Su­per­vi­sors de­cline school trail grant

3-2 vote to re­ject $800,000-plus state aid | Strong pub­lic sup­port for Smith res­o­lu­tion

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By Patty Hardee Spe­cial to the Rap­pa­han­nock News

The bike trail ap­pears doomed.

The pro­posed Schools Con­nec­tor Trail, spon­sored by the Rap­pTrails Coali­tion, suf­fered a tre­men­dous set­back Mon­day night af­ter Pied­mont District Su­per­vi­sor Chris­tine Smith put for­ward a last­minute res­o­lu­tion to de­cline an $800,000-plus grant from the Vir­ginia De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion to fund 80 per­cent of the pub­lic-pri­vate project..

At 11:20 p.m. — af­ter pas­sion­ate re­marks in which he cas­ti­gated res­i­dents at the meet­ing for act­ing child­ish and say­ing “I’m dis­ap­pointed to see you ar­gu­ing and laugh­ing” — Board of Su­per­vi­sors Chair Roger Welch called for a voice vote on Smith’s res­o­lu­tion. Then Welch, the last of five mem­bers to vote, drove the fi­nal stake through the heart of state fund­ing for the project by vot­ing “Aye!”

Welch’s sur­prise vote was in sharp con­trast to a com­ment he made in the af-

ter­noon ses­sion of the BOS meet­ing, dur­ing a dis­cus­sion of a Rap­pTrails’ re­quest to con­tinue work­ing with the county to find so­lu­tions. At the end of a 30-minute board con­ver­sa­tion about whether the re­quest con­tra­dicted a pre­vi­ous BOS ac­tion to re­quire Rap­pTrails to pro­vide a let­ter of credit or an­other surety, the chair­man com­mented, “What’s the rush to kill the project?”

Mon­day evening’s vote came at the end of a long and es­pe­cially con­tentious reg­u­lar BOS meet­ing that con­vened at 2 p.m. and ad­journed shortly be­fore mid­night, with only a short din­ner break.

An­tic­i­pat­ing an evening ses­sion crowd larger than could be ac­com­mo­dated at the Rap­pa­han­nock County Court­house, where the BOS nor­mally meets, county Ad­min­is­tra­tor Gar­rey Curry se­cured the high school au­di­to­rium for the evening ses­sion. At­ten­dance reached just over 150 in the 350-seat ca­pac­ity venue.

Rap­pTrails had been awarded the VDOT grant in June to cover 80 per­cent of the es­ti­mated cost of build­ing the 1.2 mile path between the county’s two pub­lic schools.

As re­quired by VDOT, the other 20 per­cent had to be sup­plied by the county or raised from out­side sources. Rap­pTrails raised the 20 per­cent and more in pri­vate do­na­tions and non­profit grants. And the group con­tin­ued to fundraise.

In a Nov. 5 let­ter to the BOS, Rap­pTrails’ founder Jane Whit­field re­ported that her group had raised an ad­di­tional $105,000 in only one week’s time. This ad­di­tional amount was to counter ear­lier cit­i­zen con­cerns about the cost of main­tain­ing the trail for the VDOT­man­dated life of 15 years.

Nearly 60 peo­ple spoke at the evening ses­sion, the ma­jor­ity in op­po­si­tion to the trail. Many asked ques­tions or ex­pressed con­cerns that Curry, Whit­field, and mem­bers of the Rap­pTrails board had tried for months to an­swer, to no avail.

At the Sept. 5 BOS meet­ing — also a lengthy, com­bat­ive, heav­ily at­tended meet­ing held at the high school — the su­per­vi­sors voted 4-1 to ta­ble con­sid­er­a­tion of the schools path un­til Rap­pTrails could de­liver an ir­re­vo­ca­ble let­ter of credit or some other guar­an­tee that tax­payer money would not be used to build the trail.

Then and sev­eral times hence, Whit­field has stated that there is no need for a let­ter of credit, as her or­ga­ni­za­tion has raised $1.2 mil­lion dol­lars in cash and grants.

In ad­di­tion to her Nov. 5 let­ter, Whit­field sent an­other let­ter to the BOS, dated Oct. 30. Both let­ters asked the su­per­vi­sors to au­tho­rize Curry “to work with Rap­pTrails, Bohler En­gi­neer­ing, and oth­ers to iden­tify and de­velop ad­di­tional sce­nar­ios for fund­ing and ex­e­cut­ing the Schools Con­nec­tor Trail project.”

The Oct. 30 let­ter also stated, “[I]t makes sense to al­low Rap­pTrails and the County Ad­min­is­tra­tor to take a fresh look at the project and de­velop a strat­egy that meets the needs of the county.”

