Astronauts remembered, assessments
questioned at Louisa board meeting
By Tom Callan
Before opening the Feb. 3 meeting, Louisa supervisors paused for a moment of reflection to remember the seven astronauts who died when the Columbia shuttle shattered over east Texas, killing all aboard. Supervisor Dr. David Morgans remembrance was especially poignant. He knew 41-year-old Dr. Laurel Salton Clark, one of the astronauts, when he served as a medical officer at the Holy Loch Naval Base in Scotland. Morgan said he had spoken on the phone and visited with Clark.
She was a dedicated, driven, intelligent individual. Once she set her mind to do something, she was determined, Dr. Morgan told the Central Virginia Gazette. He said no one who knew Clark was surprised that she trained to become an astronaut. The Columbia was Clarks first space trip into space.
The supervisors first monthly meeting was a classic case study of how events beyond Louisa can impinge upon the county. Alex Pinter, who rose during the citizen comment period, expressed his frustration that parts of Tisdale Road, also known as Route 745, are still not paved, more than 30 years after the county made a promise to finish the job. Pinter told the supervisors that only one-third of the road is paved, and that happened back in 1972. Clearly exasperated, Pinter, who lives on Tisdale, said, 30 years is too long to wait. Before sitting down, Pinter repeated his plea: Please have this road paved this year. Can you help me?
I am very frustrated, echoed supervisor Fitzgerald Barnes, who represents the area where Pinter lives. Barnes recalled that the paving trucks were set to pave Route 745 in July, but the project ran into a force beyond Louisas control: the state budget deficit and the crisis of confidence at V-DOT. And Gov. Mark Warner (D) has demanded that the transportation department produce better estimates before commencing road improvements. Barnes assured Pinter that paving Route 745 is on the fast track. But the supervisor added a cautionary note about budget realities in the General Assembly: This General Assembly could come in and cut, cut, and cut some more. County Assessor Jerry Hall appeared before the supervisors and offered a tutorial about why market forces are forcing real estate assessments to skyrocket.
There is a tremendous increase in property values at Lake Anna and Zion Crossroads, Hall told the board. The assessor said, Values have gone up a lot, but we are not close to the market value.
Chairman Willie Harper asked for a brush up on how the assessor makes his judgments. Hall estimated that property values had soared about 15 percent, but he indicated that the upward trajectory in assessments was primarily in western Louisa, not the eastern part of the county. Supervisor Edward Kube, Jr. said his constituents are complaining about 70 percent to 100 percent re-assessments.
Hall explained how an examination of comparable properties will often increase the value of a less expensive home. But he maintained that, We are still under the market. He recommended supervisors peruse Section 58 of the Code of Virginia if that want to know more about taxes and assessments.
Supervisors have long lamented that the countys schools are not competitive with surrounding jurisdictions, especially when it comes to the pivotal SOL tests. But Bob DeMauri with the Thomas Jefferson Partnership, which attempts to facilitate economic development, galvanized the attention of board members when he reported, Louisa has the largest average pay in the region.
He estimated that the salary scale for the county is between $34,000 and $35,000. DeMauri said Louisa is higher than Albemarle County in average annual pay. But supervisor Barnes remarked that the figures include people who live here but work outside of the county.
Goochland likely to get own dept. of real estate
By Matthew Philips
It is looking very likely that following this session of the General Assembly, Goochland County will have its own department of real estate.
Last week, the Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved a bill authorizing Goochland to establish a county real estate department, which would consist of such members as the governing body of such county shall deem necessary. The bill, which gives Goochland the authority to hire an assessor or contract out the service to a firm, has been approved by the Senate and is on its way to the House.
The bill was co-patroned by Sen. John Watkins (R) 10th District and Sen. Walter Stosch (R) 12th District in response to a desire for the department voiced to the senators by Goochlands board of supervisors.
