Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Into the new year

Goochland’s Board of Supervisors held its first meeting of the 2013 fiscal year on July 3.

Reverend Jeff Spence began the afternoon session with a denomination neutral invocation. His words were a stirring reminder of what Americans celebrate on the Fourth of July.

Visit the supervisors’ tab on the county website: www.co.goochland.va.us for a recording of the meeting.

Earlier in the afternoon, the county audit committee met to kick off the financial review process for the just ended 2012 fiscal year. A new firm, PBGH, has been hired to conduct the audit of county and school finances. Michael Garber a client service manager with the firm explained that PBGH will conduct a comprehensive review.

Using a streamlined team approach PBGH will work with both county and school audit teams.

The Certified Annual Financial Review (CAFR) for fiscal 2012, expected to be presented at the December board meeting, will discuss the county’s financial condition and make recommendations to improve practices.

Garber said that because Goochland is a high risk auditee, thanks to the sticky fingers of Brenda Grubbs, a fraud inquiry is part of PBGH’s audit process to ensure that all is well. This will include asking some county and school employees “have you ever been asked to do something that you are not comfortable with?”

District 5 Supervisor Ken Peterson welcomed a new set of eyes and ears to verify that Goochland’s financial operations are being conducted in a proper and ethical manner.

“No one is above the review process,” said Peterson. “Transgressions will find the light of day.”

That’s an attitude that seemed to be sorely lacking in Goochland government for far too long.

Goochland Sheriff James L. Agnew introduced newly hired deputies.

Director of Economic Development, Matt Ryan and Deputy County Administrator for Community Development Dan Schardein, both new staff hires, reported on their activities.

Ryan is overseeing the process of crafting a comprehensive website to tout the Goochland as a good place to do business. This should have been in place ten years ago. He is also visiting all county businesses to express support and gather input. Ryan reported that local companies were pleased with the initiative.

While attracting new enterprises to Goochland is important, we also need to support and nurture the businesses already here. This is the first step in developing a collaborative rather than adversarial relationship with local companies.

Schardein said that he is working on an internal review of practices with the goal of streamlining permitting and other zoning and land use processes.

To this end, the Board approved a change in its policy to eliminate the referral of zoning cases to the planning commission. This could shave as much as 45 days off the rezoning process and removes the opportunity for supervisors to make mischief. There will still be at least two public hearings a one community meeting on proposed land use changes, which will give citizens plenty of opportunity for input.

Creation of a village plan for Centerville is also a high priority on Schardein’s to do list. The plan should have been in place ten years ago to facilitate orderly and appropriate development in Centerville.

Schardein said that the county needs to ensure that its policies clear and concise so that builders and developers are able understand what is required of them. That must mean that the county will stop making up rules at it goes along.

Heartburn surrounding the move of Benedictine Preparatory High School to the River Road corridor continues. The Board entered closed session to consult with legal counsel pertaining to an appeal to the Board of Supervisors by the Benedictine Society of Virginia.

Given the perception that an opponent of the BHP relocation was instrumental in the election of the entire board, the supervisors must take scrupulous care to proceed in an impartial manner to avoid an appearance of payback in this matter.

In spite of the promises of greater transparency, the facts in the matter remain quite murky. We do not know if this is a legitimate disagreement between the two parties, or issues trumped up as payback for the power shift in the last election.

How long will it be before this is back in Circuit Court?

Phyllis Silber, Executive Director of the Goochland Historical Society, warned the supervisors that the “Yankees are Coming” at the end of September. Mounted Civil War reenactors will trace the route of Dahlgren’s 1864 raid through Goochland from September 28 through 30.

Most of the equestrian transit of the county will occur on private property. Great care will be taken to minimize impact on traffic where the event must cross our roads. The event will culminate in demonstrations at Tuckahoe Plantation on September 30.

The board voted to switch the county’s emergency notification system to the “Code Red” system, which allows the county to widely disseminate emergency information to citizens. The system that had been in place for several years was found to be inadequate to inform Lower Tuckahoe residents of a boil water advisory earlier this year and spread FEMA information following last summer’s earthquake.

According to Qiana Foote, IT Director, the current reverse 911 system is able to contact only Verizon land lines. As many households have dropped land lines in favor of cell phones, this has deficiencies. Code Red, in addition to contacting the land lines offers the option for citizens to self-register cell numbers and email addresses to receive voice, text or email notification regardless of their physical location. Contact information for every member of a household may be registered. There will be no obligation to register. Foote said that the information gathered will be placed in a confidential database whose contents cannot be sold.

The cost for initial Code Red deployment will be the same as the existing system.

Manuel Alvarez, Jr. District 2 said that spreading information about cooling centers during widespread power outages caused by recent powerful storms was challenging. Foote said that the system could be used in that sort of situation.

The supervisors also voted to set a public hearing on the establishment of a two percent transient occupancy tax. Yes, boys and girls, that means this board is interested in bringing a hotel of some sort to Goochland!

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