Friday, November 25, 2011

Bulldogs rule!

16-12 over King William

Goochland’s Bulldogs hung on tonight winning a section football semi-final 16-12 by refusing to give up.

Unlike some of the Bulldogs’ previous games, where the scores indicate that the referees may be courting shoulder problems from repeatedly making the signal for touchdown, this one went down to the wire.

GOMM has no sports expertise, so you’ll need to go elsewhere to find out who did what, but it was a great game.

Goochland indulged in little successful passing, but lots of well executed teamwork that moved the ball downfield yard by yard. Goochland took a field goal when a touchdown drive ran out of steam. King William failed to execute the two point option following both of its touchdowns.

In the last seconds of the game, when King William was an arm’s length away from the winning touchdown, the Bulldogs stood their ground, refused to let King William score, and won.

Hard work, tenacity and teamwork got the job done.

The stands and sidelines were filled with enthusiastic supporters cheering them on. It was a great game.

Go Bulldogs! Thanks for making Goochland proud!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Planners reject UDAs

The issue moves to the new board

Goochland’s planning commission voted 8-0 at its November 17, 2011 meeting to recommend that the new board of supervisors table the urban development area UDA) issue until the Virginia General Assembly adjourns next spring.
District 3 planning commissioners Tommy Carter and Derek Murray were absent.

After more than a year of research by a VDOT funded land use consultants and input from community meetings, discussions with landowners and a public hearing on the issue before the planning commission in September, the county’s final UDA proposal was confusing at best.

When the planners got their first shot at the UDAs in September, they were clearly befuddled by the “plan,” which was little more than maps of both Courthouse Village and Centerville with various parcels of land outlined in bright colors.

The parcels, presumably selected because their owners indicated a willingness to entertain high density development, seemed randomly selected. The proposals lacked even the vaguest explanation of how the parcels could fit together to craft the new urbanism nirvana touted as the cure all for that dreaded sprawl.

In fact, the entire UDA exercise, as manifested in Goochland, is an example of government waste and intrusion on the private property rights of citizens.

The $3 million spent by VDOT statewide to hire so called land use experts to take a look at “high growth “ localities and help them save their open space, is a classic boondoggle. Somehow, the Commonwealth found these funds in a rapidly shrinking budget choosing instead to save money by closing Interstate rest areas throughout Virginia.

An initial proposal, created without any boots on the ground visit to the land in question, would have permitted high density residential and commercial development on environmentally sensitive land in Courthouse Village near the James River and did not even suggest improvements to existing roads so narrow that two cars passing must perform maneuvers appropriate for porcupine mating.

Parcels seem to have been added with no justification other than landowners were receptive to higher density zoning options. No doubt these landowners are so tired of paying taxes on land they cannot profitably develop that they would agree to pretty much anything to make their property economically viable.

Detractors of the UDA mandate believe that the initiative is a part of a global conspiracy to herd populations into small areas where they can be easily controlled. That theory has way too m much credibility for comfort.
In September, following a great deal of thoughtful and well- founded public comment the planners deferred a decision and requested that staff to return with a UDA proposal that met the minimum requirements as to land area and density.

Instead, staff, perhaps anticipating the mood of the planners, brought back what was essentially the same proposal presented in September.
Some of the commissioners acted as though the November 17 hearing was their first exposure to the UDA concept. Indeed, few planning commissioners bothered to attend any of the community meetings held to gather citizen input.

This issue has been on the agenda for quite some time. Some of the more vocal and better organized UDA opponents have been sending commissioners information supporting their contentions for months. You would think that they would have done some homework on such an important matter.
Yet, James Crews, District 4 for instance, seemed unaware that VDOT selected and paid for a land use consultant to prepare a UDA proposal for Goochland.

