No mayhem over taxes

Prediction of mayhem premature:

The Prince George County Board of  Supervisors voted to retain the current real estate tax rate of $.86 per hundred for this fiscal year.  It was concluded that the need to raise the tax rate was premature. The BOS also passed a $116 million budget for the 2019 fiscal year.

The proposed property tax increase was being considered to fund one of the two new PGCS-logoschools needed to replace obsolete schools. The two schools, built in the 60s,  are configured in the campus style popular at the time. From a modern perspective the security issues are more than just a bit scary.

The need to expand the high school was also in the monkey brain of the county’s planners. The BOS however, was dealing with the expectation that we would be paying for one or two new elementary schools and would still need to float debt to pay for a new or vastly expanded high school. This prospect taxed the fiscal tolerance of the Board.

A general consensus had been reached to fund one new elementary school at this time, put the second elementary school on the back burner, and just plain not deal with the high school plant until absolutely, absolutely necessary.

As it happened the School Board was not prepared … no site, no architectural plan (except to build one just like North, the last elementary built in the county nine years ago), obviously no hard construction estimates, and a golly, let’s just build it and it will work out attitude.

The issue will re-emerge, but next year is an election year for three of the five Board of Supervisors as well as for three of the five School Board members. We will not likely be dealing with a property tax increase in an election year. But we will see if the possiblity of political mayhem will appear then.

More happening in and around Prince George

Vicissitudes of country life …

One might argue that I don’t really live in the country.  I have a Food Lion about 5 miles away, a Starbucks about 10 miles away, Comcast cable (now Xfinity), and excellent cellular coverage.  But, in defense my self-proclaimed avatar as a rural warrior princess … I do have well water and a septic tank.

Well, no pun intended, I awoke to absolutely no water on Monday.  For some reason my well pump and/or pressure tank of 36 years had mysteriously died.  Mind you Monday was Martin Luther King Day.  Finding a plumber or well service open on such a day was a tall order.  Finding a plumber that dealt with well systems was even taller order.  Fortunately, our neighbor across the road is a great networker, keeps his home in good nick, and is a go-to resource in such situations.

Steve recommended Charles McCann of Done Right Enterprise as the man for the job.  He took the additional step of encouraging Charles to take care of us on as timely a basis as he could.  I am not sure Charles would have appeared later in the day with his wife and partner, Marie, without the recommendation and endorsement from Steve. Charles assessed the situation, provided his licenses, and gave us the estimate of cost and the promise that we would have water the next day.

The next day he appeared as promised with crew and equipment, new pump and pressure tank and encouragement that all would be well.  Again, no pun intended.

Tuesday, late afternoon, we had water and a promise from Charles and Marie that they would reappear on Wednesday to install the pressure tank.

Awaking Wednesday I jumped into the shower to clean up for my Rotary meeting … low and behold, I had failed to turn the breaker back on for the hot water heater.  It was a very cold and very short shower.

pressure-tank-2017Fortunately, Charles is a master electrician as well as a master plumber so he could install all the switches and connectors necessary for the new pressure tank. Finishing around 8 pm with the installation of the pressure tank, Charles and Marie climbed wearily into their work truck and in short order had texted copies of our warranties, pictures of the job, and copies of the paid invoice. Our water adventure was over.

Now, I think I am going to have our septic tank pumped and checked.  I am not up for another adventure of a mechanical nature.

There were other less noteworthy adventures …

The Prince George Board of Supervisors had tied votes on the two nominees to serve as Chairman of the Board.  One member was absent due to a workplace accident. The next meeting should result in one of the two being elected … more about that next time.

A Petersburg citizens group called Clean Sweep filed petitions to have the Mayor and Vice Mayor removed from the city council.  That should have an expedited fuse.  It is an uphill battle, but at least the citizens are involved.

The City of Hopewell continues to recruit for a Finance Director as the last one abruptly resigned a couple of months ago.

These matters pale in comparison to my own personal dramas.





What if Petersburg became a town?

Prince-GeorgeThere have been a number of articles recently in both the Richmond Times-Dispatch and in the Petersburg Progress-Index noting that Petersburg leaders are quietly discussing reversion as a slight, but not likely, possibility. Surrounding counties are also discussing the aspect of such a reversion, Prince George included.

In reversion a city, if it meetings threshold requirements, may become a town within the county in which it is located. Three cities have already reverted South Boston, Clifton Forge, and Bedford.  South Boston was finally allowed to revert after Halifax County had unsuccessfully fought off the reversion in court.

Basically, when a town reverts it melts back into its county, retaining a town council, certain town officials and other distinct privileges.  This is after a petition to the General Assembly and a special court appointed by the Supreme Court of Virginia to evaluate the merits of the reversion case and to determine the particulars about how debt, taxation, and other matters will be transitioned.

