Sunday, June 18, 2017

In the line of duty


Last week’s shootings at a ball field in Northern Virginia remind us of the danger that our law enforcement officers (LEOs) can encounter in the most innocent of settings.

The amazing people who work in public safety, LEOs, fire-rescue providers, and animal control officers, make it possible for us to go about our daily lives with little thought to “what if?” Our LEOs, who pin targets over their hearts before going to work, seem especially vulnerable these days.

Clearly, they don’t do what they do for the money, or even glory, but because they want to help people. We owe them, at the very least, every possible support should they become injured on the job.

At their June 6 meeting, Goochland Supervisors revised county policy on worker’s compensation supplementation for deputies.

The revision, initiated by Board Chair Ned Creasey, District 3, was sparked by a county deputy, injured on the job, whose worker’s compensation benefits expired before the deputy was able to return to work. The result was an unexpectedly shrunken paycheck, which placed hardship on the deputy’s family.

After quite a bit of discussion, the Supervisors voted to adopt, as policy, as section of state law that permits sheriff’s deputies to use accrued leave to supplement worker’s compensation payments. This applies only to sworn officers.

Staff will report back to the Board within 60 days with cost analysis for extending this policy to all county employees, or just public services employees, whose jobs place them at greater risk of workplace injury.

An initial policy revision that included fire-rescue and animal control employees was rejected after Susan Lascolette, District 1, said it was discriminatory because it did not treat county employees the same. “I want to get to yes on this, but I believe that it is bad public policy to craft changes to remedy a specific situation.”

County Administrator John Budesky said that existing county worker’s compensation policy, which he followed, does not permit any employees to use accrued leave to supplement their payments.

Creasey contended that the county spends a great deal of money training public safety employees and they should be made whole if injured on the job.

Director of Human Resources Kelly Parrish said that public safety employees are treated differently, citing the Line of Duty Act, and have greater difficulty obtaining supplemental insurance due to the nature of their work. Creating light duty assignments as transition between injury and regular work tasks for them is also difficult.

Creasey said he would favor extending the supplement option to all county employees, contending that there have been few on the job injuries and that the cost would be manageable.

Budesky said that the county’s worker’s comp premiums are experience-based on the previous three years. He also said that the county’s insurers advised against expanding supplementation.

Goochland Sheriff James L. Agnew contended that state law is clear on the matter, and the deputy in question will be made whole.

As adopted, the new policy will address the pending situation. The supervisors will revisit the matter in the next two months with an eye toward adopting a more comprehensive policy.

During a budget presentation earlier this year, Parrish said that the county’s most expensive assets, its employees, walk out the door every night and it’s administration’s job to get them back the next morning. Finding a way to help employees injured at work pay their bills until they are fit for duty is a big part of that notion.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

In the weeds



Had any of the candidates seeking nomination to represent the 56th District in the Virginia General Assembly attended the Tuesday, June 5 meeting of the Goochland Board of Supervisors, they would have gotten a taste for the wide range of issues addressed by state legislators.

At a June 3 forum (see GOMM Choices) most of the hopefuls touted their adherence to their party’s principles. It would be interesting to ask how a conservative, liberal, or progressive would apply those principles during a discussion of changing state law to permit localities to designate running bamboo as nuisance vegetation, or the merits of lifetime dog licenses.

Then, there is the proffer legislation enacted during the 2016 session, that illustrates the quip “legislate in haste, repent at leisure” that left localities like Goochland, scratching their head about zoning issues.

Goochland County Attorney Tara McGee presented a proposal to amend the county proffer policy. She contended that the existing proffer policy does not align as much as it should with the proffer legislation passed during the 2016 General Assembly session.

The proposal recommends that each developer, on a case by case basis, provide a detailed impact statement outlining how their project will impact county services and infrastructure and what remedies they will offer to mitigate those burdens. The Board will no longer accept a set dollar amount.

Before July 1, 2016, Goochland had a cash proffer policy that allowed developers to pay a specific amount per home—business projects were never subject to the cash proffer policy—payable when the certificate of occupancy was issued. The amount of this cash proffer was calculated using a formula with specific amounts for schools, parks, road, and fire-rescue. At one time, library costs were part of the equation, but were removed. Proffer dollars may only be used to offset costs of capital projects. Ongoing expenses, such as salaries for county employees, are considered to be funded by increases in real estate tax revenues generated by development.

