Friday, March 30, 2012

88 days

Hitting the ground at a gallop

If the District 4 town hall meeting held on March 29 at the Centerville Fire-Rescue station is any indication, Goochlanders are staying engaged with local government.

Hosted by supervisor Bob Minnick and school board chair Beth Hardy, the meeting included an overview of the proposed budget presented by County Administrator Rebecca Dickson and Deputy County Administrator John Wack.

Hardy said that the meeting was the fulfillment of a campaign promise to provide more opportunities for dialog between elected officials and the community. She also said that the good relationship between the newly elected school board and supervisors is beneficial for everyone.

When crafting the proposed school budget for fiscal year 2013, said Hardy, every decision tries to move money back to the classroom. The school board is also mindful of its charge to be good stewards of tax dollars. This year’s budget restored some furlough days and fine arts without cutting any teacher positions.

Dickson observed that she has never seen two boards work as hard as these have going line by line through their respective budgets seeing how things connect.

Perhaps the folks in District 4 have more to vent about that other areas of the county. In addition to being home to all of the residential customers of the TCSD, this group deals daily with the heartburn of the Broad Street Road widening.

Representatives from VDOT were present to hear firsthand the frustrations of residents who have been dealing with the construction mess for more than a year.

One VDOT representative mastered the art of understatement when he observed that “the job is not going as well as we had hoped,” trying to explain why the project is taking so long to complete.

Rob Crandol said that VDOT is “doing the best we can to give everyone a quality product and keep the traveling public safe,” in response to comments about the difficulty of moving through and around Centerville.

Rather than accept the misalignment of the ugly concrete median that cuts off the Shell station from westbound traffic, Minnick and Dickson have been working with all involved parties to craft a workable and immediate solution to the problem.

Minnick said that an engineering solution supported by all involved parties should be in place very soon.

Dickson observed that the episode resulted in “a nice resolution with everyone coming to the table.”

This represents a huge positive shift in attitude on the part of county government and bodes well for the future.

The good news is that the paving should be completed in the next few weeks and the barrel maze will be gone. The next step is to craft a village plan for Centerville to ensure attractive and appropriate development that will enhance the appearance and attract new business.

Dissatisfaction among TCSD homeowners with rising ad valorem taxes and utility rates adds urgency to the need for new business in Centerville. Dickson tried her best to explain that the creation of a service district enables a locality to levy a separate tax for services there.

Residents of new communities in Centerville were concerned and some downright angry that they are forced to pay an additional tax. They questioned the fairness of the entire matter.

The ad valorem tax is a very thorny issue that will receive a lot of scrutiny by the new board in coming months. Hopefully, the supervisors can find a way to mitigate the issue without spreading the tax burden to every landowner in Goochland.

Every comment and question was received with interest and courtesy. Minnick, and the rest of the supervisors, all of whom were in attendance, seem eager for citizen feedback. They are trying to identify issues of countywide concern and put all of the pieces into context to help them make good decisions.

In office just 88 days, the new board has already gone a long way to eliminate the trust deficit it inherited from the former regime.

There will be lots of hard decisions to make in the months ahead. Based on their initial actions, it looks like the supervisors will give each matter thorough and impartial consideration to foster results that benefit the county as a whole.

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