Monthly Archives: July, 2013

Greene Schools Return $350k to County – Good News or Bad News?

By Brent Wilson, Field Officer

At the July 23rd meeting of the Greene County Board of Supervisors, Andrea Whitmarsh, Superintendent of Schools gave them some great news – the schools have underspent their FY13 budget by approximately $350,000. This is subject to receiving final invoices and having the financials audited.

Greene County Schools Superintendent Andrea Whitmarsh

Greene County Schools Superintendent Andrea Whitmarsh

Whitmarsh went on to explain how the underspending was accomplished. Stimulus funds were consumed, medical funding was tapped out, a favorable variance of $130k of utility cost was realized, the state costs being pushed to Greene County came out at $438k instead of the $5-600k estimated cost due to lower than expected growth (1% vs. 3%) and finally other projects were delayed.

After the meeting Superintendent Whitmarsh provided more detail on how the savings were realized and at what risk. Maintenance projects have continued to be delayed. These include significant concrete repair and parking lot paving of $30k to hundreds of thousands; windows for the Tech Center, roof repairs/replacements (just last week Nathaniel Greene Elementary had buckets on the floor catching rain leaking from the roof), building controls replacements at Ruckersville Elementary for a total of $138K; and a cooling tower at William Monroe Middle School  (this school was without AC for a month this summer – it was repaired to buy time but needs to be replaced) at a cost of $80k to $100k

In addition to the maintenance deferrals listed above, many instructional projects were pushed back.

– Substitute teacher costs cut by having other teachers give up their planning time/staff members use their day to cover $46k

– Delay of new computers (using PC’s 5-10 years) $30K

– Classroom funds for books and materials $20k

– Funds for field trips and instructional supplies $17k

– Tech Center tools, paint sprayer, mannequins, cookware $12k

– Delay of furniture (tables, white boards, custodial) $10k

– Training/prof. development on new state standards $10k

– Delay of classroom books $ 5k

– Extended learning program cuts $ 5k

To summarize, Whitmarsh and the staff of the school system enacted a hold back of 20% of non-personnel and transportation costs until late in the school year. However, the 20% was not spent along with other sources of funds and less costs being passed on from the state to Greene County.

Whitmarsh stated that these drastic measures were taken to ensure that the Greene County Schools did not have to come with hat in hand during the school year begging for additional funding like many local school districts had to do. “We only purchased what we absolutely cannot do without”, said Whitmarsh.

The school system gets an A+ for managing their budget effectively and returning $350k back to the taxpayers of Greene County. Chairman Jim Frydl stated that the school system takes a lot of heat to cut costs and he thanked Superintendent Whitmarsh and her staff for their effort in returning $350k to the general fund of the county.

But, what is the “cost” to the school system and Greene County for the reduced spending? After the meeting Superintendent Whitmarsh stated that 10% of the staff has been lost, many to other school districts this summer due to offers of better salary and benefits, especially to higher paying districts such as Albemarle County. Teachers, who have 5 or 6 years of experience, have left the county and will have to be replaced perhaps by new teachers without experience.

The delay of the maintenance items runs the risk of a higher cost when each item is fixed. The roof at Nathaniel Greene Elementary that wasn’t maintained during the school year is now leaking and will be required to be fixed – at a higher cost than it could have been maintained.

The cost for Greene County, as a whole, is that the reputation as a well managed county is losing some of its luster. Greene County has prided itself on managing its funds well and having a Reserve Fund to help go forward with projects at a time when other counties in the area are struggling.

While the short term result is an accountant’s dream – underspending a budget by $350k; the long term cost to the county may be hard to repair and, if not fully understood, will easily be expected to unrealistically be repeated if not properly analyzed.

As a retired accountant with an MBA and 30+ years of business experience making short term decisions without the foresight of the long term cost is penny wise. Each issue needs to be analyzed and the payback calculated to see what the most economical solution is – it may not be the least expensive in the current year.

Perhaps a truly zero based budget  identifying all issues and prioritizing them would be the painful way to get everything on the table for the School Board, Board of Supervisors and the public to see.

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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.

