Category Archives: Prince Edward County

Prince Edward County Wants to Sell Water To Places That Don’t Want or Need it

Prince Edward County, in their quest to build a water system even though they have only one customer, has in the past tried to justify the project by claiming they could sell water to other regional communities, such as Burkeville and Crewe.

Over and over again in the last year, Buckie Fore and his Merry Band have insisted that the water project was needed in order to help guarantee water to the other communities. It was also said that it was needed in order to provide backup for the Town of Farmville, which turned down an invitation to throw their money away alongside the county.

Back around the time of the election, I was made aware of an article from the Courier Record from Blackstone which reports on a discussion at the Board of Supervisors meeting to hear a presentation from Dewberry and Davis, a civil engineering firm.

Of course, time got away from me, and I am now presenting it, because I just ran across the article. Under a headline of “Abundance of Water for Towns, says Study”, the article reports on the future plans and the present state of the water systems in their communities.

A few choice graphs: (From the Thursday, November 5, 2009 edition)

A state required ‘water inventory study’ shows that there is sufficient supply for the towns of Blackstone, Crewe and Burkeville to meet their present and future water needs.

~snip~

The study shows that of the three towns, Blackstone, which gets its water from the Fort Pickett Reservoir–by far has the most capacity.

Blackstone has reserved up to one million gallons per day to serve Crewe and Burkeville, but the three towns’ water systems would have to be interconnected for that to happen. It also reserves one million gallons a day for nearby Fort Pickett.

It looks as if those towns have their water needs covered. Prince Edward County will continue to pour money down a rathole, including the recent $2m contract for studies, tests, and more design work on the water plant. Certainly these towns can interconnect their systems easier and less expensively than they can pay for water to be pumped to them from Sandy River Reservoir.

That leaves the Manor, a development barely hanging on at this point after ten years of failure, as the only customer of the water authority formed for this venture.

Did I mention there is a dump underneath the reservoir that is known about and being ignored?

Eminent Domain to be Used in Prince Edward County for Non-Existing Project

The legal process of eminent domain will be used to acquire land for the Granite Falls Inn and Conference Center in Prince Edward County. The land in question, which is situated across from Lowe’s and the Industrial Park, will be used to benefit the developers and owners of the Granite Falls project.

The project has no discernible financial backers, no equity investors, and no persons other than Robert Fowler comprise the Prince Edward Development, LLC. I have documented on this blog numerous times the county’s misdeeds and problems concerning this project and the cash sucking Sandy River Reservoir water treatment plant.

Prince Edward County Supervisors, except one, continue to rubber stamp approval on plans and expenditures that are not in the best interest of the County or it’s citizens. They have proven over and over again to be bereft of ethical behavior.

The fact that this land (which belongs to someone who grew up in the house on the property and maintains it to this day) may be turned into a road to benefit only the developers and owners of a single non-existent project is mind-boggling. Instead of a route that was suggested by the owner in order for him to get the best value from his land, now the owner here will probably benefit better financially if he pursues a court settlement for the land taken and its value. He loses his land, and it damages his ability to develop his land the way he had planned to.

It is not only the value of this owner’s land, it is that the County seems to think that they can do whatever they want to make special ‘midnight’ deals for favored developers and every stupid project that comes down US 460.

The County will pursue this, at taxpayer expense, and the Granite Falls deal might fall through. Then what? The county has spent a million dollars for a couple of acres of land? This is backwards thinking. This is why I claim that Prince Edward County is corrupt and should be looked into under the racketeering laws.

Land that might have cost them $100k or $200k, will now cost everyone in the county over a million dollars. Just think what a million dollars could do.

I haven’t even started about the connections interwoven between this project and other, near-failing projects done this exact same way 10 years ago in Prince Edward County. I also haven’t started on the folly that is eminent domain. This situation is a great example of abuse of that process.

Prince Edward County: No Grant Due to Lack of Regional Planning Commission

Sharon Carney, Economic Development Director for Prince Edward County recently discussed the option for getting grants for the folly known as Granite Hills Hotel Conference Center, etc. This ongoing saga is a great example of a county government run amok.

Carney has mentioned that Economic Development Administration grants are not likely, due to the fact there is no regional planning organization. The Piedmont Planning District, which existed until local politician Bill Osl got his hands on it and turned it into primarily an economic development cheerleader, was the regional organization such as what EDA requires. Now, the Commonwealth Regional Commission, which receives state funding, is failing in it’s mission, especially after several local governments dropped out of the commission.

