ASHLAND – “Let Us Control Our Own Destiny” is the description Ashland Town Manager Joshua Farrar used in explaining the legislative agenda to Ashland Town Council last week.
During the Tuesday, Nov. 3, regular meeting, he said the town’s goals are similar to the Virginia Municipal League, including high-speed inner city passenger rail and rail crossing safety.
With the “Let Us Control Our Own Destiny” theme, he said that will “give us authority to do everything that we want to do with the ongoing message that we try to deliver.”
Farrar then listed the priorities:
“Broadband obviously is a very important topic to us.” The town wants state government to “allow municipal governments to own universal broadband networks.” He said it is “not looked upon as favorable, especially as grant applications.”
With COVID-19, Farrar said the “big message is there is funding, and making sure that state funding and federal funding ae going to the governments to meet the general needs to meet in an unprecedented time.”
According to the town manager, Criminal Justice Reform focuses on sovereign immunity. But it “still allows our public service employees to do their jobs and feel appreciated for it.” He told council that he recommends members oppose any immunity reductions. He said there was an emphasis on “getting rid of bad cops but helping good cops do their jobs better is the underlying message here.”
“Land use,” he continued, “is always a big issue for local governments. He did say that the town’s Comprehensive Plan gives “us the tools to implement [it] without hamstringing us.”
“Local Control will give us control of our local revenues,” Farrar said, without limiting them or taking them away. He said they are not opposed to taxation reform, but they need to be allowed “to still do our job.”
In the area of relationships of towns to counties, Farrar said that it “may sound a little bit odd,” noting that it is “a very important part of local government try to work with the VML (Virginia Municipal League) to focus on counties and cities. If you’re going to create legislation, keep us in mind.”
Under the topic of Right-of-Way, Farrar said the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and the state adopted regulations basically to restrict right-of-way telecom without our permission -- even with our permission parameters set on it.” He said that management of right-of-way has been a long-held local decision, and local control should not be usurped.
“Sovereign immunity,” he continued, “is a critical tool for local government -- not just police but other areas where this is an example.”
Farrar said State Assistance to Local Police Departments involves specific funding that the General Assembly adopted to support public safety. He said it follows the guideline of “Do no more harm; hold the formula you set and said you would follow.”
Stormwater Local Assistance, Farrar added, “is critically important to help us meet federal and state clean water requirements.” He said government must provide funding if the town is going to be required to meet standards.
With Taxation, he said local governments should be allowed to control their taxes. Some restrictions do not permit them to have that control.
Vice chair John Hodges asked that high-speed inner city passenger rail be included, saying it is a topic “from previous legislative agendas that we’ve adopted.” He said it “helps in the sense that Ashland can compete in the region and state.” He also said that legislators needed to be reminded of that.
Farrar told council the language of the agenda will be brought before council again.
Michael Jennings, director of the town’s Public Works Department, addressed the Stormwater Quality Fee Ordinance, which was unanimously approved by council.
The revision, he said, pertained to new single-family homes not being part of a larger development, as well as accessory buildings.
Fees discussed included $1,000 on the first 1,000 square feet, in addition to $1 per additional square foot. Five lots or less will stay the same.
Jennings said the ordinance eliminates the options for individuals or a party to construct single-family home or accessory buildings or facilities. The single-family home is not part of a larger development will have a $2,500 fee, while accessory buildings or facilities will be $1 per square foot.
The exception is for ramps for ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible homes. That fee will be waived.
Jennings’ recommendation for approval of the proposed changes for small projects and water quality fee calculations was accepted.
There were no comments during the public hearing on the matter.
Wayne Dishman was appointed by town council to the Economic Development Authority. He fills the unexpired term of Darrell Leftwich. That term ends on Dec. 23, 2020. Hodges and Mayor Steve Trivett interview what they called “two strong candidates.”
Dishman is expected to be appointed to a four-year term beginning on Jan. 1, 2021.
Council members extended their thanks to Leftwich for his years of service, especially as chair of the EDA.
During the meeting’s moment of silence, Trivett asked that council keep in mind that day’s General Election.
The next meeting of Ashland Town Council will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 17.