But were Petersburg were to revert … to which county would it melt into?  Ostensibly, originally Petersburg came out of Prince George County which was created by royal grant in 1703.  Petersburg was incoporated in 1748.  Chesterfield County was created in 1749 and Petersburg later was enlarged.  Did that come 28 acres come from Prince George or Chesterfield. It was one or the other because Dinwiddie County was not created until 1762. Of course, there were subsequent annexations from Prince George and Dinwiddie in the centuries which followed.  All of these dates are from Wikipedia and are used only for illustrative purposes to denote the convoluted history of our counties and the City of Petersburg.

A big task might be to determine what parts of Petersburg revert to which counties and aneighborshorseswhich counties have the economic resources and population to absorb which parts of Petersburg?  Petersburg might become the first town in Prince George in Prince George County. That would end the pride I have in telling family and friends who live in other states that Prince George County has no towns or cities.  We have goats, cows, and horses such as those who belong to my neighbors.

Stay tuned.


Hopewell, Virginia … less than meets the eye

A friend forwarded this website to provide more accurate data on Hopewell, Virginia, the small city on the northwest corner of Prince George County.

Xena had written that Hopewell was larger in footprint and larger in population than these figures report.  This 10.2 square mile city has 23,000 population as compared to Prince George with 260+ square miles and approximately 37,000 population.

This issue of size arose in a recent post on the relative ability of localities to recruit and retain top-notch employees if residency requirements were adopted.  Hopewell is set to have a public hearing on the matter on Tuesday evening, May 26th.

Immediately at issue is the hiring of a new City Attorney.  The strongest candidate to whom an offer has been made, is a resident of Chesterfield County, another large county contiguous to Hopewell.

For non-Virginians, cities and towns are independent of counties, having their own charters and varying duties and rights to tax and govern their own localities.

Should all Hopewell officials be required to live in the city?

This article in the Progress-Index on Wednesday morning raises an issue that is re-arising in Hopewell, but has been at issue in many localities, including Prince George.

Should all Hopewell officials be required to live in the city? – News – The Progress-Index – Petersburg, VA.

The article lays out some of the arguments on both sides and all may have some merit. For many localities which are rural and distant from nearby populations centers which might serve as pools for recruitment, it has always been a thistle of concern.

In this case Hopewell is a small urban center of much less than 20 square miles and a population of  33,000 people.  It is within a thirty to forty minute drive of large population areas so it has reasonable access to skilled individuals to fill city positions, unless the person(s) is required to live in the city.

Some recent discussion with folks who are moving out of the city cite the lack of available quality housing options, the struggling school system, and the lack of cultural, dining, and shopping options. This all before the issues of crime and the general deteriorating commercial and residential base of the city.  The alternate positives are the history of the city, the Library System, and the access to the James and the Appomattox Rivers.

The reality is that Hopewell, like many localities, (Prince George included) does not have its own pool of highly qualified people to fill professional positions.  It must turn to professionals and skilled labor from other nearby localities to fill these important roles. Requiring them to relocate to Hopewell might require them to uproot a working spouse who may have residency or commuting issues that come into play, uprooting children from their familiar school systems, and may require that the employee move his or her family  into housing stock not up to the standards to which they are accustomed.

Xena’s opinion.  Residency requirements for pubic positions are antiquated and out of touch.  It is reasonable to factor that issue into the hiring decision, require modifications to work hours or required commuting time to the locality, and to make exceptions for certain types of law enforcement, public safety, or other similar types of positions, unless the candidate can make some reasonable accommodations to relieve this concern on the part of the locality.

What do you think?  Leave a comment.


District 2 Seat Still Vacant … and the beat goes on

The Prince George Board of Supervisors continues to be short one Supervisor as it was unable to appoint an interim seat filler at the budget meeting last night as reported by @PrinceGeorgeVA.

As Xena wrote yesterday, Reid Foster, was not nominated last night.  The three nominees were Bill Elliott, Marlene Waymack, and Sheila Minor.  Again, none of the three received the required three votes.  If Robertson and Gandel remain committed to Minor and this goes to the Circuit Court for the appointment, their steadfast support of Minor might be very persuasive to the judge.

Screenshot 2015-03-10 08.31.18

Xena could not attend the meeting last night so we do not know who nominated Elliott and who voted for whom.

March 9 Further Consideration of District 2 BOS Appointment

Board of Supervisors again takes up consideration of district 2 interim appointment …

The BOS will again consider the interim appointment of a District 2 Supervisor tonight at 6:00 p.m,  to fill the seat left vacant when Henry Parker died in late February.  Parker had been on the BOS 36 years and for many embodied the way Prince George should remain …

Now enter 13 Prince Georgians some African-American, some women, some professionals, some tradesmen …

Of the 13, two women and one man were nominated by the divided Board,   but none could garner the three votes necessary to receive the appointment.  The matter was then tabled to be considered tonight, March 9, in the budget work session at 6 p.m.

