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

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

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.

About Patty Hardee 294 Articles
Writer, consultant, actor, director, recovering stand-up comic, Patty covers the county’s courts and other topics of interest for Rappahannock News. She lives with her grape-growing husband Bill Freitag in Flint Hill.