On the Heartland Authority’s operations
Published 10:10 am Wednesday, February 8, 2017
The Virginia’s Heartland Regional Industrial Facility Authority Board of Directors includes county administrators from Amelia, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Lunenburg and Prince Edward, plus one supervisor from each county.
With such a talented authority make up, why is it unable to comply with state law, their own county ordinances and sound public practice?
Since the authority meetings have no public comment period, I requested in advance three minutes on the agenda to speak at their Jan. 26 meeting. The Charlotte County Administrator relayed to me the authority chair’s response: there would be no public comment at the meeting.
The following are concerns I wish to convey publicly to the authority.
Authority board minutes were kept in a haphazard manner. When we requested to see the authority minutes in June, the official minute book was incomplete with missing meeting dates and pages, minutes marked “draft” and unsigned minutes. It took multiple requests to obtain what the authority represented as a complete set of minutes, albeit many pages were still marked “draft.” Meeting minutes are an important historical record of any organization and state law requires the authority to maintain accurate written minutes of all board meetings.
Heartland’s authorizing ordinance requires the authority to provide member localities an annual written report of activities, accomplishments and recommendations.
In January, the authority adopted bylaws reaffirming this requirement. Even though this report is due by the end of March and must be approved by the authority board, it was not presented at the January meeting. The next scheduled authority meeting is April 27. Did the authority members read the bylaws they adopted, stating the annual report should be made to them in January and must be submitted to the member localities in March?
The authority was created in November 2000 and there is no evidence that the authority has ever submitted the required annual report. Failure to publicly report hides that it took 15 years to sell the first property for development and the sale to Forest Pro, facing over $86,000 in unexpected costs the authority is sharing to comply with the Virginia Stormwater Management Program.
The annual audit is required to be completed and filed with the Auditor of Public Accounts by Sept. 30 of each year. The authority audit for fiscal year 2016 was filed over two months late. At the time of filing, the authority is required to publish in a local newspaper a summary statement of financial condition. This publication was not done for 2016 and I have been unable to find evidence of such publication in other years.
It is unfortunate with the combined talent of six well-paid county administrators and the same chair for over 10 years that the authority industrial park is still empty.
It is unfortunate that the authority has not been fully accountable to its member counties and the public.
It is unfortunate that the authority is too busy to spare three minutes for public comment.
Terry Ramsey is a guest columnist, a 1967 graduate of Randolph-Henry High School and a resident of Charlotte Court House. His email address is Terrill.Ramsey@outlook.com.