Sunday, July 31, 2011

Into the fray

County GOP to field historic number of candidates

Goochland’s Republican Committee will field a large slate of candidates for the November 8 local elections. At its Wednesday, July 27 mass meeting, the local GOP nominated candidates for Commonwealth’s Attorney, Treasurer and supervisor in Districts 2, 3 and 4. Candidates for school board in all five districts also received endorsements.

Claiborne H. Stokes, Jr. the current Commonwealth’s Attorney is seeking election to his second full term in office.

Pamela Cooke Johnson, who was appointed interim county treasurer earlier this year, is seeking election to that office in her own right.

GOP contenders in District 1 and 5 will be determined by party canvass to be held next Tuesday, August 2. Both will run between 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. There will be no absentee voting. Those wishing to vote in these canvasses must present a photo ID to verify residence in the district. For additional information contact Ben Slone, chair of the Goochland Republican Committee at 556-1180.

The District 1 canvass will be held at the Fife Company 4 fire-rescue station on Hadensville-Fife Road.

In that race, Susan Lascollette, a founder of the Goochland Tea Party, has been delving into county operations for quite some time. She is the clear choice to oppose incumbent Andre Pryor, who has been in office since the Nixon administration.

The District 5 canvass will be held at Dover Baptist Church on Manakin Road.

Ken Petersen, whose finance background and deep concern about the current Board of Supervisors’ indifference to the county’s massive debt obligations, is the clear choice in District 5. As no other contenders for the open District 5 supervisor race have yet come forward, this canvass could pick the next supervisor.

This is the first time that the Goochland GOP has fielded such a wide array of candidates for local office. Given the number and severity of scandals that have erupted in local government in the last four years citizens seem ready to elect new government officials on the local level.
It will be interesting to see just how nasty some of the campaigns will get, especially in Districts 1 and 2 where long entrenched incumbents either turned a blind eye to or were intellectually incapable of understanding the malevolent dysfunction in county government.

Indeed, should the GOP candidates prevail at the polls on November 8, they face the daunting task of getting the county back on track.

The supervisor candidates that faced no opposition for the republican nomination are: District 2 Manual Alvarez, Jr. of Sandy Hook; District 3 incumbent Ned S. Creasey of Maidens and District 4 incumbent Malvern R. “Rudy” Butler of Manakin-Sabot.

Having left Cuba at age 14 to avoid conscription into Castro’s military, Alvarez fears little and will offer District 2 voters a choice for supervisor for the first time in decades. He will face formidable opposition from the family that has controlled District 2 politics for a very long time.

Alvarez said that he had been contemplating a run for supervisor for a while, but the decided to run when he heard that the board of supervisors failed to rotate the chairmanship. He cited continuating revelations of corruption in county government as contributing factors in his decision.

Creasey, finishing his first term on the board, has just gotten started rooting out corruption and dysfunction in county government.

Butler takes his responsibilities as a supervisor seriously and works hard for his constituents.

Candidates for school board that received the GOP endorsement are: District 1 Michael Payne; District 2 Kevin Hazzard; District 3 John Lumpkins; District 4 Beth Hardy and District 5 John Wright.

These school board candidates bring a fascinating collection of important skill sets to the race. Payne is a teacher. Hazzard has wide ranging technical skills and teaches at J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College. Lumpkins is a lawyer. Hardy runs her own business. Wright is an accountant. They all have children in county schools and are actively involved in local education. They all believe that the most important educational resource are teachers and want to work hard to support them.

They do not seem like the kind of people who run with scissors and should play well with each other and the board of supervisors.

“We need to pay our teachers like we love them,” said Hazzard. What a change from the attitude of current school administration that seems to regard our teachers as costs of two feet little different from toilet paper that should be purchased at the lowest cost regardless of quality and discarded at will.

School board candidates also cited the current school board’s lack of interest in details of running our schools. They contend that a change of leadership is needed to restore trust in county schools and believe that open communication with the board of supervisors and citizens is vital to ensure excellence in local education. They also seem to understand that the supply of money to run schools is not endless and that careful prioritizing is vital to spend tax dollars with wisdom and efficiency.

