Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Greener pastures, where men and horses save each other

The barn is home to Greener Pastures

The beautiful horses you see running on the south side of Rt. 6 just west of Crozier are retired thoroughbreds—who chased each other around race tracks in former lives. Thanks to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) these horses are enjoying retirement saved from a trip to what used to be called “the glue factory”.

If you look a little closer, you’ll notice that the fence that keeps the horses out of the road is the same fence that surrounds the James River Work Center, part of the Virginia Department of Corrections, a prison.

The Second Chances program of the James River chapter of the TRF provides a place for retired race horses to live happily ever after, be it in a new a forever home, or at JRTRF and gives offenders the opportunity to learn new skills—including equine care; anatomy, physiology; farm management; and personal discipline—so they can be productive citizens when their sentence is completed. Some become certified in the nationally acclaimed “Groom Elite” program. Participants must apply to join the program and complete an interview process.
Offenders learn useful equine care skills.

On September 18, the JRTRF held an open barn to celebrate the program. Visitors saw happy, well cared for horses and their caregivers enjoying each other’s company. One offender declared that he has “the best job in DOC” while explaining his duties to open barn visitors. He is learning farrier skills and hopes to pursue that line of work after release. The approximately 30 horses in the program are rotated into the barn for grooming and other care on a regular basis. The rest of the time, they roam free on the property.

The horses in the barn included Covert Action, grandson of Virginia’s own triple crown winner Secretariat. Each equine put on a “cute horse act” in hopes of getting treats. They were all quite successful.
Give a horse a treat

Secretariat's grandson, Covert Action

Horses may be adopted for performance work; pleasure riding; or pasture mates to act as companions for other horses. As adopted horses leave the JRTRF, new spots for retirees open up. Visit for details.
Visit and be sure to watch the video clip.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Follow the money

Emergency Communications center under construction

You may have noticed the new communications towers going up around the county or the building under construction behind the Sheriff's Office. They are part of a massive upgrade of Goochland County's emergency communications capabilities mandated by the Federal Government. The price tag for the project, which is expected to be completed in the next year, is approximately $10 million. Initial costs were paid for out of the General Fund.

While there is enough money in the county coffers to pay for the entire project, finance staff and consultants recommended borrowing to pay for the project to avoid depleting reserves and take advantage of the current favorable borrowing climate.

Since taking office in 2012, this Board has spent money carefully, operating on a pay as you go basis to fund smaller projects in the capital improvement plan, which addresses items that have a relatively long useful life and cost more than $50,000.

As part of the overhaul of county finances, the Board of Supervisors adopted policies in 2015 to establish thresholds to prevent the county from getting in over its head. *

A resolution outlining parameters for a lease purchase strategy suggested by staff and financial advisors was adopted by the supervisors at their September 6 meeting following a public hearing, at which no one spoke. County Administrator John Budesky, Board Chair Bob Minnick, and Vice Chair Ned Creasey were tapped to negotiate the final details.

Under the proposed financing strategy, a third party will lease the land from the county and lease it back to the county for an amount to be paid out of the annual budget. This does not create indebtedness for the county. (See the Board packet on the county website for the documents, and the live stream of the presentation.)

Virginia localities may not issue bonds without a referendum, explained the county's bond counsel, George L. Scruggs, Jr. of Kutak Rock LLC. They may, however, borrow via lease purchase. Scruggs said that vendors, in this case banks, which responded to the county’s request for proposals, view these situations as sound investments because localities are not likely to default on the debt.

This is a legal and reasonable way for the county to finance the communications project, even though it seems a bit convoluted. Although the duration of the arrangement is not expected to exceed 15 years and the interest rate to be no more than 1.93 percent, the resolution uses “not more than” language to give negotiators both flexibility and limits.

Ken Peterson, District 5, whose private sector finance expertise helped the county avoid the fiscal cliff of the TCSD debt, was assured that communications equipment with a relatively short useful life, is funded with shorter term instruments, the remainder, longer term. The lease may be paid off at par value after seven years, or at a 1.03 percent penalty before then.

Many GOMM posts have lauded the Goochland Board of Supervisors for its prudent and open oversight of public funds. Transparency in money matters keeps everyone honest. It also provides the opportunity for citizens to learn how their tax dollars are spent, but only if they pay attention.

" Net debt as a percentage of estimated market value of taxable property should not exceed 2.5%. Net debt is to include general obligation, capital leases, and revenue bonds.
•The ratio of debt service expenditures as a percent of total general fund expenditures (including transfers to other funds) should not exceed 12%. While 12% is the ceiling, the capital improvement plan is prepared using a target of no more than 10% of debt service to expenditures.

