Supervisor Smith moves to decline state grant to connect schools

If approved, motion would effectively kill RappTrails project

Piedmont District Supervisor Christine Smith this week drafted a resolution to decline a State of Virginia grant of over $800,000 to help fund a proposed School Connector Trail that is “wholeheartedly” supported by the Rappahannock County School Board and Superintendent Dr. Shannon Grimsley.

Smith presented the resolution to County Administrator Garrey Curry, who has added it to the agenda for the Board of Supervisors meeting scheduled for Monday, Nov. 5.

“Be it RESOLVED,” the resolution states in part, “that the Board of Supervisors . . . hereby declines to accept the VDOT Transportation Alternatives Program grant for the School Connector Trail Project” and as such the county administrator is directed “to inform VDOT of the Board’s decision not to accept the Grant.”

In response to Smith’s action, RappTrails Coalition Chair Jane Whitfield, who has spearheaded the drive to connect the county’s elementary and high schools as part of a proposed longer trail, has submitted a letter requesting further consideration.

The schools’ portion of the trail, which the school system has embraced for safety, security and evacuation reasons, has been controversial ever since Whitfield proposed to the county’s Planning Commission in October 2016 a six-mile multi-use trail that would connect Sperryville and Washington.

In the intervening months, Whitfield learned of a Virginia Department of Transportation grant that could be used to build a 1.2 mile path between the two schools. RappTrails envisioned the school connector to be the first leg of an expanded trail.

In her resolution, Smith cites “fiscal implications” of the grant for her reasons for opposing the trail, stating that taxpayer funds would be used.

Whitfield, however, has promised repeatedly that taxpayer funds would not be used for the project.

Since proposing the project, RappTrails has raised $1.2 million, including the VDOT grant and about $206,000 in cash from other grants and donations. That cash would be deposited in the county’s bank account once the BOS authorized the project, and would be available immediately to pay initial costs of engineering studies and construction.

After that, the county would advance payment for work done and VDOT would reimburse the county. Many county residents speaking at a BOS meeting on Sept. 5 disliked the reimbursement arrangement, claiming that in fact taxpayer funds would be used to fund the trail.

Opponents insisted that RappTrails get an irrevocable letter of credit from a bank or other surety, so that the project could draw on those funds rather than seeking reimbursement from the county.

Whitfield has maintained all along that because the grants and donations are largely in hand, that the county will not be paying for the trail. When it is completed, she says, the school connector trail will be an asset to the county paid for by public and private money.

In a recent phone call, Jackson District Supervisor Ron Frazier — the most outspoken opponent of the trail on the BOS — admitted: “Best-case scenario, the county would be reimbursed all the money it spends and the overall result is we wind up with no county funds in it.”

Whitfield has maintained that RappTrails does not need a letter of credit and would not be seeking one.

In her letter to the supervisors, Whitfield offers, as she has repeatedly, to work with the county to explore other options for completing the school connector trail.

“I am writing to ask you to authorize the County Administrator to work with RappTrails, Bohler Engineering, and others to identify and develop additional scenarios for funding and executing the Schools Connector Trail project,” she wrote.

“We understand the concerns raised in earlier meetings about the potential for unanticipated expenses possibly resulting in costs to the county. We are ready and able to work together to explore options for project timing, budget, and funding that might be more acceptable to the board. Given the broad community benefits of a project such as this, and the significance of potentially rejecting a VDOT TAP grant of more than $800,000, it 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 an email yesterday, Curry wrote that Frazier “was concerned that many citizens may want to attend Monday’s 7 p.m. evening session to speak about the resolution and the trail.” To accommodate an anticipated overflow crowd, Curry has arranged for the evening session to take place in the Rappahannock County High School Auditorium.

‘Junk yard’ ruling

In other county government news, Judge Jeffrey W. Parker late Monday granted a limited temporary injunction against an Amissville couple charged by Jeremiah “Jack” Atkins with allegedly operating a junk yard at their Lee Highway (Route 211) residence.

Atkins’ motion for temporary injunction asked the court to restrain John and Beth Cappiali from (1) operating their businesses without a special exception permit from the county for what the zoning ordinance calls a contractor’s yard, and (2) from moving any additional construction materials and equipment onto their property.

Parker’s order limited the injunction to the second part of the request. The judge marked up, crossed out and hand-wrote text on a draft order prepared by Akins’ attorney David Konick. The order restrains the Cappialis “from moving, depositing or storing any additional solid waste . . . or other scrap heap or refuse piles, junk, inoperable machinery, unlicensed or inoperable vehicles’ onto the property.

The judge declined to enjoin them from running their two contracting businesses — Capp Industries, LLC, and Paladin Unlimited, LLC. The injunction stands “until further order of this court, or twelve months from now, unless extended by this court.”

The Rappahannock court proceeding was moved to Fauquier County Circuit Court in Warrenton, the reason given for the venue change because there was not a judge available to hear the motion in Rappahannock. The motion for the injunction had been scheduled for a one-hour hearing, but ended up taking four hours.

It was the first hearing in a complaint filed Oct. 12 by Atkins against the county’s Board of Supervisors, Zoning Administrator Michelle Somers, Joseph Long, and the Cappialis and their businesses. Atkins is a part-time county building official. Long owns the property the Cappialis lease for their residence and businesses. The complaint accuses the named county officials of not enforcing the zoning ordinance.

The hearing dragged out in part due John Cappiali acting as his own attorney.

Judge Parker, whose patience was visibly wearing thin as the hearing approached its fourth hour, often overrode Konick’s objections, giving Cappiali some leeway as a non-lawyer.

In a conversation after court on Monday Cappiali said he had attended three years of law school. In a phone conversation Tuesday, when asked why he hadn’t hired an attorney, Capialli said he didn’t think it was necessary.

In court Monday, witness testimony established that Long had received two notices of violation from the county — one on October 31, 2016, sent by then-County Administrator and Zoning Administrator Debbie Keyser and another sent April 23 of this year by Somers. Allegedly, neither Long nor the Cappialis responded to the notices.

Somers also wrote to John Cappialli directly on Oct. 5 notifying him of the need for a permit to run his businesses. A permit application included with Somers’ letter was never completed and filed.

In questioning Keyser and Somers in court, Cappiali tried to establish that he had not ignored the county’s notices, but had in fact met several times with the county women to work something out.

In the Tuesday phone call, Cappialli said he didn’t know until Somers’ Oct. 5 letter that he needed a permit, even though Keyser’s October 2016 letter clearly states that the property had not been approved for a permit.

In an email yesterday, Konick said in part: “This disgusting mess that violates multiple provisions of the County Code is visible to anyone that drives by on Route 211. We hope the County will follow through with what Hampton District Supervisor John Lesinski told my client he told the Zoning Administrator last May 21st: ‘We can’t accept any more delays and excuses and need to pursue this without further hesitation in the process.’”

About Patty Hardee 277 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.