Monthly Archives: April, 2015

Greene Supervisors Increase Tax Rate

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Dozens of voters showed up at the Raymond Dingledine Performing Arts Center for Greene County’s public hearing on setting next year’s budget and the tax rates on Tuesday, April 28th. Greene’s Administrator John Barkley  outlined the budget process to help fund the core services of the county – the schools, fire, rescue, parks, etc. [VAVoters.org has the video of Barkley’s budget introduction here.]

The advertised property tax rate was proposed at $.75/$100 of assessed value  (up from $.72/$100) driven mainly by the 3% increase in school funding to increase staffing due to growth in the number of students.

Bob Young 4 Supervisor - Photo credit campaign

Bob Young

After the introduction, Chairman David Cox opened the public hearing. The first speaker was announced candidate for At-Large Supervisor Bob Young.

Young expressed concern over the county continually drawing from the reserve fund to balance recent budgets including the proposed budget for 2015/2016. This year the reserve fund was drawn down by $4 million and the new budget shows $3.2 million from the reserve fund being used to balance the budget. He further expressed concern that without the reserve fund the equalization rate would have to be over $.90/$100 of assessed value.

Other public comments ranged from concern that low income housing drives up personal property taxes, concern of fixed income people paying higher taxes, the need to provide a future water supply for the county, etc. Some of the comments were off topic and focused on procedures within the county office building.

William Shifflett brought a county personnel issue that regarding a loan of $5,200 to Administrator John Barkley from the BOS for Virginia Retirement Service (VRS)  contributions. In addition, several comments were made related to the process within the county related to Special Use Permits.

Sharon Mack - Linked In

Sharon Mack

Finally, Sharon Mack from the Greene County School Board thanked the Board of Supervisors for considering increasing the schools budget to address the increasing student enrollment. In addition, the proposed budget includes a 2% increase for Virginia Retirement System funding and a 2% raise for staff.

The meeting then shifted to the Board of Supervisors who discussed the budget and tax rates. Supervisor Eddie Deane (At-Large) spoke first and expressed concern about the financial condition of the county and the declining reserve fund.

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Supervisor Eddie Deane

He pointed to the auditor’s comments about the county being stable but declining. He believes that the county has dropped below the minimum reserve balance that it has established and he stated he could not vote to pass this budget in his last year of being a supervisor.

Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville) stated he concurred with Deane and that the equalization rate would be $.92/$100 of assessed value if there was no contribution from the reserve fund. Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway) stated that the reserve fund is not below the level set by the Board of Supervisors and that the water empowerment is causing the need to draw funds from the reserve fund. $2 million dollars is needed for Water and Sewer and Water Empowerment. Addressing the public comment regarding the  loan to Barkley, Frydl said it was due to a mistake made with his VRS contribution and the employee should not be penalized.

Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville) stated that the Board of Supervisors needs to stand together and that Supervisor Deane had made the comment during the budget process that the budget is “cut to bare bones”. The school faculty and staff is the lowest in the area and a 3.3% increase is not outrageous. Part of the budget issue in recent years is the lack of sale of Equivalent Dwelling Units (EDUs) certificates when the water and sewer project was completed. He appreciated Young’s willingness to get involved and invited others to attend future Board meetings and run for office.

Martin believes that Greene County is managing through the recession better than most counties in the area. The fact that the population in Greene’s schools is increasing  indicates that the county is attracting more residents. He further encouraged residents to speak to their state representatives about unfunded mandates being pushed down to the county level.

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Chairman David Cox

Chairman David Cox (Monroe) has heard of horror stories of other counties not addressing the need for water. He agreed that Greene must keep going forward in acquiring land for the water supply. He appreciated the departments tightening their budgets and he is comfortable with the budget being presented tonight.

Deane stated that he felt that the personal property tax rate should be increased by $.03/$100 of assessed value so that there is not a larger increase next year. Frydl made a motion to accept the $.75/$100 rate and Supervisor Lamb seconded the motion which then passed on a vote, 5-0.

