Sunday, December 29, 2013

Strategery part next

Goochland’s supervisors continued to work on their short term strategic plan during a December 3 workshop. They focused, under the guidance of consultant Lori Strumpf, retained to facilitate the task, on vision, mission statement, and goals.
Board Chair Ken Peterson, District 5, expects the strategic plan will help supervisors make decisions based on carefully considered, long-rang priorities.

Master plans for utilities and fire-rescue, expected to be ready in the first half of 2014, should help the county and landowners identify where, and how, growth deemed appropriate by Goochland—not dictated by legislative fiat--will occur.

Strumpf contends—and has the track record to support her insights—that defining vision, mission statement, and goals and communicating their meaning to everyone in an organization can be a transformational experience. She believes that used properly, these items, often dismissed as buzzwords, are very powerful tools that can spur an organization to excellence.

Distilling vision, mission, and goals into brief, meaningful statements, however, is a daunting task.

The discussion provided evidence that this board understands that local government exists to serve the citizens and that the job of county employees is to provide excellent customer service.

One of this board’s primary goals is to keep taxes low and stable while ensuring excellent delivery of core governmental services. These include: law enforcement, education, and fire-rescue. Indeed, Goochland was ranked 85th out of the 95 counties in the Commonwealth for per capita spending, at $2,092.05 per person. (See the entire list at:

While control of cost is important, maintaining an acceptable level of citizen services—whatever that may be--is also crucial. But, just how do you know if the citizens are satisfied with their treatment by local government?

Peterson contended that everyone who interfaces with county government needs an opportunity to provide feedback to gauge operational effectiveness. Some citizens have very little contact with county government, others may have a great deal of interaction, and that can vary from year to year.

Strumpf observed that there is a difference between satisfaction with, and trust in, local government. She suggested including an interface option of some sort on the county website to supplement periodic inclusive customer satisfaction surveys. Citizens need to see reaching out for their input as a regular part of government activity not a once in a while gesture, she said.
Manuel Alvarez, Jr., District 2 said that he would like to see feedback results tabulated at least annually so the board can see how the team is doing in the eyes of the citizens. He said that would identify problem areas that need to be addressed, which will help build trust.

Strumpf, who conducted anonymous focus group sessions with a random sample of county residents, said that some groups contended that they have no voice in local government and that the board and county staff are not reaching out to them. She suggested that perhaps more could be done to eliminate this perception of non-engagement.
As the officials elected in 2011 have worked hard to solicit opinions from all of their constituents, it would seem that those who contend they have no voice have made no attempt to contact their elected officials.
Strumpf asked “what does success look like?”

Initial responses focused on demonstrable evidence of excellent stewardship, especially where money management is concerned. The supervisors concurred that working toward a clean certified annual financial report every year as external confirmation that the county is doing things right should be at or near the top of the list.

Ned Creasey, District 3, said that he wants Goochland County to be a leader in all facets of local government operations to “act as a yardstick that other counties measure themselves against.”

Getting from lofty visions to concrete action requires a competent, well-trained, and motivated workforce. Peterson contended that county employees, in order to perform at their best, need to know that the supervisors value them by investing in training, equipment and adequate compensation.
Strumpf reiterated that the vision should be short, easy to remember, and “help people know how to behave when no one is looking.”

She used Ronald Reagan’s “shining city on a hill,” and Steve Jobs’ “a computer on every desk” as examples of a vision intuitively understandable without going into details.

The supervisors searched for words to describe an ideal Goochland. The list included good stewardship; trust in those who make local government decisions; respect; transparency; fiscal integrity; concern for those who fall through the socioeconomic cracks; and protection of personal freedom.

They want to put policies in place that will set the bar of integrity and stewardship high for those who follow. Indeed, in earlier session, the supervisors identified change in the management team, which includes supervisors and county staff, as a potential threat. Right now, Goochland seems to be in sweet spot with supervisors, school board members and staff in both school and county working well together for common goals. That could change.

As Goochland can be likened to the proverbial seven blind men and an elephant—each interpolates the entire animal by the piece he touches—finding uniting themes and aspirations in a diverse population is difficult.

The completed short term strategic plan—looking out about three years--is expected to be a relatively brief document with a three page executive summary to help citizens digest it, Strumpf said.

