Greene County candidates respond to Eye on Greene questions

By Susan Gibbs

Jim Frydl

Earlier this week Eye on Greene posted an editorial titled “Greene County could have two new supervisors: Where will they lead it?”

All candidates and sitting supervisors were asked six questions geared to give voters an in-depth feel for what they stand for, and how well they will work together.

All candidates—Incumbent Jim Frydl and Steve Keene, who are competing for the Midway seat on the Greene County Board of Supervisors and Bill Martin and Patsy Morris, who are competing for the Stanardsville seat on the same board—responded. But of the sitting supervisors—David Cox (Monroe), Eddie Deane (At Large) and Davis Lamb (Ruckersville)—only Deane responded.

The questions were:

1)      What are the economic challenges now facing Greene County taxpayers?

Frydl said: “Greene taxpayers are still dealing with the economic downturn.  We face lowered home values, slowly rising incomes, slower growing job growth, and stricter loan and mortgage requirements.”

Keene said: “There is not enough of a tax-base to compensate the demand for services and spending.  Simply, if we don’t create revenue there will not be enough funding available to all those requesting it.  Until this happens, all County departments will be competing for funding through performance measures, annual reporting and needs justification.”

Steve Keene

Martin said: “The economic challenges facing Greene County taxpayers, and the county at large, are multiple.  We are still suffering the hangover from the great recession of the past few years.  Our challenges at the county level turn on the following principal factors: commercial and residential growth has slowed; school populations continue to grow putting upward pressure on the school budget, the largest line item in the county budget; our legislators in Richmond are balancing the Commonwealth’s budget on our backs by passing unfunded mandates to the local level; our longer term growth prospects are hindered by an inability to provide water for that growth. Despite having all the tools to be an economic success story, there is no long term plan or vision to put us on a path to growth and prosperity.

Morris said: “We need more businesses like Wal-Mart and Lowe’s to help (relieve) the citizens of Greene (of) some of the tax burden.

Cox did not respond.

Deane said that the economic challenges currently facing the county are: “Water and sewer debt, paying for the coming water impoundment, and a school budget that continues to subtract from our reserve.”

Lamb did not respond.

2)      Where do the best opportunities for economic development—that will bring relief to taxpayers—lie?

Frydl said: “Owning your own business is the fastest way to wealth.  Encouraging small business is a key component to Greene’s future.  Military contractors and medical research firms are the top identified target markets due to the proximity of NGIC, DIA, and the UVA Research Park.

Keene said: “The best businesses are those that are environmentally sound and of low impact, bringing forth revenue without a large demand of services.  Of course, those offering a number of jobs with good compensation and those that will contribute to our vital services.”

Martin said: “The best economic development opportunities lie in encouraging more commercial activity and more residential growth.  The results that Greene County taxpayers will benefit from are: 1) increased sales tax revenue from commerce to provide tax relief to property owners, 2) more jobs closer to home, 3) more diverse shopping closer to home, and 4) the multiplier effect of local dollars going to local businesses which encourages yet more local investment.

Morris said: “In the Ruckersville area, I would like to see more business in the Stanardsville area.”

Bill Martin

Cox did not respond.

Deane said: “Locations such as Gateway Center, Fried Properties and the Welsh Run Rd Facility need to be occupied.”

Lamb did not respond.

3)      Who are our competitors for these opportunities?

Frydl said: “Almost everyone in the world.”

Keene said: “Our competitors are those having the appropriate infrastructure of water, low Insurance Office Services (ISO) ratings, to reduce business and home insurance costs, those that adequately manage their comprehensive plans, those that have accredited agencies and service providers, those that welcome volunteer organizations and have a teamwork approach, and those with above average educational systems, real estate market, tourism, and transportation availability.”

Martin said: “Greene County’s principal competitors are the counties that are not only immediately on our borders (Albemarle, Madison, Orange, Page, and Rockingham), but those within 50 miles driving distance.  These include Louisa, Fluvanna, Nelson, and Rockingham.  That said, in this day and age, our competition stretches from coast to coast!”

Morris said: “I don’t know.”

Cox did not respond

Deane said: “Probably our surrounding communities: Albemarle, Louisa, Fluvanna counties.”

Lamb did not respond.

4)      How would you reshape the county and its products and services to compete in the new economic environment?

Frydl said:  “Government cannot create markets for products and services.  The free market controls demand.  I have worked to make sure that local government does not create barriers to the free market.  I worked on the Comprehensive Plan which encourages market based development within our transportation and infrastructure centers.”