Photo Credit: NBC29

Albemarle Comp Plan Far From ‘Pitch Perfect’

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson

On Tuesday July 23rd, Albemarle County’s Planning Commission will take final public comment on the Comprehensive Plan.  After working with the document for over two years, I believe the PC [and staff]would like to vote it ahead regardless of its true readiness for the stage.

The 2012 movie ‘Pitch Perfect’ follows an all-girl college a cappella group,pitch perfect The Barden Bellas, as they compete against another a cappella group from their college to win Nationals.  Along the way the “Bellas” must re-imagine their identity and find their voice by working to harmonize their very different extreme personalities and talents.

The latest rendition of Albemarle County’s Comprehensive plan fails to find this multi faceted harmony and instead sounds more like  an ill prepared middle school choir with several different talented voices but no harmony.

Remembering that this process was a part of the one million dollar planning grant the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) was awarded, one might have thought the document would be better coordinated.

Not singing from the same music 

For well over four years, the Planning Commission has effectively refused to consider most changes proposed  to the development area boundaries that were created in 1979.

Many thought that the state came in and took a significant portion of Albemarle’s planned development area with the ‘Biscuit Run’ state park acquisition was reason enough to reconsider the lines drawn during the Carter Administration.

Since about 2009, the Planning Commission promised applicants that they would consider their concepts “comprehensively” as a part of the Comp Plan process. When the time finally came to discuss potential expansion, the Commission did not weigh the merits of the potential expansion, they did (on a split vote) decide not to consider ANY potential expansion of the Development Area.

Regardless of their eventual decision to changing their tune regarding listening to the proposals was bad policy. 

Lack of balance

While we significantly appreciate the mere existence of an economic development chapter in the Comprehensive Plan, it seems almost apologetic for taking up space in the development area for jobs.

The very thin (smallest chapter in the plan) economic development chapter has one specific environmental stewardship plank:

Strategy 1c: Encourage all businesses to adopt environmentally sustainable business practices.
Natural resource protection and conservation, including improving water quality, preserving water quantity, and reducing air pollution are established Albemarle County priorities. Encouraging sustainable business practices helps to further these priorities. The County is a sponsor of the Better Business Challenge, a friendly competition among local businesses to integrate sustainable initiatives into day-to-day business. The challenge centers on sustainability goals in the areas of Energy, Transportation, Water, Waste, Purchasing, and Leadership.

If this is appropriate why not have a portion of the Natural Resource Chapter focused on the County’s goals for Economic Development? 

If the County can team up with Better World Betty, shouldn’t equal import be placed on Better Business Betty?

The Natural Resources chapter reads like a environmental evangelism text to the extent of explaining the details and detriment of habitat fragmentation. The level of detail in the Natural Resources text is mind numbing.  While much of this seems like good information, the Free Enterprise Forum questions the need for such text in the Comprehensive Plan:

The next step in planning for biodiversity protection is a landscape-level analysis that incorporates data on the County’s landforms and on the location and quality of habitats, including fragmentation and connectivity, as well as their current level of biodiversity. Aquatic biodiversity should also be addressed through a sub-watershed analysis. The landscape approach focuses on a wide scale (square miles rather than square feet) and on the management of major land features (e.g., forest blocks, watersheds, urbanized areas) to conserve biodiversity.

The squeakiest wheels get solos

In considering this document, the Planning Commission again and again has asked “What does the Neighbnimby1_thumb.jpgorhood Advisory Council think of this?”.  While the advice of the advisory council is important, it is also important to recognize that those who serve as members of the council are “representative”.

Too often the advice of such council is to change nothing.   This Citizens Against Virtually Everything (CAVE) mentality permeates many of the advisory councils and is not representative of the citizenry at large.   Elected to lead, one hopes the Board of Supervisors would put the advisory council opinions to the side and consider the good of the entire county.

Just as ‘Pitch Perfect’ isn’t over after [spoiler alert] the girls finish third in regional competition, the Planning Commission’s July vote isn’t the beginning of the end, it is merely the end of the beginning;  The yet to be scheduled big finale will be with the Board of Supervisors sometime late in 2014 or early 2015.

Beca_3If, however, the Board of Supervisors fails to fix both the lack of harmony and the intellectual inconsistencies, this document may end up like pre-Beca Bellas – All dressed up with nothing meaningful to say.   And that would be — as they say in the movie – “Aca-Tragic”.

