By Judy Stearns.
The Purcellville Town Council meeting on Tuesday, Mar. 8, started out on a high note with a short performance by the Flutonic HarmonicsÂ® Flute Studio Flute Choir. The Town then announced it received a GFOA Budget Award (Government Finance Officers Association) for the Town's Fiscal Year 2016 budget plan. The Town has received this prestigious award every year since Fiscal Year 2010. The Distinguished Budget Presentation Award is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental budgeting, and its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management. Elizabeth Krens, Treasurer/Director of Finance, received a certificate recognizing her as the department head primarily responsible for having achieved the award. Other staff recognized for their hard work and commitment were Steve Coakley, Paula Hicks and Debbie Capitan.
Two public hearings were held, one on the rezoning, Comprehensive Plan Amendment and Zoning Ordinance Text Amendment for a .35 acre parcel on S. 21st Street (Mary's House of Hope) from IP to R-2 and one on the proposed 2016 Real Property Tax Increase to $.24 per $100 of assessed value. The 2015 rate was $.22. The equalized rate would be $.222 and if adopted would levy the same real property tax revenue as the Town levied in 2015. Only one resident spoke on the tax rate. Resident Kelli Grim said there was no breakdown of residential and commercial and no mention of the Fireman Field's Tax District which adds a 17% tax.
During Mayor and Council comments, Council member McCollum brought up Mayor Fraser's third Stage Side Chat scheduled that night at the Carver Center. "As you may recall," he said, "at our Jan. 12 Council meeting I mentioned that in the mayor's State of the Town message he cited the Town Hall Forum held nearly a year ago on Mar. 16, as a positive effort to establish effective communications with citizens. Yet, inexplicably, he did not propose more forums for 2015 or 2016."
McCollum pointed out that, while I recognize there were glitches in the format of last year's forum, I believe these could be addressed and additional forums held. I believe there is a benefit for the community hearing from various Council members at the same meeting. Citizens would get a better idea of the thinking of Council members on particular issues.
McCollum took exception to the Mayor holding Chats where only he interacted with attendees and which he listed in his Town message his two Stage Side Chats as â€˜Key Measures for 2015â€ as well as the Town Hall Forum. McCollum said that the Mayor's answers in the Chats in many instances only told his part of the picture, not other equally valid views, and in some instances were incomplete. To be clear, the mayor's Stage Side Chats are not achievements of the Council or the Town because the Council had no role in these chats.
"To avoid any problem with the rule of 3 (three or more council members gathered in same place to discuss town business requires public notice), McCollum continued, I ask the mayor tonight to invite another Council member to join him at the front of the meeting to address questions raised so as to develop the perception and understanding in the community that while the Council members may have different views on various subject matters, the Council is nevertheless a cohesive team."
Mayor Fraser said during his comments, â€œI welcome Doug onstage. I have encouraged each council member to have his/her own Stage Side Chat. McCollum sat with the Mayor at Carver to answer questions and address concerns from a mix of in-town and out-of-town residents. Vice Mayor Patrick McConville and Council member Karen Jimmerson also attended.
The Council went into Closed Session to consult with legal counsel regarding Mary Ellen Stover's appeal of the BZA's Vineyard Square decision to the circuit court and to consult with legal counsel regarding the HVAC system at Town Hall.
The next Council meeting is Tuesday, Mar. 22 at 7 pm at Town Hall.