The elephant in the corner remained possible state imposed sanctions if Goochland fails to comply with the UDA mandate. Concern that the county would be forced to repay the $50,000 was mentioned several times. There seems to be no state policy in place to deal with failure to comply with UDA mandates. There are several initiatives at the state level to repeal or revise the legislation to make the addition of UDAs to a locality’s comprehensive land use plan optional.

(Please listen to the discussion and draw your own conclusions. A recording of the meeting is available on the county website

There was discussion about the feasibility of high density development in Goochland and whether any developers would be interested in operating here given all of the proposed projects just over the Henrico line.

Tom Coleman, the county’s principal planner observed that overall economic conditions ultimately dictate the degree of demand for high density development in Centerville.

Although the idea of punting on the UDA mandate surfaced early in the discussion, some commissioners expressed concern about failure to make any effort to comply with the mandate.

Eugene Bryce, District 1 said that he would hate to be sorry in ten years that nothing was done regarding UDAs. James Atkinson, also District 1 said that he would rather regret doing nothing than taking the wrong action.
Other concerns were the fiscal impact of high density development on other services, especially the school system; fire-rescue services and roads. Coleman said that every UDA project would need to submit a fiscal impact statement as part of the rezoning process.

Bryce cautioned that the county must be very careful about future growth. He contended that past growth caused the massive changes at the polls, electing “imports” to offices formerly held by lifelong residents, including several of his relatives.

Citizens made important points during the public hearing.
Patricia Hendy of the Centerville area likened the current widening of Broad Street Road to what UDAs could bring to Goochland. She recalled the plethora of public meetings held by VDOT over the past several years to trot out various versions of the new, improved road and allegedly gather citizen input.

Now, said Hendy, we have an eyesore that we didn’t want and it is clear that no one at VDOT paid any attention to the desires and concerns of local citizens. She contended that UDAs could well turn out to be the same sort of disaster.

Hendy said that New Kent Village, which was touted as a prime example of the benefits of the new urbanism to create a cash cow for tax revenues, recently declared bankruptcy becoming economic road kill instead.
Patti Rosner of District 2 contended that the UDA mandate is nothing more than social engineering designed to deprive citizens of their property rights. She urged the planners to tell the state to keep its nose out of Goochland’s affairs.

Paul Costello of the Centerville area pointed out that neither proposed UDA bothered to identify the center of the village. He said that in a successful village highest density uses are at the center of the village and decrease toward its boundaries. The proposed UDAs have high density parcels all over the place, reminiscent of newspaper used to paper train a puppy.

No matter what the motivation for the UDA mandate, we do not need a one-size-fits-all solution to problems we do not have.

Goochland does need to include more development friendly zoning options in areas served by public water and sewer, especially the Tuckahoe Creek Service District. Those zoning rules, however, must be determined locally and be of a scale and density appropriate for Goochland.

We can only hope that the General Assembly repeals the legislation.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The morning after

Taking on the TCSD

As winners bathed in the afterglow of victory after Tuesday’s elections and caught up on their sleep, the problems they will face in January continue to fester.

At an infrequent meeting of the Tuckahoe Creek Service District Advisory committee, comprised of major landowners, held on November 10, supervisors elect got a glimpse of things to come. This was the first time the TCSDAC met since March of 2010.

Also in attendance were some TCSD property owners who expressed outrage at the TCSDAC for its alleged failures. Creation of the TCSDAC was mandated when the TCSD was created in 2002. Neither Kinloch nor the Parke at Centerville existed. Charter members of the TCSDAC were owners of large parcels of land in the TCSD.

According to Tommy Pruitt, the county approached major TCSD landowners around 2000 with a plan to provide water and sewer to the TCSD and wanted the landowners to put up their land as security for the bonds to fund the infrastructure.

Pruitt recalled that none of the landowners liked the resulting plan but, as it was the only possibility to bring utilities to their land, they “held their nose and went with it.”

