Sunday, November 18, 2018

Election Day is November 5 2019




Goochland’s  venerable courthouse green was filled on the morning of Saturday, November17 with friends and supporters of native son Steven Creasey, 43, as he announced his candidacy for Goochland Sheriff in next year’s election. Four members of the Board of Supervisors, the county treasurer, and Clerk of the Court joined present and former county deputies for the occasion,

Creasey, who has been employed by the sheriff’s office since 1995, spoke of his love for the county and devotion to serve its citizens.
 
Supporters sign up for Creasey for Sheriff campaign
Following an invocation by Deacon Joseph Johnson III of Chief Cornerstone Baptist Church, Ben Slone, a member of the Goochland Economic Development Authority and longtime friend of Creasey, reminded the assembly what makes Goochland special. “It is the greatest county in the Commonwealth, perhaps the entire nation.”


James L. Agnew, who has served as county sheriff since 1992 at the age of 38, announced his intention to retire at the end of the current term, explained what the Sheriff’s Office does.

It is not, said Agnew, about riding around and writing tickets; making arrests; excitement; or the donut shop. It is about long and tiring shifts, missing the holidays and family gatherings that we cherish; it is often dangerous and is, above all, about a commitment to Goochland and serving all of its citizens.

More importantly, said Agnew, he job requires the ability to apply the law in a fair and equal manner to all; service above self; training, education and positive interaction with the community. The Sheriff must possess strong character, impeccable integrity; devotion to duty;  willingness to sacrifice; management skills; and “doing the right thing.”

Steven Creasey with wife Grace and daughter following announcement.


Agnew said that he believes that Steven Creasey is the best person to take the reins of the Sheriff’s Office because he possesses the honesty, character, and integrity that form the essential foundation of an exceptional law enforcement agency.

Steven Creasey’s commitment to Goochland includes 26 years of volunteer service with Goochland fire-rescue, including several years as a member of its Board of Directors. He started his law enforcement career as a dispatcher and rose through the ranks to patrol sergeant, his rank for the past ten years. As patrol sergeant, Creasey supervises deputies that keep watch 24/7 as they make the rounds of all parts of the county. He also supervises communications, which includes dispatch, perhaps the most crucial component of an effective law enforcement organization.

Creasey, contended Agnew, has a calling to serve his community.  The Sheriff, a Constitutional officer, has enormous responsibility. The office is charged with the careful management and efficient use of tax dollars; upholding the constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth; embracing advances in technology; and displaying bravery and calm in the face of chaos. That is made possible by training and education.

In addition to raising a family, volunteering, and working often grueling twelve hour shifts, Creasey earned associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice, proving he has the drive and initiative necessary to lead the department.

In his years of service in the Sheriff’s Office, said Agnew, no one has ever questioned Creasey’s integrity or honor. “He has proven himself over and over again to be dependable, reliable, capable and honest.”.

Creasey, in a soft-spoken yet firm tone of voice explained that he is running for Sheriff to serve and protect all citizens of our county. Goochland is a special place, he said. Time on patrol has given him knowledge of all of the county’s 284 square miles, its differing topography, and varied people.

He pledged to serve “our county” and build on the legacy that has made the Goochland Sheriff’s Office one of the most respected Sheriff’s Office in the Commonwealth. Visit /www.creaseyforsheriff.com for more information.





Tuesday, November 13, 2018

November Board highlights



Our supervisors unanimously adopted a resolution declaring Goochland a Purple Heart County at their November 7 meeting. Goochland joins approximately 1,500 other localities nationwide in this designation to recognize the sacrifice made by those in uniform in defense of our freedoms. 

Two  signs reserving parking for Purple Heart recipients were presented to the county, with an offer of more if needed. Visit /www.purpleheart.org to learn how this, the oldest American award for meritorious service, was established and how its recipients continue to serve our nation.


County Administrator John Budesky reported that the fall town hall meeting series was successful.  The Fall Festival, which was attended by more than 3,500 people on its rain date, was well  received. The county Christmas tree lighting will be held on Friday, December 7, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the field near the intersection of Fairground and Sandy Hook Roads. All are welcome.

