• Front Royal Council Will Discuss Ruling on Meals Tax

    Front Royal Town Council will have a special closed session meeting tomorrow night to discuss a judge’s recent ruling about collecting meals tax in exchange for water and sewer service, according to NVdaily.com

    The meals tax in question was created for restaurants just outside the town limits. Those restaurants filed suit against the town because it is not a tax that they would be paying if their location was within the town, and should not be included in the water and sewer calculation. And a judge agreed with them.

    The town now has some options to consider, including, appealing the judge’s decision, annexing the corridor or not allowing any new water and sewer connections in that area.

    It would be ideal for all residents if the town and the businesses in that corridor can work out an agreement that will encourage economic growth and protect the town.

    “Mayor Eugene R. Tewalt has called a special Town Council meeting for Thursday to address a judge’s ruling that says Front Royal cannot require restaurants in the U.S. 340-522 corridor outside the town limits to collect a meals tax in exchange for water and sewer service.

    Council members expect to go into closed session during the 7 p.m. meeting to discuss the ruling.”

    Read the full story.

  • Loudoun Reverses Ban on Public Displays at Courthouse

    A week-old ban on public displays at Loudoun County Courthouse has been reversed due to protests from residents, according to the Washington Post.

    The ban would have prevented the Nativity scene and Christmas trees that have decorated the courthouse lawn for decades, in efforts to protect the century-old building from any attacks that might fall on the religious holiday decorations.

    “Bowing to an outpouring of protests from residents, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors reversed a week-old rule Tuesday that had banned public displays, including Nativity scenes and Christmas trees, at the county courthouse.

    Supervisors voted 7 to 1 to allow community groups ‘equal access’ to the courthouse grounds. The supervisor who voted to keep the ban, James Burton (I-Blue Ridge), said he feared that extremist groups would turn the century-old courthouse in downtown Leesburg into a ‘public circus.’

    Dozens of residents carrying signs and wearing Christmas red showed up at a county meeting Monday night to protest the rule, saying that it would ruin the county’s holiday parade, set for Dec. 12. A decorated Christmas tree and a Nativity scene have been seasonal fixtures on the courthouse lawn for decades.

    More than 1,000 people signed a petition against the policy, and several members of the Leesburg Town Council, including the mayor, voiced opposition to it.

    A resident-led county committee that handles issues related to Loudoun grounds and facilities voted unanimously last week to bar any structures, religious or otherwise, from the lawn of the courthouse, citing the increasing number of requests by residents to use it as a public meeting space.”

    Read the full story.

  • Danville Approves Animal Chaining Ordinance

    According to GoDanRiver.com, Danville City Council approve an ordinance that will limit the amount of time a pet can be chained outside, which pets can not be chained oustide, and the proper collars, halters or harnesess required.

    The ordinance will go into effect on July 1, 2010.

    “Danville City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that will strictly limit the amount of time a pet can be chained outside, effective July 1, 2010.

    Chaining will be banned altogether for sick or injured animals, animals under four months of age or when the outside temperature reaches — or falls below — freezing.

    When chained outside, animals must have proper collars, halters or harnesses, and it cannot be tethered to a fixed point — the animal will have to be chained to a runner or swivel that will allow it greater movement.

    Animals can also be kept in dog lots, or kennels.”

    Read the full story.

  • State to Cut Spending for Hampton Roads’ Again

    The Virginian-Pilot recently reported that state funding to build, improve and repair roads for the Hampton Roads area has again been cut.

    The Virginian-Pilot believes that the area is receiving less than its fair share when compared to the percentage that Northern Virginia receives.

    Improvements in transportation is key for the Hampton Roads area for economic  and community development. The cut in budget may delay certain growth until the funds are budgeted to come through in a few years.

    Homeowners in the area should be concerned because the inability to improve roads and tranpsortation can affect the marketability of certain communities, which will affect property values.

    “Hampton Roads once again is getting less than its fair share of state funding to build and improve roads, a transportation official said Tuesday.

    The state’s proposed revisions to the six-year road-building plan are ‘a severe blow in tough financial times when we need the help the most,’ said Dwight Farmer, executive director of the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization.

    Many improvements to local highways have been slashed over the past year and a half as the Virginia Department of Transportation cut $4.6 billion out of the road-building budget. In this most recent round, funding is set to be eliminated for widening Interstate 64 on the Peninsula and improving the I- 64/I-264 interchange.

    Farmer outlined ‘issues of great concern’ in a letter presented at a public hearing Tuesday night in Richmond. He noted that while the state is proposing an overall increase of about 3 percent in the fiscal year 2010 budget for road construction, Hampton Roads’ share would decrease by 13 percent.

    Hampton Roads is the only area in the state that would have a reduction, Farmer said. Northern Virginia would see a 5 percent boost in funding.

