New su­per­vi­sor tells con­stituents suits against county ‘are a waste of money’

Res­i­dent: ‘Don’t let 10 per­cent wag the dog’

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By Patty Hardee

Newly elected Pied­mont dis­trict su­per­vi­sor Chris­tine Smith held an in­for­mal gath­er­ing with con­stituents on the morn­ing of De­cem­ber 29 at Sper­ryville Trad­ing and she got an ear­ful, from frus­tra­tion with ran­cor in lo­cal pol­i­tics to the time and money costs of nu­mer­ous law­suits filed against pub­lic of­fi­cials.

One at­tendee, re­fer­ring to a re­cent spate of law­suits against the Rap­pa­han­nock County Board of Su­per­vi­sors al­leg­ing vi­o­la­tions of the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act regulations, de­cried the “cur­rent ag­i­ta­tors in lo­cal pol­i­tics,” call­ing them “peo­ple who brow­beat the su­per­vi­sors.”

Smith agreed that “the law­suits are a waste of money,” but that the FOIA regs need to be fol­lowed.

“I will do my best to make sure my peers [com­ply,]” she told the con­cerned res­i­dent, who like other par­tic­i­pants

asked not to be quoted by name so that they could speak freely.

An­other of Smith’s con­stituents said he “would like to see the board be an ex­am­ple to the com­mu­nity” of re­spect­ful com­port­ment. “We have prob­lems in the com­mu­nity that need the su­per­vi­sors’ en­ergy to work to­gether.”

And he im­plored Smith, “Don’t let [a neg­a­tive, vo­cal] 10 per­cent wag the dog.”

Smith an­swered, “I couldn’t agree more. We [the su­per­vi­sors] need to make sure the busi­ness of the day is done.”

Other is­sues of con­cern ex­pressed at the meet­ing in­cluded the pre­pared­ness of the BOS be­fore meet­ings, af­ford­able hous­ing, long-range plan­ning for the county and set­ting pri­or­i­ties, the need for re­li­able in­ternet, and park­ing and traf­fic is­sues in Sper­ryville.

Through the county’s list­serv, Rapp­net, Smith an­nounced that she would be avail­able at the restau­rant to talk with Pied­mont res­i­dents and oth­ers. She told the as­sem­bled group of about a dozen res­i­dents — most of them from her dis­trict — that she plans to hold these in­for­mal ses­sions through­out the year in ad­vance of the su­per­vi­sors’ monthly meet­ings.

One par­tic­i­pant spelled out what she saw as two ma­jor ar­eas of fo­cus: ad­min­is­tra­tive is­sues fac­ing the county and is­sues of sub­stance. The lat­ter, she said, in­cluded con­sid­er­ing “the right de­vel­op­ment pro­gram for Rap­pa­han­nock, the county’s busi­ness model, and so­cial model for the fu­ture.”

Smith re­sponded that she was glad to see cer­tain ad­min­is­tra­tive de­vel­op­ments in the county, such as the cre­ation of a Hu­man Re­sources po­si­tion that would be re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing job de­scrip­tions and per­for­mance eval­u­a­tions pro­cesses for county em­ploy­ees, “things that peo­ple need to be suc­cess­ful.”

As to the sub­stan­tive is­sues, Smith agreed that the county’s com­pre­hen­sive plan needs to be com­pleted. She sug­gested that per­haps the plan­ning com­mis­sion needs to be ex­panded be­yond its cur­rent seven mem­bers to help with “the heavy lift­ing.” State law al­lows for a greater num­ber of com­mis­sion­ers.

An­other at­tendee ques­tioned a re­cent re­port that the county em­ploys 80 peo­ple and won­dered who that num­ber in­cluded. She pointed out that the elected of­fi­cials [known as con­sti­tu­tional of­fi­cers] are tech­ni­cally not em­ployed by the county. They serve the county, she said, but the state re­im­burses the county for salaries and other com­pen­sa­tion, and they can’t be fired by the county. Con­sti­tu­tional of­fi­cers in­clude the Trea­surer, Cir­cuit Court Clerk, Sher­iff, and Com­mis­sioner of the Rev­enue.

On the topic of af­ford­able hous­ing in the county, sev­eral par­tic­i­pants said they didn’t feel it should be up to the gov­ern­ment to fund hous­ing.

“There has never been af­ford­able hous­ing here,” said one.

But Smith pointed out that a nearby house was listed at just $150,000 and she had seen an apart­ment for rent on Rapp­net for $500 a month.

Com­ply­ing with the cur­rent zon­ing, some­one asked, if all the county’s land was de­vel­oped, how many peo­ple would that be? No one had the an­swer.

The is­sue of af­ford­able house goes hand in hand with the avail­abil­ity of jobs in the county. Smith men­tioned that there used to be large em­ploy­ers, such as Faith Moun­tain in Sper­ryville and the Aileen plant in Flint Hill.

But an at­tendee pointed out that busi­nesses like that are fail­ing ev­ery­where. He said that “the in­ternet is the sin­gle big­gest thing” that could at­tract busi­ness.

An is­sue closer to home for one par­tic­i­pant at the meet­ing con­cerned traf­fic and park­ing on Main St in Sper­ryville, some of it pre­cip­i­tated by cur­rent con­struc­tion along the sev­eral blocks in the cen­ter of town.

She told the group that “a lot is go­ing on on Main Street be­tween two dan­ger­ous in­ter­sec­tions,” re­fer­ring to the in­ter­sec­tion with Route 211 at the north­ern end of Main Street and the three-way in­ter­sec­tion at the south­ern end in front of the Corner Store.

Af­ter an hour and a half, Smith thanked ev­ery­one for com­ing. She at­tended her first BOS meet­ing yes­ter­day.

An­other of Smith’s con­stituents said he “would like to see the board be an ex­am­ple to the com­mu­nity” of re­spect­ful com­port­ment. “We have prob­lems in the com­mu­nity that need the su­per­vi­sors’ en­ergy to work to­gether.” And he im­plored Smith, “Don’t let [a neg­a­tive, vo­cal] 10 per­cent wag the dog.”

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