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POSTAL CUSTOMER T he King George Page 12 Volume 38, Number 24 Court of Appeals overturns Crouch convictions Wednesday, June 11, 2014 50 Cents helping you relate to your community No rate increases for KG Service Authority Swim season starts Service Authority set to finish second year in the black Richard Leggitt Phyllis Cook The Virginia Court of Appeals has overturned a King George Circuit Court jury’s five felony convictions of Robert Crouch for obtaining money by false pretenses and dismissed the charges against him. “Words cannot describe my profound disappointment in this decision,” said King George Commonwealth’s Attorney Keri Gusmann. Crouch, 48, was convicted in March of last year of defrauding customers of the former Meadow Brooke Memorial Gardens Cemetery in King George. In addition to the five counts overturned by the Court of Appeals, he was also convicted on nine counts of failure to deposit in the proper trust account. After the convictions, Circuit Court Judge Martin Bass sentenced Crouch to five years in prison, ordered him to pay $35,000 in fines and make restitution of almost $85,000 to his victims. The Court of Appeals order does not affect the nine convictions for failing to deposit in a perpetual trust account, but reduces the fines to $22,500. The remaining $12,500 in fines, the 60-month prison sentence and the order to pay restitution have been vacated by the Court of Appeals. And, Crouch, who has been held in the Nottoway Correctional Facility, will be released from prison, although he still faces possible charges in Spotsylvania County in connection with similar felony charges there in 2010. In obtaining the Crouch convictions, Commonwealth’s Attorney Gusmann told the jury that Crouch “stole from people who were at their most vulnerable point”, Water and sewer rates and connection fees will stay level for the upcoming year for customers of the King George Service Authority. This is the first time in eight years that Service Authority customers will not have a rate increase. Though no increase had been proposed, a public hearing was nonetheless held last week on June 3 after the current rates had been advertised two months ago. There were no takers wishing to speak. See Crouch, page 5 Leonard Banks With the Rappahannock Swim League underway, Hopyard Hammerhead swimmers are anxious for their first meet of the season. On Wednesday, June 18, they will travel to compete against Ferry Farm. The King George Board of Supervisors will hold a fracking information session for the community this week on June 12, 7-9 p.m., at King George High School. The information session will be a town hall-style meeting beginning with presentations and ending with questions submitted from the audience. At last week’s meeting on June 3, Supervisors gave the nod to a proposed agenda for the info meeting, which will be presided over by the Board of Supervisors with Chairman Joe Grzeika wielding the gavel. Grzeika is expected to begin with introductions, and provide meeting guidelines, along with an explanation of the county’s current ordinances regarding gas and oil mining, with assistance from county attorney Eric Gregory. Gregory had provided such a report to the board in January, so the board knows where the holes in the ordinances are and how the county Comprehensive Plan can be amended. Supervisors could begin that process by asking for a detailed review by the county department of Community Development with active participation by the Planning See rates, page 5 County files legal response to Project Faith’s counterclaim for $300K Phyllis Cook King George County recently filed its legal response to an amended counterclaim by Project Faith, Inc. Another court hearing, the case’s third, is expected to be set for later this summer for lawyers on both sides to argue their cases. THE CASE The initial lawsuit was filed last October by the County to get back a 5.53-acre parcel on Route 3 (Kings Hwy), adjacent to the County’s Sheriff ’s office. The land had been donated to the non-profit residential development company in mid2012 in return for Project Faith’s agreement to construct and operate a facility under strict terms requiring leasing space only to government agencies for social programs and to other non-profits. Conditions included a prohibition against leasing to any for-profit and/or commercial uses, with Project Faith solely responsible for the continued maintenance and operation of the facility for its stated and intended purposes. But the project never got off the ground. Project Faith continues to blame the County for not approving a building permit in time for it to meet the Aug. 1, 2013, deadline for commencement of construction. But, Project Faith also blamed the County for its inability to obtain financing, alleging it did not provide lease commitments. Those were claims also made during two preliminary hearings, with the County prevailing in both last December and this past April. COUNTY DELAY? OR, LACK OF CONSTRUCTION FUNDING? So which is it? The county delayed providing a building permit? Or, the developer didn’t have the money for construction? County fracking info session this week Phyllis Cook FIVE-YEAR PLAN WORKED The financial plan followed by the Service Authority board for the last five years appears to have been successful. The five-year plan was devised by Davenport & Company LLC in April 2009 and implemented beginning in fiscal year 2009-10. The five-year plan had been requested by the Service Authority. The main goal was to stabilize rates with an ultimate goal of self-sufficiency. At the time, the county and the nation were in the throes of the beginning of the Great Recession of 2008. The plan included calculated annual rate and connection fee increases, restructuring of the debt service fees, and refinancing of capital debt. It also relied on operating fund increases to be limited to only critical areas, with overall expenditures to be reduced as well as the number of new connections on which the annual budgets were predicated. The reductions in connections reflected the slowdown in the housing market and the new economic conditions. Chris Thomas, Service Authority Commission. The county board is going about the process in a thorough manner, with this week’s public forum a part of its fact-finding. FRACKING OVERVIEW Former state delegate Albert Pollard has agreed to kick off the presentations by providing an overview on fracking, as he has done at various other such local meetings within the region. The public can expect to hear from two state