Respectfully Submitted,

 

Neil Williamson, President

clip_image0024_thumb.pngNeil Williamson is the President of the Free Enterprise Forum, a local government public policy organization located in Charlottesville.  www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits : Universal Pictures

More Lights at the Greene County Youth Center?

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

The Greene County Youth Center, Inc. (GCYC) presented the Greene County Planning Commission an amendment to a 1987 Special Use Permit (SUP#87-373) to allow for additional lighting on all 10+ acres that they own on July 17th. What is odd is that when staff researched the 1987 SUP it was found that it only applied to about 1/3 of the property.

Bart Svoboda, Zoning Administrator/Planning Director, explained the unusual situation to the Planning Commission. The 10+ acres lies south of the Ruckersville Volunteer Fire Department on Sassafras Lane . Only the small field at the back of the property was included in the 1987 SUP while the big field at the entrance is non-conforming. The site is built out for fields and the addition of more lights will allow play to continue to until 10 pm. This is especially critical in spring and fall when there is less daylight in the evening. The PC could recommend shields on the lighting to direct light only to where needed. The Comprehensive Plan supports this request with a 30 foot buffer to the surrounding residential areas . Lighting would not be permitted from 10 pm to 7 am. The SUP supports only athletic activities .

The applicant, Tom Eddins, President of the GCYC, provided the PC some backround. The GCYC was founded in 1961 providing baseball and softball for the youth of Greene County. Other than Cove Creek , the facility in southern Albemarle County that Best Selling Author John Grisham opened, the GCYC facility is the only privately owned facility in Virginia per Mr. Eddins. GCYC has 28 teams and 325 players ranging from age 4 to 16 years of age. The lights are needed to allow GCYC to provide a better product to the youth of the county.

The PC then had comments from several residents of adjoining property to the GCYC. Linca Lucy has lived at the back side of the GCYC for 23 years and is the closet private property to it on Sassafras Lane. She brought up issues of safety (youth leaving the ballfields and entering the trees that are private property), noise from cheering and the loudspeakers, litter, etc. John Lucy questioned why additional lighting is needed and asked why the 30 foot buffer zone was not being adhered to. He also expressed concern that children dart into the lane and he is fearful of an accident. He questioned why a fence could not be put up by the GCYC. Mr. Lucy also questioned if the loudspeakers exceeded the 60 decibel level allowed by code . His final suggestion was if the lights are approved then he would request that barriers like ones used on Route 66 to block noise be installed. One last speaker echoed the concerns of the other speakers.

The public hearing was then closed and Chairman Anthony Herring asked Bart Svoboda to clarify the uses to be allowed by the SUP. He said that the SUP would limit used to athletic activities such as baseball, softball, soccer, etc.

Commissioner Morris asked what time games would stop in order to turn off the lights in order to get people out of the park before the lights turn off at 10 pm. Mr. Svoboda indicated this would be the responsibility of the GCYC, but the lights need to be off at 10 pm. Commissioner Willard asked if there are plans to light all fields. Chairman Herring included the question of when the lighting would be completed. Mr. Eddins indicated that it would depend on fundraising but hoped that within 5 years all lights would be installed. Commissioner Willard asked if they would play doubleheaders during the week or just start games later. Mr. Eddins said that practices and games could start later than the current 6 pm and on weekend more time would be allowed between games. He said that the use of time near 10 pm would not be an everyday event.

Vice Chairman Jay Willard asked Bart Svoboda about keeping the lighting contained to the park and he indicated there are certain lights available to do just that. Commissioner Vic Schaff commented that he believes the GCYC is supported by the Comprehensive Plan in that it increases revenue in Greene County.

Chairman Anthony Herring stated he understands the comments both sides made tonight but he is unaware of more space in Greene County. He also clarified that was being decided was only the allowance of more lighting. The other issues brought by residents are not part of the SUP process. Regardless whether the SUP is approved or not, it will be passed on to the Board of Supervisors for their decision and all parties will have a chance to express their views at that meeting.