She will distill the sentiments of the December meeting into a preliminary document that the supervisors will review at a January 7 workshop. Citizens will have an opportunity to comment on the proposed plan before it is adopted some time in 2014.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Board ends year with a full schedule

Following a morning strategic plan workshop on December 3, the Goochland Board of Supervisors addressed routine county business at its afternoon session.

School Superintendent Dr. James Lane presented an update on school matters.

As of November 15, there are 2,465 students attending Goochland Schools; the fiscal 2014 budget was based on 2,311 students. Randolph elementary’s enrollment now stands at 445.

Our school division was awarded a $50,000 grant to investigate the feasibility of year round classes at RES. Lane emphasized that this will be an opt in program only, that there is no intention of putting children from the same family in different instruction blocs.

In addition to having a graduation rate above 90 percent, Goochland is one of the top three school divisions in the region according to achievement metrics. Our students scored more than five points ahead of all others in the region in writing. Lane contended that writing best illustrates mastery of critical thinking, which is the composite of other skill sets, far better than multiple choice tests.

Interestingly, a Saturday, December 7 newspaper promotion featuring the Parke at Saddle Creek in Centerville touted the availability of nationally acclaimed schools. This is a good sign.

Lane’s presentation, available in Part A of the board packet on the county website, includes several explanatory links about the initiatives in progress and is well worth a look.

Economic development director Matt Ryan had little to report. He said that the permitting for the Centerville McDonald’s is complete, but had no idea when construction might begin. In spite of the worry about run away development in Centerville, not much has happened. The apartments and medical office building in West Creek, opposite the Wawa are moving along.

The rural economic development committee--created to explore business opportunities that promote the county’s bucolic attributes--has begun its work. It is expected to make some recommendations next year concerning support for agribusiness and agritourism.

Mike Cade, residency administrator for the VDOT Ashland Residency, informed the board that the signal warrant study for the Hockett/Broad Street Road intersection had been completed and did not indicate the need for signalization. Cade said that he received the results shortly before the meeting and had no other information. (The full report was circulated by GOMM via email on December 10.)

What? Martians understand the interest, and concerns, that people in Goochland have about the hazardous conditions at that corner, and have had for years. That a representative of VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Oops!”—would announce those findings with no details is beyond belief.

On the up side, the county intends to oversee the engineering design of the realignment of Ashland/Hockett Road to funnel all but local traffic through the parcel of land south of Broad Street Road where Ashland Road now ends. Giving county staff control on this project should help to ensure that construction will be done right the first time. While outside professionals will need to be retained for parts of this project, county staff involvement should prevent a replay of the high weird that haunted the widening of Rt. 250 through Centerville.

The supervisors authorized acceptance of the old school bus maintenance facility property. This will make development of that parcel possible after the buildings have been removed. Liability insurance in place will cover any environmental issues, but, as pointed out by Susan Lascolette, District 1, there are no known hazards on the site, nor is there reason to believe that there is any environmental damage. Deputy County Administrator for Finance John Wack reported that remarks from school staff supported that.

Following completion of normal afternoon business, the board adjourned to its conference room for a workshop on pending state and federal storm water management regulations. Responsibility for monitoring water pollution issues, to further clean up the Chesapeake Bay, is devolving to local governments. This means more regulations, which will require hiring more people to oversee and enforce those rules. The county must adopt new storm water runoff mitigation rules, which include policies and ordinances, by April 1, 2014. No one is in favor of dirty water, but it seems like environmental protection has morphed into an expensive monster that defies common sense.

A public hearing on the latest version of the proposed ordinance to deal with nuisance companion animals will come before the supervisors at their January 7 meeting. County attorney Norman Sales said that, after a much discussion with responsible dog owners, the old ordinance will be repealed to be replaced with a simpler, more straight forward, version. This is in the December board packet.

Following public hearings in the evening session, the supervisors approved rezoning of 73.69 acres on the north side of Tuckahoe Creek Parkway in eastern Goochland from A-2 to RPUD (residential planned unit development) to accommodate the construction of up to 115 upscale homes in a subdivision dubbed “Tuckahoe Creek.”

