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The CRC Is Keeping Busy Working On Local Projects

FARMVILLE – The Commonwealth Regional Council's staff is as busy as ever and just this month the Council approved grant administration assistance on two additional requests that were presented during its August 4 meeting.

One is to work with the Robert Russa Moton Museum on its multipurpose parking lot Virginia Department of Transportation Enhancement project. The CRC has assisted the Moton Museum in the past and is continuing the working relationship with this agreement, according to the request letter.

The second grant administration request is to work with STEPS on renovation and expansion planning and implementation for a manufacturing facility in Lunenburg County, according to the authorization.

“We could not have gotten this far without Andre' (Gilliam) and Todd's (Fortune) help on this matter and we hope that you will be able to schedule this additional project for us,” noted the letter of request for services from Lunenburg that was submitted to the Council.

Related to the request from the Moton Museum, the Council agreed to provide staff assistance by preparing a memorandum of understanding between the Moton Museum and Prince Edward County; provide assistance with the procurement of contractors; review draft contract documents; assistance in contract negotiations; coordinate planning and implementation of meetings; prepare invoices for payments; prepare reports; and also coordinate and record meetings with contractors, architects and engineers throughout the project. It was also noted in the agreement that the CRC will maintain files at the CRC's office location according to VDOT's specifications.

As part of the agreement, the Moton Museum agrees to compensate the CRC a sum not to exceed $15,000, which will be complete payment for the CRC's work and activities on the project.

As stated in the agreement with Lunenburg County, the CRC will be compensated a sum of $6,000 for its technical and administrative assistance on the STEPS project.

In addition to these two grant projects, the CRC is also currently working with participating localities and their fire departments on the recently opened FEMA Assistant to Firefighters Grants Program.

The Council also approved this request and the CRC staff will assist any department on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Currently, the CRC has approximately 26 local projects/ grant writing services under contract, four additional regional annual programs taking places such as the transportation planning program, and 21 monitoring activities that are ongoing, according to the status report that was provided during the August meeting.

“There is an awful lot of work going on there,” noted Chairman William “Buckie” Fore Jr., representative from Prince Edward.

“Looks like there's a lot of projects going on,” noted Rebecca Carter, representing Buckingham County. “That's good.”

Buckingham's First Meeting

Buckingham County was represented at August's meeting by Ms. Carter, the County's administrator. Buckingham recently appointed Ms. Carter as an alternate member and this was her first meeting.

“It's good to see you here,” said Fore, about Buckingham being represented at the CRC meeting. Buckingham had been out of compliance with the CRC due to lack of representation at meetings by its regular representative. Danny LeSueur is still the Board representative.

CRC Charter Amendment

In July, the Council voted to begin the process of amending its Charter and alert each of the participating Boards of Supervisors to the request related to a proposal that would give the CRC flexibility related to membership dues and to encourage participation.

“I made the decision not to send the amendments to the counties until the Council had approved the changes that we thought we needed,” said Chairman Fore about the amendments proposed to the CRC's Charter Agreement related to securing membership and dues.

The original intention of the recommended changes is to increase participation in the CRC from higher institutions and organizations, according to the discussion and give the Council “flexibility to determine the annual dues.”

“The reason for amending the Charter and the By-Laws is because it did require that each couldn't pay more or less than the other,” noted Melody Foster, regional planner. “This is going to give the flexibility that you set it.”

Gary Walker, past chairman of the CRC, noted, “Our intent, I think, was to encourage, the two towns and/or other regional entities to become a part of us but we need their input more than we need their money. And that's why we were asking for this flexibility.”

According to Walker, the point of the flexibility is not to charge the counties differently.

“In my opinion, you'd treat all of the counties alike, you'd treat all the higher educational institutions alike, and all the organizations and entities alike,” he said.

“That's the intent of the Council,” added Fore about the proposal to the Charter that will have to go before each participating Board for review and approval before the Charter can officially be changed by the CRC.

After the discussion, it was decided to strike language related to dues. The proposal reads, “The Council shall determine at or before the first meeting of each calendar year the annual dues.”

The Council consented to letters being sent out to each locality after the discussion since the authorization had already been given at the last meeting.

“We're going to put it in the mail,” said Fore. “It's already been approved.”

“You were just reporting back before you sent it on,” added Walker about the review of the draft changes.

Redistricting

Ms. Foster gave an update on localities regarding pre-clearance and Department of Justice questions that had been received by Cumberland County relating to the redistricting process.

“Cumberland has had a snag with the Department of Justice and they are still working on theirs,” she said.

Bobby Oertel, representing Cumberland chimed in and added “it concerned me when I saw how thick our book was,” about what was sent to the Department of Justice for approval.

“The fact that they waited until the 59th day and you have to provide us this, this, and this,” he explained to the Council. “Which was nothing specific and to me it was just a stall…I don't know. We're at a stalemate in Cumberland and don't know what we are going to do. Well, our attorney has a plan and I'm not at liberty to talk about our attorney's plan.”

Oertel continued to add that this is an election cycle and “it could be costly if we don't get pre-clearance and have to hold a special election.”

“In the 2000 census they created a minority/majority district and through no one's fault, the population has changed in that district and it is no longer a majority and Melody just bent over backwards to try and bring in additional cells…and Melody just went around and around that district going two and three cells deep and it was nothing we could do,” explained Oertel about the process the County's committee went through with the CRC. “But, DOJ is saying, 'Hey, you have to resubmit.' So we'll see.”

CRC Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan

According to Fortune, regional planner, the plan is just about ready to be sent to FEMA for preliminary review and approval.

“After we get preliminary approval, we'll send the plan back to localities to get adoption,” said Fortune. “Once we get that, we'll send it back to FEMA to get final approval. We're hopeful that if all goes as planned that sometime in October or November we'll have final approval and have the project finished.”