Budesky also thanked Vernon Fleming for his service as  an interim appointment on the school board and welcomed Karen Horn, who was elected to the District 3 school board seat at the November 6 election.
The consent agenda included authorization for Budesky to execute a contract for engineering work on sanitary sewer lines for Hickory Haven and Samary Forest. Appropriations for construction funds will be addressed at a later date. After paying Tuckahoe Creek Service District ad valorem taxes since 2002, this area will finally have access to sewer lines, thanks in part to the construction of the Reader’s Branch subdivision.

Goochland 2018 Christmas Mother Kavis Winston  said that she and her elves are working hard to make the holidays merrier for those less fortunate. Visit /goochlandchristmasmother.org to learn how you can help.
 
2018 Christmas Mother Kavis Winston
VDOT representative Marshall Winn reported that the traffic signal at West Creek Parkway and Rt. 6 is operational. Improvements to the Rt. 288/Broad Street Road interchange are on track for advertisement in early 2020, but could be accelerated.

In response to concerns about repeated over wash near a creek on Riddles Bridge Road, Winn said that the pipe is in good condition, but was overwhelmed by recent heavy rain. Should the pipe need replacement, a larger diameter could be considered, but he does not anticipate that any time soon.

Winn said that there have been road issues all over the state due to heavy rains and Goochland fared better than some other places.
 Monthly Board meetings often include department reports. In November, Fire-Rescue and Animal Protection presented theirs.

         Bill MacKay, who has been Chief of Fire-Rescue for eight and one half years, reported once again that calls for service are increasing, about 500 calls year over year. He cautioned that when the new homes that have been approved are built an occupied, “call volume will explode.” Staffing, MacKay said, is always an issue. Even though the number of paid responders has increased each year, vacancies remain. Of 70 employment applications recently received by the department, one third did not meet the basic requirements.

         MacKay said that four of the county’s six fire-rescue stations are regularly staffed. Response times are challenged because ambulances often respond into areas out of their “first due” assigned territory.  The number of times that the county is under the no units available (NUA)—when there are no county fire-rescue resources available to respond to a 911 call—are decreasing. Volunteer participation continues to decline; 70 percent of fire-rescue volunteers in the east end of  Goochland do not live in the county. Three funded positions remain vacant. MacKay said that he is very grateful for their service. However, this decreases  the “coming out of the woodwork” response that used to occur during large incident when volunteers, not on duty, would show up at fires or make up rescue crews to help out when resources were stressed.

           Saving lives and protecting property is an expensive and dangerous business. Due to the nature of building materials cancer has become a risk for firefighters in addition to the other perils of the job. Physicals are now a required  for all fire-rescue members. Personal protective equipment costs  approximately $2,000 per set. Ambulances  cost about $270,000 and ladder trucks in the neighborhood of $1 million.  Equipment maintenance runs about $100 per hour and had increased about ten percent over 2017 as the fleet ages.

         Goochland Fire-Rescue continues its proud heritage of excellence. Deputy Chief EMS D. E. “Eddie” Ferguson, Jr. and paramedic Valetta Daniels were recently named to the governor’s EMS advisory board. Goochland is the smallest jurisdiction to have two representatives on this board. Captain Earl Taylor completed the Virginia Fire Chief’s Academy. Three members completed the Virginia Fire Officer’s Academy. Three members were recently certified as paramedics. Captain Dunn and fire-rescue providers Ferguson and Hatcher were awarded the bronze medal of valor by the Richmond Retail Merchants Association for actions during a flooding event earlier this year.
      A memorandum of understanding between the county and the Fire-Rescue Association was recently completed.


         Although it is not quite budget season yet, the supervisors need to start thinking about how to pay for the burgeoning demand for fire-rescue and law enforcement as the population grows. The can cannot be kicked down the road much longer without affecting the health, safety, and welfare of citizens. Peterson asked that MacKay make systems needs known during budget season.


          Tim Clough(pronounced Cluff) Director of Animal Protection explained that his department is charged with enforcing all county and state animal protection ordinances and preventing the spread of rabies. It also operates the county animal shelter. He expects the new facility to be open and operational in early 2019.

        Calls for service are increasing, as are “notices” to comply, which allow those in violation of animal protection ordinances to correct their violations. Dog adoptions are down slightly form last year while cat adoptions rose. Clough expects those number to increase with the advent of the new facility.

