Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Meet the candidates

LtoR: Ken Peterson; Keith Flannagan; Ira "Buddy" Bishop, IV; Susan Lascolette;Bob Minnick; Claiborn H. Stokes, Jr.; Pamela Cooke Johnson; Jim Agnew; Jennifer Brown; Dale Agnew; Ned Creasey; Manuel Alvarez, Jr.

The Goochland NAACP held a political action forum at Chief Cornerstone Baptist Church in Three Square on September 24, inviting all candidates for supervisor and Constitutional Offices. A similar event will feature school board candidates at the Second Union Church on October 15.

Kudos to the NAACP for sponsoring the only non-partisan opportunity for voters to meet the candidates. As there are only two contested races in this November’s election--Clerk of the Court and Commissioner of the Revenue—interest is expected to be low. Topics of interest to the African American community were highlighted.

Sekou Shabaka

The Rev. Adlai Allen welcomed the assemblage to his beautiful church and began the event with a stirring prayer for grace and guidance. Goochland NAACP president Sekou Shabaka was the moderator.

Goochland Director of Elections Frances Ragland (556-5803) said that the last day to register to vote is October 13; to apply for an absentee ballot is October 31. She reminded all voters to bring their photo ID to the polls and said that her office will be open Saturdays October 24 and 31 from 9 to 5 for absentee voting.

Each candidate made an opening statement.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Claiborne H. Stokes, Jr. said that his office applies the law fairly to everyone and must be enforced equally.

Clerk of the Circuit Court Dale Agnew said that she has 32 years of experience balancing the books of the Clerk’s Office with clean audits. Agnew said that the Auditor of Public Accounts suggest some of the procedures she established in Goochland be used in other jurisdictions. In her 25 years as probate clerk, she has handled more than 1,900 estates. Agnew said that she is familiar with the more than 800 laws that govern the duties of the clerk’s office.

She has also served as Goochland Christmas Mother and chair of the Crozier Volunteer Fire-Rescue Company 2 annual Brunswick stew event, which raised more than $40,000.

Keith Flannagan, challenger for Clerk, said that he intends to treat everyone with respect and ensure that everyone gets a “fair shake.” He said he has a master’s of business administration degree, which enables him to run an organization and make customers happy.

Commissioner of the Revenue is an open seat. Some of the matters this office deals with include: personal property taxes, including those on businesses; tax relief for the elderly and disabled; DMV Select; and assessing various taxes levied by the county.

Ira “Buddy” Bishop IV said he was an information technology manager for Reynolds Community College for 20 years before moving to VCU in a similar capacity. He said he will use technology to innovate, listen, and make things better.

Bishop said that he would make sure his entire staff is certified and expand and improve as all aspects of customer service in the Commissioner’s Office. He said the he would set new parameters for hiring. ”As a Constitutional Officer, I can hire and fire at whim,” Bishop said. He would establish a five person citizen committee to help in hiring his staff so it reflects “the folks in Goochland.” He will use social media to educate the citizens about the function of the Commissioner of the Revenue.

Jennifer Brown, who has 16 years of experience working for Commissioner’s office, said she cares about Goochland and will continue to run the office with excellent customer service and compassion for the citizens. Brown pledged to run the office with the highest degree of efficiency. She said that the Commissioner does not set tax rates.

James L. Agnew, Sheriff, said that, having held that office for 24 years, he knew everyone in the room. Agnew said he chose public safety as his life’s work after a stint in the Coast Guard. His deputies treat everyone fairly and with respect with an emphasis on training. Agnew plans to request funds for body cameras from the Board of Supervisors in November to “make us better and keep everyone safe.”

Treasurer Pamela Cooke Johnson said that since taking office her main goal has been to restore trust in the office, which was badly damaged by her predecessor. She said that the poor reputation of her office for customer service has been turned around.

District 1 Supervisor Susan Lascolette said that she believes elected officials serve citizens, not the other way around. “We don’t have all the answers, but we are willing to listen,” she said. Lascolette cited the Central High School renovations and Matthews Road park as accomplishments of her first term.

District 2 Supervisor Manuel Alvarez, Jr. said that the NAACP helped to put him in office. He cited a list of suggestions and questions that helped him learn. Education, said Alvarez, is the best way to help the unseen and unheard. Four years ago, he said, Goochland’s finances were a mess, today it has a AAA bond rating. Deploying hi-speed internet throughout the county is taking longer than expected, but he expressed hope that it will happen.

