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.