- Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 February 2009 18:35
- Published on Wednesday, 04 February 2009 18:35
- Hits: 724
The word on the street this Monday was that the O’Gara Group might be changing its plans to locate a security training facility in the Westmoreland County Industrial Park.
County officials approved a purchase contract on January 12 that would allow O’Gara Group to buy the publicly owned industrial shell building and the remaining 25 acres of industrial park property for development as a security training school.
The contract with the local government was contingent on the prospective buyer’s ability to purchase an adjacent 325-acre tract, but District 2 Westmoreland Supervisor Russ Culver advised The Journal this Monday afternoon that there may be problems with the purchaser’s ability to obtain the necessary financing.
O’Gara’s purchase contract with the local government names S. Bryan Chandler as the owner of the adjacent 325-acre tract. O’Gara would pay Westmoreland County $679,178 in certified funds at settlement. Five percent of the total purchase price was delivered to Westmoreland County as a non-refundable deposit when the purchase contract was approved.
Settlement was to occur within thirty days of the end of what the contract described as a feasibility period. A closer look at the contract’s feasibility section discloses conditions that would reverse the so-called non-refundable character of the buyer’s $33,959 deposit to Westmoreland.
According to the contract, the purchaser was given a 60-day feasibility period “to determine, in [the purchaser’s] sole discretion, through engineering and feasibility studies, i[f] its location, intended use of, and financing of the property are practical.
“If within said period, Purchaser notifies Seller or an agent of Seller in writing by either facsimile or certified mail, that his plan, in his sole and absolute judgment, is not practical, this Contract is to be considered null and void [and] Purchaser shall be entitled to a return of its Deposit.”
According to this reporter’s understanding of Supervisor Russ Culver’s February 2 comments on the subject, O’Gara had an option contract on the adjacent 325-acre tract and had expected to raise the money to buy the land by engaging in a public offering during February 2009.
The plans went awry when the Securities Exchange Commission advised O’Gara Group that it cannot have a public contract while it is offering shares.
“So they put another contract in with Bryan Chandler,” Culver stated.
The Supervisor went on to relate that O’Gara’s plans “may stall because of a problem getting money from the bank. They needed $12 to $20 million, so they wanted to have a public offering.”
Monday afternoon Culver continued to encourage the Westmoreland Citizens Association to host a meeting in which O’Gara Group would meet with county residents to answer questions and make their intentions better understood.
Earlier on Monday the Association’s officers held a meeting and decided not to become involved as an intermediary between O’Gara and the public.
“People are unhappy that the county government kept this from the public,” Association President Kennon Morris related. “If there is a problem with the people, it’s the fault of the county government. Let them schedule a meeting with O’Gara and the people, if that is what they really want.”
Culver said he asked the Association to schedule a meeting with O’Gara because he said he felt the purchaser’s difficulty in obtaining financing can provide an opportunity for the local government to revisit the matter and give the public an opportunity to deliver input and have their questions answered.
According to Culver’s reading of the purchase contract, O’Gara “has 30 days to come in and make the contract valid.
“The problem,” said Culver, “is that right now everything is up in the air. It’s important to get a meeting with a lot of people in attendance. If O’Gara Group could have an opportunity to give us honest answers, I feel certain they could alleviate a lot of fears.”
Although Senator Richard Stuart represented O’Gara Group on January 12, the previously referenced contract lists M .R. Foley & Associates, LLC of Richmond as the agent of the purchaser.
The county government purchased its industrial park property at a cost of $361,844.25. The park’s shell building cost $461,995 to construct and $25,000 was expended for architectural and engineering fees.
It was Northern Neck Electric Cooperative that carried the cost of the industrial shell building’s construction. Over a period of 9.61 years Westmoreland County paid the Cooperative $4,000 each month and the final payment on the building’s debt service was made just prior to the county government’s January 12 approval of the purchase contract with O’Gara.
In addition to the $679,178 Westmoreland expected to receive from O’Gara Group, a portion of the industrial park property was previously sold to Carry-On Trailer for $445,128.46. A smaller section of the park’s property was conveyed to Scott Travers for $61,000. The O’Gara transaction would have completed the park’s development.
