Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Getting things done

On September 25, Goochland dedicated a new school bus maintenance facility. Located just north of Broad Street Road in Oilville, the building, which contains maintenance bays, storage, offices, a kitchen and conference room, has been servicing the county fleet since August.
After decades of fruitless searching for a replacement for the old facility on Sandy Hook Road in Courthouse, the new bus garage happened thanks to the wisdom of Maidens resident Lester "Buzz" Coe.
Noticing a for sale sign on  the site, Coe suggested that it would be an ideal, an immediate, solution to the bus garage problem to several supervisors before someone  realized that he was

 The county put an option to purchase on the property earlier this year while investigating its appropriateness for servicing county vehicles. After performing exhaustive due diligence, the site was declared a fit and was purchased.
Following some retrofitting and equipment installation, equipment and supplies were moved to the new site. Nice high ceilings mean that mechanics no longer need to let air out of bus tires to get them inside.  There is ample space for several buses and some smaller vehicles so no one needs to work outside in the elements any more!
Betty Thurston, head of transportation for the school division, said that the new facility was everyone's project. She thanked and praised those on county and schools staff for working hard to bring everything together.
Sonny Thompson, director of maintenance for schools oversaw the renovations and move of equipment and supplies into the new garage. He gave Buzz Coe a grand tour of the place.
Last weekend, two school board members painted over the logo of the previous owner and replaced it with a big red G.
This is what can happen when the supervisors and school board work together. Instead of saying " we can't" these boards operate on a "how do we make this happen?" vibe.

Cutting the ribbon: left to right: Susan Lascolette(District 1 supervisor), John Lumpkin District 3 School Board), Ken Peterson (District 5 supervisor and Board Chair), John Wright (District 5 school Board and chair), Mike Payne (District 1 school board), Manuel Alvarez(District 2 supervisor),  Bob Minnick (District 4 supervisor), Kevin Hazzard (District 2 school board), Beth Hardy(District 4 school board), and Dr. James Lane, Superintendent of Schools.

                   Lots of room to work (photo taken after hours.)

                Notice the ample space and high ceilings that provide a safe and efficient workplace.

Carol and Buzz Coe in one of the new offices at the vehicle maintenance facility.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Friday night lights

Have you been to a Goochland Bulldogs’ football game recently, or ever? Local high school football, especially when the home team is reigning state champ in its division, is one of the many savors of life in a rural community.
Last night’s (September 20) game was just about perfect. A nearly full moon peeked out of lush clouds on an almost autumn night. The warm day cooled just enough that many folks slipped on a light jacket, or Bulldog sweatshirt at half time.
The football was excellent. Goochland vanquished the visiting Randolph Henry team 56-7. The cheerleaders, perhaps even better athletes than the guys on the gridiron, defied gravity and flainted their agility while egging the team to its win.
Our marching band presented an ambitious half time show and treated the crowd to celebratory riffs to exit the stadium by. In addition to performing at football games, the band struts its stuff in area competitions.
The atmosphere was down home and friendly. There were lots of empty seats on the home side of the field. The admission fee, $5, is modest. Those over 62 get in free. But if you can afford it, lie about your age and buy a ticket. You won’t get carded and the money will be put to good use.
Speaking of money, the band boosters, that intrepid group of parents that works hard to raise money and provide other support to the band, is collecting recipes for a cookbook.  Chapters include: no bake; best of tailgating; snack attack; easy crockpot; and the most important meal of the day—breakfast. Visit the band booster website at: or drop an email to
The next home game is Friday, October 4. Kick-off is 7 p.m. Wear red!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Lunch with the sausage

