Greene County business leaders and entrepreneurs deserve our admiration. They have risked much to establish a viable presence in our community and reap the benefits they have created. They are heroes among us.
With this in mind, it is interesting to hear what “good government” means to different people, even at the local level. To some, it means being involved in any aspect of our lives with the intention of making them better
or even fairer
. Welcome, the perspective of the Progressive.
To the Conservative, it means government is confined to its basic role intended for a specific level in society. When government is limited, the citizen is elevated and has the freedom to make their choice and produce an uncertain outcome. It is where the citizen is most free. This is the view our Founders intended, and the view that many master-minds of government have shredded and use for political influence.
There are few examples where local government is confined to its basics of health, safety, and welfare of a community. If you look at it a bit deeper, you will find limits being stretched so ever closer to justifying anything it can stuff into a reason for its existence, all in the name our general welfare. Local government can find a program for anything just as quickly as Washington, D.C. does.
The Virginia Republican Creed
describes the basics of what we believe and forms the foundation by which good government should be based. It is broad enough to apply to all levels of government. Its first sentence reads, “…the free enterprise system is the most productive supplier of human needs and economic justice”,
and continues from there.
This first principle of economic freedom contrasts with the view that many in Greene county government believe about the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT). Recently, a member of the Greene County Board of Supervisors stated publicly that the TOT is “good for our community”
and allows for “public private partnerships”
This promotion of the TOT implies that preferred private ventures may not achieve success without the involvement of the public (government). Does Mr. Supervisor advocate this specific tax because it’s not paid by the county resident? If so, why would my raising the issue concern anyone? Who cares, right?
This issue more reminds me of the current US Federal tax code, which is more about engineering social and political outcomes than it is with raising revenue to fund the proper role of the Federal Government. There are similar parallels with the TOT in Greene County.
By local ordinance
Greene county has chosen to impose a maximum of five percent tax on gross receipts generated by hotels, motels, boarding houses, travel campgrounds, and other facilities offering guest rooms rented out for continuous occupancy for fewer than 30 consecutive days.
According to the TOT state statute
, “any excess over two percent
(of the TOT) shall be designated and spent solely for tourism and travel, marketing of tourism or initiatives that, as determined after consultation with the local tourism industry organizations, including representatives of lodging properties located in the county, attract travelers to the locality, increase occupancy at lodging properties, and generate tourism revenues in the locality”.
In a nutshell, forty percent of the TOT collected becomes a revenue source for the basic functions of local government. The remaining sixty percent of the TOT is earmarked for advancing or promoting Greene County’s preferred local private tourism industry
Aside from funding the legitimate function of the Greene Co. Economic Development Authority, which does promote tourism, individual businesses are selected by influential decision makers to receive direct cash “investment” offered by the TOT. As a matter of fact, this actually occurred in 2016 by a $150,000 matching local “grant” in cooperation with the Virginia Tourism Growth Fund
No other private industry in Greene County has a special government funding mechanism by which rewards are bestowed in coordination between county personnel, elected representatives, and appointed boards.
Since the TOT is paid by visitors to Greene, and sixty percent of it is set aside for private business investment, it’s no wonder why Mr. Supervisor believes the TOT is good for Greene County. It’s one tool that can be used to demonstrate that government cares and is looking out for business. Truth be told, it’s actually good for him.
Politically, this is a win-win for supporting representatives on the Board of Supervisors and a few interested members of a preferred industry. Therein lies the potentially dysfunctional part of the TOT.
But, of course, this kind of government intervention that side-steps its core function is all accepted in the name of making things better and fairer for all of us. At least that’s what I’ve been told, and at most what’s been demonstrated.
Sometimes it’s good to just stop and ask yourself, “why”. How does all of this resemble a free market and not just government influence?
The general election of 2016 is over and Greene County overwhelmingly voted for both Donald J. Trump for President of the United States, and Tom Garrett for US House of Representatives to the 5th Congressional District of Virginia, by a margin of 2:1. Both wins are stunning by the numbers alone, drawing voter turnout in Greene County to a record 73.9% of those registered. Resolution from the August 23rd Board of Supervisors Meeting
A hallmark of the Trump campaign centered around strengthening the economic condition of our country through federal tax reform, repatriating off-shore capital, and eliminating job-killing regulations. Even before taking office, United Technologies, the parent company to Carrier, announced that they would after all keep more than 1,000 jobs it had previously planned to move to Mexico in Indiana. This is a huge sign of things to come.