With no further discussion, the SUP was approved 4-0 (member Frank Morris was absent from the meeting). This is a difficult issue with valid issues from both sides. The GCYC is providing a tremendous service to the youth of Greene County and was started when the surrounding area was used for nothing but farming. Development close to Ruckersville has grown and they are now side by side.   As development in the area continues, there may be an opportunity for the two sides to work cooperatively [and with the Board of Supervisors] to resolve this issues highlighted at the meeting.

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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.

Fluvanna Supervisors Prepare To Accept Donations

 By Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

PALMYRA — The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors are one meeting away from voting to implement voluntary contributions.

County administrator, Steve Nichols, mainly gave an update of the process and recommendations from staff. Linda Lenherr, county treasurer, also provided feedback on the process.

The recommendation to keep the process streamlined is to restrict donations to only six funds: the government general fund, Fluvanna County Public Schools, parks and recreation, the Social Services Special Welfare Fund, sheriff’s office and the library.

Any donation would be used for budget items. It was discussed including in the yet to be adopted policy a restriction on personnel budget items. Through discussion, supervisors felt ‘common sense would rule the day’ because department heads know donations cannot be expected annually.

Implementation the contribution program could begin as early as Sept. 1 if supervisors approve the measure during the Aug. 7 afternoon meeting. The first tax bill to include the option to contribute would be the Dec. 5 bill.

The minimum donation level would be $10. Anything less than $10 would be returned.

People could contribute online any time via credit card or check. There is a third-party convenience fee for any online transaction, including paying taxes. People could also drop off donations at the treasurer’s office or mail donations to the treasurer’s office.

Any voluntary contributions have to be separate from any tax payment. There has to be two or more checks or transactions, it cannot be included with tax payment.

Under the proposed process, twice a year supervisors would be presented with the donated funds then release the funds for each budget line.

The cost to the county making this option available is printing and stuffing the additional form in the tax bill envelope. The cost was estimated to be no more than $5,500 a year. The cheapest part of the equation is allowing the online contributions.

The additional cost does not include staff time to handle and process the donations. The treasurer’s office will need to record and mail receipts. Donations could be considered a tax deduction because it is a voluntary contribution to a public body but residents are urged to follow advice of their tax professionals.

Supervisors will vote on the policy to begin the program at the 2 p.m. Aug. 7 meeting. The meeting will be held at the Fluvanna County High School auditorium.

The 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

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum.  He is the founder of the Fluco Blog.  Additional writings can be found at www.Flucoblog.com

Fluvanna’s Potential Water Deal Becomes Clearer

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

PALMYRA — The county whose name means ‘Anne’s River’ has a lot of water at its disposal.

Fluvanna has potential access to over 4 million gallons per day. When considering agreements with Louisa, it is at least over 2.5 million gallons per day.

The greatest availability is a bit complicated and tied with neighboring Louisa County in the James River Water Authority (JRWA). There are 3 million gallons available but Fluvanna gave the permit to the JRWA which is operated by both counties. Originally the counties decided to evenly split the water allocation.

This system would require construction of intake, water pipeline across the county and treatment facility. Of course, there are mitigating possibilities including usage of Dominion power intake and the East Coast Transport, Inc. (ECTI) raw water pipeline.

Earlier this year Louisa requested to move the intake closer to Columbia instead of Bremo Bluff and construct the pipeline down the Colonial Gas line. This would eliminate the potential of pipes being closer to other Fluvanna growth areas besides Zion Crossroads.

The second largest possible allocation is 500,000 gallons per day with the Aqua PPEA (Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act). That would cost Fluvanna over $18 million over 20 years for 90,000 gallons a day. For the additional 410,000 gallons, it costs $2.95 per 1,000 gallons.

Aqua would treat the water using the current Lake Monticello facility. Sewer would be handled by the Department of Corrections (DOC) in a deal the Board of Supervisors have already authorized. Aqua would own the pipes but Fluvanna would own the service area. The service area would have required hookups. At the full term of the deal could buy the system, negotiate an extension or everything reverts to Aqua.

The agreement with DOC is for extra water capacity and sewer treatment. DOC has an extra 75,000 gallons per day. The water would be treated but Fluvanna would have to construct and maintain the pipeline.

Fluvanna is currently studying the possible usage of wells on the old Thomasville Furniture plant. Estimate production is 250,000 gallons per day.