District 3 Supervisor Ned Creasey said that, when first elected in 2007, he expected to serve a single term. He is seeking a third and last term. Establishing yard sticks for future boards to determine operation of future boards was one of his early goals that has been realized.

District 4 Supervisor Bob Minnick gave a shout out to Steve Fleming for conversations about service to his district and the county at large. He thanked the citizens for their guidance and support. Minnick said that the board has worked to increase transparency in government, listen to the citizens, and improve financial stability.

District 5 Supervisor Ken Peterson cited the dramatic reversal in county audits from many significant material restatements to clean as a whistle and taming the Tuckahoe Creek Service District debt, which threatened to swamp the boat of Goochland government, as accomplishments of his first term.

Shabaka thanked the sheriff for hiring four African American deputies in the past few year to increase diversity in local law enforcement. “They’re good people and we’re fortunate to have them,” the Sheriff said.

In response to a query from Shabaka if school resource officers are trained in early childhood development, the Sheriff said ” we’re law enforcement officers, not doctors or teachers. But, we are getting everyone trained in crisis intervention techniques to diffuse situations before they get physical.”

Shabaka contended that Goochland is a wealthy county and asked the supervisors to identify pockets of poverty and include it in the strategic plan.

Alvarez observed that the Weldon Cooper Center compiles data on income levels. He contended that the strategic plan, which includes the goal of a prosperous community for all does include the issue. While campaigning, said Alvarez, he visited people in homes with dirt floors and those with marble floors. “Goochland County is a land is contrasts.”

Creasey said that the income figures are distorted by a handful of very wealthy families.

Minnick said that the county needs to make sure its social services are well-funded to deal with those facing lifestyle challenges.

Peterson contended that education is the most direct route out of poverty. He said that the addition of the career and technical education program in the schools in addition will help young people succeed. Peterson also cited the addition of more local jobs, like those at McDonald’s.

Shabaka contended that the requirement to present photo ID at polls is a regressive policy that threatens the voting rights of the African American community. He asked if the supervisors would work to reverse it. They all replied in the negative, expressing the sentiment that voting is an important right. Ensuring that only eligible voters cast ballots is crucial to protecting the integrity of the electoral process.

Alvarez, who was born in Cuba, said that he does not consider the photo ID requirement a tough burden. Free photo IDs may be obtained at the registrar’s office. Alvarez offered to give a ride there to anyone who needs to obtain one.

Peterson touted Goochland’s high voter turnout in presidential years. “Let’s get everyone a photo ID and make voter turnout 100 percent of eligible voters,” he said.

Except for the Sheriff, Dale Agnew and Jennifer Brown, who are running as independents, all candidates are republicans.
Turnout for this year’s election is expected to be quite low. Please vote. It’s a good way to express support for the supervisors and school board members who have worked so hard for the past four years.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Rolling downhill

Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, which means that localities, like Goochland County, have only those powers ceded to them by the state. Counties, for instance, cannot ban or meaningfully regulate the land application of biosolids regardless of community sentiment on the matter.
An informational meeting about biosolids and industrial permits— the fancy name for the practice of spreading the stuff on farmland—filled the board meeting room on the evening of September 21.

Pending permits to land apply biosolids—residue from wastewater treatment plants and industrial sludge from meat processing plants and paper mills—to more than 2,000 acres in Goochland was the impetus for the meeting. A session held by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) last month at the library raised more questions than it answered. Representatives of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and that state water control board did little to mitigate general suspicion of the practice.

County administrator Rebecca T. Dickson facilitated the September 21 event, which lasted almost three hours. Four supervisors: Board Chair Susan Lascolette, District 1; Manuel Alvarez, Jr. Distract 2; Ned Creasey, District 3; and Board Vice Chair Bob Minnick, District 4, were present.
(Meeting recordings and additional information is on the county website at: http://www.goochlandva.us/162/Biosolids-Program )
Dickson said that there are different stages of understanding about the process among the citizenry. Each person needs to evaluate their own circumstances and, if warranted, file their concerns with DEQ during a public comment period on the permits, which has not yet begun. Those who live near application sites will need to file a complaint form, available at the link above, explaining their specific opposition, such as potential run off on adjacent property due to steep slopes; inadequate buffer distance from application site; and specific health issues.

The county website includes information on the medical review process, which requires a signed physician form to even consider an increase in buffers between biosolids application and a home. The standard setback is 200 feet from an occupied dwelling and 100 feet from a property line.