Robert Fowler, the sole known person connected to Prince Edward Development, LLC, has stated that the conference center would need to be owned by the county’s IDA (Industrial Development Authority) in order to get grants that will help build it. There are no known investors for this project. Mr. Fowler has been asked repeatedly in public meetings about other investors or other persons involved, to which he always replies that there are none.

Prince Edward County has made an interim contract containing stipulations with Fowler in order to buy and develop 95 acres of the property known as the ‘quarry property’, just south of US 460 south of Farmville.

The county made this agreement before rezoning the land, which would have undoubtedly made it worth much more than the $3,000 per acre price in the interim agreement. This price is less than the county purchased the land for several years ago.

Some of the stipulations have to do with testing the property, for hydrology and other reasons. Timber on the property was to be appraised and valued, which has been done already.

The county seems to be falling all over itself to give away this land to someone who has been involved in the now-ten year old “Manor” project, next to the land in question here. The Poplar Hill CDA, which was created by the county ten years ago to administer the then “Poplar Hill Golf Course and Conference Center” were successful in attracting Tobacco Indemnification funds and other state and federal money to develop that property. The project has been going broke in the same location for ten years.

The company that now owns the Manor is Herberton, which was forced recently to move their sales office from a prime corner location in Downtown Farmville to a small cottage built on the Manor property. Earlier this year they were sued for non-payment of a $75,000 bill for work done by an Alabama company for conservation easements, which then afforded the company tax breaks.

The whole idea that Prince Edward County is shopping this around for free money reeks of desperation. The County should know it looks like a bunch of fools on a fool’s errand.

Bill Osl Gives Congressman Perriello the Metaphorical Back of His Hand

I went to two town hall meetings this week, one in Prince Edward County, and one here in Cumberland County. There was not much difference in the questions asked, but one glaring difference did leap out at me.

In Prince Edward County, the chair of the Board of Supervisors is someone I don’t particularly like or respect. Buckie Fore had the good grace and manners to welcome Rep. Perriello to the county and he was dressed in his work clothes, in other words, a suit and tie. Wade Bartlett, Prince Edward County’s  Administrator and someone else whom I do not respect or like, was also there in support of welcoming the congressman to the county. Neither had any public questions for the congressman.

Contrast that with Cumberland County. A half hour after the meeting started, the Cumberland County Administrator came in and sat down near me. Shortly thereafter, Bill Osl, the chair of the Board of Supervisors of Cumberland County, came in and immediately went to perch on a chair next to the administrator in jeans and a green shirt of some kind. The two county officials then held a conversation while Congressman Perriello was speaking, which made it hard for me to hear him.

I had to leave early, but had seen the editor of the local paper, The Cumberland Bulletin, present at the meeting. Therefore, I knew that whoever hadn’t spoken yet would get coverage in the newspaper. The Bulletin is usually a very thorough newspaper.

The paper was published yesterday, and here is the paper’s account of what was said by Bill Osl, after he waited in line to speak:

Bill Osl said that people wanted their country back and that there needed to be a stop to demonizing businesses. He said that government is not the answer but is the problem. He also asked Congress to stop the redistribution of wealth and movement to Socialism and said that business was strangled with regulations. He said that proposals to tax the wealthy was really going to put businesses like dairy farms out of business because the proposal was to tax gross income. He said that just because a business or individual has a high gross income does not mean the enterprise is making money. He cited dairy farms which are being paid less than their operating costs.

Is it just me, or did he just argue for a dairy farm bailout?

Of course, Bill Osl knows what he means by ‘wealthy’. He is a retired Lucent chief financial officer who got out before the chips all fell. He is at the very least a millionaire. He is complaining about paying his fair share of taxes so those who are not millionaires can have things they need, like health care and cleaner air to breathe.

Beyond that, the county just accepted in April a check for over $300,000 of that ‘redistributed wealth’ Bill Osl hates so much. In fact, he hated it so much, he was in several photos with Tom, plus a USDA representative, accepting this tainted money for a water project to extend water lines another 1 or 2 miles west down Rt. 60.

None of this is a surprise to me. Bill Osl is part of the reason this county is technically broke and only able to fund half the current year’s budget thus far (due to last year’s overspending while counting on landfill money and reservoir payments that didn’t materialize).

I am embarrassed that this county’s executives treated our congressman with such disdain and that our chair displayed an apparent ignorance of facts about what is really going on in Washington. I am also embarrassed for anyone in this county who still thinks that Bill Osl is somehow the ‘saving grace’ for the county.

So, just shut your mouth, Bill, and quit spouting the Republican Party’s talking points on redistribution of wealth and Socialism. Election time is not all that far off. Many of us have long memories, want our own county back, and feel that you are definitely not a part of the solution for Cumberland.