As our country prepares to experience an economic boom, how will Greene County government prepare and what queues will the Board of Supervisors take on policy and regulations that impact economic growth for us here at home?
On August 23rd, 2016, the Greene County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a Resolution of Intent to Amend Zoning Ordinances
. One amendment of particular interest, on a list of five, is “research and draft an architectural design standard district and guidelines”
. (See published Minutes of the August 23, 2016 Board of Supervisors Meeting, page 4, under "Consent Agenda", item b., & the actual Resolution, found on page 7. Download highlighted Resolution).
According to one Planning Commissioner, the November ‘16 Planning Commission meeting held scant discussion about forming an Architectural Review Board resulting from the fifth bulleted amendment contained in the August 23rd, 2016 resolution.
This specific amendment begs this question. Is the Greene County Board of Supervisors open to adding more subjective regulations by placing aesthetic zoning ordinances on businesses by forming an Architectural Review Board?
When pressed for confirmation on this matter, Greene County Administrator John Barkley replied, “The item in the work program referenced is a result of a request from the County's EDA”
(County Economic Development Authority). County Administrator Barkley continued to elaborate that work to establish impacts and benefits from the study would begin in the Spring of 2017, and that “any new standard or legislative action taken in the future would entail a full public process."
In a nut-shell, this is the preliminary process necessary to form an Architectural Review Board. Arriving at this conclusion was not at hard; it was logical and only needed authenticating by a straight forward response to show where this amendment may lead, and Administrator Barkley provided that.
So, where could this lead? Proponents of aesthetic zoning reason it to achieve a certain look in a given area or to ensure that any new development adheres to specific design standards in order to protect the natural, scenic, and historic resources of the County outlined in the Comprehensive Plan. They also use such zoning to focus on the “beauty of the community” within its jurisdiction. Of course, such regulations based on looks alone can be subjective to tastes and what looks good. But in whose eyes do such standards reach the level of beautiful?
The Commonwealth of Virginia does not allow zoning based on looks alone, but must also be for reasons of health, safety, morals and the general welfare of the community. However, the lines can be stretched and abused by power vested in such boards.
To the Liberty-minded person, it is not the proper role of local government to enact ordinances solely based upon the subjective tastes of appointed and unaccountable government bureaucrats. We can look to both Albemarle County and to the City of Charlottesville for examples of how such regulations have driven up the costs of doing business and infringed on property rights.
Local businesses and developers need to keep an eye on how wide the impact of this plan may become by playing a role as stakeholders this spring at the public meetings. We need to take a page from the Trump playbook by ensuring that over-burdensome and costly regulations at the local are eliminated.
Here is suggested reading which further explains the Constitutionality of Aesthetic Zoning and its history - http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2882&context=flr
Recent news reports of voter fraud in Harrisonburg, Virginia have largely gone unreported and it is very important that we all understand some of the details. A student at James Madison University (JMU) has confessed to voter fraud
when he presented voter registration forms to the City Registrar’s Office for numerous persons that were known to be deceased. The student was working with an organization called HarrisonburgVOTES *
, an obscure organization founded by Joe Fitzgerald and two JMU students. Their mission seems to be limited to voter registration.
In order for individuals and organizations to legally conduct voter registrations drives in Virginia, they must complete training and be certified by the Virginia Dept. of Elections. HarrisonburgVOTES was certified by the Virginia Dept of Elections, and thus was fully informed of the proper way to conduct voter registrations, and the penalties for fraud. HarrisonburgVOTES was aware they are fully liable for employees and volunteers actions conducting voter registration drives.
