Board Addresses CRC

Published 3:51 pm Tuesday, October 4, 2011

CUMBERLAND – This may be Cumberland County's first year back with the Commonwealth Regional Council since taking a hiatus due to budget constraints but the Board of Supervisors voiced its concerns with a request from the regional planning organization's Council that included amending its Charter Agreement in a step that could create more flexibility within the CRC and potentially increase its membership.

Proposed amendments to the Charter Agreement include each locality, higher education institution, or entity of regional significance appointing one member and one alternate member; expanding the CRC's membership; and creating a flexibility concerning membership dues.

The Charter Agreement amendment request, in order to be approved, needs to be reviewed and accepted by two-thirds of the participating member localities. The CRC has been working on these changes for several months.

During Cumberland's September meeting, the Supervisors brought up their concerns with the proposed changes and the CRC's CEO and Acting President, Mary Hickman, was present during the meeting to answer some of the questions.

“The whole intent is to bring everyone in the region together and hopefully be able to partner to meet the needs of not only your locality but your surrounding localities that would also benefit the region,” offered Ms. Hickman about the proposed amendments.

The Board had a draft resolution in its packet for consideration to approve the amendments to the CRC's Charter Agreement but instead of giving its approval the Board asked County Administrator Judy Ownby to forward several concerns to the Council for consideration.

Supervisor Bill Osl, District One, asked for clarification on several items included in the amendments.

The first was clarification on the fact that the wording “elected officials” was being struck from the Charter.

“The intent of the Council, when they did this, is to have the member representative continue to be the elected official. The alternate is to also be an elected official but with these changes it allows a member of the member's administration office to be an alternate but the key is that the representative is still the elected official appointed by the jurisdiction,” explained Ms. Hickman.

Osl referred to a section of the Charter that reads, “Each locality that is a party to the charter agreement shall appoint, in writing, one member and one alternate member.”

Ms. Hickman explained further, “They chose to not be specific in the Charter but the bylaws will remain that it says a representative…I know the bylaws specify that. If it's your desire I can bring this back to the Council for clarification on this Charter if it's a concern by Cumberland County…”

According to Ms. Hickman, the bylaws have not changed related to a member and an alternate but have had an amendment concerning an administrative office representative being appointed.

“The elected official or the alternate can either be…an elected official or also has the option for a member of the administration,” she continued. “This is to allow for flexibility if there is a concern that you can't have an alternate to step up and it will allow a staff member from your administration to be that alternate.”

This is spelled out in the bylaws, she reiterated.

Osl then pointed Ms. Hickman's attention to Section 8.1 of the Charter Agreement.

Section 8.1 of the proposed amendments reads, “This Charter Agreement may be amended, supplemented, or superceded only after a proposal is submitted to the Council, in writing, for review and action.”

“I'm just curious as to why the member bodies weren't involved with the rewrite of the Charter of something that we have an investment in?” asked Osl.

According to Supervisor Bobby Oertel, District Five, (Oertel sits on the CRC as Cumberland's representative) the amendments are part of the Council's plan to increase flexibility and membership and must be adopted by two-thirds of the members before a final decision could be made.

“But future revisions will not,” said Osl about the language change to the Charter Agreement. “The topic here removes the governing bodies, the elected body, us, Cumberland County.”

Osl then asked if there was background information behind wanting to change the CRC's Charter Agreement.

“It's a Charter,” he said. “It should be difficult to change the Charter.”

“8.1-I think should stay as governing bodies' participation in the Charter or amendment to the Charter. I don't think it should be deleted…,” Osl noted.

“That's what they are looking for,” said Oertel about the Council looking for each member's comments.

The Reason For The Changes

It was then noted that the background information letter, which was prepared by the Council as an explanation as to why these changes were being proposed was not included in the Board's packet for review.

At that point, Ms. Hickman took time to walk Cumberland's Supervisors through the history.

“There was a cover letter to this that went through the whole thought process to the changes,” said Ms. Hickman. “The intent…is that there is a thought, because of the flat-rate fee, that organizations that are eligible are somewhat discouraged because of that amount of money. Specifically those towns that are over 3,500 (in population)…”

Those eligible in this region include the Town of Farmville and the Town of Blackstone.

“There is a feel that maybe with that particular dollar amount it may be discouraging those entities from being a member so based on the conversations of the Council it was to somehow have the flexibility at that time to set those membership dues for those entities-being a town over 3,500, Longwood University, and Hampden-Sydney College-to allow flexibility with the hope to encourage them to come to the table with the overall intent to have them sitting at the table, being participants with local governments to address the needs of the region.”

The current annual dues for the CRC are $15,700.

The other part of the changes includes broadening the membership, according to Ms. Hickman's explanation to the Board.

Part of the proposed change is to allow flexibility in order to open membership up to entities of “regional significance” that have expertise in specific areas that are important to the region, she added.