Pruitt observed that because the TCSD was such a large undertaking by such a small county, it was important at the outset to have a landowner advisory committee with a seat at the table to know what was going on.
He said that now he would not be bothered if the TCSDAC were to go away because he is far more comfortable with the administration that is currently overseeing the project.

The early meetings between the TCSDAC and county administration including the former county administrator, county attorney, county engineer and director of economic development, all of whom have followed Elvis out of the building, were pro forma exercises in obfuscation. They featured progress reports illustrated with brightly colored graphs and timelines with optimistic completion dates that were rarely met.

The project budget, which seemed to have been written on mirrors with smoke, seemed fluid at best. Every time a TCSDAC member asked a question about the budget it was answered with a plethora of buzzwords and more projections but few hard facts or simple numbers.

It is no wonder that several of the original TCSDAC members resigned, it was clearly a waste of their time.

In 2004, the TCSDAC asked the supervisors to grant a brief tax amnesty to attract new landowners to the district. This request was granted but had little impact.

The county held a few seminars for all TCSD landowners in 2004 to explain the process and rewards for rezoning land in the TCSDAC. Indeed, except for West Creek, a significant portion of the land in the TCSD is still zoned agricultural.

Many landowners were unwilling or unable to undertake the cumbersome and costly rezoning process with little clear idea of what sort of zoning to seek.

Members of the TCSDAC repeatedly requested that the supervisors permit higher densities in all zoning categories for the TCSD but were ignored.

Indeed, at the November 10 meeting, Sid Stern, a TCSDAC member said that times and trends have changed. Goochland still has 1950’s zoning, which makes developers go elsewhere. The TCSD, he said, must be run like a business or it will fail. It must be competitive and that includes having zoning options sought by developers.

Scott Gaeser, chair of the TCSDAC observed that the meeting was held to reestablish a relationship with Goochland. Everyone needs to work together to find a way to pay for the lines in the ground. The debt, Gaeser said, is not going away.

He observed that the recent extension of sewer and water lines to the extreme northeast corner of the TCSD, which were not built at the outset because the county ran out of money, was simplified by having a local government that wanted to work with him.

Jeff Wells, a Kinloch resident asked why West Creek is the best kept secret on the east coast because it is never mentioned in economic develop circles. He said that West Creek must get onto these radar screens immediately and something must be done about the “draconian” ad valorem tax that puts the TCSD at a competitive disadvantage.

County administrator Rebecca T. Dickson explained that Goochland is not a member of the Greater Richmond Partnership, a regional economic development consortium that markets the greater Richmond region to the world, because we cannot afford the $390,000 annual membership fee. That is a huge number, more than a penny on the real estate tax rate.

Dickson reported that the county has engaged a recruiter to find a competent economic development director to attract new business to the TCSD. A job description has been crafted and posted in places likely to attract the attention of appropriate candidates. She hopes to begin interviews after the first of the New Year.

The Kinloch residents asked for at least one seat on the TCSDAC, which members indicated would be beneficial for all concerned.

Another meeting was tentatively scheduled for some time in February after the new board of supervisors has taken office.

In fact, the TCSDAC was pretty much ignored as the TCSD lurched from crisis to crisis. The county established an adversarial rather than collaborative relationship with the TCSDAC that deteriorated over the years.

The atmosphere of positive collaboration at this meeting to get the TCSD on track is nothing less than a positive paradigm shift in attitude that has been long overdue.

To be sure, choices are ahead for our new supervisors, but they are up to the challenge.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The people have spoken

Voters repudiate status quo

November 8, 2011 will go down in Goochland history as a day of great change. Although the day was far too warm to suggest that hell had frozen over, Goochland voters cleaned house by ousting almost all incumbent supervisors and school board members. (Go to and click on local office for Goochland County to see all the gory details.)

Only District 3 supervisor Ned S. Creasey, running for his second term, was returned to office by a healthy margin. Creasey has worked hard to improve county government, not cover things up.