Besides being founder of HarrisonburgVOTES, Mr. Fitzgerald is the PR Coordinator at the JMU College of Arts and Letters, and he is Chairman of the 6th Congressional District Democrat Committee
It is important to understand just how high up in the Virginia Democratic Party Joe Fitzgerald is. The state of Virginia is divided up into 11 Congressional Districts, for our 11 Representatives in the House of Congress. For each Congressional District, there is a Democratic Committee, which in turn has a Chairman. Each of these 11 Democratic District Chairmen serve on the Steering Committee e.g. the Board of the VA Democratic State Party. See their State Party website, halfway down page.)
His wife, Deb Fitzgerald, is Chairman of both the Harrisonburg (City) Democratic Committee
and the Harrisonburg Planning Commission
. Interestingly, she also serves as the Chief Election Officer for the JMU Convocation (Convo) Center Voting Precinct in Harrisonburg. This is a recently created precinct that contains a high number of college student voters. An Election Officer is responsible for the proper and orderly voting in a local precinct. A report on the investigation was given to the City of Harrisonburg Electoral Board at their 9/12/2016 meeting by Chris Bean of the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. (Download the Minutes
, see page 3)
The close relationship between the confessed fraudster and Election Officers and State Democrat Party leadership cannot be ignored and is quite troubling. Few people have any idea how far this sort of corruption has crept into our system. Research shows that voter fraud charges are rarely prosecuted at the state or federal level.
Given the media’s reluctance to report on such matters we must do our best to inform the voters about this corruption and make sure it doesn’t happen on our watch.
Update October 3, 2016 - because of the increased scrutiny, the HarrisonburgVOTES website
and Facebook page have been suddenly taken down. However here's a screenshot of the website's 'About' page, with a biography of Joe Fitzgerald:
Click in box for larger image
There are very specific laws that address how local governments must conduct the public business of the people. All meetings are to be conducted publically, according to Virginia Code §2.2-3707
with some specific exceptions outlined in Virginia Code §2.2-3711
Such matters of exception from the public meeting law that any County Board of Supervisors may encounter could be;
- Personnel discussions, hiring or disciplinary actions.
- Acquisition and disposal of property.
- The protection of the privacy of individuals in personal matters not related to public business.
- Prospective business or industry or the expansion of an existing business or industry where no previous announcement has been made of the business' or industry's interest in locating or expanding its facilities in the community.
- Discussion or consideration of the investment of public funds where competition or bargaining is involved, where, if made public initially, the financial interest of the governmental unit would be adversely affected.
- Consultation with legal counsel and briefings by staff members or consultants pertaining to actual or probable litigation…
- Discussion of the award of a public contract involving the expenditure of public funds, including interviews of bidders or offerors, and discussion of the terms or scope of such contract, where discussion in an open session would adversely affect the bargaining position or negotiating strategy of the public body.
Closed meeting sessions have a very specific and limited purpose. They are not to be used to plan or conduct public business not exempted by law, discuss how to conduct public meeting proceedings about tax rates or budget hearings, rehearse or role-play.
Matters that come before the Board of Supervisors on behalf of constituents should be openly discussed in public without origination from a closed door session. Improper use of closed meetings is an abuse of the public trust.
For lawfully exempted matters to be discussed in a closed meeting or “executive session”, a motion is required during a public meeting to enter into the closed meeting stating its purpose
, the § code cited
covering the exception within §2.2-3711
, and the subject
of the exception.
The Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council
is sanctioned by the Commonwealth of Virginia and publishes a pamphlet entitled, “The Freedom of Information Act and Local Government Officials
” as a resource. The pamphlet states that, “Unless a public body or public official specifically elects to exercise an exemption provided by this chapter or any other statute, every meeting shall be open to the public and all public records shall be available for inspections and copying upon request.” The pamphlet also defines public records, the Policy of FOIA, meeting requirements, defines what a meeting is and is NOT, and covers record retention.
For any open session to continue upon conclusion to a closed session, a motion must be made to come out of closed session. Each member of the board present during the meeting must certify if only lawful matters exempted by §2.2-3711 were discussed during the closed meeting. This certification affirms that the members followed the law while out of public view.