For the first time ever, school board and supervisor candidates pledged to work together for the good of the county and the school system. We currently operate under a confrontational method in which members of both boards tend to snipe at each other instead of communicating. This has got to change.

All of the candidates are to be commended for getting off of the sidelines and putting themselves forth to tackle Goochland’s problems.

Challengers face stiff opposition as entrenched incumbents dig in their heels. Roads are being repaved and other “favors” coming out of the woodwork. One question that challengers and voters must ask incumbents is why they cling to the low paying headache laden jobs. We also need to hear, at length, their excuses for the mess that they enabled and what they will do differently in the future.

This should be a very interesting campaign!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Grubbs no show in court

Believed to be in hospital

Benda Grubbs, former Goochland County treasurer who resigned in February after having been arrested for allegedly embezzling more than $135,000 from county accounts, failed to appear in Goochland Circuit Court on July 26. She was scheduled to face multiple embezzlement charges and one charge of money laundering.

Grubbs was arrested in February when a representative of Wachovia Bank in Charlottesville notified local authorities of Grubbs making irregular withdrawals. When questioned by Goochland Sheriff James L. Agnew, Grubbs is alleged to have confessed to taking county funds for her own use and was allegedly found to have wire transfer receipts secreted in her socks.
It is believed that she was transported to an area hospital on Saturday, July 23 after having been found unresponsive when a county rescue squad responded to a call at her address.

Her attorney, James Maloney, told Goochland Circuit Court Judge Timothy K. Sanner that he believed his client was a patient at Henrico Doctors Hospital. That information, he said, came from the hospital, not his client or her representatives.

Agnew later confirmed that a county rescue squad responded to a call at Grubbs’ address last Saturday and transported a female patient to an area hospital. Privacy laws, he said, preclude divulgence of more information. He did not know if Grubbs’ passport, if any, was confiscated after her initial appearance in court. Grubbs is alleged to have sent county money to locations in the Middle East.

In court Sanner and Jeff Haislip Fluvanna Commonwealth’s Attorney who was appointed as a special prosecutor in the case, puzzled over what action to take next. Haislip expressed concern about issuing a show cause order because it would add more stress to the situation but was very concerned about Grubbs’ failure to appear in court.

As Maloney had not spoken with his client and was unable to confirm the nature of her condition, but speculated that her medical problems could be both mental and physical. He said he did not know if her condition could warrant moving her to another facility.

Although there seemed to be a strong possibility that Grubbs attempted suicide, all remarks in court tiptoed around the mention of that term.
Sanner said that if the situation is a mental health issue and Grubbs is a danger to herself, she is in a place where she can receive appropriate care and was reluctant to issue essentially an arrest order because it would only exacerbate and already stressful situation.

Sanner also said that, because the nature of her offenses was non- violent, he would instead issue a show cause order to review the details of her condition. That included a return date of August 9 at 2 p.m. He will prepare and hold a failure to appear notice until more details of the situation are known. She could be arrested if she fails to appear or provide good reason for her absence then.

So, this mess will continue to fester in the broiling summer sun. On the bright side, failure to resolve this situation by Labor Day will add even more interest to this fall’s local elections. Incumbents, especially District 1 supervisor Andrew Pryor, who has been in office for almost 40 years, will have to explain why they went to great lengths to keep Grubb’s incompetence under wraps for years.

Grubbs’ current situation gives greater credence to widespread speculation that she would try to make some sort of deal or take other actions to avoid jail time. Now, it seems like a plea of diminished capacity could be on the way. The failure of Grubbs or any family members to contact Maloney, especially knowing that she was scheduled to appear in court is very puzzling. Is this yet another sign of arrogance or simple ignornance of the importance of this court appearance.

Maybe the county slogan should be “Come to Goochland rip off the public and get away with it.”

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Benedictine on the way

Planners vote to recommend CUP 6-3

After what seemed like an endless public hearing before the Goochland County Planning Commission on July 21, an application for a conditional use permit that would allow Benedictine High School to move its academic campus to a fifty acre parcel on the south side of River Road just east of Rt. 288 was recommended for approval by a 6-3 vote. James Melton, District 2 was absent. Courtney Hyers and Lowe Lunsford, District 5 and Ty Querry, District 2 voted in dissent.