After nearly four years of regular revelations of incompetence, cover ups and dubious policies the voters sent all of the multi-term incumbents to the showers. The good old boys are history.

Even Andrew Pryor, who was first elected when Nixon was in the White House, was deftly defeated by the hard work of Susan Lascollette.

The entire school board was expelled by voters tired of being treated like idiots by the people they elected to oversee our school system.

Our new elected supervisors: Susan Lascollette; Manuel Alvarez, Jr.; Ned Creasey; Bob Minnick and Ken Petersen have their work cut out for them. Goochland has a lot of pressing challenges that have been allowed to fester for far too long.

Citizens have made it clear they are tired of a county government that seems to lack direction. Jump starting economic development during this chronic financial downturn will be an uphill battle, but these folks have the skills to get things moving without petty power struggles.

The new supervisors should be aware that the citizens who voted them into office expect results. We’ve had too many years of unproductive churning. How about finding a way to build a new bus garage for starters?

The new school board: Michael Payne; Kevin Hazzard; John Lupkins; Beth Hardy and John Wright, has a lot of great ideas and is ready to get to work. Expect a carefully crafted school budget next year that focuses on educating the kids not building an empire while working with the funds available.

Look for lively discussions at school board meetings to replace the group bobble head impressions practiced by the outgoing school board.

To be sure, these newly elected officials have a lot of work to do.
Congratulations to the victors and Godspeed in your efforts on behalf of the citizens. Enjoy your victory laps and then rest up; there is much to be done.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Stop the insanity

Endorsements for local office

Doing something over and over and expecting a different result is one definition of insanity.

Next Tuesday Goochland voters will go to the polls and select a team to lead county government for the next four years. For the first time in decades, every seat on the board of supervisors and most school board positions have been contested giving voters real alternatives to the status quo.

Remember, we have elections every four years even though some incumbents act as though they were elected for life. Only the voters can disabuse them of this notion.

Goochland on my mind has been observing the candidates and makes the following endorsements.

The treasurer slot is the only contested constitutional office. Pamela Cook Johnson, who has served as interim treasurer since her appointment by the Circuit Court in April deserves to be elected to a full term. She is to be commended for her hard work and willingness to confront the mess left by the former treasurer.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Claiborne H. Stokes, Jr.; Sheriff James L. Agnew and Commissioner of the Revenue Jeanne S. Bryant have all served the citizens well.

Jonathan Lyle will be an excellent commissioner for the Monacan Soil and Water District.

During the course of the campaigns a wise man observed that Goochland has morphed from the equivalent of a mom and pop store to a major corporation and that its supervisors need higher level intellectual and experiential skill sets than that possessed by long term incumbents.

The multi-term incumbents (MTIs,) Andrew Pryor District 1; William Quarles Jr. District 2 and Malvern R. “Rudy” Butler District 4 have all tap danced on a tightrope this election season by simultaneously touting their experience and distancing themselves from the revelations of abysmal mismanagement of local government on their watch.

Although they promise greater transparency in local government, an eleventh hour campaign mailing by Butler— probably similar to those sent by the other MTIs— promising that the supervisors have a plan to solve the ad valorem tax problem (the mailing misspelled ad valorem several times) indicates more of the behind closed doors decisions that got the county into trouble in the first place. The MTIs have irrevocably broken the public trust and must be replaced.

For too long the fortunes of Goochland County have rested in the hands of the same few men and their handlers.

The sense of entitlement exhibited by the MTIs is very troubling. After presiding over years of incompetence in local government, they voted to put a mechanism into place to raise their compensation next year when further reductions in real estate value are expected to translate into more budget cuts. This is the same bunch that went to Hawaii on the public dime a few years back.

To be sure, the job of supervisor is no picnic, which makes the reluctance for incumbents to retire and let someone else have a turn in the cross hairs of citizen discontent quite puzzling.

