A recent newspaper article in this area remarked that Bill Osl had done everything but kneel down and beg Farmville to rejoin the Commonwealth Regional Council (CRC), an organization purportedly involved in helping localities with planning and economic development issues.
Farmville had declined to renew their membership in the organization in April of this year, after a year of ‘trial’ membership to see if it was still worth the money that the town had contributed to them. Buckingham County had also declined to renew, leaving the organization short of its operating budget for this year.
The CRC is the invention of Mr. Osl, who forced the previous group out of existence by subverting its mission from within. Jack Houghton was the chair of the Piedmont Planning District, until he was fired in the interest of a different organization, the CRC, take it’s place. Sources have told me over the years that they could not figure out what the CRC had been doing, especially with the amount of money that was contributed to their organization. Rumors of the President of the CRC (Danny Fore, nephew of the Prince Edward County Board Chair) taking expensive trips overseas, and other suspicious activities, were abundant.
Dr Edward I. Gordon, a Town of Farmville Councilor, remarked when this was being discussed by the council, that the CRC had never done anything to help the town, so he couldn’t see any reason to continue to pay the money to the CRC.
Ever since the Town of Farmville dropped out, Mr. Osl has been back several times, pleading his case with the Town Council, to no avail.
A few weeks ago, the Richmond Times Dispatch had an article about the counties involved in developing Cobb Creek Reservoir in Cumberland County. The counties, Henrico and Powhatan, declined to continue to participate in this project. The reservoir would have stored water during high river levels, and released water for downstream partners during drought conditions.
These counties all said that the price Cumberland County was asking for the water was considerably more than they want to pay, and the payment was in a strange form as well. Powhatan County Board of Supervisors Chair Robert R. Cosby stated, “We don’t have that kind of money. Cumberland just wanted more than we could afford.”
“They were trying to make it an economic benefit of having it in Cumberland County”, Cosby said.
Cumberland County had requested annual payment, which Henrico and Powhatan Counties balked at, in lieu of taxes to cover various planning activities, staffing positions in the Sheriff’s Department and general government, training and equipment. This would be on top of capital costs based on their projected use of the facility.
“It’s over,” said Cosby said of Powhatan’s involvement.
For our next failure, we have rumors of the operator of the proposed landfill in Cumberland County taking a look at the economic viability of the project. Sources tell me that Republic Waste, which bought Allied Waste and Waste Management late last year, may pay the penalties involved in saying no to this project. The original contract was with Allied Waste, and all manner of things were promised to the citizens of Cumberland County in return for their right to do business hauling garbage and storing it forever in Cumberland County.
There is an interesting timeline on all this of course, in terms of projected revenue from a landfill being spoken for to fund projects large and small in the county. In December of 2006, a meeting of the Board of Supervisors was held, at which the decision for guaranteeing the loans needed to build new schools was made.
At that meeting, after some embarrassing public number-crunching, the Supervisors agreed that the contract for the new schools should be signed, based on future revenue projections of taxes on equipment at the not-as-yet-approved landfill. The Supervisors also agreed, that in a ‘worst case scenario’, $.05 on the taxes (property) of the county would be enough to cover what they needed for debt service.
Throughout the next year and a half, that $.05 figure changed many times, ending with the last known public comment being that of Bill Osl to a reporter concerning the opening of the schools last August.
The county will pay the debt service on the school with money generated by a landfill planned for Cumberland. Some leaders say they would not have been able to build the school without landing the landfill.
“It would have been impossible,” said William Osl, chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors. “We would have had to have a 50 percent-plus property-tax increase to pay the debt service. Remember, that would be on a community with a $15,000 per-capita income and 15 percent of its people below the poverty level.”
Source: RTD article (archive) by Jamie C. Ruff, 2008.
Between those two dates, Bill Osl and sometimes his number one mate Cliff White, tossed out figures in a scare campaign just in time for the 2007 local elections. I had written a letter to the Editor of the Farmville Herald which was published, asking which figures were right. This is from October, 2007:
Towards the end of the meeting, there was a discussion about what would happen if the landfill did not materialize for some reason. The figure of five cents ($.05) increase in the property tax was discussed, and it was agreed before they took a vote on the construction contract that this would be an acceptable level of increase, and one that would cover the needs of the debt service on the school financing.
The reason I bring this up now is that Mr. Osl, Mr. White, and their supporters have recently taken to throwing figures around in newspaper accounts and public appearances that do not match the above scenario. Both Mr. Osl and Mr. White have been quoted as saying that a $.24 increase in the property taxes would need to be instituted in order to balance the books in case the landfill did not locate in Cumberland County. At least one of their supporters, in a letter to the editor, claimed that property taxes would need to be raised by 50% to accomplish these payments on the debt. At the current rate of $.59, that would be an additional (slightly more than) $.29 added to the property tax rate, for a total of $.88.
These claims are irresponsible and harmful to the true needs of our county, and sound a lot like a fear campaign to me. If their goals of improving our county and providing for its citizens are to be believed, then these tactics do not serve those goals. If the ideas are sound, and the deliberations are sincere, why would fear be needed to accomplish these goals?
I hope that all citizens will contact their supervisors and find out what the true figures are. The only thing worse than the county being in substantial debt, is to be mislead and taken down a path of fear, misinformation and feeling like we have been taken advantage of.
I have only one question now for the Supervisors in Cumberland County.
Were you lying then, or are you lying now? We should be told since we will be paying the bill for your actions in these matters.