Ron Wolff County Forum January 16, 2012
Wolff Sandwich Shoppe, Atlantic, VA
About 17 citizens were in attendance. Steven Miner, Accomack County Administrator, was the guest speaker.
Ron opened the meeting by noting "little action" in December, with two notable exceptions: (1) the January 11th Accomack Planning Commission (PC) meeting, a public hearing to change the zoning ordinance to allow private companies to be included in the definition of public water & sewer facilities--the PC did not recommend approval for this; and (2) The January 3rd election of new Board of Supervisors officers, which saw Laura Belle Gordy appointed as Chair and Wanda Thornton Vice Chair.
Ron then introduced Steve Miner, noting that he hailed from Wise County in the western part of Virginia.
Steve distributed a handout titled "State of the County--January 2012." Highlights from his presentation are as follows:
1. Airport--goals include developing plan for new & upgraded T-hangers for local aircraft. This would be funded by a loan paid back by user fees, not public taxes.
2. Assessment--the re-assessment is complete. There are approx. 40,000 land parcels in Accomack County. Overall real estate value is down by about 12 percent or $533 million, due mainly to land vs. developed lots (houses). $2 million in real estate tax revenue is lost. The Board of Supervisors will be asked to raise the assessment rates to "equalize" revenue and compensate for the decline in the market. The goal here is a 20 percent coefficient of dispersion (measure of accuracy across properties) and an assessment to value ratio of 90-95 percent.
3. Finance--the Information Technology department (IT) is now included in Finance. A new IT director will be hired soon. Sales tax are down and the County is watching this, as it may reflect a national trend for lower tourism, e.g. Goals for Finance & IT are: Internet based tax payment & reporting system by June 2012; continued timely quarterly finance & budget reports; disaster recovery & business continuity plans in place this year; and Accomack County website improvements. Ron added that the Board has made provision for a Rainy Day Fund in the County budget.
4. Parks & Recreation--the County is working towards a formalized safety program, and broadening the program offered to seniors and other special groups. Central High and Wallops were removed from the County's park land. Steve said the County is therefore now "down a park." Wallops Park bill is waiting for U.S. Congressional action, as these are Federal lands. The County is checking into "passive use" of the greenway portions of Wallops Research Park. Options are being examined. Steve mentioned that a particular concern for the County is the boat ramp area at Greenbackville, where patrons (including many Virginia local watermen) are able to park their cars while they work out on the water. The concern is the expected loss of use of the parking areas, which are private lots.
5. Planning and Community Development-- goals are a local Economic Development (ED) plan; updated internal policies and procedures; a County market study to better understand market forces of supply and demand in Accomack (Steve mentioned that a group affiliated with Salisbury Univ. may help with this effort); look at future land use in conjunction with the ED plan, Steve noting with regard to the latter, "we don't have one yet"; and a micro ED plan for Onley-Onancock, which is a growth area due to Riverside Hospital's planned move north from Nassawaddox. Steve said that a hospital official has offered to "help with the plan," noting it is unusual for a private party to assist government in such efforts. Steve also said the hospital is currently losing about $15k a month, and their own market studies show the move north will enhance projected revenue, since they will enter the Peninsula General (Salisbury) market for health care services.
6. Public Safety--this includes both emergency management (EMS) and emergency preparedness. Since the district map has changed, the County is reviewing fund allocations to departments in each election district. A better process for allocations is sought. The County has a large capital investment in public safety systems, which require rigorous compliance with State and Federal regs, and which increasingly use electronic systems for central dispatching and communicating with health care providers. Training and quality assurance must follow regional protocols and laws.
7. Public Works--goals include central Accomack water tower renovations. Steve noted that Accomack County-VDOT liaison is now through Suffolk, VA. Steve said he often now hears the term "de-volution" at State meetings, referring to a tendency to assign localities more responsibility for roads & other infrastructure, including construction & maintenance. Re waste, the County is considering contracting out waste disposal to an out of area landfill. Road litter was the subject of much interest at tonight's meeting. Steve noted that Accomack County has a serious litter problem, and he cited Beartown Road as an example of this. Some attendees wondered why "jail-time probationers" could not be used to pick up litter on roads. Ron and Steve said that these folks have judicial options to avoid the litter detail. Ron said the judicial system itself tends to not prosecute offenders who litter. He said a local group called WasteWatchers is helpful, along with other groups such as Chincoteague N.W. Refuge volunteers, who regularly pick up the Wallops area roadways. Ron noted that a new County position, Code Enforcement Officer, will soon be available in the Sheriff's Department, and this position may include oversight for probationer litter pick-up.
8. Board Docs--Steve and Ron passed around the new I-Pad (tablet) in use by the Board in addition to personal computers. Steve noted these devices, at $600 apiece, "cost less than computers," run on Verizon 3G and contain a wireless modem. They hold up to 16gb of storage.
Meeting ended at 9:20 p.m.
Notes by Vicki Weiskopf
N.B. These notes do not constitute the public record of this meeting. The information contained herein is offered in good faith and is presented as accurately as possible. These notes are intended to be a public service devoid of political commentary for those who are interested in following the civic affairs of Chincoteague Island and Accomack County. Notes of the meeting are recorded, transcribed and distributed by volunteers who receive no financial compensation for their efforts.