Fund Balance Ratios
•Unassigned fund balance at the close of each fiscal year should be at least 20% of the total annual adopted general fund budget of the subsequent fiscal year, plus the non-local portion of the school operating fund budget.
•The County will maintain a Revenue Stabilization Reserve of at least 1% of the total annual adopted general fund budget of the subsequent fiscal year, plus the non-local portion of the school operating fund budget"

Sunday, September 11, 2016

On a perfect Tuesday morning

On a perfect Tuesday morning, fifteen years ago today, nearly 3,000 people were assassinated by agents of evil in Virginia, New York, and a Pennsylvania field. Their only crime was going about their daily business. Our word stopped for days as details about the horrific attacks came to light. We all remember what we were doing when we heard the incomprehensible news.

More than 400 law enforcement officers (LEOs) and first responders—who see us at our worst and give us their best—died running toward, not away, from danger. We can never forget the images of mounds of mangled emergency apparatus, nor the lines of waiting ambulances that were never needed. The dirge of funereal bagpipes became the music of our sorrow.

We mourned with a single heart, heedless of color, creed, or national origin, crying together for the lost lives, and the innocence of our country. Old Glory was everywhere and treated with love. We still cannot fathom the hate that inspired Islamic terrorists to carry out these vile acts.

Our sons and daughters joined our all-volunteer military to vanquish an elusive but lethal enemy. We honor their service and sacrifice—even Boomers who spit on those returning from Viet Nam found their manners—but less than one half of one percent of our population wears the uniform.

We cried and eventually returned to a new normal, refusing to cower in fear, yet anxiously looking over our shoulders.
America today is a different place.

The war to vanquish those who would do us harm has dragged on for most of a generation with no real end in sight. Our kids come home with dreadful wounds, visible and hidden to be slighted by a badly broken Veteran’s Administration.

The LEOs we honored and respected after 9/11 are now, in some quarters, fair game for the disenchanted. We are more divided than ever.

We thought taking the fight “to them” would protect our homeland. Then came attacks at Fort Hood, San Bernardino, and Orlando that were echoed in Europe. We endure intrusive airport security screenings by TSA agents who all seem to be foreigners, and pray that any bad guys are on another flight. Some argue the remedy for the violence is to ban guns, others to arm citizens to defend themselves.

We can’t help wonder if that woman in the burka at the grocery story is buying food for her children, or cooking for a local terror cell. We want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, to believe that there is good in all people, but justifiably fear being victimized for our generosity.

Free speech, one of the bedrocks of American culture, has come under attack on college campuses, where all points of view used to be welcome. For people to govern themselves—the revolutionary notion that set American apart from the rest of the world—differing, sometimes distressing, viewpoints must be shared and discussed to arrive at consensus. Dictatorships crush dissent, democracies embrace it and that must not change.

We remember the devastation at the Pentagon and in lower Manhattan though it has been repaired and rebuilt. The field in Pennsylvania will forever honor the souls who rest there.

America has found its way back from dark times before and we will again. God bless America.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Doing the people's business

Goochland’s supervisors address a wide range of matters at their monthly meetings. They began their September 5 meeting by recognizing five-year service anniversaries for county employees who were feted earlier at a celebratory luncheon. These are the good people who work hard every day to make our county a good place to live.

There will be two local observances of the 15th anniversary of 9/11, both on Sunday:
The first, at 9:45 a.m. at the Courthouse Company 5 fire-rescue station on Fairground Road, will read the names of the more than 400 fallen law enforcement officers and first responders. A bell will be rung to signify the loss of a comrade in the line of duty. Members of Goochland Fire-Rescue and the Sheriff’s Office will participate.

At 7 p.m. at the Manakin Company 1 fire-rescue station at 180 River Road West, a special ceremony to honor all who lost their lives on 9/11 will be held. Members of the Goochland High School Marine Junior ROTC and the Freedom Flag Foundation will offer words of remembrance and reflection. The public is invited to attend both events.

The Goochland Historical Society will celebrate completion of renovations to the Old Stone Jail on the Courthouse green at 3 p.m. Everyone is welcome.

Board Chair Bob Minnick, District 3, announced upcoming fall town hall meetings. Districts 4 and 5 will be held on Wednesday, October 12 at the Hermitage Country Club; Districts 2 and 3, Tuesday, October 18 at the Goochland Library; and District 1, Monday, October 24 at Byrd Elementary School. All meetings begin at 7 p.m. These sessions provide an informal way to interact with your elected officials, learn first-hand what is going on in Goochland; and raise concerns about issues in your district.