- Last Updated on Thursday, 29 January 2009 02:33
- Published on Thursday, 29 January 2009 02:33
- Hits: 583
Global economic patterns some have termed as the beginning of the Very Great Depression reached Westmoreland County when the jurisdiction’s School Board met this Monday.
Division Superintendent Elaine Fogliani had done the math that utilizes current school division budget numbers and an anticipated $420,000 reduction in the state’s basic aid contribution to Westmoreland.
The basic aid contribution from the state is used to calculate the minimum level of funding a locality must contribute to support its school division. Fogliani anticipated that the minimum contribution the county is required to contribute would be similarly reduced, resulting in the loss of more than $800,000.
It was understood that such a shortfall would have dire impacts on an already bare bones budget with a $19 million bottom line. Additional reductions in state and federal revenue must also be taken into account, the Division Superintendent advised the members of the Board.
“These will be some of the toughest decisions we ever had to make,” said Fogliani. The Superintendent has proposed a 1 percent cut in employee salaries that would generate $400,000 to help support the division’s most essential programs.
Administrative staff would be reduced and assistant principal and teacher’s assistant positions would be lost to accommodate the shrinking bottom line. Other cost saving measures would include elimination of some or all field trips, extra curricular activities and the pre-school programs at the elementary schools.
The School Board will tackle the problem of the division’s shrinking budget when it convenes its February 16 work session. At that time the General Assembly’s intentions may be better understood.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 January 2009 19:13
- Published on Wednesday, 21 January 2009 19:13
- Hits: 635
The O’Gara Group’s Tactical Operations Branch Manager, Ronald Boline, was in Montross last Monday night when the Westmoreland Industrial Development Authority accepted a contract that will allow the O’Gara Group to locate a training facility in the county’s industrial park near Montross.
According to O’Gara’s mission statement, the new establishment will “provide a world-class tactical training and services facility that increases the level of professionalism supporting the United States of America’s initiatives and policies.”
Boline shared that characterization with the Westmoreland public on January 12. On January 13 the Westmoreland Sheriff’s Office issued a press release reporting that on January 6, 2009 “Ronald P. Boline age 48 of King George was arrested on D.U.I charges.”
The Sheriff’s report and news that the O’Gara Group would locate in Westmoreland were published in last week’s edition of The Journal and readers responded immediately. On January 14 The Journal reviewed the public information on file in Westmoreland County’s General District Court concerning Boline’s January 6 arrest.
Boline was arraigned in Westmoreland County General District Court on January 13 and a trial was scheduled in the same court for 10:00 a.m. on March 3. The March trial date was established in order to accommodate the legislative calendar of Boline’s defense attorney, Senator Richard Stuart. A former County Attorney and Commonwealth’s Attorney in Westmoreland county, Stuart also represented the O’Gara Group when the Westmoreland Supervisors met with the Industrial Development Authority and the O’Gara Group on the evening of January 12.
Westmoreland Sheriff’s Office Deputy R.R.Torres authored the incident report this paper reviewed in that General District Court public file.
“While on patrol on Route 205,” wrote Torres, “I observed a vehicle that had run off the road at the intersection of Route 628. At that time I observed a white male on the rear of the vehicle trying to attach something to get the vehicle pulled out.
“At that time I approached the subject on foot and asked the male what happened. He stated to me that he was traveling north on Route 205 and he passed his turn at Route 631. When he attempted to turn around at Route 628, he ran off the road.
“While speaking with him I was able to smell a strong odor of alcohol coming from his breath. He had slurred speech and glassy eyes. At that time I asked him how much he had to drink and [he] stated 'three Crowns and Coke.'
“I began FST’s [field sobriety tests] and he failed. He was placed under arrest at 11:01 p.m.”
Boline appears to have been given a reckless driving charge at the scene of his driving mishap. According to the records on file in Westmoreland’s General District Court, it was at Northern Neck Regional Jail that a magistrate reviewed the Sheriff’s Deputy’s sworn statement and found that there was “probable cause to believe that [Boline] committed the offense charged” under Section 18.2-266 of the Virginia Code.