They feel that they need to move towards a professional assessor to help them with real estate. It allows them to set up their own employer-employee relationship, said Stosch, who indicated that the bill is a result of the growth that Goochland will more than likely experience in the near future due to the completion of Route 288, the build out of West Creek, and the availability of water and sewer in the Tuckahoe Creek Service District by 2005. Goochland is in transition, at least the eastern part, and they need the same type of modern, professional assessment capability that some of their neighbors have.
This is an example of Goochland County being not aggressive, but progressive in trying to stay ahead of that growth curve, said Watkins.
District 5 representative and last years board chairman Jim Eads feels that the bill allows the county to add a necessary degree of professionalism towards the complicated task of assessing Goochlands more than 14,000 parcels of property.
Everything is getting very complicated and we need a highly skilled, professional appraiser to keep up and ensure that we have the most accurate appraisals, said Eads. This will allow us to have someone there day in, day out, constantly compiling information.
Goochland has included the establishment of an assessors office in the budget for the last four years, but according to county administrator Greg Wolfrey, With the advent of the Tuckahoe Creek Service District (TCSD), it has warranted us to get into a more consistent and more routine reassessment effort.
In order to fund the project, individual subscribers to the TCSD pay a 50 cent ad valorem tax in addition to their property taxes.
Their cost sharing of county funds and the ad valorem tax is based on incremental increases in land and improvements, said Wolfrey. It also helps us keep track of what the incremental increases are so that we [The Tuckahoe Creek Advisory Committee] can share in those revenues to help pay for the water and sewer, Wolfrey said.
Assuming the bill passes the House, Goochland will begin advertising for the position of county assessor. The county has to start a general reassessment process by July 1, 2003 to be completed by Dec. 31, 2004. Before the assessment begins though, a decision must be made as to whether the assessment will be contracted out to a mass appraisal firm, with the county assessor overseeing the process, or whether a staff of two to three people will be hired to work under the assessor, with that team performing the entire reassessment themselves.
The assessor has to decide which way to go before July 1, said Wolfrey.
In years past, the county has contracted reassessments out to mass appraisal firms, with the commissioner of revenue serving as the local assessing official. With the hiring of a full time assessor to serve as the local assessing official, the cost for this years county-wide reassessment should be less than in years past.
The new Department of Real Estate will have a budget of roughly $250,000.
Goochland: Courthouse lighting hits planning snag
By Jim Ridolphi
A plan to light the courthouse area was temporarily put on hold at a recent Board of Supervisors workshop session. While the project is still funded, some members on the courthouse lighting committee objected to the final version of the plan.
Under the proposed plan, presented by Bob Hammond, the county would move forward with installing 17 lights in the courthouse area and 34 lights westward on Route 6 up to Parrish Motor Company. That project has already been designed, funded and a contract to purchase and install the lights has been issued.
Apparently, that finalized plan did not gain the approval of the lighting committee, and some members wanted to return to the original plan. That proposal called for the installation of the courthouse lights and then a procession both east and west down Route 6.
Martha Robertson, a member of the committee, voiced concerns regarding the money she raised from citizens for the project. She said they were under the impression the lights would run in both directions.
It was my understanding we would place lights on the courthouse grounds and use the ones left over would be placed on the street starting at the courthouse and fanning out in each direction equally, Robertson said.
When the committee met last week, Robertson said it was her first opportunity to see the new plan.
It was then I learned they would start at the welcome sign and proceed to the Mobil station, she said.
In effect, she said, the lights would illuminate the portion of the village that is already lit.
So, basically, we are lighting an area that is already partially lighted, she said.
Robertson said she is concerned the portion of the courthouse village that is growing rapidly and is currently dark would be ignored under the new plan.
I feel like that area where the momentum is going. This plan does not service that area. Thats where we have three banks and the new library, as well as businesses like Lacys Appliances. And then theres new school and the YMCA, Robertson said.
She favors a return to the original plan. I had hoped we could go back and do what we originally said. We should start at the courthouse and go both directions equally, she said.
County planner Bob Hammond said changing course at this juncture would mean more costs for the county.
We would have to bring the engineers back in here and re-engineer this. We are also going to have to re-bid it. Im sure the price is probably going to go up, Hammond said.
