Update: Supervisors


This agreement between the town and the county, said town attorney Jessica Phillips, is the first step toward dissolving the town.  Essentially the agreement lays out the terms on which the county would receive the town back – assuming, of course, that all the steps are properly followed.

In an e-mail to the Fluvanna Review, Columbia Mayor John Hammond outlined the main reasons he and the town council are seeking to disincorporate the town.  “Given our small population and limited resources we no longer believe that it makes sense to be an incorporated town,” he wrote.  “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.”

But not everyone agrees that dissolving the town is the best move for Columbia.  During the meeting two Columbia property owners spoke out against the idea.

“I’m concerned that the disincorporation actions that are before you today are both premature and short-sighted, and jeopardize future endeavors to preserve the historical aspect of the town,” said Melissa Kenney.  “I asked [the town leadership] why there was a move to disincorporate and I was told that everybody felt that this is the best thing – there was nothing positive about the town anymore, only negatives… The action to disincorporate, I feel, is kind of coming out of nowhere, and residents and property owners have no idea this is going on.”

Paul Grady raised another issue.  “I represent a group of property owners who believe that past and present town councils dropped the ball, and as a result our properties have decreased in value much more drastically than was caused by the Great Recession,” he said.  “That is a taking of our property without just compensation.  And if this Board approves the resolution before you today in regard to giving up the Columbia town charter, then you become accomplices to the crime.”

During the discussion Supervisor Mike Sheridan clarified that if the Board passed the resolution, it was not actually making a determination on whether the town should be dissolved.  Rather, the resolution simply allows the question to go to the town’s residents in November’s vote.

Hammond found the idea “laughable” that dissolving the town would somehow diminish its historicity.  He also drew a distinction between non-resident property owners with doubts about disincorporation, and residents who he said support the idea.  “The town residents are ready,” he said.  “And I think that will bear out in the vote.”

County Attorney Fred Payne weighed in, saying, “If the town is to remain a political subdivision in the commonwealth there are things that are greatly in arrears that need to be done immediately… [Rehabilitating the town] would take major effort…and I don’t see the tax base that would support that on an ongoing basis.”

With Kenney’s concerns in mind, Chairperson Mozell Booker and Supervisor Tony O’Brien asked Hammond if the town could do more to spread the word about the potential disincorporation.  Since, according to Hammond, there are only between 60 and 80 residents, Booker suggested mailing information directly to their homes.

When Supervisor Don Weaver recommended deferring the matter two weeks in order to allow more time for the word to spread among Columbia residents, Phillips replied that the timeline was so tight that those two weeks could keep the matter from appearing on the ballot this year.  Her answer displeased Weaver, who stated that he would vote for the resolution but was “not very happy” at the lack of freedom such a rigid timeline necessitated.

Four of the five supervisors voted for the resolution because, they said, whether Columbia is dissolved is a question that ought to be decided by the residents.  And this resolution makes that possible.

After the meeting, Ullenbruch explained his dissenting vote: “I just think that not enough dedication was put into that town over the years and as a result it’s gotten to the point where there’s no turning back and they have to disband it.  Plus, I’ve gotten numerous calls from residents who don’t know anything about it.  I don’t want to be on the side of changing history if it isn’t absolutely necessary and I just think that if the right people were in change then things wouldn’t have gotten to that point.”

In other matters, the Board:

Approved a rate increase for water in the Fork Union Sanitary District (FUSD) effective Aug. 1.  The typical FUSD customer will see a rate increase of about $10.60 per month.  Competitive proposals to buy the system will be welcomed by the Board as long as they are in the best interest of the consumers and the county.

Approved a memorandum of understanding with Jefferson Area Board for Aging (JABA) that calls for the county’s parks and recreation department to take over serving meals formerly served by JABA to seniors at the Fluvanna Community Center.  JABA will continue to provide the meals.

Appointed attorney Frank Gallo as the citizen representative on the board of Piedmont Virginia Community College.

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