Speakers included residents of the River Road corridor, alumni and concerned citizens from other parts of Goochland. Everyone acknowledged that Benedictine is an educational institution of the highest degree and its alumni a force for good in our declining society.

The major concerns were about the impact of the school on property values, traffic, noise, water and sewer. Many of the opponents had comments of the “not in my backyard” variety. River Road, which once was a peaceful rural enclave, has grown into an exurban haven for the affluent.

A good portion of the residential growth in Goochland over the last decade or so has happened in the River Road corridor. The new communities are top drawer. The owner of land just to the east of what is now a Benedictine Abbey stated that he has 21 building sites for homes he expects to be priced around $1.4 million.

Darvin Satterwhite represented Benedictine, which offers a faith based military style secondary education. He outlined in great detail the measures that the school will take to bring the existing structures into code compliance as well as described a 1,600 seat field house that the school plans to build on the property backing up to Rt. 288.

Benedictine proffered cash to be used to improve turn lanes at the Rt. 6 River Road intersection in front of the Richmond Country Club. Detailed travel plans which permit students and parents to enter the school only from the west, were part of the presentation.

While the school may be able to discipline the travel habits of its students, Benedictine will not be able to control the routes used by those attending athletic contests on the property, which is currently used by the school for some sports including baseball and football.

The size of the student body and supporting staff was proffered conditionally on water use. The subject property is at the end of the water line supplied by Henrico County and is allocated the last 10,000 gallons per day. That amount of water cannot be increased. Using state water use standards for high schools, 16 gallons per student per day, the school expects to start off with a student body of 325 with about 60 teachers and support staff.

After operating under real time conditions and monitoring its water use, the school may increase its student body if, indeed, its water use is far lower than the 16 gpd per person. Satterwhite said that the school believes actual use is in the seven gpd per person range. Student body size would be allowed to increase incrementally resulting in a maximum student body of 550 and about 112 support personnel. He contended that the school currently increases its student body by about 10 to 16 students annually so it would take more than two decades to reach the maximum.

Water for fire suppression will be supplied from a 500,000 gallon reservoir on the property and a code compliant 40,000 gallon holding tank to supply water for a sprinkler system that will be installed in the building as part of its upgrade for use as a school.

The other end of that equation, wastewater or sewage, raised some serious concerns. Currently, wastewater for the existing facility, which began life as a preparatory high school for seminary students about fifty years ago, is handled by an onsite 15,000 gallon per day treatment plant in use for about half a century.

While the person who currently manages the physical plant on the property contended that it can keep on chugging along indefinitely if properly maintained, he added that “pump and haul” measures could be used if the plant breaks down. That would add large tanker trucks filled with raw sewage to the River Road traffic load.

No concrete information was presented about the cost of replacing the wastewater treatment plant. One Benedictine alumnus contended that it would cost about $6 million to replace and that those funding the move of the school did not have sufficient funds to pay for that. Another alumnus said that there is about $20 million available for improvements to the River Road property.

It is not Goochland County’s job to referee a dispute among Benedictine alumni. The good monks need to have a , pardon the expression, “come to Jesus” meeting with the alumni so they present a united front to the public and get their story straight.

It is, however, the duty of the county to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens.

Far more information about the wastewater treatment plant and contingencies for its prompt replacement should it fail is needed before this conditional use permit receives final approval. Perhaps the school should be required to post some sort of performance bond to ensure that the wastewater treatment plant be kept in optimal operating condition.

As usual in these presentations, concerns raised by citizens about the impact of a new venture on services provided by the Sheriff’s Office and Fire-Rescue were ignored. Benedictine could soften this a little by adding an EMT course to its curriculum so the boys could at least take care of their own.

A comment made by Satterwhite early on indicated the outcome of the evening’s antics. He asked the planning commission for a vote that night because a one month delay in approval would defer the school’s move by a year. In the bad old days, a comment like that was code for “it doesn’t matter how the planning commission votes, I have three yea votes on the Board of Supervisors.” Efforts by Hyers to defer the vote were unsuccessful.

We still don’t know “what’s in it for Goochland?” Beyond some vague touchy feely statements that the county should feel honored because the premier educational institution in the region wants to come here, that question was never answered.

