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WM Girl Scouts are Prepared

WM Girl Scouts are Prepared

Girl Scout Cadettes and Seniors of Girl Scout Troops 159 and 3212 in Westmoreland County met with Va...

Ribbon Cutting 2014 Caroline County Family YMCA

Ribbon Cutting 2014 Caroline County Family YMCA

Ten years ago, Barney Reiley, CEO of the Rappahannock Family YMCA group, met with the Caroline Count...

Weather has delayed the opening of new Westmoreland Judicial Center

Westmoreland County Executive Norm Risavi said this week that weather problems have delayed the open...

Showing their support

Showing their support

On Tuesday, March 10, 21 persons participated at the Westmoreland County Sheriff’s Office to have th...

Another W&L leader charged with DWI in Westmoreland

Parents, students and county officials were dismayed this week to learn that another prominent facul...

Sheriff thanks searchers who found body of missing Montross woman

Westmoreland County Sheriff C.O. Balderson this week thanked searchers who found the body of a missi...

 

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Lynn Brownley Questions And the Citizens Respond


Robert and Margaret Quinn
3629 Cople Highway
Montross, Virginia  22520
 
August 23, 2009
 
Mr. Lynn C. Brownley
District No. 3
15411 Kings Highway
Montross, Virginia  22520
 
Dear Mr. Brownley:
 
Thank you for your letter.  Improved communication is a goal of every citizen in this County.  We have tried to understand the reasoning behind the O’Gara relocation here but have been given no concrete answers to our questions.  Even the response you gave came with the caveat from Mr. Fisher that it was not the response of the Board.

Furthermore, unlike the Board of Supervisors, answering questions doesn’t take us six years.   
 
Why do references to the Ziegler memo (categorizing O’Gara activities as comprising a vocational or technical school) continuously suggest that his opinion was bias and not objective?

We are not suggesting that Ziegler’s opinion was bias and not objective, we are suggesting it is wrong.  The SIC government classification Ziegler references - 9711 (national security, military training schools) is not the SIC government classification of O’Gara - 8748 (business consulting), which negates the validity of the entire memo as it refers to O’Gara.  Although O’Gara is not specifically mentioned in the memo, the O’Gara people were already secretly meeting with government officials inWestmoreland County.  These officials chose to keep O’Gara’s presence a secret from the local citizens.  Ziegler’s memo could be nothing less than tainted since he was specifically tasked with creating an opinion that would justify a group like O’Gara locating in Westmoreland County.
 
After seven months of public comment and input since the initial contract between O’Gara and the Industrial Development Authority, why do some persons continue to advance the assertion that the public has been excluded?
 
Although two anti-O’Gara citizen presentations have been made along with many questions and comments to the Board of Supervisors, all have been disregarded. Questions that were posed to the Board in early May of this year remain unanswered by the Board or the County.  In fact, when Chairman Darryl Fisher was presented with almost 1,000 signatures against O’Gara, he said it could take “six years” for the Board to respond to the citizen’s questions. These questions are not difficult, especially if you believe O’Gara has the right to be here and will be beneficial to the county.  And, if the Board believes O’Gara will be so great for WestmorelandCounty, why hasn’t it even tried to convince the public of this?
One can assume that the Board’s lack of responsiveness is a result of its inability to justify O’Gara’s presence and its lack of due diligence prior to contract negotiations.  Giving people a forum for their perceived grievances is wonderful but what do you do then?  You ignore them.
 
In June I believe I was close to authoring a performance agreement (contractual limitations on O’Gara activities) that the company would accept.  I advised a number of citizens about this.  Why do you suppose that there was so little interest or support for this effort?
 
Three citizens met with you one evening in early June.  Although at that time our primary focus was keeping O’Gara out of Westmoreland County, we were supportive of placing limitations on O’Gara activities and a zoning change that would prevent any other business from calling itself a “school” and moving onto A-1 land without a public hearing.  You may believe you were “close to authoring a performance agreement” but you presented nothing to us at that meeting, we heard nothing from you after that and you did nothing even though we emphasized the need for urgency in both of these instances.  “Close” but no cigar, Mr. Brownley.  Furthermore, a promise was made by you to local residents before both the July and August meetings to put a resolution for a zoning change before the Board.  This promise remains unfulfilled and “pants on fire” seems to be the ongoing phrase to describe your activities (or lack thereof).