It seems as though the land application permits will be granted by DEQ and the State Water Control Board in spite of local opposition. If enough Goochlanders register complaints, DEQ might deign to hold a public hearing, but probably not in the county. Supposedly, DEQ felt it was mistreated at a hearing held here a few years ago and will not return. (State employees allegedly hired to serve citizens and paid with tax dollars got their feelings hurt? What’s wrong with this picture?)

Dickson explained that DEQ has final say on biosolids matters. Localities can monitor the practice and approve storage sites for sludge. A conditional use permit for a sludge storage facility on the Lanier property near Chapel Hill Road was issued in the past year or so.
Proponents of the practice contend that it is highly regulated- the permitting process can take years—and, if applied properly poses no environmental or health risks. Test results for the substance at the plants where it is produced, according to DEQ; indicate minute levels of heavy metals and pathogen levels well below EPA minimums.

Nutrient management plans are part of the permitting process and biosolids may only be applied in amounts sufficient to correct deficiencies for things like potassium and nitrogen. Excess application can be detrimental to the fertility of a field. Nitrogen runoff pollutes waterways.

Dickson said that DEQ contends that years of test results were so consistent that it has greatly reduced required testing. As details about the testing process were discussed, the image of a chubby fox swaggering around a hen house in pursuit of terrified chickens seemed to float over the conversation.

After the intial presentation, citizens spoke.

One woman claimed that the smell from biosolids makes her house nearly inhabitable and her husband deathly ill. A man who lives near Lickinghole Creek contended that the high pollution of that waterway is caused by biosolids application on a steep slope that runs off into the creek.
One speaker reported on a tour of a wastewater treatment plant in Washington, D. C., which produces only Class A biosolids, like those sold in garden centers. Another contended that Class B biosolids are processed only to remove as much water as possible. A few years ago, citizens reported that used toilet tissue was clearly visible on fields treated with biosolids adjacent to their property.

While the rules for land application of biosolids are very specific, inspection to ensure they are followed, is spotty at best. DEQ has four inspectors for the region that includes Goochland. Inspectors claim that they address all complaints in a timely manner.

One man said he would not apply biosolids to his property, but does not feel he has the right to tell others what to do with their land.
Owen Lanier, a major applicator of biosolids to Goochland fields, contended that he has been involved with the process for decades and knows of no ill effects. He said that foraging livestock must be kept off of land treated with biosolids for 30 days after application. A speaker pointed out that deer and turkey are unaware of that prohibition.

Others raised concerns about the residue of pharmaceuticals and personal care products. Indeed, we are flushing very different things down our toilets today than we were a few decades ago. No testing is being done to measure those substances or research their effects on soil and water.
Some speakers advocated that the county take legal action to stop the process, or at least, do its own testing to find out what’s in the stuff.
Dickson said that a 2008 DEQ report on the matter left many unanswered questions. Long term effects of pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and industrial waste was not studied.
She encouraged those who object to the practice to submit complaint forms, but said they must be site and reason specific. An “I don’t like it” submission will be ignored. Instead, citing the permit in question, how it will impact the complainant, as in “the slope they plan to use is too steep and too close to my property boundary so the biosolids will runoff into my pond” might resonate more with DEQ.

Jonathan Lyle, Monacan Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioner contended that farmers are stewards of the land and probably not getting rich by using biosolids. He believes that farmers would not knowingly apply anything that would harm their land. Lyle added his voice to those who believe that an impartial, comprehensive study of the long term effects of the practice is needed.

Dickson explained that, for the past few years, the Board of Supervisors have included in their legislative agenda—essentially a “wish list” for our delegation to the General Assembly—more local control over biosolids application and the need for an impartial, state-funded comprehensive study of the issue. At this year’s GA, legislation for the study failed the last minute over a disagreement over who would perform the report.

Studies done by Virginia Tech are suspect, critics contend, because some involved have ties to the companies that profit from land application of biosolids.

Dickson, replying to demands that the county perform its own tests, contended that DEQ would not recognize or do anything about those test results. The supervisors, she said, are studying the issue.

The remedy for this, if there is any, lies with the General Assembly, which supposedly makes the laws governing state agencies. Goochland’s delegation is supportive of local concerns. It remains to be seen if those who represent populous areas will take action.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

To CUP or not to CUP?