The wells are being studied for inclusion for the Fork Union Sanitary District (FUSD). FUSD operates purely on wells. The Thomasville plant is located behind Carysbrook.

The ETCI line is owned by a subsidiary of Tenaska. It is raw water line but the available gallons per day is not known by the county. There is also an existing unused intake at the James River of 250,000 gallons per day.

The Fluvanna Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the Aqua PPEA on Aug. 7 at 7 p.m. All documents related to the PPEA are available, as required by the act. The public hearing is scheduled at Fluvanna County High School’s auditorium.

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The 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

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum.  He is the founder of the Fluco Blog.  Additional writings can be found at www.Flucoblog.com

Is the Lorax Guilty of Snob Zoning?

By. Neil Williamson, President

Let me open with a disclaimer – I love beach reading. 

I was t"Snob Zones" by Liza Prevost was released Tuesday, May 7 and covers Darien and other New England towns' zoning regs.hrilled to be able to take a few days off with the family for a beach trip late last month.  While some might have preferred the new Dan Brown novel, my  primary book this trip was  Lisa Prevost’s Snob Zoning.

Prevost is an award winning journalist who has written extensively about real estate for the New York Times.  Her articles have also appeared in the Boston Globe, Boston Globe Magazine, More, Ladies’ Home Journal , and other publications.

In this rather well researched, short tome, Prevost outlines specific New England instances where existing residents use restrictive local zoning to eliminate the potential of “undesirable” affordable housing.  

Every reader will examine this book with their own perspective but many passages reminded me of the Charlottesville region, or where some would like it to be.

“As the wealthiest town in Litchfield County, Roxbury (CT) can financially afford its pull-up-the-drawbridge mentality.  The wealthy weekenders pay far more in taxes than they demand in services, thereby making up for the town’s nearly nonexistent commercial base.  the top ten taxpayers on the town’s grand list are, in fact, homeowners. ‘That’s our industry,’ says Gary Steinman, a biomedical engineer who operates a consulting practice out of his Roxbury home. ‘If we lose our rurality, we would lose that industry.’  But by refusing to make room for any higher density housing, Roxbury is contributing to a regional affordable housing shortage that affects most of the northwest corner.”

Over the last ten years, I have heard countless times that it is the “ruralness” of Albemarle County that makes our part of the world unique.  Preservation of such rural integrity is a priority for the Board of Supervisors even as such rural protection runs in conflict with their housing affordability goals.

This passage was also front of mind this morning as I read Sean Tubbs’ Daily Progress article on development projects in the City of Charlottesville and members of City Council’s concerns over their design and projected populations.

“[City Councilor Dede] Smith also wanted to know what population was being attracted to Charlottesville based on the nature of the new developments.

“Who is going to live at City Walk?” Smith asked. “Our number of families is declining in the city and it has been stated as a priority that we would like to at least maintain or grow housing for families.”

Reading between the lines, the question seems to be ‘are the right kind of people going to live at City Walk?’.  Isn’t this the very type of exclusionary thinking that could be called ‘Snob Zoning’?

Is this really what the City should determine or should the land owner, who is taking the financial risk seek to provide what the market will bear?

The concept of using zoning to preclude types of developments, or even specific tenants, is not limited to Charlottesville.  Paula Hawthorne of The Central Virginian reports of resident objections with a proposed Family Dollar retail outlet in Mineral. Under the front page banner headline “No welcome mat for Family Dollar”: 

“Residents Debbie and James Glass are against having Family Dollar in their neighborhood.  “I don’t want it in my backyard,” Debbie said.

Prevost reports such NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) clearly fueled the density discussion in Ossipee New Hampshire where the town enacted regulation that was so restrictive the Zoning chairman Mark McConkey said:

“‘I believe the spirit of this ordinance was to deny the opportunity for multifamily housing to go forward in this town.  I believe it is the intent of the ordinance whether it is right or wrong.’

McConkey’s startling admission was as good as a gift, from Viscarello’s perspective.  First thing the next morning, he dispatched a paralegal to Ossipee.  He wanted a copy of the hearing tapes before anything could happen to them.  Two months later, after failed attempts to get the board to reconsider its denial, Great Bridge sued the town in superior court.”

