost $12,500,000 more than building in option 5?
  3. Why does it cost $18,000,000 to put the General District Court at the County office building when it appears that most of the infrastructure is already there?
  4. If you build a new county admin facility, where will it be located and, how much does it cost?  Where is that cost shown?
  5. Do options 2-5 factor in the lost property tax revenue for whatever parcel is acquired?
  6. The matrix seems to indicate that options 2-5 strongly support the County’s strategic redevelopment/urban place making priorities.   Doesn’t that really depend on where the County offices are built and how?  It could eat up a bunch of property in the urban area and create little long term value.
  7. Will option 5 allow a mix of uses on their site?  What of creating affordable housing over top of the new county offices?
  8. It seems that you are assuming any new construction by the County in the County has high economic development value.  Why?  What assumptions have been made to draw that conclusion?
  9. Is taking urban county property off the tax rolls good for economic development? Will the development area be expanded to replace this lost land?
  10. Why is the construction risk higher for option 1 than any of the other options?

The public input offered can only be as good as the information provided to them to base that input.  We forwarded these questions to Albemarle County early last week and they indicated they hoped to have answers in their presentation tonight. If that is the case, the public will have limited time to process the information before the public input session closes.

Regardless, these questions need answers before anyone should make a decision on the future location of the court.

The jury is not “still out” — the full argument has yet to be presented.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa  and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website http://www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: Albemarle County