The Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors, eventually and unanimously, adopted a $22.2 million fiscal 2017 budget at its regular meeting Monday afternoon at the courthouse, but not before a few voices were raised in anger and frustration.
The most frequently raised voice was that of Jackson district supervisor Ron Frazier, whose criticism appeared primarily aimed at County Attorney Peter Luke. Since April, Frazier has chaired an ad hoc committee charged with working out the county’s agreement with its volunteer fire and rescue companies; the committee was formed after Luke’s draft revision of the agreement met with opposition, primarily from Frazier and the volunteer leaders, who felt it the language was restrictive and untrusting.
Since then, Frazier has turned up the volume on his longtime efforts to champion the county’s emergency responders — as well as his criticism of Luke. At Monday’s meeting, he repeated challenged changes to the county’s Farmland Preservation Program ordinance, and questioned why the changes were being made in the first place. His complaints were eventually silenced when Hampton supervisor John Lesinski put the motion to approve the FPP changes — which remove any requirement that revenue from roll-back taxes be the program’s sole source of funding — into a motion.
The motion was seconded and passed 4-1, with Frazier casting the only “no” vote.
“Peter has spent the last 30 years pretty much keeping this county out of trouble,” Stonewall-Hawthorne supervisor Chris Parrish said later. “And this kind of treatment at supervisors’ meetings is no reward for it.”
The registrar’s salary
For the third supervisors session in a row, the supervisors heard an impassioned plea by Board of Elections member Hurley Smith during the public comment period, during which he decried “petty jealousies” of other county employees for causing the supervisors to drag its feet on raising the salary of the county registrar — a full-time position, as of July 1 — to account for the additional hours.
Others — Page Glennie of Amissville, Tim Pagano of Huntly — rose to support Smith’s position, both adding that they did not understand why the salary change (which the election board agreed to fund by shifting money from its own budget) was “even an issue.”
As it turned out, it was not.
“I must say, I like to keep it to the numbers,” said John Lesinski, who said he agreed with the election board’s calculations and that the registrar (aka the director of elections) should be paid $59,820, as the election board recommended. “But when it gets personalized, it’s a shame that it has to come to that, and I know there’s a feeling that it was personalized, and I was a little disappointed that we got a little more ‘reverse personalization’ here in the explanation of why [the supervisors] ought to do this.”
“I apologize,” Smith said, interjecting from the audience. “It only reflects how strongly we feel about it. I do apologize.”
The supervisors took no specific vote on the registrar’s salary, but shortly thereafter voted unanimously to adopt the budget, in which the registrar’s new $58,820 salary had been included.
The budget is, in fact, balanced for the first time in years — meaning projected expenses do not exceed projected revenue. Also for the first time in several years, following a line-by-line review by county staff and supervisors starting in late 2015 and the resulting substantial number of spending reductions, it requires no increase in the real estate tax rate.
That rate remains at 70 cents per $100 of assessed value (a $2,800 tab for a property worth $400,000). The only tax the supervisors raised this year is the annual motor vehicle license tax, which goes up to $25 from $20.
The board scheduled its final public meeting of the fiscal year, specifically to wrap up the current year’s accounts-payable items, for 9:30 a.m. Monday, June 27.
That meeting will also be the last at which Circuit Court Clerk Peggy Ralph serves as clerk to the supervisors, a part-time post primarily devoted to note-taking and producing minutes. Ralph has done the job since being appointed and then elected to the circuit court position in 2010. The board earlier in their meeting Monday appointed County Administrator Debbie Keyser to the clerk position, and authorized her to contract for help as needed.
Pool contractor permit approved
The board in its evening session unanimously approved a special exception permit for Andre Abecassis to operate a contractor’s office, shop and yard for his pool and spa service company at 17 Antiques Lane in Sperryville. His Commonwealth Pool Service Inc. is now located on U.S. 211 less than a mile to the west.
Contingent on the permit approval, Abecassis has a contract to buy the 2.5-acre property and its five buildings, formerly the home of Elmer’s Antiques. The planning commission considered the application at its May 18 meeting and recommended approval.
“My business is small, owned by a local resident, and provides employment to 3-5 individuals,” Abecassis said, reading from a written statement. “It creates no pollution. It is quiet, will not cause any significant increase in traffic and will not require any additional lighting other than what has been on the property for decades. It does not involve the conversion of any agricultural land to commercial use and will not increase the burden on public or volunteer services. It provides a service to residents of the county.” Abecassis has been servicing pools in the area for 18 years.
He told the board that the buildings would be mainly used for storage and that materials would be stored inside. “The business would not be open to the public,” he said. “There would be no pedestrian traffic generated. The only traffic generated would be vehicles coming and going to pick up and deliver supplies.” In fact, he said that his service trucks would also be stored inside the buildings during the winter months when business is slow.
Keyser reported that she had received no objections from the neighbors of the property, which is situated in a residential area. However, Frazier said he has heard from a couple of people worried that the business might grow. He asked about the presence of large trucks parked on the premises. Abecassis replied that his largest truck — a van chassis with a flatbed — is 17 to 21 feet long and that his employees drive service trucks. Deliveries to the facility would be mainly on pallets and would not require large trucks.
Parrish was concerned about the lighting and asked if it was downward shielded. Abecassis said that he hadn’t noticed, and that he would probably turn off the lights.
Piedmont supervisor Mike Biniek asked if dangerous chemicals would be stored on the property, noting that pools require lots of chemicals, such as chlorine which can be dangerous, he said. “The chlorine is mostly in dry form,” said Abecassis.
Lesinski asked about the restroom facilities, to which Abecassis said there are two outhouses on the property and “we don’t plan to spend much time there in the winter.”
Before voting, the supervisors placed two conditions on the permit: lighting must be downward shielded and the permit goes with the applicant, not the property. The latter condition was in regards to the concerns expressed about truck traffic.
Patty Hardee also contributed to this report.