Tonight, Jeff Sili, Supervisor for the Bowling Green District, was voted in as Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. Jeff Black, Supervisor for Western Caroline District, was voted in as Vice-Chairman. These votes were unanimous. It is fitting, I think, that these two Supervisors, who have so often voted together (and often times as the only two votes of dissent) should lead the new board together.
Tonight we were introduced to Supervisor Clay Forehand and Supervisor Nancy Long for the first time.
In his opening address, Mr. Forehand thanked the citizens of the Madison district for their support and promised to promote a platform of principles consistent with the reasons he ran for supervisor in the first place. These priorities include, but were not limited to, ensuring a commitment to integrity of process and to transparency of government. Mr. Forehand recommitted to the idea that the only way we tackle the terrible debt and financial impediments that have strangled Caroline County for so long, is to expand and grow business opportunities in the county. Furthermore, in order to make Caroline County an attractive place for new businesses and new families, our Caroline County schools must be a top priority.
It was clear that Mr. Forehand foresees a more transparent, a more accountable, and a more accessible county government, as he addressed the board regarding the quiet majority in Caroline County and their importance in the process of government. Local government, he said, has more of a consequence on our daily lives than any other government. The schools your children attend, your police, your fire and rescue, are all right here in Caroline County. Mr. Forehand concluded by reminding the Board of Supervisors that if there are any failures within the Caroline County government, that those failures would be the fault of this board.
Nancy Long, as well, thanked her constituents in the Port Royal District for their support and also addressed the board with her hope that while there will inevitability be disagreements in the future, that this board would remember that they are a team representing the people of Caroline County. She also had a message for the constituents of Caroline County, which I thought was remarkably important. “Do not assume”, she began, “that we know what play you want us to call”, arguing that the Board of Supervisors are the athletes on the field, while the constituents are the coach. If we want the quarterback to call a particular play then we need to get in the quarterbacks ear and tell them. She encouraged Caroline residents to reach out to their supervisors and to let them know what’s important, how county government was affecting their lives, and to keep those lines of communication open at all times.
I would also add, that it is difficult for residents to know exactly how their local government affects them, if they are not keeping a close eye on that local government. To Mr. Forehand’s point about transparency: transparency is all well and good, but is of little consequence if no one is looking in the first place.
Vice-Chairman Jeff Black also addressed residents regarding that vicious monkey on our all backs out here in Lake Caroline and Lake Lan’Dor, Aqua Water. Mr. Black informed Caroline Residents that while Aqua Water was denied the ability to add a 10% surcharge to pay for capital costs, they were awarded $1.1 million in new water revenues and $321,000 in new sewage revenue. Those increased fees in new water revenue were just over $200,000 more than was recommended by the hearing examiner. This means that our water bills and/or HOA fees here at the lakes in the Ladysmith area won’t be getting better any time soon.
Jeff Black and Chairman Jeff Sili both lamented the fact that we’ve had little success in the acceptable addressing of grievances against Aqua Water with the State Corporation Commission, but agreed with the board to support Senate Bill 85 which would add new regulations to these types of utilities. Mr. Black also encourages residents suffering under Aqua Water to contact Senator Ryan McDougle and to request that he support Senate Bill 85.
I know I will.
Wendy Sneed, director of Social Services, also addressed the Board. Her presentation was lengthy and outstanding and there is simply too much information to relay to you here, but I do intend to write more about her presentation at a later date. Some information that you might find interesting, however, is that we have only two foster families in Caroline County. Foster kids from our county must be sent outside of our county for homes, sometimes as far away as Danville, Virginia. 12% of Caroline Residents live in poverty and just over 20% of Caroline Residents are currently working with Social Services. I was also very pleased to hear Wendy Sneed mention multiple times that their highest priority is keeping families intact.
Supervisor Forehand and Ms. Sneed also agreed that Social Services needs to do more to address truancy amongst elementary school children in order to intervene early in what is clearly a family issue, before those issues become more serious and more complicated to handle.
As always, there was much more going on there this evening as these meetings are jam packed with important information pertinent to Caroline County and I will endeavor to get as much of that information published in the future as possible.