Addressing VGA issues
Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part story covering the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors’ extended discussion about the Virginia Growth Alliance during the board’s regular December meeting, weighing the benefits of the county leaving or staying in the alliance and also addressing proposed changes to the alliance’s bylaws and Regional Development Agreement.
BY TITUS MOHLER
The Farmville Herald
The Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors’ Dec. 10 meeting included two items on its agenda relevant to the Virginia Growth Alliance (VGA). The first VGA item pertained to proposed changes to the alliance, and the second VGA item pertained to whether or not the county would remain a member of the alliance in the future.
For the first VGA item, the relevant summary in the board meeting packet noted that the board of the Transtech Alliance doing business as the Virginia Growth Alliance has voted to amend both its bylaws and the Transtech Alliance Regional Development Agreement.
The Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors voted 8-0 to authorize a Jan. 14, 2020 public hearing addressing these proposed changes.
The summary in the packet cited that the only substantive change in the bylaws can be found in Article II Item 2. The existing bylaws state — “Additional members may be added by an affirmative two-thirds vote of the board of directors.”
Continuing, the summary in the packet cited that in the proposed new bylaws, that section would read: “Additional members may be added to the alliance as provided in the Agreement.” The Agreement states that localities “… may become members of the alliance by the adoption of a resolution to that effect adopted by all of the members of the alliance.” This language is the same as it always has been in the Agreement.
Referring to the change, Prince Edward County Administrator Wade Bartlett said, “So all that does is align the bylaws with the Agreement. There’s not much to that there.”
As for the change to the Agreement, the board meeting packet stated that the only substantive change proposed there could be found in Item 9 — Withdrawal of Membership. The existing Agreement states that members can withdraw by merely giving a six month’s written notice to the other members. The proposed change requires the leaving jurisdiction to adopt a resolution of withdrawal and still requires a six-month written notice to the other members.
The board meeting packet continued by noting that in addition, the following statement is proposed to be added to Item 9: “Further, any member jurisdiction that withdraws from the alliance shall pay for the costs associated with removing said member jurisdiction from print and electronic media, including, but not limited to, letterhead and websites and any other materials used by the alliance that includes the name of the withdrawing member jurisdiction.”
“In other words,” Bartlett said, “if you had a letterhead that had Prince Edward County on it, they would have to get rid of their old letterhead, just like we have to do when we have a change in our board chair, so it should not be that much of an item. I’m not sure it would impact us because it doesn’t really say in the Agreement if it’s a unanimous agreement, it doesn’t say if it’s two-thirds required to agree or if it’s just a simple majority. So we could argue that it’s unclear.
“I don’t know how many have already passed this,” he continued. “I know we haven’t, I know some of them have just advertised it for their December meetings, so I’m not sure if it will be adopted by a majority or two-thirds or any of them. So I’m not sure. We would cross that bridge when we get to it.
“But those are the two proposed changes,” he added in summary. “The board would wish to review those changes and authorize a public hearing Jan. 14 at our next board meeting, because according to Section 15.2-1300 of the Code of Virginia, any joint agreements, called the joint powers, has to be approved by an ordinance. So, we can’t vote tonight on it. We’ll have to do a public hearing and then vote.”
Farmville 701 District Supervisor and Board Chairman Jim Wilck opened discussion among the supervisors by saying, “OK, I think all of this is a moot point. … We have spent in excess of a quarter of a million dollars on dues to this (alliance), plus the $150,000 we loaned to the company that went defunct after about four months, not to mention the amount of money we’ve spent on travel expenses for our county administrator and the two different economic development people that we’ve had, and we’ve gotten absolutely zero, nothing, nil, nothing out of it.
“And when we said early on we wanted to get out of it, Wade said, ‘Well, we’ve got to notify them in six months or we have to pay,’ and so at that time, we said, ‘That’s it. That’s it. We’re through,’” Wilck continued. “So it’s a moot point. We don’t want to spend another dollar on this and (would) be happy to vote on it because we want out of it. We’ve gotten nothing out of it. We just throw money away. And I think the main problem is we haven’t had a good economic development in-house, and so you want to throw the money at somebody else, and hopefully, they’ll come up with something. They don’t, and we won’t.
“Alright, I’d like to make a motion that we’re out of it, we don’t spend any more money on this, and we’re through with it,” he said in conclusion. “When you spend a quarter of a million (and) you get nothing out of it, it’s about time to do away with it. Can I get a second to my motion?”
No one spoke up in response.
“There is no second?” Wilck asked. “Alright, it dies for lack of a second.”
Bartlett noted that Wilck was technically addressing the next VGA item on the agenda pertaining to membership.
“Right, so that’s taken care of,” Lockett District Supervisor Robert M. “Bobby” Jones said. “Now we need to advertise if we want to do the public hearing. … I’d like to move that we advertise the proper means for the public hearing on the VGA ordinances in our January meeting.”
Leigh District Supervisor and Board Vice Chairman Jerry R. Townsend seconded the motion.
“All those in favor?” Wilck asked.
As the vote was about to take place, Prospect District Supervisor J. David Emert said, “I’m confused here. I’m really confused now.”
Another voice saying, “Me too,” indicated Emert was not alone.
Emert said, “Prior to this we had said that we would get out (of the VGA) if…
“… it was no benefit,” Bartlett said, completing Emert’s thought. “… So I could not make that decision. … So the next item was about leaving or not … and the decision point I said was, based on the six-month notice requirement, if the board wishes to withdraw the county’s membership from the VGA, the county must provide a written notice to the other member jurisdictions. This notice must be received prior to Jan. 1 — so we have plenty of time to do that. Based on the proposed change to the VGA Agreement requiring member jurisdictions desiring to leave the alliance to do so by adopting a resolution, I thought it would be best to go ahead and, if the board so desires to leave, to do it by resolution so there is no question about it. And you see the proposed resolution on page 100.”
Emert said, “Now, I’m starting to get updated now.”
Bartlett noted that the item could be brought up a second time in a meeting by the winning side of the item’s vote, which, in this case, would be anyone except for Wilck.
Buffalo District Supervisor Llew Gilliam Jr. asked Bartlett what it would cost the county to pull out of the VGA, and Bartlett said, “We don’t know, because you don’t know if (the amendment’s) even passed or not. There may be no cost at all, because that may not have officially passed enough of the members already.”
Bartlett estimated that the withdrawal costs, if there are any, might be $3,000 to $4,000 at most.
Farmville 801 District Supervisor Pattie Cooper-Jones said to Bartlett, “OK, my question is, what can you tell this board that VGA has done for us? What benefits do we have?”
Bartlett’s extended reply to her question and the rest of the board’s discussion on the VGA will be covered in part two of this story.