In an uncharacteristic turn away from transparency, the Goochland County Board of Supervisors is investigating removal of the conditional use permit (CUP) requirement for certain land uses, especially drive-throughs for fast food emporiums.The change could be part of an ongoing effort to streamline land use requirements for economic development.

A community meeting on the matter was held on September 14 and attended by about a dozen citizens, most residents of the Centerville area. They were adamantly opposed to the idea of any more “burger doodles” there.

Comments made by some of the attendees seemed to indicate that they are new arrivals whose knowledge of Goochland consists mainly of insisting that what “we were told”--undoubtedly by clueless real estate agents whose primary motivation was to collect commissions on the sale of homes—is gospel.

One woman had no idea that the West Creek Emergency Center is in Goochland. All of these fine folks would be well advised to log on to the new improved county website www.goochlandva.us and learn more about the place they live. The 2035 comprehensive land use plan provides a wealth of information about Goochland.

Be that as it may, replacing the CUP requirement for certain uses, especially as Centerville evolves, is a bad idea. “By right” uses, such as the Audi dealership under construction on the north side of Broad Street Road just east of Rt. 288, go straight to the plan of development and building permit stage.

While the meeting seemed to focus on fast food uses, drive- through could be attached to other kinds of businesses, including big box pharmacies. (A Google search also turned up other options including liquor stores; funeral homes; and wedding chapels.)

Principal planner Tom Coleman, who facilitated the meeting, explained that the county cannot determine the type of business that may locate in the county. For a variety of reasons, the attendees were opposed to fast food operations with the possible exception of Starbucks. Undoubtedly, there are county citizens opposed to breweries, wineries, liquor stores, and restaurants that serve alcoholic beverages. There are vegans opposed to butcher shops; and those hostile to gun shops.

Coleman explained that the existing county ordinances governing some of these uses are confusing at best. A comprehensive rewrite of all county zoning laws will take place in the next two years.

Comment made by attendees seemed to indicate that they are unaware that Goochland County does not have legions of staff professionals to churn out new ordinances in a short time. Deputy County Administrator for Community Development Dan Schardein said that the county decided not to spend $500,000 to outsource the task, contending that drafting the ordinances “in house” produces a better result.

Indeed, comments contending that Chesterfield does this and Henrico does that, seem to indicate that they do not understand that Goochland County, with a population of about 21,000, spread over a land area slightly larger than that of Henrico--population 318,611, as of 2013—does not quite have the same bargaining power with prospective businesses.

The CUP requirement for drive through seems to have been added as wishful thinking at a time when Goochland’s population was too sparse to attract this kind of business. Ironically, the new homes in Centerville are responsible for the critical population mass that attracted McDonald’s.

The discussion moved to the Centerville overlay district—both sides of Broad Street Road from the Henrico County line to Manakin Road—and the required design standards there. Developers contend that they increase costs; some citizens believe they are too lax.
Given their ‘druthers, most county residents would prefer to see small, locally operated businesses in Centerville instead of national chains. The downside of rigorous design standards is that they can price small concerns out of the market.

The discussion segued into landscaping. Several speakers complained about the dead bushes around McDonald’s as well as their small size. As installed, speakers contended, the landscaping materials are too close to the ground and do nothing to enhance the Broad Street Road corridor i.e. hides development.

Coleman said that McDonald’s will be required to replace dead plant material, but that the county does not have the necessary staff to check bushes on a regular basis. He also said that landscaping requirements are “evolving” and that the Taco Bell, which will be built one of these days, will have better landscaping.

This led to the role of the county’s Design Review Committee—an appointed three person body that deals with conflicts between applicants and county staff on design issues—in approval of Taco Bell. The Goochland Planning Commission recommended approval of its drive through CUP application. The supervisors declined to hear the case until it had gotten the blessing of the DRC.

Paul Costello, DRC chair, explained that Taco Bell on the corporate level was far more accommodating to requests from the DRC than those from staff. After a several detailed meetings, Taco Bell agreed to enhance landscaping, use more neutral building materials, and better screen order kiosks. Costello believes that removing the CUP requirement will eliminate an important mechanism to enhance projects. Land use transparency would be reduced.

Right now, the Broad Street Road corridor is designated for commercial use, a somewhat nebulous term. A few gentlemen asked why Goochland’s economic development department, which consists of Matt Ryan and some helpers, is not wooing the firms of the lawyers and accountants who live in the county.