I will not divulge how the court case turned out suffice it to say the twists of the case made for great reading.

Perhaps the most interesting case study in the book focused on Watch Hill, Rhode Island where an area known as Napatree is 90% owned by the Watch Hill Fire District.  The District and another Parcel owner  The Watch Hill Conservancy entered into an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorizing the service to manage the federally protected piping plover population.  According to Prevost:

The fire district and conservancy had taken it upon themselves to hire wardens and put up signs.

This new arrangement was necessary to protect Napatree from overuse.  Conservancy officials pointed to a study’ they’d commissioned that concluded extensive human (and canine) use was harming the dunes, along with the well-being of threatened birds like the plovers…

…If preserving Napatree was a laudable goal, the locals who regularly roamed its shores were not convinced conservation was the sole aim.  “There was a sense that somehow the conservancy and fire district were trying to exclude people,’ says Steven Hartford, Westerly’s town manager.  The warning that “permission may be withdrawn at any time” sounded like some like a threat.  

This is a concern I have often heard voiced in Central Virginia as land owners enter into conservation easements and then find they may not be able to do what they wish with the land due to the restrictive language of the easement.

Often in local public policy, an oversimplification of developer vs. the-lorax-pic09environmentalist is put forth as the story line.  Very rarely are the lines that clear. 

Regularly, the Suessical Lorax imagery is brought forth to cast the development interests in a negative light.  The Rhode Island case was demonstrative of this issue.

“Although he knows that the preservation of eelgrass beds is important for sustaining healthy fisheries populations DeGrooth is openly suspicious of the Watch Hill groups’ push for more control over the anchorage, an area the general public has freely enjoyed access,”They’re using the curtain of environmental protection for a completely different agenda,” he charges. “they are not dumb.  They are very slow, very methodical.””

In many cases, I see folks who feign environmental concern simply to restrict the lawful development of property that they do not own.  Unfortunately, I tend to agree with the author that the NIMBY or CAVE (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) have the political upper hand.  

In his book review, John Ross writes on Reason.com:

Prevost sees little hope of changing entrenched attitudes about multi-family housing developments. “This is a world where facts are irrelevant,” says a demographer she spoke to. “I’ve explained over and over again that workforce housing is not Section 8 housing with welfare recipients packed in there.”

Snobs dominate local politics and are unlikely to embrace relaxed zoning codes any time soon. Change may yet come, though, as the demand for single-family homes subsides. The next generation simply isn’t as enamored of low-density living as baby boomers were.

With a subtitle of “Fear, Prejudice, and Real Estate” Lisa Prevost’s Snob Zones should be required reading for all Planning Commissioners, Zoning Boards, Boards of Supervisors and City Councils. 

Beyond just a great beach read, this book has the potential to make a difference.  By spotlighting these overzealous zoning regulations and the fortress mentality of NIMBYism that created them, readers will likely reexamine  land-use drawbridge regulatory impacts (intended and unintended) on the entire community.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson

clip_image0024_thumb.pngNeil Williamson is the President of the Free Enterprise Forum, a local government public policy organization located in Charlottesville.  www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits : Universal Pictures, Beacon Press

Fluvanna Water Discussions Headed to Public Hearing

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

PALMYRA — It might just be a way to get the public input, but the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to put the Aqua deal to a public hearing.aqua-america-logo_thumb.jpg

This now releases all documents of the negotiations of an unsolicited Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act (PPEA) proposal. All of the documents, including staff notes, now will be released as required by law.  These documents can be found by clicking here

“We need economic development and we have a gold opportunity to do it right,” said chairman Shaun Kenney (Columbia District).

The proposal, in generic form because the latest documents have not been made public yet, includes payments of approximately $1 million a year for 20 years. That allows Fluvanna to have an allotment of water each year for a Zion Crossroads water line along the Route 250 corridor. Anything above the allotment is available at a wholesale price.

As part of the deal, Fluvanna would control the service area meaning all payments from customers would go to the county. The proposal includes requiring anyone within 2,500 feet of the pipeline to connect unless grandfathered in with a current well and septic system. No new wells would be allowed in the service area.