           Clough said that, over the past year, there has been an increase in wildlife calls. Animal protection will assist with injured wildlife and attempt to trap and move these animals to a wildlife rehabilitation facility. Goochland animal protection DOES NOT trap or capture nuisance wildlife, but will evaluate the situation and offer suggestions for mitigating these issues. Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries regulations do not allow county animal protection officers to relocate and release wildlife. Animal protection officers do respond to any animal, wild or domestic, exhibiting signs of active rabies.








Friday, November 9, 2018

Sunshine and roses


Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

Since taking office in 2012 the current Goochland County Board of Supervisors has prided itself on operating in a transparent manner. Closed sessions, rare as the proverbial hen’s teeth, have been used to discuss sensitive economic development issues.

Sometimes, though, closed sessions are used to deal with embarrassing situations away from public scrutiny. On Wednesday, November 8, the supervisors cancelled the closed session on their published agenda and went “warts and all” to address a complaint about remarks District 2 Supervisor Manuel Alvarez, Jr. made on social media last month.

During citizen comment period support for Alvarez was voiced. Goochland Sheriff James L. Agnew said that Alvarez is one of the most engaged elected officials he has ever worked with and believes Alvarez is a wonderful representative of Goochland County. “He is an example of the American success story,” said Agnew. “Born in Cuba, he escaped the Castro Communist Dictatorship  and came here to pull himself up by his bootstraps to get educated and now serves the county.”
District 2 Supervisor Manuel Alvarez, Jr.


Goochland Treasurer Pamela Johnson, who is making steady progress in her recovery from a fall earlier this year, thanked the entire board for its hard work in making Goochland a great county. She recognized Alvarez for supporting her and his dedication to serving the citizens of Goochland.

Anne Mehfoud Rockecharlie said that, as her father was a supervisor in Hanover County, she is all too familiar with the scrutiny placed on people in public office, even before the advent of social media. Alvarez, she said, is highly thought of for his attention to citizens and response to their concerns. “Let’s give this guy a pass. He misspoke,” Rockecharlie said, thanking Alvarez for his service, on behalf of herself and close friend Ann James.

The Board took up the matter in accordance with procedures outlined in its code of ethics, go here http://goochlandva.us/DocumentCenter/View/4279/Code-of-Ethics_2018_Adopted?bidId= for details.

Board Chair Ken Peterson said that the board’s task was not to decide if Alvarez is a good person, but to determine if he violated the policy. Apparently some complaints were sent to the county, “form” letters mostly from addresses in California, objecting to a comment Alvarez made on social media. Alvarez did not identify himself as an elected official, or imply in any way that he was speaking on behalf of the county or board of supervisors.

County Attorney Tara McGee said that she had reviewed the complaint against all provisions of the standards of conduct policy and found that it is not supported. Peterson directed County Administrator John Budesky to draft a response to Alvarez stating that no violation of the ethics policy was found.

Peterson said that the process was uncomfortable, but best handled in open session to be accountable to the highest standards. This matter could have been handled in closed session and swept under the rug as in days of yore.

Budesky shared “roses” in an announcement that Goochland County has earned the Aaa rating, the highest awarded by Moody’s Investors Service. Currently, no jurisdiction with a population less than 75,000 has secured this rating.  Goochland, population approximately 23,000, is the smallest jurisdiction ever to be so honored. Our county is now the smallest county in the entire United States to hold highest bond ratings from two different rating organizations.

Excellent bond ratings do not happen by accident. Budesky said that this is the result of a great deal of hard work by many people and especially thanked Barbara Horlacher, Director of Financial Services for her efforts.

Good bond ratings will enable the county to secure the best rates when it borrows money to build new infrastructure, including a courthouse and elementary school. The ratings also reflect good management of local expenditures and a sound financial position that signals it is a good place to do business.

See http://goochlandva.us/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=261 for the text of a press release from Goochland County.

