BOS Meeting, March 22, 2016

Click here for the full agenda and video.

This was a regular BOS rather than a budget workshop. All supervisors were present. Several folks spoke opposing the Sugar Hollow gravel quarry during the public comment period.

Two U.S. marshals appeared requesting use of the sheriff’s department firing range for which they will pay $1200/yr. to meet firearms training requirements. The marshals were granted a single use time because they are unable to reimburse during the current fiscal year without a formal contract and allowing use by a group other than the Sheriff’s department would require planning commission action, public hearings, etc. Supervisor Baker asked to be informed of the time of the use by the marshals so that residents could monitor in the neighborhood for noise concerns.

Supervisor Hernandez, requested a funding supplement for the Goodson-Kinderhook Fire Department, which has fire and rescue equipment running on tires that will not pass inspection. The department has opened its accounting books to Mr. Hernandez and he is working with them to improve financial management. The funds were granted 7-0.

Similarly the Victim Witness Program is eligible for some additional state money and requested it be received as a one-time salary benefit to the program director and sole employee. Most of the funding for this program is Federal, channeled through the state, and a minimal local match is required. That match cannot be reduced below current levels as state funds increase (“supplanting” of funds). The supervisors granted the request for funds, 7-0.

A lengthy discussion ensued when County Planner, Cherith Marshall, presented on behalf of the County Planning Commission definitions of “lodge” and “private club” for an ordinance they are drafting on camping and private clubs as part of a series of three ordinances designed to regulate outdoor recreation within the zoning ordinance. The discussion focused on the definition of club. Supervisor Baker thought the definition was too specific and that one could easily imagine clubs that would not be included in the proposed definition (quilting clubs, for an example). He proposed leaving the definition open otherwise the Planning Com. and BOS may be forced into having multiple re-draftings and hearings as the ordinance would be updated to include additional types of clubs. He proposed leaving the definition of club as a group of people with shared interests who meet together regularly. He also felt that the stricter definition violated the FIrst Amendment’s freedom of association. Baker made a motion to reject the definition. Supervisor McCall offered a substitute motion to allow the definition to go forward so that the Planning Commission could respond to public requests for clear zoning, and schedule a hearing on the new camping and private clubs ordinance. The substitute ordinance was defeated 4-3, and Baker’s motion carried 4-3 (Ayes: Baker, Copenhaver, Hernandez, Smith; Nays: Mays, Pennington, McCall).

An additional request from Ms. Marshall, to update the county’s recreational vehicle and campground ordinance passed 7-0 with little discussion.

Vernon Smith was appointed as BOS representative to the New River/Mt. Rogers Workforce Investment Area Consortium Bd., 7-0. [This Bd. needs a new name.]

Among Supervisor comments, Supervisor Hernandez talked about his April 16th Town Hall meeting and said that he was meeting with county Service Authority employees to address the 994 households in the western part of Washington Co. without public water. The authority has developed a number of segments where it makes sense to extend water lines and will seek local project champions to sign homeowners up for hook-up agreements.

Wednesday’s BOS budget workshop will deal with fire and EMS services.
Thursday’s workshop will focus on nonprofits’ requests for funding.
Tuesday’s workshop will deal with the library and any remaining non-profits and must set the 2017 county tax rate as required by law.

BOS Meeting, March 16, 2016

Click here for the full agenda and video link.

Allison Mays and Lucy Phillips were out sick. All other supervisors present. The audience filled about a quarter of the seats. These were all people with presentations to make to the Board of Supervisors (BOS).

A parade of directors of nonprofits came before the supervisors during public comment time to summarize their requests and to respond to any questions. Chairman Pennington introduced the comment period, saying that because of the nature of the requests of those coming before the BOS, supervisors would be allowed to question and respond to the speakers. This was a very different way of handling nonprofit requests for budget funding than last year, when these folks came before a committee and were questioned extensively. Charlotte Parsons, representing the Washington County Public Library, when after her presentation there were no questions, said, “No questions? This is really different from last year!”

The balance of the remainder of the meeting were public officials, representing various elements of local government coming before the BOS to defend their budget requests. Most requests were preliminarily approved by consensus. Requests by those agencies whose directors could not present because they were out sick were tabled.

The most contentious request was $187,000-227,000 (range includes three vendors) to replace 10-year-old touch screen voting equipment. Transition away from problematic touch screen systems will be mandated by the General Assembly either by 2020 (current bill) or 2017 (preferred by the Governor and the Dept. of Elections). The registrar wants the new equipment to be in place with local election officials having at least one year’s election experience before a presidential election, would prefer not to introduce during a federal off year or governor’s election. Numerous supervisors questioned and commented about the expense and timing–hoping for state support for transition or that somehow this could be delayed. Registrar Derek Lyall said it’s “not going to happen.” In the recent primary election, there were computer failures in Meadowview and Greendale and there have been problems for years with voters pressing their choice and getting another choice registered. Finally, it appeared that the budget item and registrar’s budget was tentatively approved (this is kind of a first reading).

The other contentious item was the request by Sheriff Fred Newman for four additional patrol officers. He said that the Wal-Mart at Exit 7 has resulted in 500 additional calls per year. He anticipates the new Wal-Mart at Exit 19 will generate at least 200 calls in its first year. Sheriff Newman added that animal and litter control have been added to the department’s responsibility over the past 15 years and there has been no addition to the deputy numbers in 16 years. He is getting comments from citizens that there is never a deputy patrolling in many rural areas of the county, and he says this is mostly true. The supervisors motion to approve four more deputies at $206,000 failed. Jason Berry suggested that the budget might be modified next year. One supervisors suggested revising the ask to one or two deputies. The Sheriff’s budget also included a reduction in fuel expenses of 25%, but some supervisors felt this was not enough, given the high expense level that had been reached for fuel over recent years. Others said, that fuel is now coming back up in price. One supervisor jested that the Sheriff should instruct his deputies to accelerate slowly. Another said he should buy them a Prius.