There was obviously significant public desire for Westmoreland County to “Just Say No” to O’Gara.  How would you suggest that the BOS could have effectuated that?
 
An environmental, financial and community impact study should have been commissioned on such a controversial and potentially dangerous facility.  
Before the contract was presented to the IDA, the BOS should have had a public hearing just as Essex, Louise and Shenandoah Counties did.  Furthermore, the
BOS should have recommended that the IDA look at the ramifications of this contract by performing their public responsibility to the citizens and investigating both the pros and cons of bringing O’Gara to this County before jumping into a contract.  Accepting O’Gara’s preliminary power point presentation as the gospel and signing a contract within minutes of viewing it is the height of incompetence and the BOS should have advised them against it.
 
The Board’s actions and activities with respect to the O’Gara proposal have been described as “deceptive” or the like.  What is meant by that description?  Could you offer a couple of examples?
 
“Deliberately misleading” is the charitable phrase that jumps to mind.
 
Examples, sure:
 
*     O’Gara was “in the neighborhood” at least since last summer yet
       county officials kept it a secret until January 2009.
*     There were no public hearings.
*    The IDA met behind closed doors (illegally?) and immediately
      signed a contract with O’Gara - no public comment was allowed.
        ·   The BOS repeatedly blames the IDA as if the BOS had nothing to
             do with this fiasco.
       ·     Promises to change the zoning laws to protect the county and its
             citizens were never fulfilled.
       ·     The BOS has refused to answer citizens’ questions.
       ·     County officials (including you) taking O’Gara’s “guided tour”
             never gave a formal report on their findings.
       ·     There are no controls in place to insure citizen safety on or near the
             O’Gara site.  If a golf driving range requires a public hearing,
             what about a live ammunition shooting range?
       ·     O’Gara is being allowed to proceed with activities that are
             expressly prohibited in the Westmoreland County Zoning Code,
     i.e. storage of explosives and flammables.
*   Please regarding the safety, health and well-being of the citizens fall
     on deaf ears.

You can also refer to answer #4 regarding what the responsible Boards of other Counties did when facing the same issue from the same group
 
What sort of information or “proof” would be required to validate the assertion that O’Gara’s relocating, building and, operating here is a long term beneficial form of economic activity and commerce?
 
This is a question that has been posed to the Board of Supervisors numerous times.  It was up to you as our elected representatives to convince us of O’Gara’s worth.  You failed in that responsibility.  The only response the Board has ever given to anyone is that O’Gara would bring economic growth.  But you presented no supporting evidence.  Now, let’s look at the facts.  So far, the site plans, the land disturbance and the buildings being placed on the O’Gara property are ALL from outside sources.  Surveyors, excavators and builders are available in Westmoreland County.  Yet none of them were hired by O’Gara.  Many of these local businesses have been forced to lay off workers.  They are angry and disappointed that they were not considered for the O’Gara project despite the promises of economic growth by both county officials and O’Gara.  These local businesses could have been doing the work O’Gara is now outsourcing to other counties.  The housing of the O’Gara trainees will also not be done in Westmoreland County except a few at a tax-exempt facility.  This outsourced work represents hundreds of thousands of dollars (possibly millions) in lost revenue to the people of this County.  What happened to the economic growth you’ve been touting?  To date, that’s our “proof.”  What “proof” do you have?
 
Why do some citizens continue to opine that the company’s presence here will significantly reduce values of the surrounding real estate parcels?  Can anyone point to a comparable scenario where such actually occurred?
 
You are in receipt of a copy of a letter from a nearby landowner on Nomini Creek, who had architectural plans drawn for an $800,000 home to be built by a local builder on the Nomini.  He stopped short of signing the contract (which, by the way, would have employed builders, roofers, electricians, plumbers, etc. for the next year) because of the proximity of O’Gara and the behavior of this county’s officials in this transaction.  Across the Creek, two individuals have abandoned plans to put additions on their homes because of O’Gara.  Another two families planning on moving to Westmoreland County have already relocated to other counties because of O’Gara.  How many retirees and families desire to spend their leisure time listening to and living within proximity of a mercenary training facility?  I haven’t met any, have you?  Do you think this will increase property values?  Think again!

Is the Board’s practice of recessing regular meetings (continuing the balance of same to another time and place) truly viewed by many citizens as dysfunctional or indicative of “something gone awry?”  Assuming that there exists a need for additional gatherings of the Board periodically, then how would you suggest that such be provided for?
 