Susan Lascolette, District 1, confirmed that this policy is a work in progress. McGee said that the Board has the power to deny any project if it believes that the development will have a negative consequence on the county.

The Board unanimously approved this policy change. ( For details, please see pages 97-103 of the June 6 Board packet, available on the county website http://goochlandva.us/ under the Supervisors’ tab.)

McGee later presented legislative authorizations granted by the 2017 General Assembly session to localities to add to their local laws, if the governing board deems them appropriate. (Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, which means that local government has only those powers specifically ceded to them by the General Assembly.)

The Board was asked to refer those items to specific departments for further review and consideration.

The lifetime dog license option— “While the dog owner is in Goochland and while the rabies vaccine is current”; up to $50 per animal versus the current annual fees of $10 for unspayed  or $5 for spayed—was referred for further consideration. Manuel Alvarez, Jr., District 2, asked that the feasibility of requiring animals to be microchipped also be investigated.

McGee explained that state law now allows localities to amend language addressing liens imposed to recover the demolition of unsafe structures or cutting excessively tall grass from “local” taxes to “real estate” taxes to obtain payment priority when the property is sold. Board Chair Ned Creasey, District 3, cast the sole vote in favor of moving this forward.

Creation of a registry for short term rentals, which are currently only permitted under Goochland ordinances with a conditional use permit, was not referred. Board members preferred to have the entire short term rental issue, like Air BnB, addressed in the ongoing comprehensive revision of zoning ordinances.

Exemption of property tax for the surviving spouse of officers killed in the line of duty was referred for additional study. Creasey asked that the addition of animal control officers be added to the study.

The option to increase transient occupancy tax on hotels and bed and breakfasts from the current two percent to five percent mandating the additional funds be dedicated to tourism was not referred. Creasey was alone in dissent.

Adding running bamboo, which is not a problem in Goochland, to the excessively high grass, was also rejected.

A mandatory change passed by the GA to clarify the definition of a dangerous dog, was set for a public hearing.

The usual VDOT reports and a public hearing on the Secondary Six Year Plan for rural rustic roads were also part of the Board agenda.

Let’s hope that whoever represents the 56th District in the Virginia General Assembly for the next two years realizes how their actions trickle down to the weeds in localities and be very aware of unintended consequences of ill-conceived and poorly drafted laws.

If you are so inclined, don’t forget to vote in Tuesday’s primary.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Time to make the donuts






Goochland Supervisors unanimously approved a conditional use permit for franchisee Luis Cabral, who lives in the Meadows, to add a drive through window to a proposed Dunkin’ Donuts in the Courthouse Commons Shopping Center on Fairground Road at their June 6 meeting.


Cabral explained that Dunkin’ Donuts was reluctant to grant a franchise in Courthouse Village, citing low population, unless it included a drive through window.


Denial of this application was recommended by the county planning commission at its May meeting for safety reasons.

Located at the north end of the strip shopping center, which is also home to Dawson’s Pharmacy and Food Lion, the drive through lanes share space with travel lanes used by large trucks that make deliveries to center tenants. The Planning Commissioners were not convinced by schematics presented at their public hearing that motorists waiting to pick up their daily caffeine could share space with big trucks.


At the Board hearing, shopping center owner Rick Palamar joined forces with Cabral to present a short video demonstrating that the proposal is feasible and safe. They outlined the proposed lanes and used a soft drink tractor trailer to negotiate the turn. It did so safely, giving a wide berth to vehicles parked where the menu board will be and in the “stacking” lane, where motorists wait their turn to order. All lanes will be clearly delineated with pavement markings supplemented by ample signage to direct customers in and out.

Photos of another Dunkin’ Donuts operated by Cabral just east of Innsbrook with even narrower lanes around a building were shown. Cabral said that there have been no traffic incidents of any kind there.

Palamar said that, during a typical week, between nine and 12 large trucks make deliveries behind the shopping center after the expected 7 to 9 a.m. morning rush at Dunkin’ Donuts.

Cabral plans to invest approximately $400 thousand on a total renovation of the space and expects to hire 15 full time and ten part-time employees.

This new tenant in the shopping center will bring new traffic for neighboring businesses and add another choice to folks seeking sustenance on the go.



Cabral explained that Dunkin’ Donuts was reluctant to grant a franchise in Courthouse Village, citing low population, unless it included a drive through window.


Denial of this application was recommended by the county planning commission at its May meeting for safety reasons.