Photo Credits: Bob Young Campaign, Greene County, Lined in

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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.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Fluvanna Increases Tax Rates

By Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Fluvanna BOS_group2014_smThe Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors passed the budget on a unanimous vote for the second time in three years.

The budget season was without much fanfare besides the long work session that set up the final budget. No residents even spoke at the public hearing. The advertised budget of $68.3 million passed without further discussion on April 15.

The real estate tax rate goes from $0.86 (equalized) to $0.899 per $100 assessed. The personal property rate goes from $4.15 to $4.35 per $100 assessed.

Before the board passed the budget and corresponding tax rates, it did vote to de-fund five previously approved capital improvement plans totaling $505,000. That will help offset some costs for this year’s capital improvement plan.

LMVFD LogoThe bulk of the April 15 meeting was spent on a rezoning request from the Lake Monticello Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad. The LMVFRS has purchased land adjacent to its current property in hopes of expanding the original building.

The current property is zoned R-4 and the purchased property is A-1. The plan is for the expansion of the building to straddle the property line. In order to do so, the county advises for the property in total to have the same zoning.

LMVFRS, in requesting the rezoning, offered proffers to eliminate the R-4 by-right opportunities of single-family dwellings, single-family attached dwellings and townhomes. The applicant did not proffer out multifamily dwelling.

Len Bozza, representative of the applicant, said he wanted to leave that option of a small multifamily building as a way to attract future volunteers. He said the volunteer organization could offer reduced rent to people who run a high percentage of calls.

The planned expansion of the building will only take up half of the six acres of the property. With the remaining three acres, a rental building of less than 10 units could be constructed.

Leaving that option almost stopped the rezoning. O’Brien moved to pass the rezoning but it couldn’t get a second.

Two neighboring residents were concerned with what the proffers left out. It also concerned three supervisors who were failing to second the motion. Bozza offered to proffer out the multifamily units. The rezoning then passed 5-0.

Supervisors will advertise an ordinance to allow participation in the Virginia Association of Counties/Virginia Municipal League  Virginia Investment Pool Trust Fund. To allow the county’s finance board to participate, the supervisors have to pass an ordinance, which requires a public hearing.

Participating in the investment pool will diversify the county’s investments and slight increase in revenue of county reserves. The net yield of the investment pool in February was 0.58%. The public hearing is scheduled for May 20.

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bryan-rothamel.jpgThe 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

Photo Credits: Fluvanna County, Lake Monticello Volunteer Fire Department

Frustrated Developer Tells Greene PC He’s Had Enough–He’s Leaving

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Last week (4/15) the Greene County Planning Commission heard a request to amend an existing Special Use Permit (SUP# 14-006) from APEX, LLC / Larry and Barbara Hall . While the end result was what the applicant requested, the discussion at the public hearing left some citizens with questions regarding Greene County’s application and zoning enforcement processes.

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Hall has a recycling center north of Lowes and he asked that the two year Special Use Permit (SUP)  be extended by eight months since he feels that the county delayed the process of issuing an approved site plan by that length of time.

As background, the recycling center initially started operations under the belief that it was a by right use, only later to learn that the use required a special use permit.

The recycling center is a unique center in that it takes concrete and grinds it down to saleable product. The original SUP was to start on 5/27/14 but it took until 2/25/15 to resolve issues so that the site plan could be approved. In addition, Brent Hall, speaking for his father Larry, asked that the landscaping requirement be waived since in two years (or less) replacing the existing trees with a berm and smaller trees will not block as much as is now blocked.

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In addition, the condition of having a dirt pile that has been removed from Rivanna Service Authority’s (RSA) right of way no longer is an issue since it has already been removed. These are the three changes to the SUP that staff and the Halls are seeking. Commissioner John McCloskey asked Svoboda if there have been any violations at the site to which Svoboda replied no.