    In addition, the region would get no interstate funds in 2011, which Farmer said is unprecedented. In that same year, Northern Virginia would get $225 million, or 93.2 percent of the state’s interstate money.

    Farmer said Hampton Roads’ funding outlook improves in 2015 with nearly $100 million in interstate allocations. But the six-year plans are revised regularly, and Farmer wrote that he has ‘no confidence that the strategy would hold for the long term.’

    Over the six years, Hampton Roads would get 15.3 percent of interstate funds and Northern Virginia would get 66.5 percent. The remaining 18.2 percent would go to the rest of the state.”

    Read the full story.

  • Defense Agency to Bring $64 Million in Salaries to Albemarle Area

    The Defense Intelligence Agency is relocating much of its function to Albemarle, bringing jobs and new residents to the area, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

    This is great news for area homeowners because the influx of residents and salaries will aid in the tax base. Also, the DIA is not bringing staff to fulfill every position, and will look to local residents or companies to fulfill those needs. This move will be a great boost to the local economy.

    “When the Defense Intelligence Agency brings an estimated 800 employees to Rivanna Station in September, it will join the nearly $110 million defense-related industry already headquartered in central Virginia.

    The DIA is relocating much of its intelligence-analysis function to the Albemarle County facility occupied by the National Ground Intelligence Center. The move will improve communications and cooperation between the agencies, officials said.

    Area business leaders have heralded the new jobs as good for the area.

    ‘The DIA says the average salary will be $80,000. That means that in October 2010, there will be $64 million more in salaries that aren’t here now,’ said Timothy Hulbert, president and chief executive officer of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce. ‘That’s huge.’

    Not all of the 800 employees DIA wants to bring to town are coming. To compensate, DIA officials are opening some jobs to local residents and proffering contracts for local businesses.

    ‘It’s a targeted campaign in that we have specific positions we want to fill,’ said Laura Donnelly, DIA spokeswoman. ‘These are known vacancies or anticipated vacancies, so we know the jobs are available.’

    Defense contracts already stimulate area businesses. In 2008, contracts brought more than $92 million into Charlottesville and $64.4 million into Albemarle.

    The federal government spent more than $991 million in defense contracts in central Virginia between 2000 and 2008, according to federal figures, with more than $880 million in Charlottesville and Albemarle.

    The contracts include everything from uniforms to laboratory analysis to commissary food. Defense-related companies in the area build weapons systems, targeting systems, radar, navigation, anti-explosive devices and firearms.

    The totals do not include the military’s Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School for military lawyers and legal officials at the University of Virginia, nor the Charlottesville-based Federal Executive Institute, operated by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.”

    Read the full story.

  • Local Government Program Helps Families Escape Grip of Poverty

    Two programs in Bristol and Abingdon are helping families escape poverty, according to the Bristol Herald Courier.

    The efforts of Find a Way and People Inc. are helping to change the lives of families who want to move-up.

    The work these programs are doing helps everyone in the region because as more families are able to escape the grips of poverty, the stronger and safer communities become. Homeowners can appreciate this type of work that adds great value to their community.

    “Find a Way is a program of the Bristol Redevelopment and Housing Authority that assists public housing residents who want to move out and move up. With 35 families now enrolled, the program stresses goal-setting, employment and life-skills training.

    People Incorporated, based in Abingdon, Va., provides a similar service: a Transitional Housing Program that requires participants to work or pursue education while living in assisted housing and progressing toward a stable living situation. The program has 22 families and 69 individuals enrolled.

    ‘I absolutely believe that individuals can come from impoverished situations and limited educational skills and be able to come and use our resources’ and improve their lives, said Ginger Henderson, transitional housing coordinator for People Inc.

    Using financial support and grants from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, both programs work with a small number of the 62,000-plus Southwest Virginia residents who receive government assistance, mostly in the form of food stamps.

    The two programs serve a region where the number of people living at poverty levels or below ranges from 15.7 percent in Washington County to 20.3 percent in Wise County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

    Henderson said the first step to moving those residents from welfare to self-sufficiency is helping them recognize the difference between wants and needs.

    There’s a long waiting line for the nonprofit agency’s program, she said, including 104 families and 322 individuals, but all of its clients have found employment within two to three weeks of enrolling.

    And last year, People Inc. reports, 75 percent of its clients were able to reduce their debt and meet savings goals.

    ‘What we want to see is the client transition from the program to a stable living environment,’ said Bryan Phipps, People Inc.’s vice president for development.

    David Baldwin, executive director of the Bristol Redevelopment and Housing Authority, said his agency’s program and others like it, including People Inc., are based on one critical belief.

    ‘There are a lot of folks who have been in difficult circumstances for a lot of their life that just don’t feel like they have the energy and the willpower to improve,’ Baldwin said.”

    Read the full story.