Located at the north end of the strip shopping center, which is also home to Dawson’s Pharmacy and Food Lion, the drive through lanes share space with travel lanes used by large trucks that make deliveries to center tenants. The Planning Commissioners were not convinced by schematics presented at their public hearing that motorists waiting to pick up their daily caffeine could share space with big trucks.


At the Board hearing, shopping center owner Rick Palamar joined forces with Cabral to present a short video demonstrating that the proposal is feasible and safe. They outlined the proposed lanes and used a soft drink tractor trailer to negotiate the turn. It did so safely, giving a wide berth to vehicles parked where the menu board will be and in the “stacking” lane, where motorists wait their turn to order. All lanes will be clearly delineated with pavement markings supplemented by ample signage to direct customers in and out.

Photos of another Dunkin’ Donuts operated by Cabral just east of Innsbrook with even narrower lanes around a building were shown. Cabral said that there have been no traffic incidents of any kind there.

Palamar said that, during a typical week, between nine and 12 large trucks make deliveries behind the shopping center after the expected 7 to 9 a.m. morning rush at Dunkin’ Donuts.

Cabral plans to invest approximately $400 thousand on a total renovation of the space and expects to hire 15 full time and ten part-time employees.

This new tenant in the shopping center will bring new traffic for neighboring businesses and add another choice to folks seeking sustenance on the go.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Choice



Voters in the Virginia 56th General Assembly have a gracious plenty of candidate choices in the June 13 primary. This is a nice change from the last six years when republican Peter Farrell ran with no opposition. Farrell announced that he would step down earlier this year.

Two democrats: Lizzie M. Drucker-Basch, lizziedrucker@nophika.com, www.lizzieforvirginia.com; and Melissa M. Dart dart4delegate@gmail.com; and six republicans: Matt C. Pinsker, info@pinsker4delegate.com, pinsker4delegate.com; Graven W. Craig, gravencraig@yahoo.com, http://gravencraig.com; George S. Goodwin, oaksby@gmail.com; Surya P. Dhakar, dhakarfordelegate@gmail.com, http://dhakarfordelegate.com; John J. McGuire III, john164@mcguire56.com; and J. F. "Jay" Prendergast, jayprendergast4delegate56@gmail.com, jay4delegate56.org, threw their hats into the electoral ring.

On Saturday, June 3, the second tri-partisan candidate forum took place at Goochland High School. This is the second time that county democrats, republicans, and Tea Partiers collaborated to stage an event to help citizens become informed voters. This is yet another example of Goochlanders coming together for the good of all.

For three hours, those in attendance listened to each candidate explain their make their case for election.

Each of these people are to be commended for taking time from busy schedules to run for office. Gathering signatures to secure a place on the ballot(no dancing allowed) is just the first step. Raising money, getting endorsements, and meeting voters are all part of the process. We have them to thank for a choice at the polls.

Six of the eight—all but Louisa residents Craig and Goodwin—candidates live in western Henrico, which a few contended is just a “stone’s throw” from Goochland. Perhaps geographically, but maybe not attitudinally.

Most began their remarks by declaring fealty to their party’s philosophy, either conservative, liberal, or progressive, in broad terms that promise a better Commonwealth. They were gracious and cordial to each other.

The order in which the candidates spoke was determined by lot. Following are a few thumbnail impressions, please visit websites and Facebook pages for details. All candidates welcome email questions. Don’t be shy, they want your vote, make them earn it.

Matt Pinsker is a Henrico attorney who also serves in the Army Reserve Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps. He teaches criminal justice and Homeland Security courses at VCU. He believes that illegal immigration is illegal and should not be tolerated.
(Some of Goochland’s large horse and other farms may employ illegal aliens who, some contend, live otherwise productive and blameless lives, and should not be penalized for their immigration status.)
Matt Pinsker

He supports law enforcement and authored a textbook used in police academies. Pinsker said that cable companies should be encouraged to expand in Goochland, he seemed unaware that Comcast is not inclined to do so and there are no other options. He believes that there are steps that can be taken to prevent opioid overdoses, but was a tad short on details.

Dr. Surya Dhakar is Henrico dentist whose policies include: abolition of the state income tax; removal of burdensome regulations on small business; and promotion of policies that build strong families and safe communities. He wants to end welfare and Medicaid abuse, which, he contended, is an incentive for children to have babies to get bigger checks. Though pro-life, he was short on details about how to discourage underage procreation.
Dr. Surya Dhakar

He said that Goochland is well run and said he would support making broadband a utility.