Many of the challengers are relative newcomers to Goochland. This means they are free of often hidden entanglements that influence public policy.
Susan Lascollette is the best candidate for District 1. Her business experience gives her the analytical tools and insight to evaluate proposals brought before the board. Our new county staff is far more sophisticated than the old and needs supervisors able to rein it in when needed.

Lascollette has also done an outstanding job of listening to the concerns of all District 1 citizens, not just enough sycophantic supporters to ensure reelection.

Manuel Alvarez, Jr. will bring a new day to every citizen of District 2 and Goochland County. On his own in a foreign land at an early age Alvarez has never had anything handed to him and knows both the value of hard work and meaning of responsibility. He too has a long record of achievement in the business world coupled with the common sense to understand what is good for Goochland.

As a relative newcomer to Goochland, Alvarez will look at our problems with fresh eyes and seek achievable resolutions to chronic difficulties.
Quarles is a fine man and was an outstanding planning commissioner. His career as a supervisor, which began with great promise when he succeeded his father-in-law in 2004, got derailed somewhere along the way. For at least the past two years he has used his political skills to keep the lid on ever unfolding trouble in county government. It’s time for him to return to private life and pursue other interests.

Ned S. Creasey District 3 is the only incumbent supervisor who merits reelection to finish what he started four years ago. Creasey’s detractors have learned to underestimate him at their peril.

He advocated posting of check registers for the county and school system online. He insisted that all public meetings be recorded and those recordings posted on the county website so that citizens unable to attend the meetings could hear what transpired. Creasey refused to go along to get along and insisted on answers to questions about those pesky checks in the utility department.

He has tirelessly pursued documentation of location of the entire TCSD infrastructure and refused to put up with the school board’s annual game of budget chicken.

Butler, who has been a supervisor for about 20 years, has done a great job on the ceremonial side. Unlike Pryor, he returns phone calls from constituents even if he knows the ensuring conversation will be unpleasant.
He touts his experience in luring Capital One to West Creek in almost the same breath that he says he supports the Sheriff and fire-rescue. Yet, Capital One was assured that if it came to West Creek its law enforcement and emergency services would be provided by Henrico County.

Butler’s pledge to support law enforcement, fire-rescue and the library are vague at best.

Butler’s eleventh hour mailing also contends that his opponent Bob Minnick will increase taxes by voting to spread the debt service for the TCSD to the entire county. Minnick’s website clearly states that he opposes raising taxes to service the TCSD debt. Few incumbents or contenders favor that resolution to the TCSD debt quandary.

At one forum, Butler sloughed off responsibility for the peculiar bond configuration of the TCSD debt by blaming it on advisor recommendation. That is precisely why we need supervisors who understand complicated financial matters and area able to ask hard questions and understand the answers. Butler’s attempt to throw money from the rapidly shrinking general fund at the seriously flawed school budget this year was very troubling.

Butler also seems to be preparing to assume the mantle of obfuscator in chief wielded so deftly by retiring District 5 supervisor James Eads to derail important initiatives. Butler’s unprofessional tendency to berate county employees and others at public meetings, including his angry outburst at a Comcast representative earlier this year, is embarrassing at best. He does not understand that swaggering belligerence is not appropriate or acceptable behavior for an elected official.

Butler should have quietly retired and rested on his laurels.

Minnick, who comes late to the race and has a lot to learn about Goochland, is far better equipped than Butler to deal with the hard choices that face the county in the next four years. His work with the Boys’ State program sponsored by the American Legion has helped him connect with a wide range of Goochlanders.

He too has a wide range of experience in dealing with large budgets and complicated transactions.

Ken Petersen, who prevailed in an August primary for the republican nomination for District 5 supervisor faces no opposition in the general election. His financial background will be invaluable as the county tries to find its way out of the TCSD debt morass.

Petersen has pledged to do a cost/benefit analysis on any proposal coming before him to determine if the risk to Goochland is worth any potential reward.