If the intent is to promote secrecy and avoid citizen input, then clearly “something has gone awry.”  If it is for practical purposes such as meeting with the School Board (as happened last week) then we see no objection.  Any “additional gatherings” of the Board should be handled with appropriate notice to the public just as the law provides.
 
 
Again, thank you for your letter.  Hopefully the above narrative answers your questions and explains some of the frustration and anger being expressed by local citizens.  We hope to hear from you with some concrete suggestions on zoning changes as well as restrictions on O’Gara’s use of agricultural land.  We would be happy to meet with you to discuss those issues.
 
Sincerely,
 
 
 
Margaret Quinn                                                            Robert Quinn

County responds to Phase 2 Washington District sewer questions

The county government answered Westmoreland County Citizens Association’s Phase 2 Washington District sewer project questions one week after the written inquiry was faxed to the office of County Administrator Norm Risavi.
The document submitted by the citizen group known as WCCA noted the presence of sewer project consulting engineer Charles Riedlinger of Resource International at the board’s July 13 meeting.

Read more: County responds to Phase 2 Washington District sewer questions

Cameras at issue in Westmoreland County

A CBS television news camera crew covering O’Gara Group’s move to Westmoreland had visited the county on June 8 but declined to stay around for that month’s evening Board of Supervisors meeting.
On August 10 an ABC television news camera crew visited the county to cover reactions to O’Gara Group’s arrival on property purchased from Bryan Chandler several weeks ago. That crew also opted not to stick around for the evening Board of Supervisors meeting.
On June 8 and August 10 Westmoreland resident Bob Quinn was prevented from videoing the Board of Supervisors meetings. Quinn successfully filmed the Westmoreland Industrial Development Authority’s meeting on June 29 and county government authorities subpoenaed a copy of that meeting video. That video has been displayed on The Journal's website at www.journalpress.com since the June 29 meeting.The Journal was present this Monday evening when Westmoreland Sheriff’s Office employees Ron Hundley and Bill England prevented Quinn from entering the Supervisors’ G. D. English Building meeting room with the camera in his hand.  “You can’t take that in there with you,” Quinn was told as he and others went through the security screening protocols that were instituted by the Sheriff’s Office and local government on July 13.

“Cameras in courtrooms are prohibited,” the deputies explained.

Read more: Cameras at issue in Westmoreland County

O’Gara Group completes purchase of Chandler tract

The sales transaction is official. Car dealer S. Bryan Chandler has sold O’Gara Training and Services, LLC approximately 330.0 acres of land that is situated between Westmoreland Industrial park and the upper reaches of a Nomini tributary.
The deed that governs the transaction was filed in the Westmoreland Circuit Court on July 30 and indicates that the A-1, Agriculture zoned property assessed at $989,700.00 was in fact purchased for $2,500,000.00 on July 28.
Language in the deed reveals that “for and in consideration of an IRC Section 1031 Tax-Free Exchange, and of other good and valuable considerations, receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged, the GRANTOR does grant and convey unto the GRANTEE, with GENERAL WARRANTY OF TITLE and ENGLISH COVENANTS, the real estate hereinafter described as follows [on an attachment identified as Schedule A].”

 

Read more: O’Gara Group completes purchase of Chandler tract

Get ready for the Montross Fall Festival

Believe it or not full scale planning for the annual Montross Fall Festival is well underway. Each year the festival seems to get bigger and better.  This year will be the best ever!

Reserve Friday evening October 2 as the start of the Festival and all day Saturday October 3 for the parade, music, booths, kid's zone, food and who knows what all.  Between now and then we'll be providing overall information on the Festival and details on some of the many attractions. As just one example of the size and scope of this year's Festival, we're starting off with some background and thoughts from our Grand Marshal.

Read more: Get ready for the Montross Fall Festival

Relaxed zoning rules ease burden on Westmoreland Board of Zoning Appeals

A proposal to relax some rules included in the Westmoreland zoning ordinance were approved this month by the Board of Supervisors. The Planning Commission had already endorsed the amendments the jurisdiction’s Board of Zoning Appeals previously requested county land use staff to draft.
Life will hereafter be easier when owners of unimproved lots want to add accessory structures. If appropriate permits are issues, improvements such as driveways, drain fields, fences, gardens, private wells and sheds no larger than 200 square feet can be installed before a primary structure is added to the property.