County Administrator John Budesky said that his first weeks on the job—he started on August 1—have provided a valuable opportunity to get to know the supervisors and staff. He is learning his way around the county and looks forward to getting to know the citizens.

New employees introduced by Director of Human Resources Kelly Parrish included Barbara Horlacher, former county controller who has returned as Director of Financial Services.

Dan Schardein, Deputy County Administrator for Community Development, presented a mid-year update. Renovations to the CD space on the main floor of the administration building are moving along, and, hopefully, will be completed in November. Community Development is temporarily located in Central High School on Dogtown Road.

Utility improvements were discussed. Conversion of the Rivergate Pump Station to a gravity operation was completed for less than the budgeted amount of $269,000. Approximately $152,000 will be returned to the public utilities’ budget. A chloramine injection station is 60 percent complete. This helps to mitigate the “smelly water” issues in the TCSD. A new control valve for the waterline that parallels Rt. 288 is complete.

Schardein reported that the volume of recyclables at the convenience centers is rising. This removes more material from the waste stream and saves the county money. New recycling programs, including those for electronics, are popular with citizens, said Schardein.

Going forward, one of the biggest anticipated challenges for CD will be keeping up with construction inspections in the coming months.

Economic Development Director Matt Ryan reported that the ratio of commercial to residential tax base rose modestly from last year. Bonds are expected to be issued by the EDA for construction of a memory care facility on Broad Street Road in the next few weeks. Parcels in the Midpoint Industrial Park in Hadensville, owned by the Economic Development Authority, have been sold.

Mills Jones, Director of the Office of Children’s Services, gave a brief overview of a new Apple and Android smartphone app that provides information about parent support; disabilities; mental health; substance abuse; education; and transportation.

This free interactive app allows users to browse by category or resource descriptions. The app is linked to maps to provide easy driving directions. Type “community care” into the app search and download. Select Goochland and go. One advantage of the app, said Jones, is that it does not require an internet connection. The app was developed through a regional grant administered by the United Methodist Family Services in partnership with the Office of Children’s Services and a host of local agencies.

The Board unanimously approved amendments to budgets for the Department of Social Services by appropriating an additional $33,750 in federal revenue for the Community Action program. The required 20 percent matching was requirement was fulfilled in “soft” dollars” by the use of DSS space and services.

A budget amendment to increase the budget of the Commonwealth’s Attorney by $39,656 to upgrade a part-time position to full-time using a grant awarded by the state Department of Criminal Justice Services. Budesky said that, in his experience, these grants are ongoing.

Evening session:
The supervisors approved a request to defer a public hearing on a conditional use permit application filed by Donna Reynolds concerning an event venue until their October 4 meeting.

A CUP renewal was granted to Frank Nott for a commercial carpet cleaning business in District 1.

A five-year CUP was granted to Kindle Rayfield to operate a commercial kennel, animal daycare, and grooming enterprise in a warehouse on Briggs Drive, behind the Centerville Food Lion.

Pets in the care of the business, explained Rayfield, will be kept indoors except for brief elimination outings on a portion of the grounds. Careful attention will be paid to sanitation indoors and out. Construction of sound barriers will be triggered should multiple complaints about loud and extended barking be validated by the zoning administrator. This location is close to an existing boarding kennel and an animal hospital. This nice small business expects to bring at least 20 jobs to the county.

The supervisors approved an ordinance amendment to reduce the penalty for stray livestock to a Class IV misdemeanor—the lowest level of offense—after three violations in a six-month period. The penalty is a fine. Previously, the penalty was a Class II misdemeanor for each offence, which carries a stiffer fine and the potential of jail time.

Assistant County Attorney Whitney Marshall explained that the change seeks to abate the nuisance of free running livestock without over punishing while recognizing the safety issue, especially at night, of livestock running free in road ways. Recurring incidents in the following year is also a Class IV misdemeanor.

The change was made on the recommendation of Tim Clough, Director of Animal Protection, whose agency is charged with enforcing the ordinance. Clough said that there are frequent reports of loose livestock.
Other provisions of this ordinance amendment deletes a section dealing with vicious dogs, which are covered by state statute; and removes the requirement to report killing a coyote.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Guest post on Bacon's Rebellion blog

GOMM is honored to be included in This excellent blog addresses a wide range of issues that challenge the Commonwealth. Please visit. Thanks to Jim Bacon for his interest in Goochland County.