He represented the staff position as a desire to go forward with the current plan since it is engineered and contracted and then proceed with Phase II that would include the areas west of the courthouse. In any case, more lights cannot be added in that direction without the installation of an additional transformer at a cost of $15,000.
We can aggressively engage the support of the community and this project going down to the two banks, Hammond added.
Board members, however, were concerned with the process and felt the lighting committee should have the final say in the design.
Robertson said her concerns were centered on the donations she collected from citizens willing to support the project. She presented the plan as it was envisioned and promised lights in both directions.
My only concern was being a member of the committee and that the committee decided to place the lights both east and west, and then a decision was made to change that. I had no say in that. I feel like I misled people I got to make donations, she said. Robertsons efforts results in the purchase of 19 lights ($40,000), scheduled to arrive in early April.
Another member of the committee, Bill Neal, said changes in the original plan were sometimes out of committee members hands. For example, the Virginia Department of Transportation altered the original plan by requiring the county place the lights 80 feet apart instead of the proposed 100 feet. That meant we needed more lights, Neal said.
Raymond Parrish, another member of the committee, said engineers originally guided the design. A lot of things have changed since the first meeting. For instance, first we were going to set the poles ourselves and that fell through. Weve had a few things that really set us back on the project, Parrish said.
He suggested proceeding with Phase I as designed and moving agressively to Phase II. There are a lot of people out there who will donate to the project, Parrish added. He said any changes in the current plan would cause delays in the project.
Board members were concerned with the planning phases of the project and felt a complete project should have been considered.
What I think I am hearing is that the advisory committee was not kept informed of the changing conditions. They were asked to sign off on a final plan. If people donated these lights with one assumption and then you change the game without informing people, thats not very good community spirit, said District 5 rep Jim Eads.
After considering a possible 50-50 county match for the Phase II funds and other options including using prison labor to install the lights, supervisors decided to let the committee take another whack at it, and will await their recommendations.
The board approved the re-design costs, approximately $5,000, to proceed with the project, one that has gained enormous public support gauged by the amount of donations.
This thing should have been thought out and planned for the next five years, Eads concluded.
Other members of the courthouse lighting committee include Joe Lacy, who was not present at the workshop due to an out-of-town engagement.
Goochland: School board debates part-time access policy
By Matthew Philips
For the second time in two months, superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan presented the Goochland School Board with a proposal that would permit access to Goochlands public middle and high school programs by private and homes-school students living in the county. Depending on what space is available, any student admitted under this policy would be designated as a part-time student. As a result, Goochland schools would not incur any additional costs because they would maintain all state mandated student-teacher ratios. Also, the county would receive some additional state revenue for the part-time students on a pro-rata basis.
This has logistically worked, said Morgan, who has worked with similar policies in different school divisions before. I think its a viable thing for us to do.
Under the proposal, part-time students may enroll in no more than three courses or instructional units per semester. Those part-time students wishing to participate in an academic class shall have completed all prerequisite coursework as outlined in the schools program of studies, or have completed the equivalent required of full-time public school students wishing to enroll in the course. Part-time students must enroll for the full length of the course.
After debating the merits of the proposal, the school board agreed to allow it to be subjected to a public hearing at the boards Feb. 11 meeting.
Goochland: Team room design approved
School board endorses bond issuance, multipurpose facility
By Matthew Philips
The Goochland School Board has approved the schematic design for the new high school team room. The project will now be put out to bid for approximately 21 days. It is planned to include the lighting project for the softball and baseball fields into this bid.
The team room, expected to be ready for the 2003 football season, will be added onto the existing exterior wall of the gymnasium, heading back toward the baseball and football field. The plan presented by James M. McCalla, Vice President, Moseley Architects, is similar to the design that was decided upon several years ago when plans for the new high school complex were designed. When the board of supervisors gave the go ahead to move the team room up the capital improvements plan two months ago, superintendent Dr. Morgan assembled a work group that tweaked the design based on suggestions from the community and Goochlands coaching staff.