Currently, the land is not on the tax rolls, so that’s no change. A good portion of the Benedictine student body already visits the site on a regular basis to partake in sports. It looks like we’re going to get another school here. Keep watch for the tanker trucks on River Road.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


As Goochland broils under the summer sun, various matters continue to simmer.

The ongoing “discussion” of the county’s response to a state mandate to designate “urban development areas” grinds along. On Tuesday, July 19, the latest iteration of proposals for specific UDAs in Centerville, including the new addition if land on the east side of Ashland Road just south of Interstate 64 got little support from those who mostly filled the Centerville Company 3 meeting room.

Incumbent District 4 supervisor Rudy Butler and county administrator Rebecca T. Dickson offered good news when they announced that the long needed traffic signal at the intersection of Manakin and Broad Street Roads will be part of the widening project. Completion of the new roadway is expected sometime this fall.

Several citizens raised concerns that the UDAs will be put into place right away. Dickson said that, before any designations are made, which would require amendment of the county’s comprehensive land use plan and creation of supporting zoning classifications, public hearings before both the planning commission and board of supervisors must be held.

Questions about the urgency of complying with the state mandate were deflected. It looks like a delaying tactic is underway to ensure that the matter does not reach the supervisors for a vote before the November 8 local elections.

Part of the problem is that county staff continues to do a poor job of explaining that designating UDAs does not mean that housing projects, funded by state dollars, will immediately sprout there. The designation of UDAs and associated comp plan and zoning changes will simply provide the possibility that higher density housing and/or business uses could occur. Anything built under the UDA rules, which will happen only where public water and sewer are available, will be the result of market forces.

For instance, the county has had a B3 zoning classification that permits, within about a half mile radius of interstate interchanges, buildings up to 100 feet high to accommodate hotels. So far there is no land zoned B3 because the free market sees no advantage to doing so. Higher density options could very well result in no construction for quite some time.
Many people are opposed to mixed use zoning options, which place business and residential uses on the same or nearby parcels of land. This usually requires some sort of master plan to show what goes where long before the start of any construction.

Some land in the county has been zoned for de facto mixed use and has been since late 2006. It is located, in of all places, the Manakin Village, which is not served by water and sewer. Because market forces show no advantage to building this project, nothing has happened. Look for this to get going when the private wastewater system that currently serves Manakin Farms, Hillside Estates and the Parke at Manakin fails and the county is forced to connect them to the TCSD. The shortest distance between TCSD trunk lines and those communities goes right through the mixed use area.

Probably because it is an election year, county officials fail to mention the fact that the county carries a crushing debt burden. Failure to create higher density development options, even in a small corner of the county, will have dire consequences for every tax payer.

The supervisors need to stop dancing around the idea of a master plan for Centerville and just approve one. It makes sense to permit higher density development options there.

The degree of that density is another matter than must be addressed right now. We neither need nor want the same density at Short Pump, but, at the current 2.5 units per acre, no one can make a profit so the free market attracts the dollars we need to pay our debts elsewhere.

Having said all that, the notion that higher density housing in Centerville will absorb all of the people that want to move to Goochland for 20 years is absurd. This is what happens when a bureaucrat fiddles with statistics and writes policies that try to dictate how people will live.

The more options the better. Maybe we could sell some sort of horse boarding and riding facility with townhouses nearby so the equestrians can walk to the stable and don’t have to worry about cutting the grass. Sounds crazy but there just might be a market for something like that here. Our zoning options must accommodate the changes in the way people live.

Even if UDAs are designated, that land must be rezoned before a thimble of dirt may be moved. That requires at least two public hearings and probably a more informal community meeting.

The state should keep its nose out of our land use decisions, but Goochland needs higher density zoning options to survive. We’ve got some fairly stringent design guidelines in our villages that should ensure a pleasing result to any of these projects, which must include detailed maste plans.

At the July 20 meeting of the Economic Development Authority Dickson said that the county is getting an increasing number of initial inquiries from businesses. She said that there is nothing concrete yet, but things seem to be picking up a little.

District 5 representativeand chair Marshall Bowden said that the EDA is eager to help the county in any way possible and wants to be a catalyst to improve business activity in Goochland.