Lunch with the sausage makers
Crafting legislation has been compared to making sausage—you might like the result, but the process is best left unseen.
Goochland’s current board of supervisors drew criticism in 2012 when it declared membership in lobbying groups the Virginia Organization of Counties (VaCO) and the National Organization of Counties (NaCO) unnecessary expenses. Goochland supervisors, however, contended that the concerns of small counties are ignored, or overruled, by the big boys.
The most tangible benefit to membership in these organizations was the annual conferences, which allegedly provided an opportunity for local officials to learn from their peers, like the NaCO conference in Hawaii a few years back. This board will pay for their own vacations.
Rather than get lost in the priorities of statewide lobbying groups, Goochland supervisors prefer to deal directly with the legislators who represent the county in the Virginia General Assembly to evaluate attitudes on specific issues.
Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, which means that localities have only those powers given to them by the General Assembly. So, local governing boards must engage in a cumbersome ritual of “mother may I” to change anything.
In the 2013 General Assembly session, Goochland’s Delegation: Senator Tom Garrett, 22nd District, along with Delegates Lee Ware, 65th District, and Peter Farrell, 56th District, successfully carried several pieces of legislation requested by the supervisors. This is the result of good communications among local and state officials.
These include: the ability to amend service district boundaries following proper notice and a public hearing; changes to land use taxation rules going forward; exclusion of inmate populations from decennial redistricting; construction of a Department of Corrections Water line; and a solution to the long sought delineation of the boundary between Goochland and Louisa using a GIS map.
Bills to provide reimbursement to localities for electoral reimbursement failed.
Possible legislative requests—items the county would like to see the General Assembly address in 2014—were discussed with the delegation at a meeting, held in the community room at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community Room on September 3.
This year’s initial wish list includes: funding for replacement of the Department of Corrections water storage tank on River Road West; construction of a bridge over Tuckahoe Creek connecting Henrico with Rt. 288; more local input in the need for traffic control devices; regulation of sewage sludge; reimbursement for political party primary expenses, compensation of registrar and electoral board; affordable access to high-speed internet services; expedited test retakes; impact of home school athletic legislation; elimination of post Labor Day school start; and increase of the technical assistance funding percentage for Virginia agricultural cost share program. Items were submitted by the county, school division and Monacan Soil and Water Conservation District respectively.
Some items were an easier “ask” than others. The water tank funding, which has been also requested by the DOC, is fairly easy. On the other hand, construction on the bridge over Tuckahoe Creek will start about the 12th of never.
Because Henrico County—one of the big dogs in the region-- opposes the bridge and has about 15 times as many people—read voters—as Goochland it can veto our request.
Board of Supervisors’’ Chair Ken Peterson, District 5, pointed out that, barring Henrico’s disapproval, VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “oops”—believes a bridge connecting Ridgefield Parkway with Tuckahoe Creek Parkway, would provide regional traffic benefits. The Metropolitan Planning Organization, which addresses regional road issues, would give this bridge its number one priority, except for the Henrico opposition.
According to Ware, our neighbor to the east opposes the bridge because Rt. 288, the final portion of the circumferential highway around Richmond, was built in Goochland. Ware said that one of the reasons he opposed the western option, which we know as Rt. 288, was that the more easterly version offered better connective options. He also foresaw the bad feelings on the part of Henrico.
Aside from easing congestion where Rt. 288 connects with Broad Street Road and Route 6, the bridge would provide quick access to the West Creek Emergency Center from western Henrico.
Farrell believes there is no room for compromise—that Henrico does not want the bridge. Farrell and Garrett then sang a duet cautioning that compromising the property rights of one locality could result in unintended consequences statewide.
Herb Griffith, chair of the county electoral board, said that the “pockets of every taxpayer in Goochland are being picked by the very people we are working to elect,” with respect to reimbursement of localities for the cost of partisan primaries. Indeed, candidates seem to have very deep pockets to fund annoying robocalls, commercials, and endless mailings, but refuse to pay for primary elections.
The entire delegation claimed to agree that the system should be changed. They have sponsored legislation to remedy the situation, but the bills fail.
Griffith also pointed out that the state mandated change from electronic voting machine to paper ballots will cost Goochland more than $100,000 on top of the increased election costs. Griffith said that electricity to power the electronic machines costs ten cents PER DAY while paper ballots cost 25 cents EACH and must be stored in a secure location. He vigorously contended that every jurisdiction in Virginia faces a similar unfunded mandate and should be properly compensated by the Commonwealth.
Ware pledged to work with other jurisdictions to increase advocacy of the issue.
A major toothache for county motorist is the lack of traffic signals at several dangerous intersections. County Administrator Rebecca Dickson explained that funds to install signals at several places have been pledged by developers and local companies, but cannot be built because traffic counts at these locations do not exceed the arcane VDOT warrant threshold. The Board would like more control over this matter.
The legislators sort of agreed with this. Although the General Assembly passed legislation to  provide VDOT with a massive amount of money for transportation, little thought was given to reforming the agency itself.
School superintendent Dr. James Lane had a short list that boils down to increased local control of schools. Greater flexibility in the timing of tests, he said, would allow students to focus on more rigorous and relevant instruction.
Allowing schools to determine when they will start the school year—doing away with the so-called “Kings Dominion” law that prohibits classes from beginning before Labor Day—would also give greater local control over the instructional calendar. (Goochland has had a “waiver” to start classes in August for several years.)
Ware, Farrell and Garrett praised Goochland’s elected officials for keeping them informed about issues facing the county and for crafting a clear and concise wish list for the General Assembly.

In recent weeks, the Board of Zoning Appeals and School Board struggled to understand and apply convoluted and sometimes contradictory state laws. It would be nice, as our General Assembly delegation goes forth to legislate, if they would make laws can be interpreted by mere mortals.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Upcoming opportunities for citizen engagement

On September 11, 2013, Goochland Volunteer Fire-Rescue will hold two events commemorating the 9/11 attacks on Manhattan and Virginia.

At Courthouse Volunteer Fire-Rescue Company 5 on Fairground Road a memorial will begin at 9:45 to honor the victims and heroes of the attack on the World Trade Center.

At 7 p.m. Manakin Company 1 on Route 6 will dedicate the county's September 11 monument, which contains artifacts from both the World Trade Centre and Pentagon.