/* Download this article in PDF form here
Greene County Board of Supervisors’ Misuse of Executive Session, and Their Non-Compliance with Freedom of Information Act
Statement by Mr. McPeeks
I live on Haney Rd, one of two roads in the Golden Hills subdivision that have not been accepted into the VDOT secondary road system. While the reasons these public roads were never accepted into the secondary road system dates back to 1991, the reason they remain unmaintained is because of the inaction of this board. We are all aware of the facts and I do not feel the need to go through them all again. I would like to point out that with the help of the Surveyor, Ray & Associates, we have found the deed that dedicates the roads to public use and hope that this ends the Board’s claim that these are private roads.
With all that said, that is not the reason for my comments today. I would to like to make the public aware of two issues my neighbors and I have encountered while trying to overcome the Board’s reluctance to address our roads. Both of these issues pertain to Title 2.2, Chapter 37 of the Virginia Code, which is the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
First, is the appearance that the Board is not complying with Virginia code 2.2- 3707 by discussing items during closed-door executive sessions that are not permitted. There have been many times during our discussions with members of the Board, and particularly with Chairman Martin, that it was clear meetings were occurring and decisions being made behind closed-doors. Our suspicions appear to have been confirmed by an email obtained in our August 18, 2016 FOIA request. In an email on February 23, 2016, Mr. Barkley states that he has scheduled a “brief overview of the requests for improvements to private roads received from certain homeowners in the Golden Hills subdivision for tonight’s executive session.” If such a briefing did in fact take place, in no way does this briefing meet the requirements of Virginia Code 2.2-3711. The code specifically states “briefings by staff members pertaining to actual or probable litigation, where such briefing in open meeting would adversely affect the negotiating or litigating posture of the public body”.
First, despite the claims from Chairman Martin, there has been no probable litigation. Even if there were pending litigation, only the advice by counsel or discussions that could affect the negotiating or litigating posture of the Board are allowed in closed-session. A briefing by the County Administrator of public business is inappropriate for a closed-session.
Additionally, the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council, in it’s pamphlet “The Freedom of Information Act and Local Government Officials,” reminds local government officials that closed meetings “require motion stating purpose, Code cite AND subject.” The pamphlet italicizes the and for emphasis. The minutes from the February 23, 2016 Board of Supervisors meeting clearly show that Mr. Cox motioned to enter Executive Session, the code was referenced and what could loosely be interpreted as a purpose but the subjects were not. The Advisory Council makes it clear that the subjects are to be identified to the public. By not providing the subjects, the Board of Supervisors gives the perception that it is trying to hide the subjects of these discussions from the public.
If the Board was to follow the intent of the law the briefing would be held in public and then the Board would enter into Executive Session, stating the purpose, citing the code, and the subject. The fact that the Board continually does not follow the code is concerning and raises alarm for the citizens of the county who elected this Board.
The second subject I want to comment on today is the fitness of Mr. Barkley as the FOIA officer for this county. Virginia Code 2.2-3704.2 states that all local public bodies shall designate a FOIA officer. Mr. Frydl informed me verbally that Mr. Barkley is the County’s FOIA officer. Paragraph E of 2.2-3704.2 states that the FOIA officer shall possess specific knowledge of the provisions of Chapter 37 and be trained annually. Mr. Barkley has continually shown he does not possess the required knowledge of the Freedom of Information Act to remain the County’s FOIA officer. This is evidenced by his mishandling of the FOIA request from Mr. Rob Schilling on April 30, 2015, which led to legal action against the County and now by his mishandling of Mr. David Underwood’s February 16, 2016 FOIA request.
In an email on February 17, 2016 Mike Nichols, of Shenandoah Technology Systems, informs Mr. Barkley that he doesn’t know how far the archive goes back and that Mr. Barkley will need to contact employees involved to have them search their own email files. Mr. Barkley’s response to Mr. Nichols was to do the best he could, which is perfectly acceptable, if Mr. Barkley intends to pursue the remaining emails by other means. However, after that Mr. Barkley only reached out to the Board and Mr. Svoboda to get additional information. The FOIA request is effective January 1, 2003 and is inclusive of the entire county; why was no attempt made for other files and emails outside of those individuals? Mr. Barkley has not been here since 2003 to know that no one else had the requested information.
