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Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

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Commissioner of the Revenue Debbie Williams defends her letters sent to residents

Commissioner of the Revenue Debbie Williams was put in an awkward position of trying to defend herself during the well-attended public hearing tonight on repealing the five-year tax break for energy-efficient buildings.

She sent letters to all of the people who have been approved for the tax break or have applications in that if the supervisors repealed or changed the ordinance, it would impact them.

“I felt I was obligated to contact those people with a second letter that there was the possibility this ordinance would be repealed. I thought I was doing the right thing.”

Skinner replied that he was protecting county staff, who he said had nothing to do with the letters. Earlier in the meeting, he said Williams sent the letters and she is an elected officer, not an employee of the county.

Supervisor Hap Connors also said that never has the Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center inquired about the energy-efficient tax credit.

Williams said the hospital did contact her twice.  Connors again said he was told that no hospital employee contacted the county, and maybe it was a consultant.

In the end, the supervisors drastically changed the ordinance. I will have the full scoop in tomorrow’s paper.


  • Fredtastic

    It was a very interesting public hearing for sure. Look forward to the article Dan. This story is not going to go away.

  • Sam

    This is absolutely and totally outrageous!
    I could care less about the Ms.Williams story. The real issue is the Bait and Switch the County has pulled off.
    What does this say about the way the County runs it’s government!?
    Shame on all of them. I wont soon forget this.

  • bhaas

    I watched the telecast of the meeting last night. I have also read Dan’s article in today’s FLS.

    I must say that I have sort of “waffled” around about this issue all day. For me it is sort of like a “dull toothache,” it just will not go away. Forget the revised ordinance the BOS adopted. The “ache” for me is that they would even consider not grandfathering those tax payers that acted in good faith. In fact, it was my impression that some of the BOS were even arrogant about it. I am completely disappointed and even shamed by this performance.

    Incidentally, Mr. Stroman’s actions here were not the best either.

    Who the devil do these folks think they are? Have they completely forgotten that they “work for us?”

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    Thanks for tuning in on last night’s scripted BOS presentation. Be assured, there is more to come and it’s going to come fast. Lots at stake but don’t be too concerned, since the real “stakeholders” claim to have everything under control. The only thing YOU don’t know about is everything that goes on behind closed doors.

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    By the way, Debbie did do “the right thing” instead of leaving owners of the tax break and change in the rules, hanging out in the wind with nowhere else to go. Next comes the perceived notion that “false advertising” play a role in last night’s course change in taxation without representation.

  • LarryG

    Energy conservation generates jobs. The BOS were looking at how much this “cost” them rather than how much it might be generating in business activity.

    But there is no excuse in reneging on your word. They need to honor the commitments they made.

    Just when I think they have things together, they go and do something like this.

    Did they originally agree to enact the incentives without getting legal advice as to how to eventually end them and/or grandfather those who had qualified?

    This is pretty bad. It did not look to me that the BOS had thought this over ahead of time or if they had they totally underestimated the gravity of what they were contemplating.


    This is a big to do over nothing. I don’t want my taxes increased because “certain taxpayers” with a special tax rate pay nothing while I have to pay 100%. If they can afford to give a 100% tax rebate for five years, I think it is time for a tax reduction. They should have never developed this program to begin with. Shame on the six supervisors who voted in favor of the program in 2007 (JACKSON, LOGAN, YAKABOUSKI, CONNORS, WADDY AND MARCHALL).

  • LarryG

    I’m not totally in disagreement with givemeabreak2m as to the original intent of the incentives. It did seem to be quite a rich incentive – and indeed done at the expense of other taxpayers.

    But when you make a commitment and you break it – you’ve damaged your reputation for other//further/future commitments.

    I’m surprised that they did the original incentives without legal advice as to how to end them in the future without this happening.

  • SteveThomas

    In the rarest of rarities, I find myself agreeing with both gimmeabreak and Larry. I was one of the speakers against continuing the green building tax subsidy. That said, despite wanting to end it, I supported grandfathering in the people and businesses already in the program. I am concerned about the effect on the county’s business climate for the lack of grandfathering… it does not look good.

    Perhaps something can be done to offset. A companion resolution to make any necessary adjustments? Surely something can be done.

  • LarryG

    Initially I thought the incentives were a good idea because they would generate more small businesses in the area who would be installing the green upgrades.

    At the least an analysis might have been done to at least understand how much benefit there might be.

    But the incentives were too rich .. a 100% break on taxes is not good. It would have been better (now Monday morning quarterbacking) to figure out how much the average upgrade would cost – and allow rebates for that cost – over 5 years …or some such.

    But the biggest lesson learned is to not doing anything like this at all until and unless you understand how to back out of it if need be without finding yourself scrambling to figure out how to grandfather.

    I like the idea of revisiting the issue – with a real citizen stakeholder group.

    Citizen involvement these days is troublesome.

    Never saw a notice of the UDA citizen involvement invite an never saw who the citizens committee and the developers were that were involved with the UDA process.

    that’s not good.

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    Larry: care to be more specific about your UDA reference and the BOS’s late night presentation on the 10th about UDA’s in the county and the State’s interpretation on what UDA are, can become “by right” and what a COMMUNITY MEETING is, comprised of and MEMBERS allowed to attend which WE are to undersatnd is ABOUT 19 PERSONS…including Supv. Skinner, Planning Commissioner Vaugh and Rhodeside an Harrell (out of Alexandria, Va) who are providing Spotsylvania County’s FOCUS GROUPS with technical assistance (RHI# 31692) in bringing high density home development to the County under the guise of Urban Development Areas. Please see under BOS agendas for their August 10, 2010 meeting, starting at 7:30 pm under title of “Joint Planning Commission and Board Work Session on UDAs”

    And NO LARRY, you were not invited to attend any of these meetings. Only economic planners, EDA (Steve Thomas, Director), Partners for Economic Solutions, real stakeholders and county special interest are allowed to participate. It’s so secret and conducted behind closed doors, not even Dan Telvock nor the FLS are permitted to attend. Maybe this is why Dan was only able to focus on the late nite public presentation and amendment of Chapter 21, TAXATION, Energy Efficient Building Ordinance which brought so many people together to watch the BOS make TAXATION nothing more than a foregone conclusion. Wonder how many stuck around for the rest of the meeting after the BOS passed judgement on a taxing measure that is now coming back to haunt their decision under something as vague as the Dillon Rule?

    Simply said, from Federal, FAMPO, State and local entities and governments, the public remains in the dark about many importatnt issues, simply because they are not being invited (except by lip service) to attend or become involved in their own government, because they voted that right away by proxy to someone who sworn they would serve in their best interest, without even knowing what that interest was.

    Larry, one day you’ll have to share with US your definition of “a real CITIZEN STAKEHOLDER GROUP” that’s more INCLUSIVE than local government and elected officials will permit (yesterday and today) toward their accountability and transparency to ALL County constituents who want Spotsylvania County to succeed, and have something to say about it BEFORE it becomes history or another budget line item.

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