The parcel was also added to the Tuckahoe Creek Service District in a deft “horse trade” in which the developer will expand and oversize utility lines to include a loop in the water line in return for the county waiving some utility connection fees. (See the performance agreement in the Board packet part B.)

These improvements are expected to eliminate the need to flush existing water lines. As the county buys this water from Henrico, the flushing, essentially dumping water on the ground, the improvements will save the county utility system a good bit of money and mitigate water issues in the area.

The developers will pay full cash proffers and worked with Kinloch homeowners to ensure that Tuckahoe Creek, whose lots and homes will be smaller than those in Kinloch, enhances the area. Turn lanes at the main entrance, though not required by VDOT, will be built by the developer.

Additional high-end homes close to Centerville should help to make the Broad Street Road corridor more attractive to businesses wishing to cater to the “carriage trade.”

Goochland’s delegation to the Virginia General Assembly--65th District Delegate Lee Ware; 56th District Delegate Peter Farrell and 22nd District Senator Tom Garrett—is to be commended for securing the legislative change to the rules governing adjusting the boundaries of service districts, which made this possible.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Seasonal music on December 10

The Virginia Benefit Chorale
will be performing at
Grace Episcopal Church
this Tuesday evening, December 10 at 8PM.
Please bring a can of food for the Food Bank!

This acapella groups makes truly beautiful music. Grace Episcopal Church is located on River Road West in Goochland Courthouse Village, roughly opposite the courthouse green.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Time for sharing

For those of you blessed with an extra bean or two, this is the time for giving to worthy causes.
In these fragile economic times, it seems like there are more non-profit organizations than ever competing for your attention, and money.
Please consider donating close to home to organizations in our community that lend a hand to those in need and make our world a better place.
The following groups do an outstanding job of making the world a little brighter:

• The Goochland Christmas Mother—this year we have a Christmas Mother and Father, Elizabeth and Marc Jones—provides Christmas cheer for those in need. Mail contributions to P O Box 322, Goochland, Virginia 23063. Visit the website at

• Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services traces its beginnings to a group of local women who wanted to help people in need who were not eligible for state or federal assistance. It has grown into an organization that provides access to healthcare and basic human services for those in need. As more people fall”through the cracks” the need for GFCFS help grows. Send checks to P O Box 116, Goochland, Virginia 23063, or visit their website:

• An amazing group of community volunteers who work as Court Appointed Special Advocates, CASA for short, are the eyes and ears of the court and the voice of children adrift in our legal system. The dedication of these wonderful people who volunteer their time and talents to help children is a tribute to the human spirit. Funded by ever diminishing grant dollars, Goochland CASA puts every donated Penney to good use. Send donations to: Goochland CASA P O Box 910, Goochland, VA 23063. Visit the CASA website at

• The Goochland School Board has worked hard to keep the school budget in check. The Goochland Education Foundation works to obtain private and public funding through grants and donations to enrich and maximize learning and fine arts opportunities with a focus on rigor, relevance, and respect. Send donations to: Tom Deweerd, Registered Agent, Goochland Education Foundation, 2938-I River Road West, Goochland, Virginia 23063. Visit the website at

• Last, but certainly not least, are our furry friends. For the Love of Animals in Goochland, FLAG, is our local animal rescue group. FLAG volunteers rescue and foster pets discarded or otherwise in peril, gets them healthy, and places them in suitable homes. They too spend every penny wisely, and close to home. Send donations to FLAG, P O Box 115, Manakin Sabot, VA 23103. Visit them online at

