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Council asked to reconsider moving election date

After making a number of difficult decisions during the last few months of 2012, the Culpeper Town Council faced a lighter agenda Tuesday night at its first meeting of 2013.

The council approved a resolution on legislative priorities for the General Assembly, which began its session Wednesday.

And, during the public comment time, Executive Director of Rappahannock Rapidan Services Brian Duncan and Culpeper Senior Center Site Coordinator Gladys Williams presented an update on fundraising for the center's expansion campaign.

Jon Russell offered the council a draft ordinance for moving elections from May to November.

The resolution urges the governor and General Assembly not to shift state funding responsibilities onto local government. It also states that the governor and General Assembly should increase funding for mental health agencies and programs.

The General Assembly is expected to give serious consideration to increasing the gasoline tax to help pay for road, bridge, tunnel and transit projects.. Virginia has one of the lowest gas taxes in the country at 17.5 cents per gallon and it hasn't been increased since 1986. Some states charge up to 39 cents per gallon.

The council resolution does not put a number on a possible increase, but urges that an increase be considered. Gov. Bob McDonell opposes raising the tax.

The resolution also urges a vote against Senate Bill 797 which would restrict the use of advanced electric meters similar to those recently installed by the town.

And, after some discussion, the council agreed that it should support House Bill 1535 which would clarify which laws are binding when town and country laws conflict. In Virginia, towns are part of the county. When conflicts arise, the state attorney general issues a non-binding opinion.
For the full text of the resolution visit the town website at: Culpeperva.gov, click on the “agenda and meeting packets” tab and then on the Town Council tab.

Duncan and Williams told the council that the center is making progress on the $750,000 it needs to raise for the expansion, but that there is still a ways to go
.
Duncan urged the council to include $62,500 in both its 2014 and 2014 fiscal year budgets to assist the center. Town Council usually begins consideration of its new fiscal year budget, which takes effect July 1, shortly after the beginning of a new year. The Senior Center is also asking for the same amount from the county.

Local business owner Joe Daniel and his wife Linda have initiated a challenge whereby they will match up to $100,000 in donations from the public by Jan. 31. Duncan said that as of Jan. 7, $71,445 of that had been raised.

The expansion would enable the center to serve seniors currently on a waiting list as well as new clients.

“Donations can be sent to P.O. Box 1568 or 710 U.S. Ave in Culpeper (22701),” Williams said. “We appreciate all the support for our senior citizens. I'm feeling we can do this.”

Russell, who lives on Oaklawn Drive in Culpeper, told the council that although the body has already said no to changing the town election dates, there are compelling reasons to do so. He presented a draft ordinance by way of asking the council to reconsider.

“If you move the election to November of odd (non-Presidential election) years you could potentially save the town about $12,000 per election (figures from the Culpeper County Board of Elections),” Russell said. “And participation would be more like 37 percent instead of nine percent. It would also keep town elections from getting lost amidst the clutter and political partisanship of presidential elections.”

Currently town council elections are in May of even-numbered years.

“”I would hope the council would consider this,” Russell said. “I don't want to do a referendum, but that could be the next step (if you refuse to reconsider).”

The proposal, seen as starting in 2015, would give council members up for re-election in 2014 a one-time extra year on their current four-year terms.
The council also had a first reading of a proposal to adopt a limited section of the Virginia Maintenance Code.

“These sections would really just deal with structures unfit for human habitation,” said Patrick Mulhern, town planning director. “You'd be making a statement about protecting citizens from unsafe structures.”

Councilman Bobby Ryan asked if another employee would need to be added if the council adopted the sections.

Mulhern said no, that a recently hired zoning inspector would be trained to enforce the extra sections.

The council voted against adopting the entire Virginia Maintenance Code at its November meeting. The second reading of the ordinance presented Tuesday night will be at the February council meeting.

In other actions the council adopted an amendment to the town code designating snow emergency routes, designated the assistant town manager to act in the absence of the town manager and made some adjustments to the job description for town finance director.

The next regular town council meeting is scheduled for Feb. 12
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