Other roses strewn were the delivery of a check for $225,000 from Pet Lovers for the new animal shelter, and that the county’s department of Parks and Recreation received an award for the best new bricks and mortar renovation or addition for the rebirth of Central High School from the Virginia Recreation and Park Society in the population 25,000 and under division. This is the latest in a long string of awards for the department, which has been recognized for parks and other recreational facilities. Visit http://goochlandva.us/236/Parks-Recreation to learn more about recreational opportunities in the county.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Citizen Engagement


Citizen engagement

If the October 29 District 2 and 3 Town Hall meeting at Central High School is any indication, Goochlanders are getting tired of these sessions. There were almost as many county employees and officials present as citizens.

Perhaps the low turnout was due to competition with Monday Night  Football and Halloween activities. Maybe some folks attended one of the other meetings, which presented similar information, earlier in the month.

Nevertheless, it was a good faith effort to provide an update on county and school business and listen to citizen concerns. Visuals of information presented at the  meetings may be viewed at : http://goochlandva.us/DocumentCenter/View/4932/Goochland-County---Town-Hall-October-2018---Districts-2-and-3

District 2 Supervisor Manuel Alvarez, Jr. began the meeting by presenting a Goochland Challenge Coin to community volunteer V. Knight Bowles. A county native, Bowles returned home to “retire” and spends his time and considerable energy improving the lives of others with home repair and Habitat for Humanity. Bowles is currently working on his 23rd Habitat home in Goochland.

Sally Graham, Executive Director of Goochland Cares, our local non-profit that lives its name every day, thanked everyone for their support. Graham said that the new building on River Road West in Courthouse Village now has all programs, including medical and dental clinics, the food pantry, and Clothes Closet under one easily accessible roof and is appreciated by its clients. Visit http://www.goochlandcares.org/ for details about this gracious benevolent organization.

Graham echoed appreciation for Knight Bowles, who has worked with Goochland Cares and its predecessor organizations to make badly needed home repairs happen. Bowles delights in slashing red tape to get things done to help people.

As Medicaid expansion nears, Graham said that Goochland Cares is helping people determine if they will be eligible, sign up online, and navigate the regulatory maze of the healthcare system.

County Administrator John Budesky began his remarks with a screening of the recently  completed exquisite marketing video presents Goochland to the world. Go to (https://vimeo.com/goochland) to view it.
According to Administrative Services manager Paul Drumwright, who oversaw production of the video, $6,500 was spent to produce the video and another $4,100 to gather additional footage that will be used to craft future videos with a more specific focus.  Funds came out of the Economic Development Authority budget for marketing and promotions.

          Budesky discussed many topics including broadband expansion; fire-rescue and law enforcement coverage; and  growth. The county, he said, is reviewing two proposals to expand broadband to underserved areas and investigating other opportunities. The supervisors could act on these in coming months.

          Central High School will soon be home to the Goochland Agricultural Center, a 6,800 square foot home for the Virginia Cooperative Extension and Monacan Soil and Water Conservation District. Administrative, programing, training, conferencing and lab space will be used by both organizations to better serve their customers. The center is expected to be operation by December 2018.

          Budesky discussed projects underway in Goochland, most in the east end designated growth area. Approved residential communities, most of which will be age-restricted with no impact on schools will nevertheless add a few thousand residents to the county in the next few years. The county’s current population is approximately 22,000.

          Budget priorities continue to be education, public safety and social services, said Budesky. Citizens asked about the ability of fire-rescue and the Sheriff’s Office, already contending with increasing demand for service and difficulty filling vacancies, to respond when they dial 911. Goochland, said Budesky, benefited for years from a top notch volunteer fire-rescue organization, which can no longer meet demand for service.

           Budesky presented an ambitious plan to build several additional county fire-rescue stations, staffed mostly with paid personnel. Among the planned stations are a relocation of Crozier Company 2 and a station in District 2, which includes Sandy Hook. Although funds to acquire land for these facilities appear as a “placeholder” in the county capital improvement plan, no site for either has, contrary to the rumor mill, been identified.

         He tap danced around a question about hiring additional deputies to deal with a burgeoning population. Last year, the county budget funded three new dispatchers  but no additional deputies. Budesky hinted that the Sheriff has vacant funded positions.
          District 5 Supervisor Ken Peterson, current board chair, said that about half of the county budget funds schools. As most of the new homes will increase property values, and tax revenues, while adding no students, it will be a positive for the county.  He did not address the service burden that more  people will add to law enforcement and fire-rescue.

