County will pay off lights rather than loan interest

With $220,000 outstanding, the note being paid by the county for the stadium lights installed three years ago at the high school has been accruing interest at the rate of $30 a day. The Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors voted Monday to put an end to that – and pay the note off.

The resolution approved unanimously by the supervisors at their regular monthly meeting Monday afternoon (Dec. 5) would also, as recommended (if not negotiated) by County Administrator John McCarthy, be subject to the School Board agreeing to add another year to its 10-year commitment to help pay for current $1.4 school renovation/energy upgrade projects. If the School Board thus sets aside another $150,000 (its annual promise), McCarthy said, “we take $70,000 from the county’s general fund and just pay it off.”

It’s still possible, McCarthy added, that the final solution to window-replacement and air-conditioning projects (scheduled for next summer) at the schools will turn up cost savings that also pay for part of this loan payoff to Musco Lighting. “But it just doesn’t make sense to keep paying the interest.”

“I assume this would release the RCSSA from their obligation,” said supervisor chairman Roger Welch, referring to the Rappahannock County School Sports Association, which promised in exchange for the county taking on the debt for the lights three years ago to make the $30,000 annual payments – something RCSSA found it was unable to do earlier this year when fundraising, school population growth and sports team signup simultaneously stalled.

“My candid feeling on that,” McCarthy answered, “is that the commitment is of some limited value, and is declining as the days increase.”

“We’re not releasing them [RCSSA] from an agreement they made,” said Jackson district supervisor Ron Frazier. “We’re trying to pay it off to avoid interest costs, not to allow them to abrogate an agreement . . .”

“A better way to say it might be: This will release us from reliance on an agreement that doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of support,” McCarthy said. “My suggestion would be to ask them for another payment next year, and see how that goes.”

The supervisors began their meeting somewhat less unanimously.

A second public comment period, Frazier said shortly after minutes of last month’s meeting were approved, did not seem to appear on the agenda.

Stonewall-Hawthorne district supervisor Chris Parrish, after his election two years ago, made it one of his first actions to suggest a public comment period be added to the end of the supervisors’ meetings (there’s always been one near the start of the meetings). At Monday’s meeting after Frazier asked why it wasn’t on the agenda, proposed a resolution to remove the final comment period.

“There has been no purpose to the discussion period at the end of the meeting,” he said. “Decisions have been made and already voted on. The whole purpose of it was to allow public comment on something prior to us making a decision – but after they’ve had a chance to hear what it’s about.” Parrish pointed out that this was unlikely to happen during the initial public comment period, when nothing had yet been discussed and all anyone had to go on was an item on the printed agenda.

“After it’s all said and done, public comment at that point doesn’t serve any purpose except plain old venting,” Parrish said, “which you can do almost anywhere.”

“I don’t know that it’s venting,” Frazier said. “We can always revisit the issue, as long as the meeting is not adjourned . . .”

At that point, Welch asked if there was a second for Parrish’s motion, and Frazier retorted:

“It was a simple, simple question about why are we losing the final public comment period, and it’s turned into a mess. You guys do what you’re going to do. Why something as simple as asking why people can’t speak gets turned into something ugly, I don’t know. This is ridiculous.”

Hampton district supervisor Bryant Lee seconded the motion, and it passed 4-1, with Frazier opposed.

Roger Piantadosi
About Roger Piantadosi 539 Articles

Former Rappahannock News editor Roger Piantadosi is a writer and works on web and video projects for Rappahannock Media and his own Synergist Media company. Before joining the News in 2009, he was a staff writer, editor and web developer at The Washington Post for almost 30 years.