In Mon­day’s af­ter­noon ses­sion, the BOS ac­tu­ally voted 3 to 2 to give Rap­pTrails a chance to keep work­ing on a so­lu­tion. But the su­per­vi­sors failed to men­tion this at the evening ses­sion.

Amid a call for a pro­posed code of con­duct for county of­fi­cials, em­ploy­ees and ap­pointees fol­low­ing a se­ries of dis­parag­ing and of­ten pro­fane at­tacks on res­i­dents by Board of Zon­ing Ap­peals mem­ber David Kon­ick, Jack­son District Su­per­vi­sor Ron Fra­zier, one of the lead­ers of the board’s Rules Com­mit­tee, di­rected BOS at­ten­tion Mon­day to codes of con­duct and ethics from sev­eral ju­ris­dic­tions in Vir­ginia.

Among them a draft code of con­duct for county of­fi­cials and em­ploy­ees fash­ioned af­ter Madi­son County. A note on the draft from County At­tor­ney Art Goff ac­knowl­edges cit­i­zens Al Reg­n­ery of the Hamp­ton district and Stephen Brooks of Pied­mont for draw­ing at­ten­tion to the Madi­son code.

Reg­n­ery and Brooks, in the Oc­to­ber BOS meet­ing, pro­posed the code of con­duct. As founders of United Cit­i­zens of Rap­pa­han­nock, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that en­cour­ages “ci­vil­ity among all of our gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and our cit­i­zens,” Reg­n­ery and Brooks of­fered in Oc­to­ber to work with Goff.

“We’ll keep af­ter you till [the code of con­duct] gets done,” Reg­n­ery told the board at the time.

In Mon­day’s meet­ing, Fra­zier asked for di­rec­tion from the board for how the Rules Com­mit­tee should pro­ceed on a draft. Should the code of con­duct be as a stand-alone doc­u­ment ap­proved ev­ery year at the board’s Jan­uary or­ga­ni­za­tional meet­ing, a pre­am­ble sec­tion to the county code, or lan­guage in­cor­po­rated into Chap­ter 30 of the county’s code?

Fra­zier was con­cerned that in­clud­ing it in the code would make vi­o­la­tions a mis­de­meanor crim­i­nal of­fense. Goff sug­gested that lan­guage could be in­cluded to ex­empt con­duct vi­o­la­tions from crim­i­nal sanc­tion.

“I don’t think the other coun­ties’ codes of ethics are en­forced through a crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ing,” Goff said. “It would be easy enough to draft lan­guage that would ex­empt vi­o­la­tions of the code of ethics un­der the gen­eral en­force­ment statute. If they are not mis­de­meanors, the code of Vir­ginia al­lows you [to] as­sess penal­ties among the mem­bers of the board for dis­or­derly con­duct.”

Goff of­fered to draft such lan­guage. Fra­zier said he would meet with the Rules Com­mit­tee again and come back with pro­posed text at the BOS De­cem­ber meet­ing.

If the de­ci­sion of the BOS is to in­clude the code of con­duct in the county or­di­nance, Curry said a prop­erly no­ticed pub­lic hear­ing would be needed.

In an email yes­ter­day, Brooks wrote: “United Cit­i­zens of Rap­pa­han­nock be­lieves that adop­tion of stan­dards of con­duct by the Board of Su­per­vi­sors is a high pri­or­ity and looks for­ward to the Board's ac­tion at its De­cem­ber meet­ing. United Cit­i­zens is com­mit­ted to en­cour­ag­ing all parts of the County gov­ern­ment to adopt the same stan­dards.”


In Mon­day’s af­ter­noon ses­sion, the BOS ac­tu­ally voted 3 to 2 to give Rap­pTrails a chance to keep work­ing on a so­lu­tion. But the su­per­vi­sors failed to men­tion this at the evening ses­sion.

Curry also re­ported that while re­spon­sive­ness from land­line tele­phone ser­vice providers, such as Cen­tu­ryLink or Ver­i­zon, has im­proved in re­cent months, res­i­dents are still ex­pe­ri­enc­ing prob­lems. He em­pha­sized that county res­i­dents hav­ing prob­lems with land­line ser­vice re­quests could con­tact his of­fice di­rectly.

He will con­tact the provider him­self to ex­pe­dite re­pairs. Curry can be reached at 540-675-5330 or at gwcurry@rap­pa­han­nock­coun­tyva. gov.


About 150 peo­ple at­tended the just less than five-hour evening ses­sion of the Board of Su­per­vi­sors, held in the Rap­pa­han­nock High School au­di­to­rium. The ma­jor­ity of speak­ers op­posed the Schools Con­nec­tor trail.

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