Friday, March 17, 2017

Gloucester County, Virginia: The Consolidation Deception

Gloucester VA Links and News: The Waterline At Page Middle School:  Disaster Wai...

Gloucester County, Virginia: The Consolidation Deception.

When we elect and hire people to manage our tax dollars, we do so with the expectation that those folks will take care of our money just like, if not better than, they manage their own financial affairs. We expect them to use our money to provide necessary services, build and maintain our infrastructure, educate our kids and take care of the employees they hire.

Several years ago I and other Gloucester County, Virginia residents began suggesting that our school system and county government consolidate services as a way of reducing costs and getting more bang for our tax dollars. The way things are now, we are paying for two finance, vehicle maintenance, buildings and grounds, information technology and human resource departments. So far we have heard a lot of promises and witnessed lost opportunities. Not so long ago the school system’s finance and human resource directors resigned. Instead of capturing the opportunity to consolidate finance departments and human resource departments with the county, the school system promoted one of their finance employees to director, increased her pay and hired a new human resource director.

The Board of Supervisors (BOS) and School Board recently spent tens of thousands of dollars to have a study done on where and how much it will cost to build a consolidated vehicle maintenance and utility yard facility. When the county and school system left public works, buildings and grounds and all other industrial type functions out of the equation, it was the first signal that they had no intentions of consolidating anything; that is until the consultant publicized pictures of the county garage. Now it appears they are forced to consolidate vehicle maintenance or to at least act like they intend to do so. At this point it also looks like they are trying to cut corners by wanting to reduce the amount of bus parking space and number of maintenance bays that were recommended in the study.

Once the study was completed and presented to the school board, they sent the consultant back to the drawing board to create a scenario in which the utility department’s yard was left out of the consolidation plan. When the BOS and school board met together to discuss the transportation study, it was quickly evident there were members of both boards who were not pleased with the consultants findings because they have other intentions for the old Page and bus garage land. As the meeting progressed, both boards pushed the utility department yard right out of the picture. In fact, Supervisor Ashley Chriscoe said the utility department can make due with what they have now. I find that completely absurd. The utility department needs new facilities just as bad as the school system needs a new bus facility and the county needs a new vehicle maintenance facility. Take a look at the pictures in the slideshare presentation at the end of this article to see a glimpse of how neglected these areas of our infrastructure are. Gloucester resident Howard Mowry told the BOS during a recent public comment period that hazmat and the fire marshal need to condemn the county garage that is located at the intersection of Providence Road and Route 17. Look at the slideshare pictures and you will understand why he said it. Better yet, take some time to visit these public facilities. You will quickly realize the pictures do not show the whole view. 

The utility department not only needs a new yard, they also need a new office. The office they currently occupy on Carriage Street in the Courthouse area has a basement that is full of black mold due to moisture problems. The building was formally the health department building until they were moved because of the mold issues. I know I would not want to spend eight or more hours a day in a building with such mold issues; would you?

When I suggested consolidating all industrial type functions, I suggested doing so on the old Page Middle School and bus garage properties. I also suggested building a strip mall type office building on part of the front portion of the land to provide office space for the consolidated departments. I suggested dedicating a portion of the land for a future fire and rescue facility. Neither board seems to care for my suggestions just like they didn’t seem to care for the results of the study they spent our tax dollars on. The funny thing about the study was; even though the two boards limited the amount of land on the old Page property that could be utilized for the proposed facilities, the consultant made the facilities fit and demonstrated that it would be several million dollars cheaper to build on the old Page and bus garage properties than on the new Page property. The two boards have now added what they are calling safe ingress and egress requirements by claiming the T.C. Walker and Route 17 intersection must be turned into a four way intersection and land must be bought from Harry Corr before a consolidated facility can be located at the old Page site. Well, these so called “requirements” are not requirements at all. It is just their way of running up the cost to build on that site up so they can justify moving the bus garage off the property.

It would seem there are members of both boards who want the school board to give the old Page and bus garage land to the county to be part of some “so called” economic development plan that they have not shared anything about with the general public. Is it just a coincidence that a local developer and school board member is leading the effort to completely abandon the land? I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe in coincidences. I do believe fulfilling our infrastructure needs and providing safe decent workplaces for our employees is far more important than filling a couple of greedy people’s pockets.      

Our local government and school system could easily eliminate between five and seven department heads if they would create and implement a comprehensive consolidation plan and eliminate other unnecessary departments and positions. Tax dollar savings from these reductions alone would be in the neighborhood of $1 million annually.

It is time to reduce the size of our local government and school system administration and reinvest in our infrastructure. If we don’t, real estate and other local taxes will continue to rise and areas of our infrastructure will fail; resulting in more wasted tax dollars.

Be sure to check out the slideshare presentation and after that you will find a video of the BOS and School Board discussion on the transportation facility.

We encourage all Gloucester residents, landowners and business owners to actively follow our elected and employed local government representatives and administrators, and hold them accountable for their actions. Remember, all levels of government work for We The People.

Let us know what you think and share your Gloucester government related stories by emailing us at or by posting remarks on the Facebook post that led you here.

Kenneth E. Hogge, Sr.
Gloucester Point, Virginia
Helping To Drain The Swamp

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