In order to dissolve, or disincorporate, the town, a majority of Columbia’s 38 registered voters must approve a referendum that the town leadership is attempting to place on the ballot this November.

“Given our small population and limited resources we no longer believe that it makes sense to be an incorporated town,” Hammond wrote in an e-mail to the Fluvanna Review.  “We don’t have the ability to provide municipal services and rely heavily on the county for assistance.  We’re facing a small [and] dwindling tax base, a limited budget and a lack of human resources to fill necessary roles typically needed for town government.”

Jessica Phillips, attorney on behalf of Columbia, outlined the steps involved in this process to the Board of Supervisors at its meeting on Wednesday (May 21).

First the town and county will need to enter into a formal agreement that provides for the transfer of all of Columbia’s revenues, assets and debts to Fluvanna County.  Then the town council will petition the Fluvanna County Circuit Court for an order requiring a referendum to be put on the ballot in order to allow voters to decide whether to nullify the town’s charter.

No quorum of voters is needed – if a simple majority vote passes the referendum, then a judge will certify the results and notify a secretary of the commonwealth.  Phillips anticipates Jan. 1, 2015 to be the effective date of the disincorporation, if it occurs.

Hammond believes that the town will in fact dissolve.  “I’m confident that we have the support of the community and I anticipate the vote to pass in November,” he wrote.

Columbia has few assets and no debts.  It owns a town hall building currently assessed at around $25,000 that it may transfer to the Catholic Diocese of Richmond.  Other than that there are two bank accounts worth about $67,000.  Of that money, $10,000 is set aside for participation in an approved Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant to remove unoccupied blighted buildings in the 100-year flood plain.  The state of Virginia may also direct the town to contribute $10,000 to the Fluvanna Volunteer Fire Department.  Then the rest of the money would cover legal and other expenses involved in the disincorporation.

Since Aqua Virginia provides water to the town, the county would not need to assume any water responsibilities for Columbia.  It would, however, need to take on the operation of the town’s streetlights at an annual cost of about $26,000.

Disincorporating Fluvanna’s only town would be a significant event for the county.  “This is an important and historic decision for the town of Columbia,” wrote Hammond, “however, it is a decision that we have discussed with the town council, Fluvanna County officials, residents of the town, and local leaders for a number of years.”

Town councilor Kerry Murphy-Hammond added, “It was not done lightly, but we feel this is the best way to protect the town at this point.”

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