Brent Hall  next addressed the Planning Commission and he bluntly stated he disagreed with some of the information Greene Planning Director Bart Svoboda included in his staff report and presentation.  Hall said that he has grown very frustrated in dealing with Greene County staff, specifically  Svoboda, and believes he has received contradictory directions.  Hall also said that he feels he has been lied to. Hall simply wants the SUP to be extended to 2/25/17, two years from the date when all the issues were resolved on 2/25/15.

Hall went further to state that the family would take their development to Albemarle County and are leaving Greene County. Further he stated that when Albemarle County gives a direction it is consistent and it can be relied upon as opposed to what he has experience in Greene County.

Hall explained his frustration with Greene County in that he would get a verbal ok to start work only to be told he was in violation of county regulations and had to stop and address a new issue.

IMG_20150423_081944833_HDRThere was no one signed up from the public to speak on the issue, so the discussion moved to the Commissioners. Commissioner John McCloskey  was in favor of extending the Special Use Permit to 2/25/17.

Commissioner Eva Young asked Hall if he had received answers to his questions. Hall replied that at one time he sent 8-10 emails with no reply and he felt that the process was intentionally being delayed. Commissioner Frank Morris was extremely concerned about the process being held up and he would prefer that businesses be supported in their efforts.

When Hall was questioned about future development in Greene from the commissioners he again stated that he has no plans to further develop in Greene County and he is going to Albemarle County since he doesn’t want to deal with the difficulties he has encountered in Greene.

The details of the Special Use Permit were all modified to the Halls’ request plus the elimination of the requirement of disposing of the dirt pile per RSA’s right of way. The easy part of the hearing was approving the SUP – the much harder part may prove to be researching and resolving the process issues raised by the applicant and finding a new user for the highly visible US 29 location.

Photo Credits: Free Enterprise Forum taken 23 April 2015

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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.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Fluvanna Supervisor Ullenbruch Not Running

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Fluvanna County Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch will not seek re-election for the Palmyra District seat, despite speculation and reading into recent public comments.

Ullenbruch released the following written statement to the Free Enterprise Forum:

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Fluvanna Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch

Since I will be moving out of the Palmyra District at the end of my present term and moving to Cape Cod, I will not be seeking re-election to the Board of Supervisors.

It is a time in my life where I want to be close in proximity to my grandchildren and family. My parents are aging and other health issues with family members were defining factors in planning the move.

I would like to thank the members of the Fluvanna Republican Committee for the encouragement and ever continued support. I need to give the Committee time to recruit a viable candidate for the Palmyra District Seat.

Finally, I would like to thank my constituents. I have enjoyed serving the Palmyra District throughout my term and look forward to finishing the year.”

Ullenbruch ran as a Republican in 2011, defeating incumbent John Gooch.

Often times in board votes Ullenbruch has sided with fellow Republican Don Weaver (Cunningham District).

Now the Palmyra seat is wide open for the 2015 election. So far obvious candidates to run for the seat are not clear. Board of Supervisors meetings have been scarcely attended, even during the budget season.

The other Supervisor seat up for re-election this cycle is in Fork Union. Early speculation is the incumbent, Mozell Booker,  will seek re-election but she has not commented on the matter.

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bryan-rothamel.jpgThe 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

Photo Credits: Fluvanna County

Greene Supervisors Approve B&B

By. Brent Wilson Field Officer

The Greene County Board of Supervisors gave approval for a Bed and Breakfast on Route 33 west of Stanardsville just below the Shenandoah National Park at their April 14th meeting. Rob and Carmen Lynch represented three principals requesting a Special Use Permit on the nearly 14 acres zoned C-1 – Conservation.