Goochland would love to welcome professional offices in Centerville to complement the medical offices just down the road in West Creek. As the scale in Centerville would not support more than a three story building, it is unlikely that offices there would have on-site cafeterias. So, where are those people going to eat lunch? Not everyone has time for a sit down restaurant.

Businesses want amenities for employees close to their offices. Capital One, CarMax, and Virginia Farm Bureau in West Creek have in house eating facilities. While this is more convenient for employees, it is one less revenue source for the county.

These issues are intertwined and complicated. The Supervisors have made economic development a priority. Market forces indicate that McDonald’s is filling a need. Coleman reported that it is doing so well that the franchisee regrets not building a larger store.

A new mixed use zoning ordinance approved by the supervisors earlier this year may be the answer to many of these concerns. Because this is a new category, it will require rezoning, which means, at the very least, public hearings before both the planning commission and supervisors. The MU zoning is intended to provide maximum flexibility to encourage developers to bring their best proposals. No uses are by right and everything requires a CUP. Design standards in MU are quite high and the county wants developers to know that they should be considered a starting point.

The good news is that Coleman and Schardein indicated that there are no “burger doodle” proposals in the Centerville development pipeline. They did not mention drive through wedding chapels.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Mark your calendar

There are several events of interest in Goochland scheduled for the next few weeks. Here is a sampling in chronological order:

Monday, September 14—a community meeting about the possibility of replacing the required Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for fast food restaurants and drive through uses with development standards. This would significantly reduce citizen input on new business. Starts at 7 p.m. in the Board meeting room of the county administration building, 1800 Sandy Hook Road in Courthouse Village.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015. Goochland American Legion Post 215 will hold “Make a Plan! Community Preparedness at Home and Work” at 6:30 p.m.
Guest speakers include Lauren Kennedy, former executive board member of the Mid-Atlantic Disaster Recovery Association and head of business continuity and disaster recovery at Capital One; D. E. “Eddie” Ferguson, Jr., NRP, CCEMTP Deputy Chief of Emergency Medical Services from Goochland Fire-Rescue; Lt. Chuck Henley, Goochland County Sheriff’s Office: Robin Hillman of the Goochland Citizen Emergency Response Team; and Sam Hall, US Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Office of Pipeline Safety.

Learn simple steps we can take at home and at work to keep safe in the aftermath of a catastrophe. Also, get a better understanding of the county’s role in a disaster and overall coordination of recovery efforts. Learn about the importance of planning and preparedness.
For more information visit Post 215’s PrepareAthon! Website at www.goochlandlegionpost215.com. This event is part of a national series of events sponsored by FEMA and Ready.gov called “PrepareAthon!”

The Meeting, which is open to the public, will be held at the Post Hall at 3386 River Road, AKA Route 6, in Goochland. (This is about a mile beyond Goochland High School on the same side of the road.)Donations will be accepted to offset the cost of the buffet dinner provided.

September 18, 19, and 20th Field Day of the Past, provides a chance to go back in time to see how things used to be. Located on Ashland Road between Rt. 250 and Interstate 64 in Centerville, the fairgrounds offers an amazing variety of things to see and do. Parking is free, admission $10, $8 for 62 and older, under 12 free. See http://www.fielddayofthepast.net for complete details.

September 21, community meeting regarding the pending applications for land application of biosolids in Goochland County. This meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Board meeting room.

September 22 Richmond Action Dialogues will sponsor “A Community Conversation on a national issue” from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Courthouse Company 5 fire-rescue station on Fairground Road near the Food Lion shopping center. A 30 minute documentary film “A Class Divided” will be shown followed by discussion. Come and experience a civil dialogue about a reawakened national topic. Direct questions to: siriusoul@aol.com.

October 3 To mark the annual observance of Fire Prevention Week, Centerville Fire-Rescue Company 3 will hold an open house from 11-3. Activities will include: vehicle extrication demonstration (see our great fire-rescue volunteers cut up cars!); live fire demonstration; free food; and an opportunity to meet the people who save lives and protect property every day in Goochland. Don’t forget to take a close look at the emergency apparatus. The station is at 52 Broad Street Road in Centerville.

Fall District Town Hall Meetings Once again, our supervisors and school board members will hold gatherings by district to share information about local government and listen to citizens. A general presentation will be made at each meeting enhanced by district specific topics. All meetings will begin at 7 p.m. The schedule is: District 5,October 8, Company 1 fire-rescue station; District 2&3 combined October 20 Goochland Library; District 4,October 22, Grace Chinese Baptist Church on Broad Street Road; and District 1 October 26 Byrd Elementary School multipurpose room.