The three incumbent members of the school board running this year, James Haskell District 1; Raymond Miller District 2 and Ivan Mattox, Sr. District 3 seem not to have noticed the widespread discontent expressed during at least the past two years by a large number of parents.

They seem to believe that the only problem is a lack of money that can be fixed if only the mean supervisors would just increase property taxes. The school board MTIs act as though they are unaware that county revenue has declined as a result of the economic downturn and do little other than rubber stamp recommendations made by the superintendent.

One action that these MTIs do often is to extend the employment contract of the superintendent while eliminating teaching positions. Although Mattox and Miller have excellent educational credentials, they seem unable or unwilling to make an effort to work with the school financial staff to craft a budget using expected revenues. They do not understand that the superintendent works for them.

District 1 challenger Michael Payne who is a parent and teacher brings on the ground insights about providing a meaningful education for all students. His contention that reinstating vocational education opportunities, which were removed by the MTIs, makes a lot of sense.

District 2 challenger Kevin Hazzard has given a great deal of thought to issues facing the schools and the best ways to reach all students. Unlike the incumbent, Hazzard believes that the school system must work harder to ensure that black and economically disadvantaged students, whose academic performance often trails that of other students, leave school equipped to seek their piece of the American dream.

Hazzard believes that supporting and nurturing good teachers is the foundation of excellence in education. His website, which contains several thoughtful essays on the subject of education is
John Lumpkins District 3 challenger is a lawyer, accountant, former police officer and concerned parent. He will use all of his skills to eliminate the "us and them" mindset that pits the school board against the supervisors every budget cycle to the detriment of all.

Lumpkins also believes that teachers are the cornerstone of excellence in education and the current school board seems to have little interest in supporting teachers. Lumpkins’ legal skills will add a new dimension to the school board.

Voters in District 4 are blessed to have two excellent candidates seeking their open school board seat. In a campaign season all too often marred by snarky comments and outright attacks, Phil Davis and Beth Hardy have conducted themselves and their campaigns in an exemplary manner that defines good citizenship.

Both Davis and Hardy have children in county schools and have been involved in with their kids’ education. They both believe that our schools can do a better job for all of our children and be fiscally responsible. They have excellent educational and career credentials.

This is the only race that GOMM believes there is no clear choice but that the students and citizens of Goochland will be well served by whoever is chosen by the electorate.

Accountant John Wright, who faces no opposition for the District 5 school board seat will be a fine addition to the Goochland leadership team. Wright was one of the first parents to take a hard look at the school budget a few years ago, which lead to probing and unanswered questions about school finance and operations.

The level of dissatisfaction with business as usual in Goochland government is higher than it has been in recent memory. Only the voters can ensure that the county takes a new path next year.

Stop the insanity, chart a new course for Goochland by voting in new supervisors to help Ned Creasey finish what he started and replace the entire school board with people who really want excellent and fiscally responsible education for all of our kids.

Please remember to vote on Tuesday, November 8.

Friday, November 4, 2011

On best behavior

Playing supervisor

One week before Election Day, the Goochland Board of Supervisors was on its best behavior while conducting government business.

Don’t forget to change the batteries in your smoke alarm when you change your clocks this weekend.

The meeting began by recognizing county employees celebrating service anniversaries. Lt. Jimmy Mann of the Goochland Sheriff’s Office, who has served the county very well for the last 18 years, is retiring in the next few weeks. He will be missed and deserves our thanks.

The most controversial agenda item was the scheduling of the public hearing on the application for a conditional use permit that, if approved, would allow Benedictine High School to move its academic campus to property owned by the Benedictines on River Road.

A motion by District 5 supervisor James Eads to defer the matter until the board’s February 7, 2012 meeting so that it could be addressed by the newly elected board, failed for lack of a second. The hearing will be held, as formerly planned, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, December 6.