The DWI charge is described as a first offense in the General District Court paperwork. The same records reveal that Boline was released at the regional jail after putting up $2,500 in unsecured bond as a condition of recognizance. A court employee familiar with the procedure explained that the man had been released from jail on his own personal recognizance.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 January 2009 18:17
- Published on Wednesday, 21 January 2009 18:17
- Hits: 599
The Reverend Darryl Fisher will serve for a fourth year as Chairman of the Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors. An organizational meeting was held Jan. 5 and veteran District 4 Supervisor Woody Hynson was elected to serve for the fifteenth year as Vice Chairman of the Board.
County Administrator Norm Risavi presided over the first segment of the annual Board of Supervisors organizational meeting. He opened the floor for nominations and Russ Culver, the Republican Supervisor from District 2, immediately nominated Fisher, a fifth term Democrat from District 1.
“Our reasoning,” said Culver, “is that Larry and I discussed rotation of the Chair’s position one year ago, but this year the economy is in disarray. Last year we as a Board looked at what was going to occur [as global economic conditions worsened].
“We worked together as a Board and we have been conservative, working together very effectively to do the citizens’ business. In order for this to continue in 2009, I’m offering a motion for Darryl Fisher to stay on as Chairman for another year.”
Risavi immediately closed the nominations for Chairman of the Board, but District 5 Supervisor Larry Roberson sought an opportunity to speak.
“I still believe we need to rotate,” Roberson commented. “All of us have been elected by the people from our individual districts. Darryl Fisher is a very fine gentleman. I have nothing against him, but I still feel very strongly about the need to rotate the position of Board Chairman on a regular basis."
Risavi called for the vote and it was unanimous.
“I thank all of you,” said Fisher. “I give thanks to my colleagues for giving me the opportunity to serve as Chairman and for the confidence that you have placed in me. It is something I don’t take lightly.”
Fisher then spoke for himself and the Board’s four other members.
“We pledge to continue to do the very best we can,” he told the public.
“During the past year this Board has faced many challenges, but we have not encountered the kinds of infighting that has been seen in other jurisdictions. That isn’t something that has happened to this Board. What we have in Westmoreland County is a Board with well-rounded membership.”
Fisher then opened the floor for nominations for the position of Vice Chair. District 3 Supervisor Lynn Brownley delivered the motion that nominated Woody Hynson, who was elected with another unanimous vote.
Fisher praised Hynson’s services.
“With the two of us being the longest continuously serving members of the Board, I can honestly say it’s been a pleasure to serve as Chairman with Mr. Hynson as Vice Chair,” Fisher related.
“Having him in the position of Vice Chair has nothing to do with him not being capable of service as the Chair. It just takes a mighty mature individual to not push to be the Chair, and Mr. Hynson has always been a source of strong support.”
“I thank the citizens for the privilege of being permitted all these years of service,” Hynson stated.
“I thank the Board for giving me the nomination. Everyone on this Board is a very fine gentleman whose only goal is to make the county where all of us enjoy living a better county.
“2009 is going to be a very difficult year, but there is nothing wrong with being a conservative county when the hard times hit. I remember attending a meeting this past summer, when other counties’ Boards were talking about their very large deficits.
“In Westmoreland County we don’t have to talk about how deeply we are in the hole. That’s because we work together as a Board to make Westmoreland a better county and a county we can all feel lucky to live in.”
Later in this Monday’s session Admiral Robert Fountain took advantage of a public comment segment to express satisfaction with the local government’s leadership.
“I have worked very closely with the county government for quite a number of years,” Fountain commented. “Our people have been extremely well served by the County Administrator and the Board of Supervisors.
“You all are lightening rods at times,” Fountain then stated. “But the people have been well served by the continuity brought by the senior members of this Board. I am not convinced rotation is the best way to proceed.