[Edited for clarity and additional factual information]

Herberton/Poplar Hill Sued for Non-Payment of $75,000

Sources have told me that the company that runs all or a portion of the ‘Manor’ development in Prince Edward County has been sued for non-payment of $75,000 for work done developing the ‘Manor’ (previously known as Poplar Hill). Suit was filed April 24, 2009, against Herberton-Poplar Hill Development, for work performed. The case is #CL09000086-00

The work performed consists of conservation easement creation, which allows for certain tax breaks for the company or individual forming them. The Poplar Hill CDA might be named in this suit.

The Prince Edward County “Guess the Account” Game

The way Prince Edward County government hides behind various ruses to get what they want, often times, for themselves, is amazing to behold. Witness:

Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors Chair Buckie Fore wanted to get money to his cash-strapped friends over at Draper Aden Engineers, so he had to come up with a way to get around not only public comment, but the requirement for issuing Request for Proposals as well. I am going to quote minutes from a meeting in which this happened, but first, the modus of the Chair.

It was school budget season, so a joint Board meeting was called, ostensibly to debate and discuss about the school’s budget for that coming year. Both boards were to meet in the Agriculture building, south of Farmville on Rt. 15.  (Small changes in format of quote to display properly.)

November 26, 2007
At a reconvened meeting of the Board of Supervisors of Prince Edward County, held jointly with the School Board of Prince Edward County, in the Prince Edward County School Board Conference Room, Eagle Drive, Farmville, Virginia, on Tuesday, November 26, 2007, at 5:40 p.m., there were present:

Board of Supervisors

  • William G. Fore, Jr.,  Chairman
  • Howard F. Simpson, Vice Chairman
  • Sally W.Gilfillan
  • Pattie Cooper-Jones
  • Robert M. Jones
  • James C. Moore
  • Lacy B. Ward
  • School Board

  • Russel L. Dove, Chairman
  • Herbert Doswell
  • Linda L. Leatherwood
  • Patsy G. Pelland
  • Ellery Sedgwick

Also present: Wade Bartlett, County Administrator; Sarah Elam Puckett, Assistant County Administrator;  Mattie Wiley;  and Dr. Patricia Watkins, Division Superintendent.

Chairman Fore called the Board of Supervisors to order at 5:40 p.m., as a reconvened meeting from November 14, 2007, for preliminary budget discussion with the Prince Edward County School Board.

In Re: Sandy River Reservoir Water System

Mr. Bartlett stated the first order of business was to review the project scope of work for the Sandy River Reservoir Water System. He said the project consisted of the intake with the capacity of six million gallons, the pump station with an initial capacity of two million gallons and ultimate capacity of eight…

What?

A joint meeting with the School Board to discuss the budget, and the first thing out of Wade Bartlett’s mouth is talking about the required steps to do business that was not advertised to the public, and that some of the board members themselves didn’t know until moments before the meeting. No school business was discussed until around 7PM, after dinner.

After empty assurances from Fore and Bartlett, everyone on the board except Lacy Ward voted to give whatever it was that was being asked of them. And so, the Sandy River Reservoir project was born. That same night, massive expenditures, each crafted so as to be under $100,000, were voted on and passed by the board.

Mr. [James] Moore made a motion to appropriate $99,000 to Account #4-100-42610-3160 for the preliminary engineering report for the Sandy River Reservoir Water Treatment Plant; $82,500 to Account #4-100-42610-3160 for the preliminary engineering for the raw water intake, and $75,000 to Account #4-100-42610-3160 for the Sandy River Reservoir treatability analysis for a total of $256,500 and $99,000 to cover the cost of the design of an interim water supply to Account #4-100-42610-3170. The motion carried:

I figure they are up to about $4 million by now, for a public water supply that is based on a reservoir that has/had a dump sitting in it.

Laundry List (off the top of my head)

No public notice of meetings
Surprise agenda items
improper relationship and conflict of interest with Draper Aden
Surprise closed meetings that only certain members of the public are allowed to go to
millions of dollars chasing a water system that has only one client
giveaway of valuable county land at an undervalued price to questionable developers
secret commissions on secret land sales that happen weeks before close of bids
paperwork from those deals disappearing for over two years
a Grand Jury who couldn’t find a crime in any of that secret sale deal
Commonwealth’s Attorney and County Attorney are the same person
hiring engineers that are being sued over landfill operations to check the dump out
secret assurances to developers that water will be provided to them

Time is up. It’s time to elect more responsible people to office in Prince Edward County. Luckily, some quality people are going to run. The problem? I am not sure they will arrive in office in time to save this county.