Twelve years after these heinous acts America continues to struggle against the forces of evil intent on destroying our way of life. It is important to remember those who died in the attacks and those who gave their lives trying to save others: the passengers of Flight 93; firefighters and police officers.

On a lighter note, the next Goochland Leadership Enterprise class begins on September 26. Registration closes on September 18.

Even though our county is currently in good hands, citizen engagement is vital to ensure that continues.
Graduates of GLE are involved in every facet of the county, including the Board of Supervisors, School Board, and Christmas Mother program. it is a great way to learn about Goochland and meet other citizens that you might not otherwise encounter. Knowledge is power. Get to know your county!

For additional information, brochure, and applications call the Goochland Extension Office at 804-556-5841 or go online at           

Friday, September 6, 2013

Dog wars

Goochland is not a one size fits all kind of place, especially when it comes to crafting local ordinances about dogs and hunting. Our supervisors grappled with this at their September 3 meeting as they sought to update the portion of Goochland law that deals with animal nuisances, which essentially means excessively noisy dogs.

The existing ordinance, which has been deemed unconstitutionally vague, provides no remedy for residents tormented by noise from dogs on neighboring properties. A proposed revision to the “companion animals causing public nuisance” section of the code drew a large crowd of owners of hunting and show dogs.

The proposed changes include: civil, rather than criminal penalties; specifying the duration and time of unacceptable noise; citing trespass only if it animals cause damage; and attacking other companion animals to cause injury or death. (The complete text is in Part B of the September 3 Board packet on the county website:

As Board Chair Ken Peterson, District 5, pointed out, the baying of hunting dogs in pursuit of prey is music to the ears of some people, others, not so much.

Many speakers at the public hearing on the matter observed that Goochland is country and the sounds, sights and smells of a rural area are different from a city and part of the elusive notion of rural character than everyone claims to want preserved.

Catherine O’Brien, who raises show dogs, contended that the two dog noise complaints received by the county do not constitute a clear need to tighten regulations on everyone.

Goochland County Attorney Norman Sales explained that the ordinance needs revision to make it constitutional and follow state statutes.

Several speakers contended that reducing the number of complainants from two to one provides a handy mechanism to fuel grudges between neighbors.

Floyd Smith, a gentleman of firm opinions who lives in the upper end of the county, often cautions the supervisors when he believes they are about to take the first steps on the road to ruin. He complained that the ordinance under discussion was not the same one advertised. He asked how the county would fulfill the portion of the proposed ordinance that required confinement of accused animals, which in the case of a kennel, could be 50 dogs. After consultation with animal control officers, the confinement provision was removed from the proposed ordinance.

Smith also chided the supervisors for listening to comments via email and phone from people who did not bother to attend the hearing.

Expressions of passionate concerns that the ordinance changes would eventually prevent hunting in Goochland received vigorous applause.

One gentleman contended that every change made to this part of local law affects current kennel owners. “I have no use for Goochland if I can’t have dogs,” he said.

Currently, there are more than 200 registered kennels in Goochland. Given the county’s cost structure for dog licenses, it is more cost effective to buy a kennel license than register many dogs separately.

County Administrator Rebecca Dickson pointed out that the supervisors will address revisions to the definitions section of the county code in future months. She suggested that, going forward, modifying the definition of a kennel and regulating where they may be located with regard to nearby homes could alleviate some of the issues.

Jonathan Lyle of Manakin Road pointed out that animals other than dogs can be noisy. “If the city comes to Goochland, the city needs to adapt to Goochland and not the other way around…I don’t know what problem we’re trying to solve.”

Following a break, Sales explained that the proposed ordinance exempts kennels, hunting, show, service, and rescue dogs as well as hunting and training activities.

All kennels are exempt under the proposed ordinance. Those in existence before any ordinance changes are voted into law will be grandfathered. The supervisors expect to consider revisions to the definition of "kennel"  later this year. To be on the safe side,folks considering establishing a “kennel” should do so immediately.

Bob Minnick, District 4, pointed out that, while most dog owners are responsible and respect their neighbors; some have no regard for others.  He contended that the supervisors need to provide a pathway to resolution of grievances. While the proposed ordinance revisions include civil penalties, there is no guarantee that a court will uphold a complaint. He said that he wants to receive additional input on the matter and believes that the county needs to craft a clear ordinance.

After a good bit of thoughtful discussion, the supervisors voted to defer action on the matter. As Manuel Alvarez, Jr. District 2, said the proposed ordinance as written was not “ready for prime time.”

Sales will tweak the proposed ordinance using input from the meeting and bring it back to the board in October. If the next version is substantially different from that presented on September 3, a second public hearing will be scheduled.

Growth will bring challenges to the prevailing rural sensibilities. Conflict between longtime residents and come heres will be a staple on the menu of government. The supervisors seek balance between the expectations of newcomers and the rights and traditions of Goochland. That is a worthy quest.