“The Westmoreland County board is evenly divided,” Fountain said of the individual members’ political affiliations. “You have demonstrated an ability to work together closely and harmoniously. I feel sure this will continue for the remainder of your terms.”
By Betsy Ficklin
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 January 2009 19:58
- Published on Wednesday, 14 January 2009 19:58
- Hits: 601
Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors Chairman Darryl Fisher’s opening remarks this Monday morning included an observation that divine “blessings have really smiled on Westmoreland County.”
Fisher credited “divine intervention” for the fact “that we are in better [financial] shape than other jurisdictions.” That was 9:30 in the morning and members of the public would have to wait nearly twelve hours to learn just how providence had in fact intervened.
The day and evening’s frozen temperatures and the global economic freeze did not impede the effort of the Westmoreland County local government to unload its industrial shell building and surrounding 25 acres that have been empty for approximately one decade.
This Monday night the Westmoreland Supervisors and Industrial Development Authority returned from their closed door meeting and the Authority very quickly accepted the proposal made by The O’Gara Training Facility and Academy Initiative to pay the jurisdiction $679,178 for the empty industrial shell building and its surrounding grounds.
The security firm will additionally buy a privately owned wooded tract of approximately 325 acres that is immediately adjacent to the county government’s industrial shell building property and is situated in the rear.
When the Supervisors and Industrial Development Authority returned from their joint closed session, King George resident Ron Boline delivered the buyer’s power point presentation to the small group of interested county residents who waited to attend the recessed portion of the Supervisors’ January meeting. The session did not adjourn until approximately 10:30 on Monday night.
Boline holds the position of Tactical Operations Branch Manager with The O’Gara Group’s Training and Services Division whose address is 1120 Euro Rally Road, Alton, Virginia. The O’Gara Group is based in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The long-awaited presentation from the shell building buyers included a mission statement explaining that “The O’Gara Training and Services Division’s Training Facility and Academy seeks to provide a world-class tactical training and services facility that increases the level of professionalism to enhance the capabilities of Federal, State and Local law enforcement agencies and security professionals supporting the United States of America’s initiatives and policies.”
The company objectives segment that followed described intentions to create “a world-class training facility and academy that supports training requirements of The O’Gara Group customers, promotes economic development of Westmoreland County and the Northern Neck area of Virginia [and] is a good neighbor within the community.”
The public learned that the establishment will maintain its reputation of conducting operations in a manner that “is environmentally conscious and compliant with all applicable regulations and best practices, [providing] a safe, yet challenging, environment for Local, State, and Federal law enforcement, government agencies and their supporting personnel to refine enabling skills critical to national defense.”
The O’Gara Group was described as “a leading provider of advanced security products and training solutions to aid in the global war on terrorism and to enhance Homeland Security.”
The Group has three business divisions. The Sensor Systems Division or SSD manufactures night vision equipment and tagging, tracking and locating devices. The Group’s Advanced Transparent and Mobile Systems Divisions manufactures armored vehicles and support materials.
The third division that is now expected to locate in Westmoreland County is the Training and Services Division or TSD that provides O’Gara Group clients with “innovative tactical and security training and services solutions to satisfy emerging requirements.”
The public learned that O’Gara’s TSD “provides comprehensive tactical and security training solutions through its tactical operations, technical services, preparedness and response and international training branches.
The tactical operations training facility that had been temporarily located in the Danville, area’s Virginia International Raceway will relocate to the tract described as approximately 2.5 miles south of Montross on State Route 3.
A training academy or school will be established on the 350-acre site. According to Richard Stuart, the attorney representing O’Gara Group on Monday evening, due to existing zoning in Westmoreland County the local government’s review of the new development will be limited to the county officials’ January 12 deliberations and Westmoreland Land Use Office’s administrative review of the project’s site plan.
The training facility will have capacity “to teach up to 120 personnel simultaneously in classroom and practical skills.” Curriculum will include academic offerings, motor vehicle driving skills, physical fitness, personal security tactics, techniques and procedures, and weapons handling/marksmanship training.