The site of the hearing has not yet been determined. Due to the large number of people expected to attend a venue larger than the board room will be needed. The high school auditorium has already been reserved for that evening so an alternate site will be announced in the near future.

The Benedictine matter has generated a lot of heat but little light on the facts of the matter. Some River Road residents believe that the school’s presence there will erode their property values. Others contend that proximity to Benedictine will increase property values. Other issues will be discussed at the hearing.

Clean out your attics, the industrial strength shredders are coming to Courthouse Village on December 10. Bring all of your old papers; a limit of four boxes per person applies. Further details will be forthcoming.

There will be Fourth of July fireworks in 2012. The cost for next year’s rockets’ red glare is expected to be $10,000 down a bit from this year. The county is soliciting sponsorships to offset the cost.

Happily, improvements to the intersection of Rts. 288 and 250 in Centerville have been given high priority status on the list of regionally significant road improvement projects to be included in the Regional Long Range Transportation plan update. This doesn’t mean that it will happen soon, but at least it’s in a prominent place on the list.

Also taking a prominent place on the wish list of transportation improvements is the bridge over Tuckahoe Creek to connect Goochland with Henrico Roads. In the past this bridge seemed as likely as a unicorn sighting, but the advent of the HCA medical facility in West Creek has pushed it to the front burner.

Revenue projections for the current fiscal year are a bit ahead of expectations, according to John Wack, Deputy County Administrator for Financial Services. Seems lots of people bought new cars, which increased personal property tax collections. However, real estate values are expected to continue their decline into 2013, which means more extreme budget cutting next year.

New construction projects at the Capital One West Creek campus are expected to add to building permit revenues next year. Because Capital One is a bank it is exempt from paying personal property tax on things like furniture and business equipment.

The supervisors approved budget amendments totaling $665,000 to fund items including a fuel tank for emergency vehicles to be located at the new HCA facility in West Creek and $400,000 to create a utilities master plan.

Rudy Butler District 4 abstained from the vote contending that the master plan would not fully address Tuckahoe Creek Service District concerns. Given the patchwork of utility systems currently in place and that we still don’t know where all of the TCSD water and sewer lines are located, this plan is money well spent.

The board also got a first look at the proposed legislative agenda, which communicates county concerns to our representatives in the Virginia General Assembly. As the county will have an all new team in Richmond, this is especially important for 2012.

Goochland seeks repeal of the FY 2011 and 2012 reductions in K-12 funding and opposes any further cuts to education. In a related item, the county urges the GA to study the composite index formula used to determine the amount of state aid received by localities and make recommendations to achieve a more objective approach to funding public education.

Currently, the composite index uses per capita income to determine a locality’s ability to fund its schools. As Goochland has a small population and a handful of high income residents, it is considered to be a very affluent county. In reality, a significant number of our citizens are at best struggling economically and their children are eligible for free meals. Something needs to be done to make this mechanism reflect conditions on the ground.

The county also seeks assistance to encourage widespread deployment of high speed internet to aid economic development and education opportunities for citizens in every part of Goochland.

Land use initiatives include making the urban development area designation nonsense optional leaving decisions about development densities up to localities rather than mandated by the state in a set of one-size-fits-all regulations.

There is also some language in the legislative agenda discussing service districts. This includes adding Goochland to a list of localities authorized to include certain provisions regulating special assessment for land preservation and adding service districts to this provision. This looks like the first salvo in what will be a battle to remove the land use taxation option from the Tuckahoe Creek Service District.

The Board is also seeking legislation to enable localities to adjust the boundaries of a service district by amending rather than repealing an existing ordinance. This would make it far easier to expand the TCSD adding new customers than is currently permitted.

Sounds like this change could also prevent disgruntled landowners currently in the TCSD from jumping ship.

During the evening session, the supervisors recognized the 60th anniversary of Goochland Volunteer Fire-Rescue.

The most important public hearing concerned removal of the flex use comprehensive plan designation for all lots in the Bellview Gardens subdivision north of Broad Street Road just west of Rt. 288.