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

An early Christmas present

The most significant item on the December 3 agenda of the Goochland Board of Supervisors, delivery of the Certified Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for fiscal 2013, which ended on June 30, got little notice. It should have been heralded with trumpets.
The nasty memories of fiscal Christmas past are fading and the positive of Christmas yet to come is here.
The CAFR was presented by Mike Garber, a principal with the firm of PBMares, which succeeded the firm of KPMG as outside auditors for the county.
Now available in all its glory under the finance department tab on the county website, the latest CAFR paints a very different picture than years of old. This document includes a lot of interesting information about the county in addition to the numbers and is well worth a perusal.
Following a detailed review of every county and school department, PBMares identified three minimal issues, which had been corrected when the CAFR was presented.
The report includes a “clean opinion” of county finances. However, due to the scary stuff in previous years, Goochland is considered to be “high risk” until it receives two CAFRs with “no findings.”
Board chair Ken Peterson, District 5, asked Garber how Goochland compares with other localities. Garber replied that Goochland “has come a long way” and can now be ranked with counties in Northern Virginia for “how you are managed and run.”
These supervisors, compelled to run by what they believed was a total failure of stewardship on the part of their predecessors, is committed to excellent and transparent management of local government.
Indeed, they are working toward the establishment of a bond rating for Goochland to aid in future borrowing and provide additional external scrutiny of county finances to act as a “canary in the coal mine” for early warnings of difficulties.
Getting from there to here was not the result of a magic spirit but lots of hard work, dedication, and commitment by the county administrator, board, county, and school staffs. Goochland Treasurer, Pam Johnson has also worked above and beyond the call of duty to set Goochland’s fiscal house in order and pledges to keep it that way.
Perhaps the best indication of how well an organization is run and managed is how handles its finances. Things are good and getting better. It was not always so.
Five years ago, the state of Goochland County finances was, at best, undeterminable, at worst in shambles. Revelations of uncashed checks tucked away in the files of the utility department proved to be the tip of a very deep and bizarre iceberg.
In the next few years, thanks largely to District 3 supervisor Ned Creasey’s refusal to stop asking embarrassing questions about county finances, we learned that the same accounting firm that closed Goochland’s books each year was performing the annual audit, and had done so for a long time. This is—to use a not so technical term—an absolute no no.
When a new accounting firm was retained to perform the annual audit, dozens of errors, known as material restatements in auditor lingo, came to light. Although subsequent CAFRs resulted in improvement, the havoc wreaked on county operations was significant, perhaps criminally so. We may never know how much money evaporated.
Meanwhile, the former treasurer was embezzling public funds and is now a guest of the Commonwealth.
To cover its own nether parts, the previous regime postponed investigation of malfeasance by the former auditors until the statute of limitations—the period in which charges may be filed—expired, thereby sweeping the whole matter under the metaphorical rug.
The bad is past, but must not be forgotten lest it be repeated.
By the way, today, December 5, is the due date for county taxes. Take comfort in the fact that your tax dollars are well spent.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

"Tis the season

There’s no place like Goochland for the holidays!
Even though there may be some leftover turkey lurking in the fridge, the Christmas season is here.
The next week is brimming with holiday happenings close to home.
Bethlehem Walk, the annual production of Salem Baptist Church, runs from Wednesday, December 4 through Sunday, December 8. Hard work and dedication transform a site on the south side of Broad Street Road a bit west of Centerville into a very special place in a very special time. The tour is outside and takes about 45 minutes, so dress appropriately for the weather. The event is free, but a canned good is requested for the local food bank. Visit for details.
Goochland’s community Christmas tree, located on the grounds of the YMCA on River Road West in Courthouse Village, will be officially lit on Friday, December 6. The event runs from 6:30 p.m. to 8 and includes caroling, holiday activities, cookies and a visit from Santa at 7.
The sugar plum fairy and cohorts will make an appearance at presentations of The Nutcracker, a seasonal favorite, by the Concert Ballet of Richmond hosted by Benedictine College Preparatory located on River Road. Performances will be at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 7, and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, December 8. Tickets are $12. Visit for details.
Centerville Company 3 will hold its annual Santa Breakfast at its station, located at 52 Broad Street Road in Centerville, from 7 to 10 a.m. on December 7. All are welcome to enjoy a hot cooked to order breakfast and a chat with a certain Jolly elf. This is a great way to get to know the fine folks who respond to 911 calls.
Fife Company 4 will also hold a Santa breakfast at its station on Hadensville-Fife Road beginning at 8 a.m.
Field Day of the Past will open its grounds on Ashland Road between 4 and 8 p.m. on Saturday, December 7. Admission is a donation for the 2013 Christmas Parents, Elizabeth and Marc Jones. Take a stroll through times gone by to remember simpler times and the true meaning of Christmas.
Manakin Company 1 will have a very special ride along when it visits neighborhoods in its territory with emergency apparatus on Sunday, December 8. Please visit for details.
Enjoy one, or all, but leave all “bah, humbugs” at home.