The facility will include a 1.5 mile driving course, an off-road driving course, development of a simulated urban training area of six square city blocks, student lodging and dining accommodations, a gymnasium, an obstacle/fitness course, ten small arms shooting ranges with reaches that vary from 50 to 1,000 yards and a complex of classrooms and laboratories.
The projected total cost of the completed facility is $20 million and the annual operating budget is projected to range from eight to nine million dollars if current valuations hold. Local suppliers will be utilized when possible for labor, consumables and materials.
The facility will carry what the presentation described as a “large potential for growth,” and will have only “minimal impact” to the county’s fire and rescue resources. Utilities already are in place.
Economic benefits cited in the presentation were additional tax revenues for the county and the state, local purchase of materials when feasible, use of local sub-contractors when possible, and engagement of general construction contractors having “specific military experience.”
The facility will have 22 full-time employment positions and will budget $900,000 a year for salaries. There will also be 60 part-time positions that include scenario role players, part-time on call instructors, mechanics, food service workers, facility support employees, IT support and administrative personnel.
Environmental impacts were addressed in the presentation and the public learned that the training facility will be “minimally intrusive to the environment,” with approximately one-third of the acreage utilized for instructional purposes.
Lead containment and best practices that go beyond the minimum required will be utilized, as will training range noise abatement and reduction measures, minimized night fire and mufflers installed on all training vehicles.
The establishment has promised “continuous environment protection of Westmoreland County. The large tract’s timber management plan will be continued and expanded and a wildlife management plan will be coordinated with state and local authorities. The facility will additionally coordinate and cooperate with local hunt clubs and concerned or interested citizens.
Safety was addressed and citizens learned on Monday night that the new training facility will make Westmoreland County “a safer place. Local responders [will] use [the] facility for training at no cost,” a teen driving program will offer four classes each year and the establishment will hire off-duty local law enforcement employees to serve as role players.
Citizens received assurances that the establishment has a “history of safe training,” that there have been “no significant injuries to students at our training facility in Alton, Virginia” and that as many as 50 students were trained in the Alton facility in a single 12-month interval.
The final section of the December 12 presentation to local residents expressed the goal of the O’Gara Group to “be a good neighbor and economic partner to Westmoreland County and the Northern Neck.”
Work on the new facility is expected to begin in the upcoming weeds, with classes beginning as quickly as August or September. The empty 50,000-square foot industrial shell building will be transformed into a 125-occupant student dormitory, gymnasium, kitchen, dining facility, office and garage.
Proceeds from the sale will allow the local government to retire the public debt associated with creation of the industrial park and its industrial shell building’s construction.
Remaining proceeds from the sale can now be utilized by the local government to launch the long-awaited industrial development initiative in the Washington District sewer’s service area.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 January 2009 20:00
- Published on Wednesday, 07 January 2009 20:00
- Hits: 450
A published report not quite one month ago detailing County Attorney Tom Bondurant’s contract with Westmoreland County’s local government sparked a not unanticipated response from local residents having concerns about how they will find money to pay the next round of real estate taxes.
The group of residents who came together as the Westmoreland County Citizens Association in late 2007 attempted to influence the county’s Board of Supervisors in Spring 2008, when a new county budget was being prepared.
The group maintained that more must be done to conserve the county’s finite financial resources. Suggestions were brought forward but generally failed to make it into the local government budget that was adopted by the Board.
Most recently an Association spokesperson urged the Westmoreland Supervisors to eliminate the position of the County Attorney.
“It may be better just to pay for legal services as they are needed, like a lot of other Northern Neck counties do,” the spokesperson told the members of the Board.
Review of Bondurant’s contract and other information gathered by the citizens’ group revealed that Westmoreland County paid its County Attorney just under $60,000 during the 12-month budget period that stretched from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008.
Bondurant was hired to advise the Westmoreland Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors and he earns $36,000 a year for attending the monthly Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meetings and for advising the County Administrator and Westmoreland’s usually inactive Industrial Development authorities.
The County Administrator can authorize the County Attorney to provide legal advice to other local government agencies or departments, but the Westmoreland Social Services Department must engage a legal advisor of its own.
