The new Purcellville Town Council moved into action during its first meeting Tuesday night, with Councilmen Chris Bledsoe, Ryan Cool and Nedim Ogelman making their first appearance.
After a round of council comments, the council took care of organizational business and also indicated the way they wished to govern during a lengthy discussion period focusing on transparency.
Mayor Kwasi Fraser said he and Assistant Town Manager Danny Davis had met with Herbert Browning of the Middleburg Bank as part of an effort to reach out to local banks with the aim of “refinancing our debt,” to see if more favorable rates could be found.
The Planning Commission staff and comprehensive plan review consultant are finishing up analysis of three rounds of public input on the plan revisions. Former Commission Chairman Doug McCollum reported findings would be issued early next month. A workshop focusing on specific topic areas is also scheduled.
McCollum questioned the controversial bulk water sales program, saying he thought there is a substantial risk that the town is below bulk water costs, and that “our bulk water fees discriminate against our commercial water customers”—criticisms that have been leveled against the program previously.
The council unanimously voted to confirm interim Vice Mayor Jimmerson for a one-year term. For committee duties, the council followed the traditional practice of appointing a voting council member to the Planning Commission, but non-voting liaisons to the remaining panels.
The first three one-year appointments were quickly approved: Grim, as a voting member of the Planning Commission; Bledsoe, a non-voting liaison to Economic Development Advisory Committee; and Cool, liaison to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Jimmerson was appointed liaison to the Tree and Beautification Committee.
But the process was not entirely a smooth one. The Purcellville Arts Council is under consideration to be raised to a standing committee, but when the mayor asked, “Who wants it?” no one spoke up. Arts Council Chair Liz Jarvis was still in the room, but she left before Cool said he would accept a double liaison role.
Later, Jarvis said, “I didn’t understand the process at all,” adding that it was a somewhat awkward experience.
McCollum, who had not been given a committee assignment, was asked if he would be the Arts Council liaison. McCollum said he had no background in the arts but would take the Board of Architectural Review.
Asked to make the motion to appoint McCollum to BAR, a seemingly surprised Bledsoe muttered that there were two candidates, but moved that Ogelman be appointed. The motion passed unanimously.
Several items were under discussion for future action, including an operational financial audit (see related article here).
The council pondered better ways to receive citizen input—including online opportunities using the town’s newly revamped website. If it could be a way to better poll people’s views, “that could give us a certain amount of comfort in our decisions,” Jimmerson said. Saying it was an interesting concept, Cool suggested the town confer with other localities that have already moved in that direction.
The council also discussed transparency software. Could it be done with the existing Tyler-Munis program, which the town already has paid for? Davis said the town is focusing on getting the core system in place first, so using the transparency component would be 18 months off, plus it was not as refined as the OpenGov program. Staff was asked to research possibilities and come back in September.
The council tabled a motion to permit remote participation in council meetings.