June 29. 2022
The flurry on social media and on the streets surrounding Farmville’s increases in rates of 14% for water, 10% for solid waste collection, 5% for sewer and 5% for electricity has been noticeable. So far this month there have been 2,011 views of my blog posts relating to Farmville (not including views of faith columns or my home page). Every time I go out I have at least one person approaching me to say discreetly that they can’t believe the financial decisions being made locally or the reception those who speak out often receive. They are reading facts about the $5.2 million the town currently owes on the construction loan for the new library, now that all money has been spent from fundraisers, grants and donations. Many Farmville residents are legitimately worried about the rate increases which will begin on Friday, July 1 and will start to show up on bills a few weeks after that.
We residents have questions about numbers. We want them to add up. We want it to be evident that our elected officials listen to our concerns and respond with figures and facts. The discussion should have nothing to do with people’s personalities, physical appearances, or families. Accounting is not personal. Wise leaders appreciate accountability. They understand that taxpayers appreciate transparency and that many of us can handle complex answers. Telling us that 100% of our water bill must go up by 14% because 22% of our water bill will go up by 7% makes no mathematical sense. Please tell us about the other 78% of our water bill. Please respond to figures with figures. GFL Environmental will increase the cost to the Town of Farmville for solid waste collection by 8.5% on July 1. What is the explanation, then, of Farmville increasing our rate by 10%? An extra 1.5% or 2% on each part of our monthly bill adds up quickly. Why will we be paying $36 more per month for 5,000 gallons for sewer and water than a Greenville household getting the same water from Greenville Utilities Commission?
There was a meeting of Farmville’s Board of Commissioners on Monday, June 27 in place of the July meeting which would have fallen on a holiday. I received the agenda on the previous Friday. As usual, it listed “citizen presentations” immediately after the Pledge of Allegiance. It also listed, as usual, “citizen comments” at the very end of the meeting. On Monday night, after the pledge, the town manager gave his comments. At 4:12 the town attorney was puzzled. He noted that they had skipped over the citizen presentations. The commissioners had not yet approved the agenda. It then came out that Monday morning the citizen presentations, normally very close to the beginning of the meeting, had been removed from that spot. Someone or some people had decided to put them at the end of the meeting, in place of the citizen comments. No reason was given for this sudden change to consolidate two opportunities to hear from Farmville residents into one. The town attorney was not aware that some person or people at Town Hall had taken the action to relegate citizen presentations to the last spot on the agenda.
Of course, it was widely circulated on social media over the weekend that residents should go to Monday’s town board meeting to urge the commissioners to amend the new budget and to use some of Farmville’s $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan money to help local “households” and “workers,” as the COVID relief federal funds are meant to be spent. How curious is it that the early spot on the agenda for citizen presentations was changed on Monday morning? In my opinion, if elected officials wanted to listen to their constituents and get as much feedback as possible, they would keep citizen presentations at the beginning of each town board meeting.
As you will also see in the linked video at 3:00, at the suggestion of Mayor Moore, the town manager reached out to the Daily Reflector in order to request regular articles by David Hodgkins to “spread the good news of Farmville.” We definitely should tell of good things going on in Farmville! There are so many terrific people here and great initiatives. It should not be perceived as a threat, therefore, for our residents to question numbers that don’t add up or lavish spending of taxpayer money. Fiscal responsibility is good for any municipality. Let’s give residents ample opportunities to be heard, answer numbers with numbers, and keep personal aspects out of the discussion.