I would also like to point out Virginia Record Retention and Disposition Schedule No. GS-06 Series 000290:
“Agreements, Bonds, and Contracts This series consists of agreements, contracts, and bonds relating to professional services and construction. This series may include but is not limited to: surety, bonds, correspondence, letters of credit, and public/private agreements.”
It states all of these must be maintained for 5 years after completion of the project.
In his March 10, 2016 email to me Mr. Martin stated “there were extenuating circumstances with regard to the developer that may have caused the project to languish and remain incomplete.” Additionally, Mr. Svoboda and others have stated to us the project was never completed. Considering, according to County officials, the project was never completed, we are still within that period. Therefore, the records must be retained according to state code. Mr. Barkley has only been County Administrator since 2013, so why was no effort made to access the previous Administrators' email? Either the County is not following FOIA or the Public Records Act and its corresponding schedules; either of which should be addressed by this Board. The Virginia FOIA advisory council makes it very clear that email has always been considered a public record and is subject to PRA schedules and FOIA, since its inception.
With this in mind, I ask that the Board of Supervisors immediately remove Mr. Barkley as the County’s FOIA officer.
I also think it would be appropriate for Mr. Underwood’s and my FOIA requests to be revisited after a new FOIA officer is appointed and properly trained
in accordance with Paragraph E of 2.2-3704.2. Landon McPeeks Greene County, Virginia September 13, 2016
Greene County, Virginia
September 13, 2016 The preceding statement – in its entirety – was to be read to the Greene County Board of Supervisors, during the Public Comment period of the September 13, 2016 Meeting of the Board of Supervisors. Unfortunately, Chairman Martin did not permit Mr. McPeeks to complete the full reading
. Download Mr. McPeeks' statement in a PDF form here
Watch Mr. McPeeks Call the Board of Supervisors to Account
Video courtesy of 'Our Meetings Greene County' - Please subscribe to this channel, and share this blog article and video around to all your Greene County friends.
Anyone who has paid attention to the machinations of Washington knows that when powerful elites want to bury a story they have it released on a Friday night. Moreover, this is preferably done before a long holiday weekend when the American people’s attention is focused elsewhere. So, the beginning of this Labor Day weekend witnessed the cynical release of the FBI's investigatory report covering Hillary Clinton's July interview. Some of the public had been already disturbed when FBI Director James Comey previously came before the nation's media to give his report of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary’s shenanigans as Secretary of State and her ﬁnal interview. Director Comey sequentially stated the case against Hillary Clinton’s use of an illegal server as Secretary of State, exposing Top Secret Classiﬁed governmental materials to foreign eyes, and then subsequently stating his Pontius Pilate-like washing of his hands by shockingly not recommending any actions be taken over her previously stated violations of Federal Statutes. All of this occurred as you may remember as Bill Clinton “coincidentally” conferenced privately with Comey’s direct superior, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, on the tarmac in Arizona in a locked-down plane. Now, as America settles in to College football and barbeque, comes the release of the background report of that very same FBI interview of the Secretary of State and Presidential candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
This document, known as a ‘302’ is the FBI's investigatory report of that interview that Director Comey previously paraphrased and details the speciﬁcs of who was present and what was said. Firstly, the documents show Hillary was accompanied by a phalanx of lawyers, namely David Kendall, Catherine Turner, Cheryl Mills, Heather Samuelson, and amazingly enough, ‘an attorney who shall not be named’. What? Secondly, it relates the substance of her responses to questions by the FBI lawyers which generally took the form of "I don't recall" or "I trusted State Department professionals." She claimed ignorance of receiving training from the State Dept. for classiﬁcation categories, handling of classiﬁed information, and procedures for retention of government document despite the legal Non-Disclosure Agreement she herself signed that she had. In all, Hillary amazingly stated at least 26 times that she could not recall key incriminating actions taken by her as Secretary of State. These include:
- When she received security clearance
- Being briefed on how to handle classiﬁed material
- How many times she used her authority to designate items classiﬁed
- Any brieﬁng on how to handle very top-secret "Special Access Program" material