Bart Svoboda, Director/Zoning Administrator,  presented the Special Use Permit (SUP# 15-002)  to the Board and explained that up to 13 units can be permitted which this particular SUP requests only 5 cabins and a lodge. A SUP can place restrictions similar to those that the Planning Commission proposed on March 18th when they unanimously approved the Special Use Permit. Svoboda stated that the SUP fit the county’s Comprehensive Plan by encouraging tourism and encouraging frequenting businesses in Greene County and that even though it is located outside the growth area it is near the Shenandoah National Park which has many tourists traveling Route 33. Mr. Lynch agreed with Svoboda in that the B&B fits well in the area and hopes that it will encourage tourists to spend their tourism dollars in Greene.

Bill Martin Greene County Supervisor

Greene County Supervisor Bill Martin

The lack of public comment clearly came as an endorsement for the project. The discussion amongst the Board members also indicated support for the project. Supervisor Bill Martin, Stanardsville District,  asked Mr. Lynch did they plan on the maximum number of people of 100. Lynch indicated that the 100 was the maximum the Planning Commission allowed and he felt that would not be the normal activity but special events might raise the number.

Supervisor Eddie Deane, At Large, didn’t believe this project would compete directly with Lydia Mountain Cabins  and that this project would attract more tourists to Greene County. Supervisor Jim Frydl, Midway District, thinks the location near Route 33 and the Shenandoah National Park  is good for this type of venue and it is a good application.

Supervisor Frydl made a motion to place the same restrictions on the Special Use Permit as the Planning Commission passed:

1) 6 cabins and 1 lodge

2) any renter is limited to 30 of 365 days per year

3) limit to 100 guests between 7 am to midnight

4) site approvals required

5) must be developed in accordance with the map in Special Use Permit

With no further discussion, the motion passed unanimously 5-0.

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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.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

US 29 Business Assistance – The Least Albemarle Can Do

By Neil Williamson, President

question-signLast night (4/7/2015)  the Albemarle County Planning Commission considered and approved changes to the temporary sign ordinance allowing 10 signs that will be removed by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for the easements and construction of the US29/Rio Road Grade Separated Interchange.

Prior to their action the Free Enterprise Forum spoke as a part of the public hearing:

Tonight you have before you common sense regulatory relief for the 12 businesses that will lose their permanent signage during the utility relocation and construction of the Rio US29 Grade Separated Interchange.  This regulation will allow these businesses to erect temporary signage for the duration of the construction period.

Our long standing opposition to this project is well recorded. I continue to believe the costs far outweigh any limited benefits and it sets the stage for the eventual Albemarle Expressway that will decimate this important business corridor. Yes, the lost signage is just one of the ways many businesses will be impacted by the Rio GSI.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has already started discussions with business owners about just compensation for the signs scheduled to be removed.

Removal of these signs could start in just a few weeks’ time. We applaud staff for moving this up the agenda to assist the impacted business. We believe not only is this regulation change commonsensical – it is clearly the least you can do.

We look forward the staff promised phase two and phase three  of the signage review. It is our hope that businesses that have restricted visibility or limited access gain increased signage by right for the construction period and the six months after. Further, we ask that you use this opportunity to set up a provision in code that helps businesses during such road construction regardless of location.

The Free Enterprise Forum encourages you to approve the zoning ordinance before you and move it forward to the Board of Supervisors with all deliberate speed.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

While the Planning Commission acknowledged that Joes Diner arrowthere would be a lack of visibility for businesses during and after construction, staff made clear their position in opposition to any additional signage in this area.  Staff believes that VDOT’s proposed way finding signs will be more than adequate.

This temporary sign ordinance is really setting the tone for Albemarle’s Least You Can Do “Business Assistance Program”.

