Farmville-PE Boundary Talks Can Transcend Any Lines On A Map

Published 2:02 pm Tuesday, February 18, 2014

For a voluntary boundary adjustment meeting, what stuck out most was the lack of any apparent boundary between Town and County representatives discussing the extension of Farmville’s corporate limits.

The meeting was fraught with cordiality, cooperative spirit and constructive dialogue and that bodes well for the future of the Farmville-Prince Edward community. This is the kind of “us and us” spirit that built the Farmville-Prince Edward Community Library.

No “them” in sight.

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There are natural, built-in tensions between towns and counties. Any town and any county. That stress is simply the nature of the beast. Communities that can manage that tension and forge productive partnerships despite the inherent strains are going to build better futures for their people.

Prince Edward County and the Town of Farmville have had some highs and experienced a few lows in their relationship, which is hardly unusual. Any time a town and county engage each other over any issue there is the potential for the process to be good, bad or ugly. If bad and ugly show up the result can turn septic. At the first voluntary boundary adjustment meeting, good was the only vibe in sight.

The Town’s committee members are Vice-Mayor Armstead D. Reid and fellow council members Tommy Pairet and Jamie Davis. Town manager Gerald Spates and Town clerk Lisa Hricko were also in attendance.

The County was represented by board of supervisors chairman Howard Simpson and supervisors Pete Campbell and Jim Wilck, with county administrator Wade Bartlett and assistant county administrator Sarah Puckett joining them.

Voluntary boundary adjustments are non-adversarial in nature, of course, and no adversaries showed up as the group amicably agreed to focus on the area between the by-pass and the Town’s existing corporate limits.

This is not annexation, which can resemble a military engagement between Athens and Sparta, and the Town’s boundary will be adjusted only if a friendly agreement can be concluded between the governing bodies.

The only reason the Town and County are discussing the possibility is because Piedmont Regional Jail, looking to lower costs to its member localities, is requesting to be brought into the town, where it would then save approximately $96,000 in annual water and sewer bill payments by paying the in-town rates.

The jail’s potential gain, however, is the Town’s potential loss and that is why Farmville officials have made it clear there will be no boundary adjustment that involves the jail alone. That position makes perfect common sense and County officials seem to clearly understand the Town’s position.

The two committees concluded their meeting by instructing Bartlett and Spates to sit down together and come up with a map of what specific areas a voluntary boundary adjustment might include.

The point must be stressed that nothing has been decided. The process is expected to take about a year and the public will be involved. The area between the town and the bypass is where the committees will focus their attention and begin meaningful discussions. But that doesn’t mean every piece of property within that area will become part of the Town of Farmville. (Or that the Town might not inquire about an area outside the by-pass).

In fact, the Town’s corporate boundary may remain just as it is, leaving the jail in the county where it pays the out of town water and sewer rates.

Both the Town and the County are intent that any deal does not result in negative fiscal consequences, which makes complete sense, and supervisors and town council members understand they share that responsibility with regard to their respective taxpayers.

The Town understandably wants to make up for that loss of $96,000 and the County naturally doesn’t want to suffer any financial harm of consequence in the process. The County would lose certain revenue sources if a deal is concluded but Prince Edward officials can also look down South Main/US 15 to see how different revenue streams bubble up from business and residential growth fed by the extension of Town water and sewer infrastructure.

So there is a balancing act, of sorts, as the two localities seek a fair and proper balance within any deal that might emerge.

The voluntary boundary adjustment journey is just beginning but if the spirit of common cause and understanding persists in subsequent meetings the destination will transcend the single purpose of whether a line on a map moves or not and will see a community move closer to itself.

The future will be better if that movement occurs.