Purcellville Mayor Kwasi Fraser gave a 45-minute State of the Town presentation Tuesday night to about 30 people, including council and staff members.
At the outset he mayor made it plain he was speaking for himself, not for all Town Council members, most of whom had not seen the content of his speech.
The mayor read from PointPoint slides, beginning with a description of the town’s vision, mission and core values, stressing the goals of promoting open and transparent government and for the council to be stewards worthy of community trust.
After declaring the state of the town is strong, Fraser said Purcellville was “at a crossroad and a defining moment to implement strategies to further reduce our debt burden and not compromise the character of our town.”
The mayor said in his view the town has made significant accomplishments in three areas:
- Public interaction with residents, including a repeat town survey, mayoral chats and open town hall meetings, public hearings and a natural gas pipeline viability study.
- Preserving and increasing the gains of the past: increased transparency in financials, no new debt, consistent quality of service delivery, and maintaining the town’s triple-A bond ratings.
- Strategies to create sustainable value: inventorying all town-owned assets, setting a policy to lease or sell underperforming assets, Comprehensive Plan review and revisions, development of a new town website.
In this section, Fraser cited the town’s hiring of a new police chief, maintaining the police department’s state accreditation, implementation of a police biking patrol; the 9/11 remembrance ceremony honoring first responders, the police department forum on heroin addiction, enhanced fire-fighting capability, and his service on the Vision 20/20 Steering Committee for Loudoun County Public Schools.
Fraser cited a number of annual events, including the Purcellville Wine and Food Festival, the Purcellville Music and Arts Festival, Loudoun Grown Expo, and the American Legion’s mid-Atlantic Regional Baseball Tournament. He also cited outreach meetings with various homeowners’ associations.
Lastly, Fraser cited resident feedback sessions, developing and launching the town’s Facebook page, the new town website, interviewing and appointing 34 volunteers to serve on town advisory panels, and hosting a dinner for members of the town committees, boards and commissions.
Infrastructure Development & Service Delivery
Fraser cited the completion of the final phase of the long-running Downtown Streetscape Project on North 21st Street, the East Main Sidewalk Project to link North Maple Avenue to Pickwick Drive; maintenance on 160 fire hydrants; and completion of 16,000 feet of closed circuit television sewer line inspection.
The town also initiated a forestry management program for selecting cutting at the Hirst Reservoir, developed a pilot bulk water sale program, received the Virginia Department of Health’s Excellence in Waterworks Operations Performance; and upgraded the chemical delivery system at the raw water building.
Fiscal Responsibility & Management
Accomplishments he cited in this category included maintenance of the town’s triple-A ratings, the lack of new debt during the past year, a net financial increase of $809,000, a fund balance of $6.7 million, with $5 million unassigned; making check registry and revenue/expense statements available online; and settlement of the long-standing condemnation dispute with the Brown family.
Fraser also cited excellent collection rates on receivables, and the repeat recognition by the Government Finance Officers Association, with a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for FY14 and the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award.
Strategic Planning & Operational Management
Fraser highlighted the adoption of a text amendment for Zoning District Use Changes, as well as adoption of a new annexation policy, a new events ordinance, and the resident-led natural gas pipeline study with Washington Gas.
Business & Economic Advancement
The mayor said the town had aided in the creation of 50 new businesses, and 260 new jobs. The council also renewed the concessionaire agreement for management of the Bush Tabernacle/Skating Rink, sold a town property to Good Shepherd Alliance for $300,000, adopted a tourism plan for the town and fully staffed the Economic Development Advisory Committee.
Strategic Initiative Updates
The mayor also cited the formation of a number of initiatives headed by various council members:
- Foster Community & Economic Well Being, Council members Joan Lehr and Doug McCollum.
- Practice Good Governance, Council members Karen Jimmerson and Vice Mayor Ben Packard.
- Strengthen Community Partnerships, Fraser and Packard.
- Fund the Future, Council members John Name and Doug McCollum.
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats
In this section, the mayor analyzed various plusses and minuses for the town. He cited its strengths as a highly employable population base, high median household incomes, low unemployment, triple-A credit ratings, an experienced government management team, $125 million in town-owned assets, and an appealing town character.
Among weaknesses, he cited the need for an updated Comprehensive Plan, the town’s $60 million in outstanding debt, high water and sewer rates and a non-self-supporting utility enterprise, storm water drainage problems, the highest meals tax in the county, and over-reliance on tax revenues to fund parks and recreation.
But opportunities exist, Fraser said.
He called for a strategy for attracting new businesses, efforts to increase operational efficiency and lower the cost of doing business, increasing non-tax revenue and monetizing town assets. The town’s agricultural base should be revitalized to support farm-to-fork operations, he said.
In his threats analysis, Fraser claimed development in town was not in conformance with the Comprehensive Plan, that restaurants have difficulty competing with others in Loudoun because of the meals tax, and that citizens were leaving for lower-cost communities. He also raised concerns about ballooning debt payments starting in 2020, future state utilities mandates that will be expensive to comply with, business closures and reduced state funding.