          Kevin Hazzard and Vern Fleming, School Board Members for Districts 2 and 3 respectively, spoke briefly. Hazzard  acknowledged the accomplishment of the school division under the leadership of Superintendent Jeremy Raley. “We hired well,” Hazzard said.

          Fleming said that is an honor to serve one of the best school divisions in the state and nation. Good schools equip our children for success so they support themselves, and come back to be good citizens and serve Goochland. “This does not happen by accident,” he said.

          Raley delivered an update on schools. He reported that the public safety course that explored law enforcement and fire-rescue was discontinued due to lack of interest. He said that the topic may be reinvented in the future.

          Sekou Shabaka of the Goochland NAACP said that although Goochland is considered to be rich county, there are people here who still have outdoor plumbing. The county, he said, has a responsibility to address issues like affordable housing, possible lead contamination of water and great diversity on county staff.


         Budesky said that the county’s first priority is to hire well-quailed individuals and tries to recruit from the broadest possible pool of applicants. An internship program is also addressing the issue. Affordable housing is a difficult issue, Budesky agreed and said that  “more needs to be done.”

          Wendy Hobbs said that listening sessions are planned with the county health department to identify needs that are not being met.

           In response to an inquiry, Debbie Byrd, Assistant Director of community Development, said that timbering is regulated by the Virginia Department of Forestry. Trees left at the edges of timbered property are probably in either power company or VDOT rights of way, which is why they are left to fall across roads.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Kiwi case goes to Feds




On Monday, October 29, Troy George Skinner, the New Zealand man who was wounded while breaking into a Goochland home in June, appeared before Goochland General District Court Chief the Hon. Judge Claiborne H. Stokes, Jr. 

State felony charges filed in Goochland, were Nolle Prosequi—essentailly dropped—to be replaced by federal charges relating to his actions in Goochland on June 22. He will be processed out at the Henrico Jail at which time the FBI will take him into custody.

Troy Skinner, head down, is escorted to transport pending his turnover to FBI custody


Goochland Sheriff James L. Agnew said that he contacted the FBI the day after the incident and they responded immediately. Given the complexity of prosecuting a criminal case with possible international implications, the FBI has the necessary resources to handle the case.

Skinner, who was hospitalized after arrest for the gunshot wound to the neck he sustained during the incident, has been held in the Henrico Jail West—Goochland does not have its own jail—for several months.

Heavily manacled at the hands and feet, Skinner kept his head down as he was escorted to a van by Goochland law enforcement officers.

He was arrested after a Goochland woman called 911 to report she shot a man who broke into her home. The subsequent investigation found that Skinner made the acquaintance of a daughter of the homeowner during online gaming sessions. The daughter tried to sever the gaming connection, but Skinner persisted, according to information distributed by Agnew in late June.

Skinner traveled to the United States from New Zealand via Australia arriving on the west coast, then making his way east by bus. He then somehow made his way from Short Pump, where he purchased a knife and duct tape, to Goochland without having a vehicle.

This is a cautionary tale for parents to make sure they know who their children interact with online. There are real people behind those anonymous identities who may not be harmless.

(Media coverage of the court appearance was interesting. Only WTVR Chanel 6 sent a reporter and camera man. The reporter from the Richmond paper missed Skinner’s perp walk from the courthouse to his jail transport. )










Thursday, October 25, 2018

That time of year




Here in Virginia we have elections every year. Soon the annoying robo-calls and commercials will stop—until next year. For those who may have been on the far side of the moon, here are a few comments about the upcoming elections in Goochland.

Winston Forrest, who was appointed by the Goochland Electoral Board to succeed longtime Director of Elections Frances C. Ragland, recently left the employ of the county for reasons that will probably never be publicly disclosed. The Electoral Board, comprised of two democrats and one republican, appointed Ryan Mulligan as General Registrar. Fortunately, Ragland has returned to act as  a Special Senior Assistant Registrar to assist in the transition and ensure that Goochland’s elections are conducted in the exemplary fashion that citizens expect. We owe Ragland a great debt of gratitude for her continued willingness to pitch in and decades of dedication to serving the voters of our county.

This year in Goochland we vote for United States Senator; 7th District representative to the United States House of Representatives; and two state constitutional amendments regarding local taxation of property.