The only committed Parker protege on the Board, Alan Carmichael, secured only his one vote for his nominee Reid Foster.  Though a past Supervisor it is unlikely that Foster will receive two more votes.  The only vote Carmichael may have been able to persuade toward Foster during the week-long interim is Jerry Skalsky but Skalsky has a nominee of his own, Marlene Waymack.  Switching the Skalsky vote to Foster would not result in Foster’s appointment which would still be one vote short.

If Foster is a non-starter that leaves two questions … will Waymack or Minor be able to garner the one more vote needed to secure the nomination?  Or will the Board reach into the remaining pool of 9 to find a compromise candidate?

So will Skalsky switch his vote to Minor allowing him to be part of the majority and result her appointment?  She is formerly the Finance Director of  Prince George County, a professional financial consultant to many local governments, and a recognized leader in the field of local government financial governance. This may be scary for Skalsky. Minor would not be a Supervisor in the mold of Parker.

Though unlikely, Waymack may be the compromise of the three nominees if Skalsky doesn’t forsake his support for her candidacy.  She is well connected, old Prince George, and would likely be a Parkerite. Carmichael could vote for her if Foster has no chance of securing the nomination.  That would leave only needing a vote from Robertson or Gandel to secure her appointment.

If Waymack cannot be compromised upon by Gandel or Robertson and if Foster is out then the Board could reach into the remaining pool of 9 candidates to find a compromise candidate.

Attend the meeting tonight and see what happens.

The Future of Prince George After Henry Parker

When we moved to Prince George in 1986 Henry was already on the Board of Supervisors.  We didn’t know it then, but he had already been on the Board for 7 years, plus or minus.  As we drove around the county looking for a place to rent until our Oklahoma house could sell, Bob stepped into Parker’s grocery to make inquires of possible places for lease.  Parker’s Store was not the only “country” grocery in which we made inquiries, but for Bob this was a particularly interesting experience.

Upon making some small talk and asking some questions about the county, etc., Henry asked Bob … “Who are your people?”

Was this a way of saying ‘You’re not from around here, are you?”  Of course, I suspect Henry had already surmised that.  Bob was not in uniform that day, so I doubt that question would have been asked had he been, because Henry, a veteran himself, seemed to always have a warmth for the military, except when the County was in negotiations with Ft. Lee for one reason or another.

Many years later while serving on the Planning Commission I had the opportunity to have a number of conversations with Henry and with his allies on the Board.  We had very different visions about the future of the County and how to prepare for it.  He was singularly polite almost to the point of gentlemanly proportions, but he didn’t forget or forgive my divergent views. My tenure on the Planing Commission was short lived.

My interactions with Henry were few in last five years or so and I don’t know how the growth of the county, the expansion of Ft. Lee, or the coming of Rolls Royce and the Manufacturing and Research Consortium might have changed his views about the future of Prince George, or if they had any impact at all.  What had to be apparent to him, though, was that the county would never again be ‘his’ county of the 60s and 70s.

I am glad to have known Henry Parker.  He was an institution and will be fondly remembered by many.

On February 24th (tonight as I write this) the Board will discuss filling Henry’s now vacant District 2 seat.  Likely the person will be appointed, but will persons of color and/or a woman be sought to fill that vacancy until the General Election in November? Open questions at this point.

In preparing to write these thoughts a week after his death and reflect on Henry’s 36 years as a local elected official,  I had planned to clip his official photo from the county’s web siteCounty Seal to add to this post.  It was no longer there.

Firehouse Fiefdoms

The Prince George  Fire Chiefs lost their battle last week to keep total control over their own firehouse volunteer personnel.  Now the Chiefs will serve as an advisory board to the Director of Fire and EMS.  The Director will make all decisions about staffing the six houses.  This move on the part of the Board of Supervisors has been in the works for well over two years though it has been talked about far longer.

The change was prompted by objective statistics on emergency response times, the untimely death of a Prince George woman waiting for a crew to arrive, and recent underwriting standards which resulted in exponential increases in fire insurance for residents in certain sections of the county.  No need to mention the difficulty recruiting and training volunteer firefighters and EMTs  who otherwise work full time jobs and must meet the same state certification standards as paid professionals.

The Director, who will also have budget decisions about acquisition, equipment management, and other management functions in this critical county function,  is seemingly well liked, even respected, by the Chiefs, but it is still a blow to the traditions of given fire house communities and a bitter bill to swallow for some.  While we may have sympathy for those grieving over the loss of tradition, we must consider that the move to professional management of a critical county function is necessary for a county of about 270 square miles and 37,000 residents.

That’s how I see it.

How do you see it?