Bondurant’s additional services to Westmoreland County are compensated at a rate of $90 per hour and a private citizen recently collected information detailing payments the County Attorney has received for those additional services that could duties associated with appearances in the courts on the county government’s behalf and work on county sewer systems.
The information in hand indicates that in July 2008 Bondurant was paid his monthly salary of $3,000 and additional payments of $154.00 and $3,060.00. In August 2008 he received the contracted $3,000 and an extra $$2,394.00.
Aside from the regular monthly earnings of $3,000, Bondurant was paid an extra $$720.00 in September, an additional $1,665.00 in October, and an additional $2,205.00 in November 2008.
As of January 6 the public has not seen accounts detailing the County Attorney’s December 2008 earnings, but the Citizens Association has not forgotten the suggestion its spokesman presented to the Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors.
From July 1, 2008 until November 30 the records indicate that Westmoreland paid its part-time County Attorney $25,198. The current budget cycle’s earnings appear consistent with the payments made to Tom Bondurant in the county government’s prior fiscal year.
- Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 January 2009 19:45
- Published on Wednesday, 07 January 2009 19:45
- Hits: 636
Members of the public who turned out for this Monday’s Westmoreland County Planning Commission meeting were surprised when someone advised them to read the notice on a nearby English Building door.
Nearly an hour had passed and there were no Planning Commissioners or county government land use staff. Citizens and newspaper employees who gathered in the English Building foyer did what they always do prior to local government meetings.
The conversations that ensued were pleasant enough, but when the sign on the door was brought to everyone’s attention there was some embarrassment. The computer-generated message had been posted in plain enough view for anyone to see.
“There were no cases scheduled for the January 5, 2009 Planning Commission meeting, therefore, no meeting was advertised and no meeting will be held in the General District courtroom January 5, 2009 at 1:30 p.m.,” was the message taped to that George D. English Building door.
The Journal’s reporter and one member of the public trekked down the building’s dark rear hall to question local government land use staff and learned that the message was posted at approximately 11 o’clock that morning.
“We had already notified the Planning Commissioners,” a land use employee told the reporter and the Westmoreland County resident. “We did what we were required to do.”
In the absence of a meeting there was no opportunity for the public to meet the jurisdiction’s new District 4 Planning Commissioner, Jimmy Coates. On December 1 longtime District 4 Commissioner Brick Thomas had said goodbye to his Commission colleagues and the county’s land use staff. The following Monday Westmoreland Supervisors appointed Coates to represent District 4 on the Commission.
Newspaper employees, private citizens and an associate from the Allison, Baird and Sehl civil engineering and land surveying firm may have shared the expectation that the session would include information about the number of Comprehensive Plan survey returns received by the Northern Neck Planning District Office during December.
When too few citizens completed and returned the three-page survey document, the Westmoreland Planning Commission directed the Planning District Office to extend the period for accepting the returns.
The 30-day extensions were authorized by the Commissioners in November and also in December, with the understanding that the returns would be tabulated by Planning District staff and made available to Planning Commissioners as soon as February.
According to the Planning Commission discussion that occurred on December 1, the Commission would hold an evening meeting in March, when survey results would be shared with members of the Westmoreland County public.
During the same March meeting Westmoreland’s Planning Commissioners would have an opportunity to contribute input of their own and public comment on the topic would also be received.
In the absence of a January Planning Commission meeting, selection of the new year’s Planning Commission officers will be delayed until February 2. During 2008 Rob McDermott served as Commission Chair and Richard Moncure held the position of Vice Chair.
Westmoreland County lost its Zoning Administrator, Gary Ziegler, to cancer during last year’s Thanksgiving holiday and the position has not been filled. If Ziegler had survived and if the Commission had met, that county government employee would have been charged with presiding over the meeting until the Commissioners would select a presiding officer for calendar 2009.
Zoning Administrator/Planning Director Ziegler left two Land Use Office assistants, Charlie Wrightson and Beth McDowell. The two land use employees currently share the duties of a Zoning Administrator and Director of Planning.