Melissa Dart, a Henrico health care administration professional, said she is a proud Progressive who supports Medicaid expansion in Virginia. She is concerned that dollars are being taken out of the public education budget. Dart would reverse the decline of Virginia’s ranking as a good place to do business by lowering the entry barriers for new businesses, which she vaguely described with standard buzzwords. Dart believes that “a broader conversation” is needed to address the illegal alien/sanctuary city issue. Melissa Dart


She believes that public/private partnerships are useful in broadband expansion, which is far more important than a means to play video games. Good education benefits everyone, she said. However, she seemed unaware of the current excellence of Goochland Schools, citing her endorsement by Bud Cothern, who was superintendent here about 15 years ago during the bad old days.

Lizzie Drucker-Basch runs a small business that deals with historic renovation. This provides her with first-hand knowledge of dealing with local government. She too supports the use of public private partnerships to expand broadband and find new ways to get this “educational and economic imperative” done. Lizzie Drucker-Basch

Drucker-Basch believes that the challenges facing the Commonwealth cannot get done in soundbites. “We have to focus on what we have in common, and how we get there,” she said. Drucker-Basch believes that Virginia does not spend nearly enough on education. She believes that teachers need the freedom to find new ways to engage children, energize the creativity of teachers, and not teach to the test. We’re pretty much doing that in Goochland.

George Goodwin of Louisa worked in the General Assembly with Tom Garrett, who was succeeded last January in the State Senate by Mark Peake. Goodwin contended that his legislative experience makes him the best choice to effectively represent Goochland in Richmond. George Goodwin


Goodwin was the first to mention that Virginia is a Dillion Rule state, which means that localities have only those powers ceded to them by the state. He said he knows how to identify unintended consequences of legislation, especially those that result in unfunded mandates that burden places like Goochland. Goodwin said that if elected, he will proposed legislation to fix the poorly drafted proffer law hurriedly passed two years ago that has thrown a monkey wrench into land use issues in many jurisdictions. He said that reducing the state workforce through attrition and combining overlapping agencies like the Department of Environmental Quality and Department of Environmental Resources will save money.

John McGuire of Henrico is a former Navy SEAL, fittingly nicknamed “Pitbull”. Though small in stature his character and personal ethos looms large. McGuire started a small business, SEAL Team PT and wants to remove burdensome regulations that hamper business formation. Declaring himself a uniter, McGuire pledged to bring disparate sides together for the benefit of citizens. He wants to reduce taxes and increase support for law enforcement and first responders.

McGuire said that the state certificate of public need (COPN) policy currently in place hampers expansion of health care services to rural areas like Goochland and stifles competition, which increases cost.
John McGuire

McGuire said that education should be the number one priority for the state, but that not everyone needs to go to college. Career and technical education, like that offered in Goochland, should be an alternate path to personal success.

Jay Prendergast of Henrico seems like a really nice guy with good intentions. He supports conservative values and pledges to work hard in the General Assembly for his constituents. While he seemed a bit uninformed about Goochland—except that it may be the most talented baseball county in America—Prendergast pledged, if elected, to attend local government meetings and become very knowledgeable about Goochland to serve its citizens better.
Jay Prendergast

Louisa County attorney Graven Craig began his remarks with silence in honor of slain Virginia State Police Special Agent Mike Walter. He then declared his
conservative values especially the belief that “the free market system, the greatest creator of wealth the world has ever known,” provides the opportunity for everyone to prosper. While Craig supports efforts of localities to expand broadband coverage to all residents, he rejects the use of public private partnerships. These arrangements, said Craig, give public funds to private business and essentially let government pick winners and losers.

Craig mentioned the deadly conditions at the Rt. 288/Broad Street Road intersection where VDOT has approved, funded, and “fast tracked” improvements that may not be made until 2121. He pledged to address the matter if elected.
Graven Craig

Craig too opposes unfunded mandates. He believes that each jurisdiction should have the power to make its own land use decisions. His approach to keeping guns out of the hands of people who should not have them is simple: enforce the laws already on the books because we have to protect our law enforcement officers.

Craig said that a big part of the opioid addiction problem is over prescribing.

This is a smattering of impressions of three hours of comments by eight people committed to their interpretation of good government.

Please check them out and cast your vote for one on June 13.

The tri-partisan group— a three cornered hat would be a good logo—is hoping to hold a statewide candidate forum in September, stay tuned.