Editor: In your April 25 article, “Leesburg Council Sees Eroding Relationship In County Contract Request,” Councilmember Josh Thiel rightfully bemoaned the insufficient notice the county gave the Town Council to either develop its own land management information system for land-use review, a cost of about $360,000, or pay $29,063 annual to the county after July 1, or else the town will have no access.
You quote Thiel saying: “We’re paying taxes. They shouldn’t just kick us off. This is just big brother strong-arming us.”
However, it may really be a case of “big sister” not informing the council.
I am referring to Leesburg District Supervisor Kristen Umstattd and perhaps County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall, who by fact she is elected county-wide, also represents the Town of Leesburg. Supervisor Geary Higgins has but one precinct in the town in his Catoctin District.
Unless the town staff is deliberately giving the council little time to act so it hurries their decision making, it would seem to me that both Umstattd and Randall are derelict in their duties in not keeping the Town Council informed of these huge county expenditures. For example, in October 2017, when I was serving on the Town Council, staff said we had to act, that evening, on a request for county intergovernmental aid or we’d miss the deadline. In addition, the county recently gave Leesburg little notice of the new police dispatch system. It was pony up or shut up.
Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that all of these spending items go before the Board of Supervisors’ Finance and Government Services Committee, and Umstattd is not a member of that committee. Instead, she serves on the Transportation and Land Use Committee, which rarely has an item of interest to Leesburg.
But Randall serves on both panels. Perhaps she and Ms. Umstattd need to do a better job of either reading the county finance packets and notifying the Town of Leesburg, or ensuring county staff give all towns more notice about these expenses, on which the towns seem to have no input.
Town taxpayers in Loudoun pay county taxes, too, and so little of the county’s capital funds go to Leesburg—except the new courts complex and transportation, where the town has benefited greatly from support from the Board of Supervisors. Meanwhile, Leesburg residents continue to pay for flood control, sidewalks, traffic calming and rec centers in other parts of the county.
But it’s no burden for the two supervisors who represent the town as a whole on the county board to ensure the Town Council gets more time. Maybe council members won’t pay attention to their emails (I found that to be the case when I was Leesburg Supervisor, 2012 to 2015), but at least Randall and Umstattd can give a heads up to town staff.
Ken Reid, Leesburg