Keene said: “We must work to persuade legislators to help us support our schools and spend smart during these economic uncertainties.  It is vital that we operate like successful businesses and households and maintain sufficient reserves to cover unexpected shortfalls.  Our previous sheriffs were never accredited, and have witnessed the ramifications of this recently, but since taking over, our new sheriff has launched this effort and we are also at the doorsteps of having Greene County the 13th locality in the State as a Certified Crime Prevention Community, where sheriff’s office liability insurance and many of your homeowners insurance costs will decrease.  In addition, working to strengthen our community, the Insurance Services Office (ISO) ratings will be better, creating more savings.  These savings will put more money in your pockets and help the County prepare for the water impoundment, which is vital to our long-term viability.  Working together as a team, these type projects will assist us with our business growth goals, real estate market, jobs, necessary school projects, and tourism.  Working to educate and assist vulnerable groups will help alleviate future services and promote self-sufficiency, and continuing to support and promote a volunteer presence will bode well for our emergency services, schools, public transit, aging population and others needing critical human resources.  Finally, our criminal justice system is draining us dry.  We must expand the programs recently enacted by our sheriff to require criminals to pay total restitution in place of us the taxpayer paying for their crimes.  Court costs seldom cover the costs associated with crimes and we are left with paying for the law enforcement response, court process and other costs incurred by these acts.  Expanding restorative justice programs, such as offender-work and Assign-A-Highway initiatives, will further reduce recidivism and place the responsibility where it is most appropriate, to the offenders.  Our criminal justice system, as hopefully you know by now, is one area I am most critical.  It robs our children, seniors and other vital programs of services and funding.”

Martin said: “Greene County needs to become much more aggressive in how it markets itself to prospective businesses and developers.  Establishing an Economic Development Authority (EDA) some years back was an excellent step.  To succeed, the EDA must have a top-notch Director and a staff and resources to give it teeth.  Furthermore, to ensure success the EDA needs active support from the Board of Supervisors, the Chamber of Commerce, and influential business and community leaders to help the EDA “seal the deal” with new entrants to our business community.”

Morris did not respond to this question.

Cox did not respond.

Deane said: “I don’t think it needs a reshaping, we just need to try to do our best to bring the right businesses to Greene so… citizens are depending on our EDA staff.”

Eddie Deane

Lamb did not respond.

5)      What steps would you take to achieve those changes?

Frydl said: “We have taken steps to help new businesses.  We have reduced fees and restrictions making it easier to start a home business or agricultural business.  We continuously work to make our application process more streamlined and understandable.  We have removed regulations that have limited growth resulting in increased revenue. Since I have been in office, these pro-business policies have created the largest percentage of local sales dollar increase in our region.  This created $1.6 million of new revenue and 368 new private sector jobs, each one a new opportunity.”

Keene said: “Continually improve education, redirect funds from cost saving programs to those of priority, eliminate policies and fees proven to hinder business growth, invest in water impoundment, assist sheriff’s office achieve accreditation standards, certified crime prevention community status and improve other emergency services functions.  We should quickly identify and eliminate those programs not working and improve upon those that are proven successful and benefiting citizens.”

Martin said: “We must resolve our water issues, in the short term and in the long term.  We should immediately revisit the water and sewer hook-up fees that appear to be acting as a brake on growth.  In the longer term, the Board of Supervisors must develop a coherent plan to capture the rainwater coming out of the mountains and storing it in a reservoir.  Without this water we will not grow.  Without a plan for this water we will not attract new business. Support the EDA with resources and with BOS time.  Get buy-in from county leadership, local business leaders, and the taxpayers themselves.  This will be no mean achievement given that the EDA’s budget was cut in the past year. Provide tax incentives to attract new businesses when and if it makes sense. Stronger schools are essential to attracting new businesses who see excellent schools as an indicator of a vibrant, growing community and who use its graduates as their workforce. Streamline county procedures for existing businesses, new businesses, and Greene County residences.  There is a perception that these processes are onerous and hindering growth. A symbolic but very important step for the county to take would be to develop a state-of-the-art website that both taxpayers and prospective businesses and residents can use to make decisions and take care of county business.

Morris said: “We need to hire a good EDA person with at least 10 to 15 years of experience to promote business in Greene. We need let them know Greene is open for business.”

Cox did not respond.

Deane said: “Figure out a way to reduce EDU pricing.  Also, prioritize and be frugal so taxes won’t have to increase.”

Lamb did not respond.

6)      How soon would you take these steps?

Frydl said: “I started six years ago when I first began serving as a planning commissioner.”

Keene said:  “Immediately.”

Martin said: “We should begin planning immediately and move as quickly as we can to execute a plan that has support from the community.”

Morris said: “If elected I would … hire (a new director of economic development as soon as possible.”

Cox did not respond.

Deane said: “As soon as possible.”

Lamb did not respond.

Posted in: News

Leave a Reply