Dickson reported that the consultants are working away on the strategic plan for economic development and expects that it will be presented to the supervisors in the fall.

The county will distribute a simple survey to small and medium sized businesses in the next few weeks to gather information actually doing business in Goochland.

There may be hope for a better tomorrow. At least someone is doing something!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Creasey announces

District 3 supervisor incumbent seeks second term

Speaking to a crowd of supporters and luminaires of the Republican Party, Ned S. Creasey of Maidens, incumbent District 3 supervisor, officially launched his reelection campaign on the Goochland Courthouse Green on Saturday, July 16.

Creasey said, as he did four years ago that, especially on the local government level in Goochland, there is a serious disconnect between the citizens and the decision makers. He repeated his promise to listen and ask questions before making decisions on county matters.

He said that he has worked hard to bring common sense and accountability to Goochland government whose past operations he characterized as a shell game. He promised to continue working to improve county governance. “There is still lots to be done,” said Creasey. “We’re headed in the right directions, let’s keep that on track.”

Creasey then dropped a bombshell by stating that he had just been diagnosed with cancer. He said that he is determined to beat that and serve the citizens of District 3.

Both soft and plain spoken, Creasey surprised many people when he handily won his first election four years ago running against an incumbent and a newcomer after a late entry into the race. He worked hard to win that election by talking, and more importantly, listening, to District 3 citizens. Those who underestimated Creasey did so at their peril.

The 2007 election included the infamous “Signgate” episode when supporters of Creasey and District 5 contender Pat Turner received menacing letters from county zoning officials demanding removal of large campaign signs from prominent locations. It is believed that about 18 of those letters were sent to citizens while only one complaint was received by the county.

To this day, the origin of the list of targeted signs remains a mystery. When those displaying signs refused to remove them citing first amendment rights and fuzzy language in the county sign ordinance, the county backed down. An investigation into the matter after the election yielded fuzzy results. Hopefully, there will be no such nonsense this year.

Since taking office, Creasey has been vilified and demonized for his refusal to go along with the status quo and demand answers to embarrassing questions. In early 2008, Creasey was forced to file Freedom of Information Act requests with the former county administrator to obtain access to documents that should be readily available to a supervisor.

Creasey’s inquiries into the operations of the Goochland Public Utilities Department pulled the first thread that eventually unraveled a carefully woven web of what was, at best, abysmal mismanagement of county financial affairs. Following the hasty “retirement” of the previous county administrator, Creasey sought and received removal of the former county attorney and a full audit of county fiscal operations.

Indeed, Creasey’s public demand for the immediate termination of the former county administrator was rebuffed only a few weeks before increasing pressure led to that official’s precipitous decision to take early retirement. Creasey was at the forefront of all investigations into the pernicious dysfunction of Goochland government. He aksed many embarassing questions about the financing and construction of the water and sewer lines in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District.

He’s not done yet. At the July 5 supervisors’ meeting, Creasey made a formal request of the county attorney to ascertain the cost of pursing legal action against the auditors who seemed to have overlooked a few thousand things while overseeing county fiscal matters for at least a decade.

Ben Slone, Chair of the Goochland Republican Committee, said that 2011 is the most important year, a watershed year, in Goochland elections. Slone said that he expects the GOP to field 14 candidates for local office this year. That includes the first endorsements for school board candidates by Republicans. School board candidates are forbidden by state law from running with a specific party.

Other speakers included Lee Ware of Powhatan who will be representing the western part of Goochland in the 65th District of the Virginia General Assembly. Ware, a teacher is also a former Powhatan supervisors and chairman of that board—guess they rotate— so he is quite familiar with the challenges faced by local government.

Bill Janis, who represented all of Goochland in the 56th District until this year’s redistricting, asked those present to recall what Goochland government was like four years ago.

“Ned brought commonsense, accountability and transparency to Goochland government,” said Janis. “He brought sound judgment and a steady hand to his duties as supervisor and worked well with fellow Republican Rudy Butler (District 4) during the treasurer crisis.”

There are two kinds of people in public office, said Janis, those who want to be somebody and those who want to do something. “Ned,” he said, “is clearly the latter kind. He wants to be a watchdog, not a lapdog; a workhorse, not a show horse.”