agencies, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME). A presentation is also to be provided by the Southern Environmental Law Center, along with one from Shore Exploration & Production Corporation. Shore Exploration is the Texasbased company holding mineral rights leases on at least 10,443 acres in King George, according to a search of county records this past summer by the organization, Friends of the Rappahannock. To get caught up on some previous presentations in the area, the county has posted several documents on its website. To get directly to the page listing these documents, go to: announcements/announcements/ taylorsville-basin---bos-meetingpowerpoint-slides-feb-4-2014.php. QUESTIONS Following the presentations, a 10-minute break is built into the meeting, to allow for audience members to submit questions. Having written questions submitted, as during candidate forums, can cut down on question duplication, as well as a tendency for speeches by questioners or attempts at debating panelists. Prior to audience-submitted questions, local government officials will be allowed to make comments during a 10-minute time frame. After that, the questions provided by audience members will be posed. Grzeika noted at last week’s meeting, that if time does not permit the chance for all questions, that they would be shared with panelists requested to provide answers. Those answers are expected to also be made available to the public. The meeting on Thursday, June 12, 7-9 p.m., will take place at King George High School, located on the north side Route 3 (Kings Hwy), and east of the Route 206 (Dahlgren Road) intersection. KGHS is the large school with the stadium adjacent to it, east of King George Middle School. Project Faith says both. It again alleges that the County was slow to sign off on a request for changes to the road entrances needed for a building permit. It alleges that VDOT was also to blame in part by sending its review comments to an incorrect email address for Project Faith. But if that were factual, it would imply that the developer had obtained the financing to pay for construction. If it had financing, it seems likely that Project Faith have not have waited until three weeks before footings had to be poured on the four buildings it had on its approved site plan. It provided initial submissions toward building permits to the County’s office of Community Development on July 9, 2013. King George Community Development staff routinely informs applicants for commercial projects they should expect the process to take 45 days, at a minimum, to obtain building permits. As an experienced housing project developer, Project Faith should already have been aware of that timetable. In addition, it would have been expected that it would have taken at least 30 days to procure a construction contractor, which was likewise not being sought while only three weeks away from the contractual deadline for commencement of construction. But the counterclaim also contends that it did not have financing “due to circumstances beyond its control,” blaming the County for willful acts and for omissions. LATEST CLAIM The amended counterclaim filed by Project Faith in the end of April asks for rescission by direction of the Court, since its previous claim and arguments were overruled. But it also asks that the County be required to pay it $300,000 and an unnamed amount See Faith, page 5 School Board adopts 2-percent pay raises Phyllis Cook The King George School Board approved a total budget of $43,092,287 43,092,287 for for 2014-15, 2014-15, which included an operating fund totaling $37,255,761. The action took place this week on June 9. The 2014-15 budget includes 2-percent raises across the board for all employees estimated at $535,401. Supervisors had provided enough funding estimated at $106,379 to the School Board that would have provided 1-percent raises at midyear, as the county is providing its own employees. To enable the full-year 2-percent raises, the School Board instead agreed to cuts last month estimated at $429,022. Those cuts were in addition to $664,703 cut to reduce the proposed expenditures by the difference between the budget amount requested and the budget amount approved by the Board of Supervisors. Nonetheless, the county-approved operating budget for the School Board of $37,255,761 provides a 5-percent increase over the current year’s approved budget. CUTS MADE FOR RAISES The cuts made by the School Board on the recommendations of Superintendent Rob Benson to the proposed budget last month included cutting money for textbooks by $87,715, reducing copy paper expenditures by $30,000, cutting furniture and instructional equipment by $28,300, bus driver supplies by $3,000, vehicle maintenance supplies by $3,000, and custodial supplies by $22,000. CATEGORICAL BUDGET This week’s budget approval also extended to providing a breakdown for the categories as defined under state law. The approved categories are expected to go to the Board of Supervisors for appropriation at its next meeting. The categorical breakdown is listed below for the 2014-15 budget year, which begins on July 1: • Instruction – $26,871,104 • Technology - $1,673,701 • Administration, Attendance & Health - $1,039,136 • Transportation – $2,566,499 • Operations & Maintenance $3,724,004 • Facilities - $68,948 • Total of Operating Fund 250 $35,943,392 • Fed grants – Fund 252 $1,282,369 The above amounts include all lines in the operating budget, adding up to $37,225,761. The following two accounts make Now you can follow local breaking news daily on our website at up the rest of the School Board total budget: • Cafeteria Fund 255 - $1,478,673 • Debt Service - $4,387,853 • Total of all funds - $43,092,287 DISHWASHERS PURCHASED In other action at the June 9 meeting, the School Board approved two large purchases that exceeded Benson’s $30,000 spending authority. Two dishwashers were approved for purchase from excess funds in the 2013-14 budget due to a higher average daily membership (ADM) for student enrollment than had been budgeted for the school and fiscal year, ending this month on June 30. A dishwasher for Potomac Elementary School was approved for purchase at a cost of $46,941.63. A replacement dishwasher for King George Middle School was approved for purchase at a cost of $37,086.04. The price differential between the dishwashers for the two schools is because the one for the middle school only needs replacement of the actual dishwasher unit. It’s higher for Potomac’s because See Budget, page 5

6/11/2014 King George VA Journal

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