From discussions with staff, it appears at the completion of the 20-year agreement, Fluvanna could then buy the system at a discounted rate or walkaway reverting the system to full Aqua control. Essentially, like leasing a car.

Donald Weaver (Cunningham District) had issues with current Aqua customers paying a water bill to maintain the Aqua plant then having to pay taxes that would go towards paying for the Aqua plant also. Aqua would be selling Fluvanna water for the Zion Crossroads area from currently unused permitted allotment. Aqua would not be expanding the current withdrawal permit.

The proposal that will go forward to a public hearing does not have the recommendation of Steve Nichols, county administrator, and Fred Payne, county attorney.

Nichols and staff recommended not proceeding with the proposal at all. He raised concerns of costs over the 20-year term, risk to the county throughout the term and issues within the proposal itself that had not been addressed to Nichols’ satisfaction.

Payne raised concerns of state constitutional law in regards to what Aqua would require and what Fluvanna legally could do. He had other concerns including if issues arise what court would the dispute be heard in. Payne insists that all contracts require Fluvanna County Circuit Court as the setting. Aqua desires federal court.

Both Payne and Nichols underscored Aqua has been very easy to deal with but in terms of the agreement, Payne said, “This is not a charitable endeavor for [Aqua].” He noted it is a corporation looking to make money.

The latest iteration of Aqua’s proposal was received on July 2. That one will be used for the public hearing.

The most recent changes include requiring 10 percent escrow on top of each year’s payment of approximately $900,000. Also, 45 days after the agreement is signed, Fluvanna would pay one year’s payment as a deposit. Both the extra escrow payments each year and the deposit would be used at the end of the term to save payments the final years.

The supervisors did approve a deal with the Department of Corrections for 75,000 gallons of water per day and 125,000 gallons of sewer per day. This deal can begin after July 1, 2014 and is required for any deal with Aqua. Aqua’s proposal includes sewer treatment at the Fluvanna Correctional Facility for Women.

The public hearing will be August 7 at 7 p.m. The meeting will be held at Fluvanna County High School’s auditorium.

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The 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

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum.  He is the founder of the Fluco Blog.  Additional writings can be found at www.Flucoblog.com

Greene EDUs Cost Issue – Not Insanity

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Whether this is attributed to Einstein, Franklin or Rita Mae Brown , it now no longer holds true for the Greene County Board of Supervisors relative to having EDUs purchased (or not being purchased).

By means of background an EDU or Equivalent Dwelling Unit is the unit of measure by which the Authority charges for tying in to the water and sewer infrastructure.  In concept, the existing users have paid into develop the system that exists and this surcharge allows the provider the funds to ensure debt service on existing infrastructure and capital for future expansion.  An Equivalent Dwelling Unit or EDU is defined as one-single family residential household.  Multi family residential units and non residential facility EDU assessments are also calculated on a fixed “EDU basis” depending on the use.

At the request of Supervisor Davis Lamb, he May 28th BOS meeting was preceded by a workshop that the BOS held to receive comments about improving business in the county . After many complimentary comments to the BOS, Steve Jones, President/COO of the Fried Companies, Inc. spoke on the $20,000 hook-up fee (water and sewer combined) in Greene Co. vs. other counties averaging $2,500.

Jones further explained that these high fees are truly hurting residential development. The fee is a flat $20,000 regardless the size of the home. Commercial entities have a difficult time getting up to a level of business to absorb this significant start-up cost and, therefore, it restricts business development. He suggested that the county look at a meter size based system and increase user rates for commercial users.

Fast forward to the most recent BOS meeting – June 25th – and Chairman Jim Frydl brought up the issue for discussion with the rest of the BOS (minus Eddie Deane who was absent from this meeting). There was agreement among the supervisors that something needs to change in order to attract more business. While the payments start for the water and sewer system it is critical that Greene County look for innovative ways to generate income – either capital fees and/or operating fees – to help offset these costs.

When Frydl was asked about this issue after the meeting he stated, “ the Board is very interested in attracting and supporting business growth and will explore strategies to further these goals”.

The hiring of John Barkley to the County Administrator position effective July 1st  (he did attend the June 5th BOS meeting) should help expedite the analysis of this issue.

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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.