Janis enumerated Creasey’s long history of community involvement including the American Legion, Boy Scouts and especially life membership in Goochland Courthouse Volunteer Fire-Rescue Company 5 as an active rescue provider. This is one of the most basic and vital forms of public service and undoubtedly gave Creasey valuable insights into the needs of Goochlanders.

Democrat Alan Tucker will oppose Creasey in November.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sharing our rural culture

CRC brings the world to Goochland

The world got a little smaller on June 22 when the Center for Rural Culture played host to six Nuffield Scholars. The scholars, four from Australia, and one each from Ireland and Great Britain visited Goochland after stops in China and the Philippines.

Though visiting agricultural operations in the United States, as part of their travels, the Nuffield program asked to return to Goochland because previous of successful previous visits. The CRC is the only non-governmental sponsor to host Nuffield Scholars this year.

“We were honored to host the Nuffield Scholars,” said Kate Sarfaty CRC president. “Their interest in Goochland indicates the caliber and variety of our local farms, which form the backbone of our rural culture.”

Sponsoring the visit of the Nuffield Scholars to local farms is one way that the CRC works to forge links, both local and international, among those who feed the world.

Funded by a foundation created in 1947 by William Morris Lord Nuffield to recognize the contribution made by farmers who kept the Commonwealth fed during World War II, the scholarships are open to agriculturalists from member countries of the British Commonwealth.

Goochland’s visitors came from England, Australia and Northern Ireland. They visited a variety of operations including Rassawek Farm and the Klinefelter vineyard/winery; Lower Byrd Farm where owner Debra Stoneman treated the group to a wonderfully prepared lunch of local vegetables and free range chicken; Kelona Farm in Powhatan hosted by David and Nancy Moyer and their son Vernon and ended the day at with a cookout at Sandy and Rossie Fisher’s Brookview Farm, which produces grass fed organic beef.

The scholars from Australia, Andrew Dewar ,Aaron Sanderson, Michael Inwood and Paul Lambert are actively engaged in farming including production of vegetables, milk, grain and sheep for fiber and meat. They want to increase their knowledge of agriculture and learn about different ways to maximize use of water; preserve and sustain soil health and environmentally responsible methods of dealing with universal problems such as large quantities of manure.

Amii Cahill and Zoe Davies, from Northern Ireland and England respectively, are spokespeople for agricultural interests. Davies’ focus is on the pork industry and she was disappointed that the Goochland visit did not include any American pigs.

Speaking a common language, love of the land and farming, the visitors and locals freely swapped ideas, best practices and good cheer. The share a common goal of feeding the world while ensuring that the land remains productive. They also expressed dismay at increasing governmental regulations that hinder rather than encourage innovation.

Chatting over a potluck dinner and cookout of delicious Brookview Farm beef burgers, the scholars said that Australian cookouts, including watermelon, were pretty much the same.

As dusk fell, the Australians, no doubt used to creatures that we would find exotic, were captivated by our fireflies. We hope that they will take home good memories and useful information from their day in Goochland.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hot time

Summer in the county

Returning to work the day after delightful fireworks defied the drippy skies over Courthouse Village, the Goochland Board of Supervisors worked their way through a routine agenda at the July 5 meeting.

Citizen comment included remarks denouncing the county’s ongoing efforts to comply with the state Urban Development Area (UDA) mandate. Community meetings are scheduled for July 19 at 7 p.m. at Centerville Company 3 and 6p.m. on July 21 in the board meeting room just before the July meeting of the planning commission. County administration does seem to be paying attention to citizen input on this so plan to attend one or both meetings.

Opponents of the UDA mandate contend that it is a part of something called Agenda 21, a scheme to concentrate populations so they are more easily controlled. Regardless of the rationale behind creation of UDAs, the Commonwealth has better things to do with its time and money than poke its nose into local land use matters.

A school board candidate asked that the projected date for presentation of the 2011-12 school budgets be moved back from January 26, 2012 to permit review by the incoming school board. County administrator Rebecca Dickson said that date was set by advertising deadlines, but it is believed that something will be worked out.