Southside Messenger Newspaper Details FOIA Abuses by PE Board of Supervisors

The last two weeks has brought articles from the Southside Messenger that have detailed problems with a meeting of the Board of Supervisors, and about the proposed land sale in Prince Edward County. This is the only local media to outline problems with these issues.

Wilkie Chaffin, a reporter for the Messenger, has detailed what he believes are the problems with a meeting called by the Board of Supervisors of Prince Edward County at Hampden-Sidney College on April 22, 2009. He starts with some history, in that Prince Edward County abuses of the Virginia Freedom of Information Act have been documented at his newspaper in July 2008. These abuses and unlawful acts are nothing new in the county, in fact, are the norm rather than the exception.

He goes on to detail the unlawful acts just surrounding this meeting. First up: He documents that the notice provided to the public was inadequate and not within the FOIA law, in that notice was given two days in advance (I say 1.5 days) of the meeting, when the law clearly states there will be three days notice unless an emergency meeting was being called. He continues with the facts surrounding the justification of County officials of the meeting that ended up being a closed meeting that was not advertised.

2. At the April 22 meeting, forty or more of the invited, non-Board citizens were gathered for the Board meeting. Supervisors left the room where citizens expected the Board to meet, went to a small, outer room, called the meeting to order and voted to go into closed (secret) session. Since citizens, including this reporter, did not know that supervisors were meeting, the vote to go into closed session was apparently not done in an open meeting and was a violation of FOIA Section 2.2-3712, A. County officials later made two attempts to justify this action.

a. At first, County officials said that since these votes took place in a public location, even though it was not the location of the meeting, it was legal. That is, even though the majority, and probably all, of the citizens who came to the meeting did not know the meeting had started, and would not have heard the reason for the closed session, the Board’s action was still legal. There is nothing in the Virginia FOIA laws that suggests that citizens are expected to follow or search for members of a governmental body in order to be present if the body decides to go into closed session.

b. Later, County representatives gave a completely different justification for what had happened. This time, the explanation was that since this meeting was a continuation of a previous meeting (a reconvened meeting), what really mattered was how the meeting was announced two days earlier at the previous meeting. And, since the outer room was announced as the location of the meeting, what the Board did was legal. Except for Board members and County employees, the majority, if not all, of other people at the meeting could not possibly have known that a vote had taken place and the meeting was a closed session. This certainly violates the principle of the requirement for a public vote to go into closed session. Even though this approach may technically meet the closed session requirement, there is another problem. If the Board claims that this outer room was the official location of the meeting, then the FOIA meeting notices that were posted in the usual public location and those sent to interested citizens did not contain information about this location. This would be a violation of FOIA Law 2.2-3707, E.

He goes on to discuss how the meeting, closed or not, did not get started or have any discussions until after the meal was served. Some citizens and local officials only got an invitation to a luncheon to discuss a prospective business that might locate in the county.

He also notes how the law provides for the number or type of guests that can be present at a closed meeting.

4. This reporter learned later that Supervisors claimed they were going into closed session to discuss a prospective business where no previous announcement concerning the business has been made. Normally, this exemption is used when the premature announcement of the type of business, the name the business, or the details of the proposed agreement with the county might damage the possible negotiating position of the county or somehow harm the prospective business. In this case, this could not possibly be the reason, since more than 60 people were invited to hear the presentation about the proposed business, including approximately 30 attendees with no official connection to the business/industry under discussion. The meeting was nothing more than an announcement, with preprinted documents, of a new business/industry expected to move to Prince Edward County. In fact, the meeting invitations sent to citizens said they were being cordially invited to lunch with a prospective industry, and did not mention that the Board of Supervisors would be meeting. This is not a legitimate exemption to FOIA open meeting requirements and is a violation of Virginia Law 2.2-3712, C.

5. County officials were also questioned about why some citizens with no official connection to the proposed business/industry received invitations to this meeting, while other citizens were prohibited from attending. County officials said that the prospective business/industry decided who would be invited. Since the Board of Supervisors was holding the meeting, only they could have officially decided who would attend. Code Section 2.2-3712, F says that nonmembers of a governmental body are allowed to participate in a closed session of a meeting, if “their presence will reasonably aid the public body in its consideration of a topic that is the subject of the meeting.” Certainly many of the invited guests would not fall into this category. The way citizens were chosen to be invited to this meeting was a violation of FOIA Code Section 2.2-3712, F.

My questions are really simple ones. Why did the County Attorney/Commonwealth’s Attorney think this was a lawful meeting? (Remember, they are the same person) Who will do something about these abuses? Does it take a lawsuit or at least a court appearance by the principals to straighten this out?

Why do county officials get away with this behavior? Who will stop them?