Here are the not so lofty goals of Albemarle’s “Business Assistance Program”:

Goals of the Program
 Provide accurate and complete information in advance to help businesses plan for the construction period
 Provide resource expertise to support affected businesses
 Create a rapid response communication network during construction that identifies critical business issues and responds to needs of businesses
 Ensure fair and equitable assistance for all qualifying businesses
 Leverage opportunities for partnership – take advantage of ideas, services and relationships that partners can offer to help businesses manage the challenges of construction
 Actively engage construction contractor to positively affect business outreach and support

This is significantly lower bar than was discussed when the projects were first proposed.  Clearly as the momentum for project construction increases the likelihood of significant resources being allocated to  businesses assistance has been reduced or eliminated.

Speaking last night of concerns regarding equity across the entire county, the Albemarle Deputy County Attorney minimized efforts to promote the construction challenged businesses via county communication tools.

Yes, Albemarle has a business assistance program for those impacted by the Route29 solutions projects – it is the least they can do.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson

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20070731williamson 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 www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: VDOT, http://quovadisblog.com 

Fireworks at Fluvanna Supervisors Meeting

By. Bryan Rothamel

What looked like a light agenda and golden opportunity for a quick meeting of the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors on April 1, turned up as fools gold. And no one was laughing after the meeting.

It included one supervisor leaving the meeting in uproar over a comment from a fellow board member.

Supervisors breezed through the proposed tax rate public hearing with no residents speaking. It easily proclaimed April as Celebrating Children Month after hearing an update from Social Services, didn’t even entertain a vote on a resolution against the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case and then updated the parks and recreation fees.

Then came the employee ethics statement and recognition program. Gail Parish, Director of Human Resources, presented what a group of employees has come up with.

By this point, the only members in the audience were staff members, a constitutional officer and two members of the press. No residents without the affiliations described were there. The few that were there previously left after the Citizens United resolution failed.

The employee ethics statement is a springboard from the county’s mission, given by the Board of Supervisors. The employee ethics statement is PRIDE: People first, Respect, Integrity, Deliver and Excel.
After Parish briefly started his presentation on the recognition program, which includes monetary gifts for various awards throughout the year, Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District) raised his issues with the recognition program.

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Fluvanna Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch

Ullenbruch compared the recognition program as a pat on the back and children in youth sports getting a participation trophy. He then concluded his remarks and what ensued was Ullenbruch leaving the meeting after Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District) responded.

Here is a transcription from the end of Ullenbruch’s statements. It was the 1 hour, 59 minutes mark of the meeting.

Ullenbruch: You are hired to do a job. You are hired to do a job the best you can. I’m not saying our employees are paid enough or they’re not recognized enough. I’m not saying that at all. I’m trying, once again, keep people from being divided. This is devise. I’ve lived in this atmosphere of awards and plaques and that-a-boys, in the back, in the little huddles, in the little corners, it becomes a bitch session. The intent is not for that to happens, but it happens.

O’Brien: You sound like a communist, Bob. I mean honestly, why don’t we–

Ullenbruch: Wow. Wow. That’s on tape.

O’Brien: Yeah, your idea is that people don’t appreciate recognition. That they should just do their damn job, to use your words.

Ullenbruch: I’m just saying it causes divisiveness.

O’Brien: It does not cause divisiveness.

Ullenbruch: Why did you call me a communist?

O’Brien: Because that’s what you sound like. You basically sound like you are saying, ‘Just do the…’

At this point Ullenbruch stands up to leaves. The two began talking over each other but O’Brien responds to Ullenbruch’s comments with, “I mean, that’s what you sound like. I’m sorry you feel that way.”

Ullenbruch talks from the doorway. O’Brien responds, “I don’t think calling someone a communist is necessarily insulting them, Bob.” He turns back to the board, “That’s a first. Sorry. Apologies.”

O’Brien continues:  I mean, honestly, I think a fundamental part of any organization is to recognize its people. Maybe the amount is too much but to argue that people should just do their damn job, and they should just like it, I find that offensive to the people that work in this county. I think the people who work in this county care about their jobs and I think they also care about how they’re performing their jobs. But by the same token being recognized for being exceptional, that’s pretty important. That shows leadership. That brings the bar up. When we create a program that raises the bar for all of our people, that’s a good thing. That’s not a bad thing. Maybe $5,000 is too much.