Goochland’s School Board took time out of its crowded schedule to nominate GOMM to the Virginia School Boards Association 2015 media honor roll.
This generous and gracious nomination cited GOMM’s “fair and balanced reporting on the school division and education related topics.”

School Board Chairperson John Lumpkins, Jr., District 3 presented GOMM with a commendation certificate at the Board’s September 8 meeting.

Goochland School Superintended Dr. James Lane opined that GOMM may be the first blog named to the VSBA Media Honor Roll.

GOMM is humbled and grateful for this honor. GOMM is especially thankful for the extraordinary people on the School Board and those engaged in all facets of education in Goochland. They make mentioning the accomplishments of our school division a joy.

In recent years, GOMM has focused on county government, usually mentioning school matters as they intersect with other facets of the community, such as the involvement of American Legion Post 215 with creation of the Marine Jr. ROTC at the high school.

GOMM often mentions and praises the productive collaboration between the supervisors and school board that replaced a perpetual state of confrontation between the two bodies. Indeed, after taking office in 2012, these ten good people metaphorically clasped hands and supported each other through some of the darkest economic times in recent memories. The results have been astonishing.

Our school board members, Mike Payne, Kevin Hazzard, John Lumpkins, Beth Hardy, and John Wright have devoted enormous amounts of their time, energy, and considerable talent to ensure that all Goochland students are ready and able to succeed in life.

Our school board members participate in regional and statewide education related organizations, which enhances the reputation of Goochland schools.
Beth Hardy, District 4, is current VSBA Chair for the Southside Region. Kevin Hazzard, District 2, currently chairs the Board of the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School. Lumpkins is current chair of the Blue Ridge Virtual Governor’s School.

American public education in the 21st century is a very complicated enterprise. At its heart, as always, are great teachers in every classroom. Goochland is truly blessed with the caliber of those who guide our schools.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Turn, turn, turn

On a perfect Tuesday morning fourteen years ago, evil assassins dispatched by malevolent forces of darkness, whose shadow still blocks the light of freedom and goodness around the globe changed America forever.

As a nation we marveled at the courage of police, firefighters and EMS providers who ran toward danger. They trained every day of their careers to bring order out of the chaos of disaster; far too many perished in the attempt. We were reminded of the role these remarkable people play in the ordinary life of every community—that our first responders are true heroes.

Americans mourned together as a nation, united in grief.

Today’s world is very different from that of 2001. Electronic surveillance, enhanced security at large events, and airport screening have become a way of life. Unattended parcels of any kind make us nervous. After the Boston Marathon bombings, we are all too aware that danger can lurk anywhere.

Perhaps the most disturbing change is that, in the minds of some, it is suddenly okay to execute cops.
What happened to the unity and resolve that brought us together?

In an efforts to ensure that the 9/11 attacks on Manhattan, Pennsylvania, and Virginia’s Pentagon, the Freedom Flag Foundation (http://freedomflagfoundation.org) works to ensure that 9/11 is never forgotten.

The flag itself was designed by Richard Melito of Henrico. Its symbols pay homage to the sites of devastation and those who perished
Members of the Freedom Flag Foundation Board presented the Goochland School Board with a Freedom Flag and educational materials at its September 8 meeting to ensure that the history of 9/11 is not forgotten. Board Members Beth Hardy, District 4; Kevin Hazzard, District 2;, and Board Chairperson John Lumpkins, District 3, who hold leadership positions in state and regional educational organizations, agreed to spread information about the Foundation.

Steel from the twin towers has been installed in a special place of reflection at the Manakin Company 1 Fire-Rescue station. At 7 p.m. this evening, September 11, 2015, an event to share and remember the sacrifices and loss 9/11 will be held by Goochland’s First Responders at Company 1, located at 180 River Road West (Route 6, Patterson Ave.) in Manakin. All are invited to attend.

While we pause, on this solemn anniversary to remember, we also need to look ahead and ponder the future of America.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Getting Better Every Day

Goochland Treasurer Pamela Cooke Johnson commends her deputy clerks for earning Master Governmental Deputy Treasurer certifications. Pictured (l to r) Valerie Johnson, Leola Payne, Tanya Proffitt, Pamela Johnson, and Pamela Duncan. They each received framed certificates from the University of Virginia.