Read more: Relaxed zoning rules ease burden on Westmoreland Board of Zoning Appeals

Governor Kaine moves Tidwells-Drum Bay sewer project forward

It became official when the office of Virginia Governor Tim Kaine issued the announcement Monday morning: $890,000 has been released to support an early stage of Westmoreland County’s Tidwells-Drum Bay sewer project.
The sewer project is part of $1 billion allocated for nearly 250 infrastructure projects across the state as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“These projects are beginning at a time when we are facing a national economic crisis, and they are putting Virginians to work,” Kaine said. “The projects also will pay long-term dividends to all of us, in the form of improved bridges and highways, railways and other transit, sewage treatment and drinking water.” According to the announcement, Virginia expects “to receive about $4.8 billion from the Recovery Act. Individuals, private organizations and businesses, and local governments are also eligible for additional Recovery Act funding. As more Recovery Act funds are allocated, more jobs and improvements are expected statewide."

Of the ARRA funds, $116 million is being released at this time to replace or repair Virginia bridges. Although hearings are in the works to address the replacement of the Tides Mill Bridge on state Route 205, District 4 Supervisor Woody Hynson lamented during last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting that there is no help in sight for replacing the equally decrepit Mattox Creek Bridge on state Route 205.

   The only Recovery Act funds directed to Westmoreland in this week’s disclosure from the office of the Virginia Governor is the $890,000 to support the Tidwells-Drum Bay sewer.

The Governor’s disclosure describes the nature of the “Tidwells/Drum Bay Spray Irrigation/Water Reuse” project as belonging to the “Clean Water – Green” category.

Another allocation of $2,286,000 will bring road pavement preservation and restoration to portions of state Routes 3 and 360 in Lancaster, Northumberland and Richmond counties.

Caroline County is allocated $2.6 million to improve bridges, and the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula regions’ Bay Aging Transit will receive $396,000 to improve its rural transit program.

   Westmoreland County Administrator Norman Risavi had prior knowledge of the governor’s July 20 announcements when he gained approval from the Westmoreland Supervisors to put the Tidwells-Drum Bay project out for bids.

   “The board authorized the county administrator to enter into the appropriate agreements on behalf of the county to accept FY 2009 Federal Stimulus Funds in the form of a loan from the Virginia Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund Program in the amount of $890,000 (with 100% principal forgiveness) for the purpose of completing certain upgrades to the Coles Point Wastewater Plant, including construction of a new effluent storage tank and modification of the spray field pumping system, and following approval of the bid by the state, to prepare and advertise a bid solicitation for this project, with the understanding that the results of said bids will be presented to the board for approval.

   “[District 2 Supervisor Russ] Culver clarified that this is not related to the proposed Drum Bay-Tidwells sewer project.”

   The Tidwells-Drum Bay sewer project came under fire earlier this year, when the supervisors received a petition signed by Tidwells homeowners who oppose introduction of public sewer facilities in that rural community.

   Opponents cite unpopular and failed residential subdivision projects that were introduced in the village of Coles Point once public sewer system became available.

   County officials say they plan to obtain additional funding to install sewerage collection lines that will connect Tidwells and Drum Bay homes to the Coles Point wastewater treatment plant.

   Tidwells sewer proponents expect to profit from the new infrastructure. Waterfront land that was only marginally capable of supporting conventional septic drainfields can become home to condominiums and other high-density residential developments.

   The landowners on the Tidwells waterfront who saw the system coming and already invested in waterfront properties that were offered for sale in recent years expect to profit from the infusion of Recovery Act funding the county’s elected officials hope to use to support the project.

   However, County Administrator Norman Risavi said it’s unlikely the project will result in creation of local employment opportunities. Outside contractors will utilize employees who already have mastered the skills the project’s construction phase requires.

   Sewer lines will cross Lower Machodoc Creek in order to reach the Coles Point treatment plant. The facility’s liquid effluent is applied in nearby fields in order to avoid creation of a discharge point in the Potomac tributary that still supports multiple economically viable commercial fisheries.

   Despite assertions that no sewer is needed to support the current Tidwells community and that problems associated with the sparsely settled neighborhood’s small number of failing septic drain fields can be remedied with new technologies, Risavi has advised that lines connecting Tidwells to the Coles Point plant must be in place before help can be offered to residents of the densely populated Glebe Harbor and Cabin Point neighborhoods.

— Betsy Ficklin

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