In the original design, it was intended that after construction had been completed, at some point in time, a mezzanine seating area would be built above the team room. The additional seating would expand the gymnasiums capacity to more than 1800 spectators. According to McCalla, the seating expansion will not be included into this project, but everything we are doing as part of this project is heading towards that original goal. We are actually going to be pouring a concrete slab over top of these team rooms that will become, ultimately the floor for the mezzanine seating.
The more than 4,000 square foot addition onto the gym will include two separate locker room areas, each with 60 individual lockers, and two separate shower and unisex toilet facilities, which can only be accessed through the separate locker rooms. Each area includes a small coachs office and a vestibule. The two areas are connected by a storage room, situated in between the separate shower and toilet facilities.
The facilities will be used for both indoor and outdoor athletic teams. Each locker room has an exit leading directly onto the fields, so Goochland athletes will have the ability to come and go without ever having to come back into the existing gym. There would also be an entrance leading to the mezzanine seating from each locker room.
Board approves bond issuance
Immediately following its approval of the team room design, the school board passed a resolution requesting the board of supervisors to seek funding for capital improvements projects through the issuance of the maximum amount of $2.75 million worth of Virginia Public School Authority bonds. In doing so, school board members unanimously endorsed the prospect of including funding for a multipurpose transportation facility into the bond issuance. The facility, which is expected to be built behind the new football field, off Bulldog Way, could service all county vehicles, including school buses and fire trucks, though no design phase has been initiated.
Once the bonds are sold, were going to work with local government on the planning for the facility, said Morgan. If were going to use it for multiple uses, were going to need to involve fire-rescue, and the sheriffs department to make sure we cover all the needs.
I think its great, said school board chairman Andrew Meng.
Though things are far from set in stone, Morgan said that he estimates 75 to 80 percent of the facilitys usage going towards servicing Goochlands school vehicles. The school board currently operates a transportation facility built in the 1930s.
I see this as really advantageous for the school division, said Morgan.
If the county does decide to include funds for the multipurpose transportation facility into this bond issuance, it is expected that the current facility, located near the intersection of Routes 522 and 632, will be torn down and the property sold.
Louisa challenges ex-supervisors suit
By Tom Callan
The Central Virginia Gazette has obtained a copy of Louisas legal response in the case of C. Edward Kube, Jr., et als., defendants versus E&A Call, Inc. as plaintiff. Ethan Call is the former Louisa supervisor who has filed suit against the board of supervisors because they voted on Dec. 16, 2002 to mandate fire and safety standards on the countys minor subdivisions.
Calls lawsuit charges that the board violated due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment because the fire and safety standards were not substantially related to the public health, safety, morals, and welfare of the citizens of Louisa County. The case will be heard in Louisa Circuit Court on Feb. 13.
County Attorney Patrick J. Morgans brief maintains that the Dec. 16 ordinance, which was approved by the board on a 4-to-2 vote, was passed to overcome fire and rescue vehicle access problems in minor subdivisions developed under provisions of the Louisa County Subdivision Ordinance. Morgan avers that the, Plaintiff fails to allege any specific injury to itself or to any other citizen or business located in Louisa County due to the enactment of the ordinance. Morgan argues that Calls contention that the imposition of the ordinance would hinder his ability to develop his property is baseless, Without elaboration the claim lacks meaning. Morgan does admit that there are indeed certain constraints to Plaintiffs ability to develop property, yet Plaintiff does not challenge those provisions of the County Code. The County Attorney argues that Calls complaint fails to articulate how the new ordinance prevents or even hinders its efforts to develop property as a minor subdivision.
Morgan suggests that the Circuit Court will dismiss arguments over the intent of the boards December vote. Generally, evidence of the Boards intent or motive in enacting ordinances is irrelevant to a Courts consideration whether they are valid laws, Morgan said in his brief.
He refers to a prominent case from 1948: Blankenship v. City of Richmond. Morgan said Call fails to provide this Court with any probative evidence that the Boards action was arbitrary or capricious.