Business at the Goochland Drive In must be booming, because there was a complaint about the traffic it generates near the Hadensville exit on Interstate 64.

Dickson reported on a meeting with Powhatan officials about an application to draw water from the James River that they are preparing to submit to the Army Corps of Engineers. Concern was expressed by the board at its June meeting because the proposed intake facility will include a concrete bunker affair about 130 feet long and 15 feet high that will extend into a part of the James River little changed by civilization. Information submitted in June included a map with a rough location.

Dickson suggested inviting the Powhatan County Engineer to the the August 2 board meeting to provide more specifics. Rudy Butler, District 4 pointed out that the Goochland boundary is the high water mark of the James, so Powhatan may be building something on our territory and we need to know what it will look like.

Powhatan hopes to withdraw water from the James at this location to serve future commercial activity in the Flat Rock area.

The economic development consultants are working away, said Dickson, and will be back in the county next week to meet with stakeholders they missed on the first go round. A brief survey will be used to gather feedback from small businesses in the county.

About 6,000 people attended the fireworks on the Fourth. Derek Stamey, Director of Parks and Rec and his staff are to be congratulated for not cancelling. Our great deputies and fire-rescue volunteers also get credit for keeping everyone safe.

Maj. Don Bewkes of the sheriff’s office reported that there were no incidents of any kind at the fireworks! Part of the cost of the display was underwritten by the 623 Landfill. How many of you would be willing to chip in a few bucks to defray the cost in future years?

Interim treasurer Pamela Cooke Johnson updated the supervisors on her progress in cleaning up the mess in that office including implementation of a new policy on delinquent payments.

She took the time to recognize deputy treasurers Valerie Johnson, Dana Jordan, Tonya Proffitt and Leola Payne for their extraordinary service since the arrest of the former treasurer.

Johnson said that while most people have been kind and understanding, a few “stinkers” heaped abuse and anger on these women following the previous treasurer’s arrest. They stayed and did their job and are working hard to restore the reputation of the Treasurer’s office.

The Rivergate water pumping station on River Road has been handling more homes than it was designed to accommodate and needs to be updated, Dickson reported.

Sounds like the exterior of this building got far more scrutiny from the Design Review committee than its innards received from a functional aspect by the former county engineer. This pumping station was built only a few years ago when most of the new subdivisions along River Road were on the books.

Under another heading, the board learned that about $10,000 was refunded to a public water customer in the Centerville area when it was discovered that he had been charged the connection fee for a one inch line but instead had a five eights inch water line. Must the county dig up every existing utility line to get this stuff straight?

The supervisors recognized the team that worked hard to create the redistricting plan, which has received initial approval from the U. S. Justice Department. Primaries and other elections will be held as scheduled. That includes a primary on August 23 to select candidates for the newly created 22nd District seat in the Virginia Senate.

Dickson reported that the West Creek Medical Center is moving along and should be open next year. The Alligator Fuels project on Pouncey Tract Road, which has provided the ancillary benefit of extension of water and sewer lines to the northeast corner of the county, is also moving right along.

The board voted 4-1 to approve the purchase of a six acre parcel of land on Rt. 522 in Courthouse Village. James Eads District 5 was in dissent. No reason other than to provide an additional access point to the high school property was stated.

The board approved forwarding an amendment to the county’s comprehensive land use plan to indicate that the entire Bellview Gardens subdivision in Centerville is for residential use only. The last revision of the Comp Plan failed to recognize the existence of Bellview Gardens, which left a land use loophole that almost placed a large Goodwill store at the front of this community.

This is a long overdue measure and the reason that the board left itself the option to revise the comp plan to reflect existing conditions.

Ned Creasey, District 3, said that he has received complaints from constituents in the Gum Spring areas about degrading Verizon wireless service that has drastically slowed wireless internet service.

One gentleman said he can no longer work from home because of the drop in signal. A representative from Verizon will be at the August 2 meeting to address these concerns. Those experiencing wireless difficulties should contact their supervisor. (Visit the supervisor tab on the county website at for contact information.)

Citizen comment at the evening session included a reproach of the supervisors for keeping the malfunction in the treasurer’s office under their hats; complaints about the lack of a noise ordinance and failure to seek a way to protect residents from noisy neighbors and a request for more wireless towers to improve internet and cell phone service.