- How to select a target for a drone strike
- How the data from her mobile devices was destroyed when she switched devices
- The number of times her staﬀ was given a secure phone
- Why she didn’t get a secure Blackberry
- Receiving any emails she thought should not be on the private system
- Did not remember giving staﬀ direction to create private email account
- Getting guidance from state on email policy
- Who had access to her Blackberry account
- The process for deleting her emails
- Ever getting a message that her storage was almost full
- Anyone besides Huma Abedin being oﬀered an account on the private server
- Being sent information on state government private emails being hacked
- Receiving cable on State Dept personnel securing personal email accounts
- Receiving cable on Bryan Pagliano upgrading her server
- Using an iPad mini
- An Oct. 13, 2012, email on Egypt with Clinton pal Sidney Blumenthal
- Jacob Sullivan using personal email
- State Department protocol for conﬁrming classiﬁed information in media reports
- Every brieﬁng she received after suﬀering concussions
- Being noﬁed of a FOIA request on Dec. 11, 2012
- Being read out of her clearance
- Any further access to her private email account from her State Department tenure after switching to her HRCoﬃce.com account
In truth, all of the document is political farce masquerading as high drama and shows Hillary mostly restating her standard defenses to compliant FBI attorneys. More importantly though there are no questions about the emails relayed by the illegal server(s)-in-question to and from Clinton aides regarding Clinton Foundation business. These emails have only recently come after-the-fact to light, most likely on the council of her lawyers who advised withholding them in the ﬁrst place which in turn forced the FBI to recover them. This kabuki dance served a dual purpose: 1) Hillary was allowed to appear forthcoming, even though she did nothing but provide the same talking points and evasions she had all along, and 2) the facilitation of this charade by the FBI who provided her with an oﬃcial forum to repeat her outright denials of intent. This was a Win/Win for both pares, Hillary and the FBI.
Please allow me your forbearance in borrowing the metaphor that, on this weekend there is more smoke out there than is being generated by the nation’s collective barbeques. I can only conclude from the dense clouds wafting across the nation that both pares are guilty. Hillary for her evasions and FBI Director James Comey for being a political lackey, or bought oﬀ, or both. Nonetheless, as I previously said, the timing has been preordained to minimize the impact of these revelations and buﬀalo a distracted, unalert, and possibly inebriated, American public.
The minutes of the April 26th, 2016 meeting of the Greene County Board of Supervisors
, held at the William Monroe High School Performing Arts Center, reflect comments concerning the most recently audited 2015 fiscal year, and opinions about the current 2017 fiscal year budget.
According to the Greene County Administrator, John Barkley, “the 2015 Comprehensive Financial Audit Report demonstrates continued evidence of disciplined spending and fiscal responsibility”, and the 2017 fiscal year budget is “lean and efficient”. County Administrator Barkley outlined that the budget continues to fund core services such as education and safety, investment in County personnel, support of local and regional partners, continued focus on utilizing technology to provide better information and services to residents and businesses, and enforcement of regulations and state mandates.
Even the members of the Board of Supervisors agreed with County Administrator Barkley, with four of five Supervisors voting in favor of the FY’17 budget including raising the Real Estate tax rate to 77.5 cents per 100 dollars of assessed value. All four Supervisors who voted in favor of the rate increase cited the need for additional funds to invest into county services and initiatives.
Budgeting and planning for the future is a fundamental function of the County Administration and of the Board of Supervisors. Additionally, and more importantly, so should ensuring that every tax dollar collected is used efficiently by examining how County Departments under the leadership of the County Administrator function and perform…results must matter.
Take the Greene County Solid Waste Facility, for example. This facility is an operation that has the potential to be very self-sufficient and sustaining through fees paid by the customers who use the service. However, for at least the past 4-audited years and through information provided by the County, the facility has collected $3.4 million in total fee revenue, incurred $4.6 million in operating costs, and rack up an operating deficit of $1.17 million dollars. The facility lost an average of $293 thousand dollars per year during the 2012 – 2015 fiscal years. We are waiting on the audited results of fiscal year 2016 to see how this is trending.