Goochland County government has come a long way in the past few years. Announcements of new initiatives and ways to improve operations happen often.
The Treasurer’s Office has been transformed from an embarrassment to a highly professional organization thanks to the hard work and dedication of Goochland Treasurer Pamela Cook Johnson and her staff.

On September 1, Johnson announced that, for the first time, the Goochland County Treasurer’s Office has received official accreditation with Master Governmental certification earned through the Weldon-Cooper Center for Public Service (http://www.coopercenter.org/certification). Four members of the Treasurer’s staff: Chief Deputy Pamela Duncan; Deputy Treasurer II Valerie Johnson; Deputy Treasurer II Leola Payne; and Deputy Treasurer III Tanya Profitt completed the necessary training and passed required tests to achieve this designation. Pamela Johnson spokje about the superb individual qualities that each woman bring to her job.

Johnson completed requirements to earn certification as a Master Governmental Treasurer. She commended her clerks for their hard work and diligence in faithfully serving the citizens of Goochland County. Johnson also thanked the supervisors for funding the cost of additional training.

Information Technology Director Qiana Foote unveiled the long awaited county website, which went “live” on Friday, September 4. The URL has been simplified to www.goochlandva.us in an effort to make it easier to remember.

Designed to be simple to navigate and foster greater governmental transparency, the new website is the result of a lot of hard work by the IT staff, including Jon Worley, Janet Newby, Mark Troy, and Jim Sutton. Foote thanked all departments for their participation in many meetings and detailed discussions that helped create the new site.

The new site offers information about all facets of county governmental services. A “how do I?” tab provides directions to parts of the site dealing with particular functions and a “frequently asked questions” button provides basic information about all county departments.
The county check register, which has been online for several years, now includes statements of credit cards used by county employees. This is a continuing effort to provide greater transparency.
Please take a few minutes to “noodle around” the new web site and find out things about Goochland County you never knew. Creating an account will insure that citizens automatically receive public notices, but it is not required to access the site.

Foote qfoote@goochlandva.us acknowledged that there might be a few bugs in the new system and wants to know how the IT department can better serve the citizens.
The county website is a useful tool to provide the public with information. Please take advantage of it.

Board Chair Susan Lascolette, District 1, pronounced the new website “A marked improvement,” and thanked Foote and everyone who participate for their hard work.

Marshall Winn of VDOT reported that the culvert replacement on Ashland Road is completed and work on the River Road Bridge over Tuckahoe Creek is progressing well. He was optimistic that River Road will reopen “sometime in October” barring unforeseen complications.

The expedited work on Ashland Road and efforts to move along the River Road work are a marked improvement over previous projects, including what seemed like endless construction on the mile plus “Centerville Speedway.” If this keeps up, VDOT could be the state agency whose former motto was “Oops!”

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Working in harmony

Rotarians building a better Goochland for twenty years

The twentieth anniversary of the Goochland Rotary Club was marked by congratulatory resolution at the September 1 Board of Supervisors’ meeting.
Rotary is an organization whose motto “service above self” unites members around the world in endeavors to better society. Far more than social group, Rotarians hold themselves to high ethical standards in all their actions.

Goochland Rotarians support a wide range of local non-profits—donating more than 4,000 hours of service annually—including: The Christmas Mother; Habitat for Humanity; Bright Beginnings; Rassawek Spring Jubilee; mentoring programs; STEM Camp; Robotics; road clean-up; and holiday meal delivery.

These very busy people also raise money to support a wide range of worldwide and local causes, including the Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services; Elk Hill; Goochland Animal Protection; and the Goochland Education Foundation.

One of Goochland Rotary’s major fundraisers is the annual visit of the Richmond Symphony Orchestra to Goochland High School. This year’s event is scheduled for November 15. (See the events tab at goochlandrotary.com for more information.) The concert not only raises money for local non-profits, it provides an opportunity to enjoy music close to home.

Rotarians enrich Goochland in another, more subtle, manner; in addition to their work with Rotary, their jobs, and avocations, many organizations benefit from the presence of Rotarians in their membership and leadership.

Rotarians including: Sheriff Jim Agnew; County Administrator Rebecca Dickson; Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Lane; District 5 School Board Member John Wright; District 5 Palnning Commissioner Tom Rockecharlie; and Goochland Historical Society President Wayne Dementi build relationships that also strengthen the community.

