Fact Checking “Much of county spending misdirected”

After reading “Much of county spending misdirected” in Wednesday (May 3 issue of the Gazette) I questioned the accuracy of the assertion made by the author. The editorial page like the Last Word is the writer’s opinions not necessarily based on fact. Here is what I discovered while fact checking “Much of county spending misdirected”

1.”Recent projections included in WJCC’s strategic plan show student populations declining in 2027 and beyond so the drumbeat for more and expanded schools should be short-lived.”

Fact: “Following is the most likely ten-year projected enrollment. According to this projection, enrollment would increase 1,160 students in grades K–12 from the current 2016-17 enrollment of 11,431 to the 2026-27 projected enrollment of 12,591, an increase of approximately 10% percent.” Page 20 Future Think Enrollment Projections Update November 10, 2016. https://wjccschools.org/departments/finance/enrollment-reports/

2 “JCC is also no longer a high-growth community, according to the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, falling out of Virginia’s top 10 fastest growing localities”

Fact: Yes But…Though the county fell out of the top ten but not by much. Of the 133 counties/cities in the Commonwealth JCC was # 13 highest in population growth listed by the Weldon Cooper Center Estimates July 1 (2016 estimates released Jan 30, 2017). This was a 9.9% increase for JCC over the 2010 census. Counties in the 7th through 14th rankings had growth rates from 9.7% to 11.5%. Weldon Cooper’s long-range forecast of population growth is based on a methodology that looks at by right development of homes. Within the county’s, Public Service Area it has 15,000 by right parcels which are why Weldon has estimated JCC’s 2030 population at 109,000, a 30,000 plus increase from today’s county population of 71,000. Increases to services e.g. Williamsburg-James City County Schools, storm water, roads and emergency services, aging county infrastructure are being driven by current and future population growth. (http://demographics.coopercenter.org/virginia-population-estimates/).

3. “JCC continues to spend ridiculous sums on storm water, averaging $2.6 million per year on projects, plus another $1.1 million on staff and operations. JCC has already met the 2018 standards and is well on its way toward meeting 2024 goals, “

Fact: As a result of the county’s Chesapeake Bay TMDL Action Plan MS4 First Permit Cycle enacted June 2015, James City far exceeds its 5% reduction goal for pollutants (nitrogen and phosphorus) and sediment by 2018 (first cycle) and is well within reach of the current reduction requirements in 2023 and 2028 (the remaining 35% and 60%).  The county did this by consistently funding where possible storm water projects, stricter development standards and county sponsored programs (rain gardens and turf love). The recently approved Storm Water CIP FY18-22 program at $2.6 million per year enables the county to meet the remaining 90% of its MS4 TMDL requirement by 2028.

4. “The Trump administration has already begun to rein in an out-of-control EPA by repealing the Headwaters of the U.S. Act, which placed roadside ditches under federal purview. Richmond has, likewise, taken responsible action to address arbitrary nutrient loading limits (HB 1597).”

Fact:  There is no Headwaters of the U.S. Act. The president’s executive order directed the EPA and the Army’s Corp of Engineers to review the Clean Water Rule. The rule is part of the Clean Water Act of 1972 which seeks ‘‘to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.’’ 33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq. The Clean Water Rule “Focuses on streams, not ditches. The rule limits protection to ditches that are constructed out of streams or function like streams and can carry pollution downstream. So, ditches that are not constructed in streams and that flow only when it rains are not covered.https://www.epa.gov/cleanwaterrule/what-clean-water-rule-does

Fact: HB1597 does not “address arbitrary nutrient loading limits” instead it is an amendment to § 15.2-2114, Regulation of storm water Code of Virginias and applies to a “Storm water management utility, local; waiver of charges when storm water retained on site. Requires any locality establishing a storm water management utility to provide a full or partial waiver of charges for a person whose approved storm water management plan indicates that the storm water produced by his property is retained and treated on site.”

5. “The General Assembly passed legislation this year forbidding such abuses by municipalities operating storm water utilities (HB 1774).”

Fact: HB 1597 addressed municipalities operating storm water utilities not HB 1774 (see above). HB 1774 establishes a “Storm water management; work group to examine ways to improve Storm water and erosion control; work group; storm water laws. Directs the Commonwealth Center for Recurrent Flooding Resiliency (the Center) to convene a workgroup to consider alternative methods of storm water management in rural Tidewater localities.”

6. “JCC is operating a de facto utility yet claims to be exempt.”

Fact: JCC does not operate a Storm Water utility as Adam Kinsman, County Attorney, clarified to the Board of Supervisors on 11 April after Mr. Henderson’s comment during the public comment section that JCC is operating a storm water utility citing HB1597.

7. “The responsible solution is to partner with Newport News Waterworks, which already serves a third of the county, including Anheuser-Busch, and get out of the water business entirely.”

Fact: JCSA’s rate for Water 5000’gallons a month (average household usage) is $14.76. The Newport News rate for the same household usage rate is $36.14 a month. Adopting this “responsible solution” would mean a 41% increase to the two-thirds of the county in addition to the $16 million to $18 million in infrastructure improvements.

It is easy and simple to mislead citizens by throwing out “facts” and mislabeling actions and offering a generalized attack. What is difficult is to address perceived problems with rational and thought provoking alternatives.

The JCC budget process was a thorough and while it may not have made everyone happy, it provided an open forum, clear answers to problems and an agenda to keep the county moving forward. Sometimes it is valuable for various “mandates” to be met, not because of a state or federal rule, but because they simply make good sense and are affordable.

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