These financial results scream that improvements need to be made in this particular County department. Either costs need to be managed better, a new fee structure developed, or both. Inquiries need to be made and an operational study performed to ensure that quality controls are in place for capturing and charging for every pound of waste received. Are the scales calibrated and working consistently? After all, the cost for transferring the metric tons of waste out can be more than 63% of the operational costs alone. If this is not a self-sustaining venture, a new business model must be considered for this service. As of now, this potentially-self-sustaining operation is subsidized at the expense of other County core services.
To place this into further perspective, the average financial loss per year for the solid waste facility, over the last 4-audited years, is more than 62% of the 2017 Real Estate tax increase that the Board of Supervisors explained was necessary to generate more revenue for Greene County.
Perhaps next budget season, County Administrator Barkley and the Board of Supervisors can address this example and explain where improvements were made that led to being “lean and efficient”. The Greene County Solid Waste Facility can be the first piece of low hanging fruit.
In March 2016, the Greene County Board of Supervisors unveiled the White Run Reservoir Water Impoundment Project
. This project is intended to address the 2009 Regional Water Supply Plan by providing an adequate, safe, and additional demand for water over the next 30 plus years . There is no doubt that Greene County will need water and sewer capacity for community livelihood & for future economic development.
To prepare for this project, Greene County purchased 201 acres for the reservoir located on Dairy Road (SR633), just west of RT. 29 (Map Number: 51 A 25C). The actual reservoir will be 125 flooded acres capable of storing 900,000,000 gallons of water.
By all indications, the project is currently in fast track mode, with all permits in place with only a few steps remaining: paying between $7M and $8M for the Stream and Wetland Mitigation Credits to offset the environmental impact of the project, deciding on the final project design, and determining how to finance the $45 - $65 million dollar project for the next 30 plus years.
There are benefits that this project will provide, such as the aforementioned additional water and wastewater capacity that is vital for economic development and supporting future growth as the current water and wastewater infrastructure is aging and operating almost at capacity. However, there are also major costs and challenges that we as a community should be aware of and think about very hard. Greene County must borrow between $45 & $65 million dollars to complete the project. This borrowing is in addition to the current outstanding debt of $38.5 million dollars.
Structuring the payments for the new debt will be challenging. Debt repayment choices, as proposed by Davenport & Co., could include increasing RSA water & wastewater rates as much as 244%, when compared to the EPA affordability guidelines. Compare the current average water and wastewater rate of 58 dollars to paying 200 dollars for the same service in the near future. This information was presented to the Board of Supervisors in March of this year. There will be several options on the table to spread the cost of this project.
You might say, "The water project doesn't effect me because I have a well". This seems reasonable at first glance, but is not exactly correct. There is a relatively small customer base for county water service. This small number of users is not able to support the large cost of the project with their fees alone. It may be necessary for all taxpayers to help subsidize the cost which will likely result in increased tax rates. Rough estimates of the increase required run as high as 23 cents on 100 dollars of assessed property. This could be offset by growth in the commercial tax base.
You might also say, “Since I have a well, I don't have to connect to the county water system". This is not exactly correct either. What other localities have done is to pass ordinances that will require connection to municipal utilities if a property is transferred or sold. Costs for the connection fees have been borne by the property owner in this scenario.
A sound water system is essential for continued and healthy economic growth in Greene County. What’s most important is that this project be done right and with input from and to the Board of Supervisors. We govern together and they deserve our input on this very important project.
Keep up-to-date on the latest Greene County Water Project developments here.
Published in the Daily Progress, August 11, 2016
To: FBI Director James Comey:
Thank you, Director Comey.
I have a small, home-based business, and you have made my life so much easier.
Since my husband recently retired, I have decided to significantly downsize my marketing to simplify life in our senior years. Your decision not to indict for the mishandling of classified government security documents further simplifies what has always been a very time-consuming task for me: the meticulous record-keeping for government tax purposes.
I am the same age as Hillary Clinton, and like her I am not “sophisticated” with government coding and computer skills. Unlike Hillary, I do not have a staff of highly skilled, highly paid professionals to assist me in the administration of those skills.
My record-keeping for tax purposes has been extremely laborious. I am glad that it is perfectly acceptable for me now to adapt that process for the sake of convenience.