Throughout a long battle to preserve the residential nature of this neighborhood the residents of Bellview Gardens have defined responsible citizen involvement. They stood together and presented their case in a clear and compelling manner and are an example for others to follow. Please listen to the recording of their thoughtful comments at on the supervisors’ page.

Bellview Gardens residents acknowledge that there will be development in their back yard, but they reject it, literally, at their front door.

The supervisors voted 4-1 to approve the change with only Andrew Pryor, District 1 in dissent. He contended that the “front lots” should not be removed from flex use due to their location.

The amount of heartache that the fine folk of Bellview Gardens were subjected to as the results of an “oops” by the county is unconscionable.

The heartburn of the landowners behind Bellview Gardens could have been avoided had the county insisted on a master plan for all of the parcels before approving the residential density change in 2004. Had the uses for the rear parcel been meshed with the proposed residential development everyone would have been happier.

This episode should be trotted out as a “teachable moment” in the preliminary stages of future land use discussions.

The meeting was adjourned until November 15 when the supervisors will hold a joint meeting with the school board on neutral ground at the Luck Stone facility in Manakin.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

About the treasurer

We were all stunned, shocked and saddened last February when former county treasurer Brenda Grubbs was arrested for embezzling public money.
As several law enforcement and regulatory agencies investigated all operations of the treasurer’s office, discussion raged over what to do next.

Some people believe that we should change to a county manager form of local government, which would place all fiscal matters under control of a county manager and the board of supervisors.

Proponents of this course contend that having a county department of finance in addition to an elected treasurer and commission of the revenue, both constitutional offices, is a duplication of efforts that wastes money.

(Elimination of the county treasurer position is a lengthy process that includes involvement of the Virginia General Assembly and approval via referendum by Goochland citizens.)

Not so fast, say supporters of our current form of local government organization. We had one bad apple, but most counties in the Commonwealth function just fine with an elected treasurer. They fear that eliminating the oversight of county funds by a treasurer elected by all voters paves the way for fiscal mischief by the supervisors.

When Pamela Johnson was appointed as interim treasurer by the Circuit Court in April, the furor got a second wind.

How could the Circuit Court appoint someone trained as an English teacher to be county treasurer? Most recently, Johnson worked with federal agencies and is quite familiar with the workings of governmental reporting policies. She also passed regular and rigorous detailed background checks in conjunction with that employment.

Folks were horrified that the interim treasurer was not an accountant or someone with advanced financial acumen.

Why should anyone leave a successful career to take a job that includes huge headaches and probably a pay cut? Younger professionals are not only working their way up career ladders, but have mortgages to pay and college educations for their children to fund.

If indeed the county changes its form of government voluntarily, or is pushed in that direction should the state cease to fund a portion of those positions, the incumbent could be unemployed in a few years.

People who have retired from high level financial positions probably are not anxious to deal with cleaning up the mess Grubbs left behind or day to day headaches.

Johnson has been working hard to get the treasurer’s office back on track and regain the public trust. She has also taken advantage of a wide range of training opportunities offered by the state to ensure that all employees are able to perform their jobs.

We are lucky that Johnson and her opponent Tana Hogue are seeking the office.

In fact, except for Commonwealth’s Attorney, which requires proof of bar membership but no evidence of prosecutorial experience, there are no qualifications to hold elected office beyond residency, age and not having assumed room temperature.

Framers of the Virginia Constitution presumably believed that only qualified people would seek office and the voters would have the wisdom to choose the best candidate.

Given the habitually low voter turnouts of local elections, it is somewhat surprising that our old friend Bret the Wonder Dog has not been elected to office.

The county treasurer is up for election every four years giving others an opportunity to challenge the incumbent and convince voters they are a better choice.

Sadly, the electorate acts as though these officials are elected for life and fail to pay attention to the performance of those they put into office.