And Morgan goes a step further in gainsaying Calls lawsuit. Absent an allegation of actual harm to the Plaintiff, it is without standing to challenge the authority of the Board of Supervisors to enact legislation designed to enhance the health and safety of its citizens.
Morgan said, It is frivolous to suggest that minor subdivisions, a creation of the Board of Supervisors pursuant to power delegated from the Commonwealth under the Code of Virginia, enjoy the same constitutional protections provided to citizens of the Commonwealth and of the United States.
Morgan believes that so-called minor subdivisions were designed to enhance an owners ability to divide agricultural property.
In effect, Plaintiff argues that the rules concerning subdivisions can be different only if the rules are favorable to it, Morgan writes in his brief.
Morgan will ask Louisa Circuit Court to dismiss Calls lawsuit next week, because, It is without standing to challenge legislation passed by the Board of Supervisors as being discriminatory or in violation of either State or Federal Constitution.
He said Call presented no evidence that the Dec. 16 vote caused him irreparable injury.
Fluvanna board to consider spending plan
By Tom Callan
The Fluvanna County Planning Commission has placed its seal of approval on the countys capital improvements plan for fiscal years 2004-2008. A public hearing on the plan will be held Feb. 19. Estimated expenditures over the next five years total more than $60 million.
Water and sewer improvements comprise a major portion of the capital improvements. In fiscal year 2004, for example, 65 percent of the funds not spent on the schools will be allocated to upgrading the water and sewer systems. Fluvanna plans to spend $456,000 in fiscal 04 on several renovation projects, including the Fork Union Community Center, the County Administration Building, and the Historic Courthouse.
There are also capital outlays for pressing construction projects on the 04 fiscal calendar; these include expansion and remodeling at the High School and road work and athletic fields on Pleasant Grove. The Capital Improvement Plan will also create a Capital Reserve Fund to handle minor capital projects or address needs as they arise during the course of the fiscal year, according to the planning commission document.
Fluvanna plans expenditures of $140,000 over the next several years to modernize the countys Geographic Information Systems, which is described as a kind of mapping system for the county, according to Planning Director Cabell Lawton. He told the Central Virginia Gazette that the county hopes to digitalize the tax map parcels. Fluvanna already has the software to make its GIS operational.
The key missing element is the plotting of the tax map parcels in a digital format, according to the capital improvement plan draft report.
Lawton said the county will allocate $1.15 million to close down the county landfill, which the state requires to be closed by 2007.
You have to cap it-you put a plastic cap over it and cover it with earth, Lawton told the Gazette.
The county will spend $50,000 to install in ground, pop-up sprinkler systems, with computerized control panels for the Carysbrook youth baseball and softball soccer field. A special capital fund of $100,000 has been established to light one soccer field and eventually one baseball/softball field at the Pleasant Grove Recreation Complex.
By fiscal year 2008, Fluvanna projects spending more than $2.1 million to improve water service in the Fork Union Sanitary District. So far, the county has spent $882,100 to improve the flow of water in Fork Union, and they are currently working on a 500,000 elevated water tank at Dixie, Virginia.
The board of supervisors has the authority to borrow $1million for the water improvements because county voters passed a referendum was in1995.
Fluvannas five-year plan envisions costs of $8 million to complete high school renovations; nearly $6 million has already been spent, with another $2 million slated for the 04 fiscal calendar. The school board has requested additional classroom space, a new entrance, a student commons, and a media center. $150,000 will be allocated over the next five years for building new bleachers and lighting athletic fields at the high school on
Route 649 south of Palmyra. Another line item for education is school buses. Spending for new school busses could reach $195,000 by fiscal year08. One bus costs the county $65,000.
The capital improvement plan recommends expenditures of $175,000 annually for public safety. The funds are projected to be spent on renovating the Fire and Rescue Buildings and construction of a Palmyra Fire Station next to Palmyra Elementary School and a Lake Monticello Rescue Squad Station adjacent to the Lake Monticello Fire Department.