I do not intend
to misplace any tax information. However, I am glad to know that I can now legitimately care less
about the process and that if, accidently in my carelessness, I unintentionally misplace such things as records of sales, I will be exonerated.
I anticipate that the standard of intent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation will be the same standard for the Internal Revenue Service. Likewise, I anticipate that the standard of intent for a former secretary of state will be the same standard for an ordinary citizen, like me.
Originally published in The Daily Progress
Greene County is a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family. What’s not to like? We boast stable employment and a steady local economy, stronger schools than 10 years ago, we’re safe with great law-enforcement, an active church community, easy access to amenities and entertainment, woods, trout streams, scenic mountain and pasture views, and relatively low and stable tax rates. Right now, Greene County is an affordable place to live and raise a family.
Recently, a friend of mine posed the following question, “do we as citizens have any duties or obligations outside of what we are directed to do (or not do) by law?” This was a very interesting question, and I thought for several minutes to form a reply. Of course we do!
I recall this quote by our very own Mr. Jefferson in a letter to Edward Carrington January 16, 1787, "Cherish, therefore, the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, judges and governors, shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature.” I believe he was stressing the worst outcome of a government where the people stop paying attention and cease being involved, although he very plainly made his point.
We, as members of our community, cannot go about our lives thinking only of our daily routines. Unless we become involved in the direction of the affairs that shape our community, someone whom we elected along with a small informed group of active people will shape them for us; with or without regard of what we as a broader people desire of the outcome.
This very concept runs parallel with the current state of Greene County. We are now faced with challenges that we’ve never encountered since our incorporation 178 years ago due to our tremendous growth over a very short number of years. Over the past 5 years alone, we gown more than 8 percent to a population of just under 20,000, and there seems to me no slowing down. Such growth places demand on core services county wide; schools, safety and infrastructure.
Take, for example, our water and sewer system (for those of you not on a well or septic). Currently, it’s reported that our average daily water and sewer capacity will reach its permitted level by 2020, and we’ve already exceeded its daily peak demand. Estimates place a proposed cost of expanding this service for a 30-year usage outlook at $55-65M, doubling our current debt, and adding potentially more that 22 cents to the current 77.5 cent per $100 of assessed property value. This alone would place Greene County as one of the most expensive property taxed counties of its size in the Commonwealth, and in the range of property taxes imposed by Virginia cities, which offer a vaster array of services than counties do. Is there no other alternative to the one proposed?
Then there’s the Greene County School System Facility Study
that examines options that help address the expanding school population. The study describes most of the Greene County Schools exceeding or approaching building capacity, with two schools exceeding their cafeteria capacity. Whatever direction the consultants propose in the final options, better space utilization, building expansion to existing structures, or adding new facilities, the costs will be significant and additional to the cost of water and sewer infrastructure.We have a responsibility to be involved in every aspect of our governance.
We are a people of a self-governance. Our government is the structure that we have chosen to consent to a few elected individuals within the confines of laws and ordinances, to strictly and limitedly keep our local community functioning. Folks, it will not work without our collective input and telling them what WE want in the long-run.
If you look at the new Greene County website
, there is a section towards the bottom of the home page that says, “Meet Your Government
”. The section shows the Board of Supervisors Chair and Vice-Chair, County Administrator, and our Sheriff. Sorry, not to split hairs here, but they are not our government, they are our representatives…even we as citizens are not our government. Their purpose is to represent us to the government (the structure), not represent the government (the structure) to us. We’ve grown accustom to getting these concepts mixed up.
The County of Greene can no longer afford, literally, to aspire to be managed like it has for prior decades. We’ve grown too fast in too short of a period for that, and circumstances have become too complex and sophisticated to manage the structure one month at a time. It’s time for some very classical strategic planning that focuses on how we will be positioned to successfully face the next 20 or 30 years, and that planning requires ALL of us.
Please get involved by first knowing the facts. Attend the Greene County Board of Supervisors
and School Board
meetings. Send your Board of Supervisors an email
. Your involvement will decide how decisions are made and to what degree they impact the cost of living in Greene County.
-- Bob Young