The discussion continues as usual board discussion until Ullenbruch comes back in about three minutes later and interrupts Parrish who is elaborating on the program.

Ullenbruch: I want to make a point. We were talking code of ethics just now. We have a code of ethics and disrespectful to other members of this board is part of our code of ethics. And it just showed, just now, in front of everybody, in front of all the employees here, what we think of our code of ethics.

O’Brien and Ullenbruch talk at the same time again.

Ullenbruch: How are you going to vote on someone else’s code of ethics?

O’Brien: First of all–

Ullenbuch starts leaving with his belongings: You are the one that said it. I would never insult you.

O’Brien: You should like the height of democracy, Bob. Does that make you feel any better?

Ullenbruch’s response is hard to hear but sounded like he said, “I should be (or am) the height of democracy.

O’Brien: Oh really? Sit down. I just said you are the height of democracy. Come on, sit down.

Chairwoman Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) calls for Ullenbruch to sit down.

Ullenbruch: If I would’ve said that to you (O’Brien)–

O’Brien: And what do you think I would’ve say?

At this point, another member of the board breaths out, blowing into the direction of one of the table microphones.

O’Brien: Call me an anarchist, Bob. I don’t care. I have the ability to react to the–

Ullenbruch: You know that I would never do that.

O’Brien: You know what? You can be a professional and sit down.

Booker: Bob, you need to come back and have seat. You know that its not–

Ullenbruch has walked out of the room.

Booker: That’s ok. Alright.

O’Brien: Apologies, madam chair. I did not mean to cause a fracas.

Booker: You can’t control other people’s actions. You apologized so let’s move on.

The board then continues to discuss the issue for another 35 minutes, most of the debate around the monetary gifts the program would award.

The proposed annual PRIDE in Public Service Award would give $100 bonus each month for 12 months to the recipient. The winner of the public service award would also be recognized on a plaque. The other five nominees would receive a $250 bonus check. Groups would be eligible with each member of the group to receive the bonus check.

The on the spot awards would be given by department or agency head and could include a thank you note, a lunch ordered in for the team, an hour of personal leave, praise in private or in a team setting, and/or certificate for the specific behavior.

Finally, the program would recognized retirees. All retiring employees would receive a plaque and employees with more than 20 years of county service would receive a gift of no more than $100. Gifts that are over $100, excess amount would be paid with non-public money.

After the lengthy discussion, the board elected to send the program back to the employee committee with less money involved. Don Weaver (Cunningham District) said he didn’t mind the money but felt it was too much of the emphasis and not on the actual recognition of the deed.

Mike Sheridan (Columbia District) agreed with Weaver to still include monetary gifts but decrease the emphasis.

OBrien2014 photo credit Fluvanna County

Fluvanna Supervisor Tony O’Brien

After the meeting, O’Brien spoke in an exclusive interview with Free Enterprise Forum. He references how Ullenbruch and he say ‘colorful’ things to each other and the board. He said in length:

“We’re both colorful people, I guess is the best way I can put it. I was not personally calling him a communist. I said ‘you sound like a communist’ there’s a difference between that. I think if I had the opportunity to finish my statement would have been, ‘recognizing people, in the same way capitalism recognizes excellence, is a good thing.’ But since I didn’t get to finish that statement, all we heard was ‘you sound like a communist.’ I’m pretty sure Bob would agree with me that recognition of excellence is probably a good thing but I can’t speak for Bob.”

The Board will next meet at 7 p.m. on April 8 to have a public hearing on the budget. The budget proposed includes an $0.899 real estate tax rate and $4.35 personal property tax rate. Both are based on every $100 assessed.

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bryan-rothamel.jpgThe 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

Photo Credits: Fluvanna County