Tom Winfree, Goochland Rotary President thanked the Board for recognizing the contribution made by Rotary during the past two decades. “We are proud to have (county administrator) Becky Dickson among us,” he said.

If something good is going on in Goochland, a Rotarian is probably involved.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

This land was made for you and me

Goochland County’s Board of Supervisors dealt with issues that have generated interested in the community at their September 1 meeting. Two agenda items involved land use.

Application of biosolids—processed residue from wastewater treatment plants—to farmland in the county continues to trouble citizens. Permits, some new, some renewal, for the land application of biosolids to more than 2,100 acres on 20 sites in Districts 1, 2, and 3 are under review.

Concerns about heavy metals accumulation the soil, water pollution caused by biosolids application on steep slopes near water on neighboring property, and exacerbation of chronic health issues spark the opposition.

Sekou Shabaka, of District 2, said, during afternoon citizen comment, that his community is 100 percent against spreading “these wicked toxins” anywhere in Goochland, especially behind Fauquier Baptist Church, and the nursing home on Dogtown Road. He said that there is suspicion that the supervisors had “cut a deal” to allow land application of biosolids.

Shabaka asked the supervisors to pass a resolution against the practice. “You can perfume it as much as you want, but we still know what it is,” he said.

Board Chair Susan Lascolette, District 1, who has been very interested in biosolids, expressed disappointment that the August 19 meeting, attended by approximately 180 people, provided no opportunity for public comment. The State Water Control Board and Department of Environmental Quality, which oversee the biosolids application, allow public comment on the permits during a 30 day window, which has not yet started.
Lascolette said that it is very important that the community present a united voice on the issue to comment on the permits. She said that a community meeting will be scheduled in the near future. (GOMM will pass along information on that meeting when it becomes available.)

The supervisors, said Lascolette, have been working to improve biosolids application monitoring. They have repeatedly and unsuccessfully asked the General Assembly to fund an impartial study of the long term health consequences of land application of biosolids. Efforts to require land recordation of sludge application have also been unsuccessful.

Manuel Alvarez, Jr. District 2 said that owners of property adjacent to biosolids application sites oppose the recordation because it could have a negative effect on their property values.

The subject is as clear as, well, sludge. Information about biosolids application raises more questions than it answers. Local government has virtually no control over where, or even if, biosolids may be applied.

A housekeeping zoning ordinance amendment to EXPAND the opportunity for public assembly on land zoned for industrial use served by municipal water and sewer drew fire from a handful of citizens. They contended that it would interfere with the right of public assembly.
County zoning ordinances are in the process of being updated to conform to state law, and support changes in the recently adopted 2035 comprehensive land use plan. The amendment, unanimously approved at the September 1 meeting, ADDED places of public assembly to the permitted by right uses in M-1 and M-2 zoning districts.

Such changes are nothing new. A few years back, “hospital” was added as a by right use to pave the way for the establishment of the West Creek Emergency Center.

Zoning is a way to ensure orderly development and appropriate location of land uses. This power rests with local governments. Assigning certain uses to particular zoning districts would prevent, in an extreme instance, locating an abattoir—slaughterhouse—next to an elementary school.
As written, before the September 1 amendment, M-1 zoning, which applies to West Creek, did not include places of public assembly—in this case the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery—as a permitted use. Single family homes and pig farms are still not allowed in M-1 districts.

The supervisors are committed to making the business environment in Goochland attractive to business. Broadening permitted uses in West Creek by adding “place of public assembly” rather than “brewery with outside entertainment” welcomes a wide array of potential uses. It also reduces the need to amend ordinances every time a business that does not fit into existing categories comes along.

Narrow zoning categories with limited permitted uses, are often cited as an impediment to economic development here. Rezoning property or changing by right land use is time-consuming, and costly. This puts Goochland at a disadvantage to neighboring jurisdictions whose land use policies offer more options.

If anything, this ordinance amendment enhances rather than threatens the Constitutional rights of Goochlanders.

Other ordinances dealing with similar matters are on the drawing board. These changes may be the result of the kerfuffle caused when a church with a large congregation sought to repurpose a barn into a sanctuary. That property was located on a narrow country road in a pastoral residential area. Outcry from the neighbors caused the organization to look elsewhere, but it brought the question of “what should go where” in rural areas into sharp focus. That issue could get tricky.

It is very important for citizens to keep an eye on land use decisions. It is also important to put proposed changes in contest.