Highlights from Board of Supervisors Retreat Discussions
On May 12th, the Board of Supervisors held a Board Retreat at the Merchant Square Building to discuss creating a county strategic plan and discuss county space needs, with an emphasis on Social Services office space. The strategic plan was discussed from 0800 to 1300. At 1300, the Board entered closed session to discuss space needs to enable them to discuss specific properties without harming their bargaining power with private enterprises.
All seven Supervisors, County Administrator, both deputy County Administrators, County Attorney, and one county staff member were present. The Fire Chief and myself were present to observe the discussion. Supervisor McLaughlin departed the meeting around noon.
Below I’ve tried to cover the high points and the areas of slight disagreement among the supervisors. This is not intended to be a full recap of the meeting.
Overall the Board seemed to agree on a good portion of the strategic plan concept. There were a couple of issues that were discussed at greater length, one being the length of the document. Supervisors Skinner and Yakabouski seemed to favor a longer (maybe 3 to 5 page) document that would provide a little additional detail. However, Supervisor Ross seemed to favor a shorter one-page document. Based on the discussion, the document seeks to highlight positive county goals. However, these goals are so broad in scope, listing them without any accompanying details would almost seem to be meaningless. To publicize that Spotsylvania supports education, public safety, and transportation improvements does not seem to offer much on the vision or direction the county is headed. The document should seek ways to demonstrate to new and current Spotsylvania residents where we are headed and how we plan to get there. It’s hard to imagine if the Board adopts a short broad strategic plan that such outcome is possible.
Supervisor Ross raised a good point that to be too specific would render the document obsolete. There is some merit to this idea, especially in a dynamic society driven to a large degree by the free market and developers. However, we do have a lot of data and level of service markers that can be used to make educated guesses on how the future may be. By demonstrating that Spotsylvania is acknowledging future demands and making efforts to maintain, and in some areas expand services, it would better provide to the community and businesses that Spotsylvania is a community worth being a part of today and into the future.
There continues to be discussion among supervisors about not tying the hands of future Boards. I understand this general concept and it makes sense on the surface. But if you think deeper the Board ties the hands of future Boards every year by the decisions they make. Too much investment in an area or not enough could limit options for future Boards and force them to take actions to address shortcomings. In this instance having a plan that is reviewed yearly and adjusted with new fresh data would be appropriate and allow new Board members to modify the system in the event that could be necessary to do so. The document could ultimately provide the community with a general framework to prepare themselves for the challenges and potential issues of the future. That is certainly a better option than leaving the community in a state of collective uncertainty.
Another issue that got brought up is transportation. In recent Board meetings, Supervisor Yakabouski has expressed reservations about spending County revenue on transportation projects because this is a state government responsibility. At the retreat, Supervisor Ross seemed to agree with this concept. This got brought up when the priority of transportation in the strategic plan was raised. This was not discussed, but perhaps a middle ground could be to cap local expenditures on transportation projects to what is generated from the VRE fuel tax. This would in effect create a policy that would prohibit general fund transfers, intended for schools, public safety, and social services, from being funneled to transportation projects that the state should be funding. This also would not halt all transportation projects locally as there is normally a difference between what Spotsylvania owes as a VRE member and the level of VRE fuel tax revenue.
Lastly, there was some discussion on the question of how rural does the Board wish Spotsylvania to remain? This is an interesting question, based on the level of recent development. However, there was limited discussion without much detail and no clear consensus developed.