Voters in District 3 will also have a supervisor election—John Lumpkins, Jr., who was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to succeed the late Ned Creasey until the election is running unopposed. His seat on the school board, to which Vernon Fleming was appointed until the election, is also on the ballot. Fleming and Karen Horn are vying for the 3rd District school board seat.

Next year, the entire Board of Supervisors and School Board will be up for election.

The amendments (https://www.elections.virginia.gov/election-law/proposed-constitutional-amendment-2018/index.html) deal with somewhat narrow provisions of property tax laws. It would seem that the amendment addressing flood prone land pertains more to Tidewater.

Tax relief for the surviving spouse of a 100 percent disabled veteran is addressed in the second proposed amendment.

Please take a few minutes before you go to the polls to familiarize yourself with these ballot proposals, and decide how you will vote.  Do not wait until you are in the voting to read and decide about these issues. Be considerate of others’ time when you go to the polls and be ready to cast your vote to keep lines moving.

Goochland consistently has high voter turnout. Visit http://goochlandva.us/359/Voter-Registration-Elections for complete more information.

Please note: GOMM will not publish comments relating to specific candidates. There are plenty of other forums for that.



Sunday, October 21, 2018

Do you want to know a secret


Do you want to know a secret?

Goochland County’s school division’s relentless pursuit of excellence continues.  So many good things are happening, that it’s hard to keep track of them. By now, everyone in the county should have received Explorations in Learning in the mail.

This was in your mailbox, read it


According to Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Jeremy Raley, GCPS “spent a total of $6,600.58 for the printing and shipping of this report.  Printing cost $4,322.30, mailing $2,268.28, and shipping of copies to our central office $10.00.  The content was populated by our administrative team and Dr. John Hendron did the layout and graphics.”

The high quality of  Explorations illustrates the talented people who work each day to help every student in county schools reach their potential. Raley explained that the report was sent to each mailbox in Goochland to ensure that everyone, especially those who do not electronically access local information, knows what is happening in our schools. As local education consumes a significant portion of county tax dollars, citizens should be aware of how their money is spent.

Please take  a few minutes to find out what our schools are doing to help our kids obtain the tools they will need to grab their part of the American dream. Pay particular attention to “The profile of a Goochland Graduate” on page 10. Life skills, in addition to scholastic achievement, are important attributes for material success and personal satisfaction.

It is clear that our school division understands that students have differing gifts, each of which has value in our complex society.

Word has been getting out, around the region and nation, about the good work our schools are doing. On Monday, October 15 GCPS  hosted 39 representatives of eight school divisions from Ohio to Louisiana. The day’s program included a glimpse of many  aspects of education Goochland style. According to Raley, everyone was at their best and our visitors were impressed by the overall commitment to excellence and talented people who take pride in their work and make it all possible.

On Tuesday, October 16, the Goochland Education Foundation, hosted a friend raising event. It was held at the exquisite new Richmond Audi dealership, whose owner Larry Page, is a longtime county resident and generous supporter of the community.

Dr. Megan Healy, Chief Workforce Development Advisor in Governor Northam’s administration, spoke briefly to the gathering. Fixing the mismatch between skill sets and job openings is a serious challenge for the Commonwealth, she contended. Figuring out how to ensure that students have skills to hold jobs that do not yet exist is one of the most pressing challenges facing educators. Healy collaborates with educators at all levels and business leaders to find solutions for current problems and craft strategies for the future.
 
Dr. Meghan Healy
Equipping our children with technical and “soft” skills, not just the ability to collect data, but to make that information useful and collaborate with a wide range of individuals to reach shared goals is also vital, she said.

Healy explained that Raley is part of her taskforce and that Goochland is already doing things that other school divisions are just talking about.

The GEF is a local non-profit that provides resources to enrich education outside of the school budget For more information about GEF, visit its website, Gooclandedu.org. If you have an extra bean or two that you would like to plant locally and watch grow, GEF is a 501 (c) (3) organization. In addition to scholarships, GEF awards strategic innovation grants to allow teachers to explore concepts outside the curriculum.

The excellence of Goochland schools is too well kept a secret, tell all of your friends how great they are! (Visit http://goochlandschools.org/ to learn more.)