A proposed change on the collection frequency for personal property and car tax, from annually to two ties per year, was indefinitely postponed. The measure would have resulted in a one- time $2.1 million in tax revenues by moving some payments into a different fiscal year. Both the interim treasurer and commission of the revenue asked that the board postpone this action until 2013.

An application for a conditional use permit by S. B. Cox Ready Mix to operate a concrete plant on land zoned M-2 in the Lanier Industrial Park passed unanimously. A citizen questioned the need for the conditional nature of the operation contending that it should be a by right use in M-2, which is intended for intense industrial activity.

Butler concurred stating that many existing zoning ordinances do not reflect changes in the ways that many industries must now operate given more stringent environmental regulations imposed by the state and federal government.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Peeking under the rug

Once more into the breach

Near the conclusion of an otherwise sleepy early summer meeting of the Goochland Board of Supervisors on July 5, District 3 Supervisor Ned Creasey reintroduced an issue that the majority of his fellows thought had been swept under the rug last year.

Following the release late last month of a report on the turnover of the Treasurer’s office by the Auditor of Public Accounts, Creasey asked that County Attorney Norman Sales investigate what sort of legal recourse Goochland County might have against its former auditor Robinson, Farmer, Cox Associates.

Sales, who last summer verbally opinioned that the county had insufficient grounds to go after the former auditors, said that in reviewing the responses to questions Creasey asked KPMG, the latest report shed new light on the matter. (An excerpt from the supervisors’ June 1, 2010 minutes was sent to those on the GOMM email list. If you would like a copy, please email Sales also allegedly said that the cost of litigation could exceed damages incurred by the county.

The lack of outrage expressed by supervisors Jim Eads, District 5; William Quarles Jr., District 2 and Andrew Pryor District 1, following last year’s report on the 2009 certified annual financial report (CAFR), which included many restatements, was curious. They seemed anxious to put the matter to rest, dismissing it as failure to use best practices, and move on.

All of those errors and incompetence cost Goochland County a lot of money even before reports of the former treasurer’s activities surfaced.

The former auditors handled Goochland County finances for a long time. They closed county books— because there was no one on staff with the skills to perform that task— then audited their own work, a big no-no in accounting. Failure to seek some sort of recompense for RFC’s actions were a little like taking your car in for regular oil changes, having your engine blow up because the oil was never changed and then going out and buying a new car without ever complaining to the garage that neglected to properly service the car. It’s one thing to do that with your own money, but RFC’s actions wasted public money, whose stewardship is the most important duty of a supervisor.

Eads dismissed the notion of legal action against RFC contending that it would be an expensive undertaking to retain lawyers and accountants to even investigate the matter, which he characterized as a “complex matter.” He also indicated that it might be difficult to find an accounting firm willing to essentially tattle on colleagues.

Pryor asked how much the effort would cost and if citizens would support spending money on legal fees.

“The public will tell us how to proceed. We need to put this to bed,” Creasey said. “People want to know.”

Sales said that he had reread the questions posed by Creasey to KPMG 2010 and the answers. Creasey, said Sales, posed questions about the materiality of the reports and did not receive “strong, concrete black and white answers to those questions from KPMG.”

Rudy Butler, District 4, concurred with Creasey and said that he is constantly being asked by his constituents about the possibility of taking legal action against RFC.

Are folks who live in Districts 1,2 and 5 satisfied with the county response to repeated revelations of, at best, massive dysfunction and mismanagement of public money? Or are they being convinced by their supervisors that all is well? Or, do Pryor and Quarles not bother to talk with their constituents?

Quarles asked Sales to make inquiries and bring back an estimate of the cost and scope of possible legal action at the August 2 meeting.
He also deflected an inquiry about progress on the revised Tuckahoe Creek service District ordinance by tasking county administrator Rebecca Dickson with “investigating” the matter and reporting in August.

Boys and girls this is why Quarles’ election to chairman of the board of supervisors was so important. He controls the agenda and has the power to defer, postpone or ignore discussion of matters that could impede his reelection and continuing control of the county. Pay close attention and be sure to ask questions when these folks, or their chosen successors, come asking for your vote.