• Donehey replaces Smith as chair

• Frazier questions election protocols

• Black Kettle Commons seeks boundary adjustment 

At Monday’s annual organizational meeting the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors elected Debbie Donehey of the Wakefield district to the position of board chair, replacing Piedmont district representative Christine Smith. 

Donehey won the vote 3-2, voting for herself along with Chris Parrish of the Stonewall-Hawthorne district and Hampton District representative Keir Whitson. Instead of going with the majority, Smith joined Jackson district supervisor Ron Frazier in voting for Whitson.

“I am definitely grateful for the support from the Board,” Donehey said. “I think that every chair hopes things will be unanimous and in this situation that didn’t happen, but obviously now it’s my job to prove to everyone that I’m qualified for the position and can do a great job this year.”

After the vote, Whitson told the News that he had been “caught off guard” when Frazier nominated him, noting that he had not expressed interest in the position. “It was always my intent to support [Donehey] as chair this go round,” Whitson said.

“Going into the new year, I think Debbie Donehey is very organized and strategic in her thinking,” he continued. “I’ve known her a long time, I communicate very well with her, she's very even-keeled and very well organized and with all that we have to do, she’s probably the right person at the right time.”

Chris Parrish, who was elected to the position of vice chair by acclamation on Monday, said he believes Donehey “will work closely with the county administrator, which is a very important part of the job.” 

“Christine did a really good job of running a meeting,” Parrish said. “But I think that Debbie’s a quick learner and a thorough person and she’s not overly influenced by outside [pressures]. She has the capacity to think on her own and make her own decisions and has the capacity to be consistent.”

Other appointments included:

Alex Sharp to represent the Board of Zoning Appeals on the Planning Commission.

Debbie Donehey to the Rappahannock Rapidan Regional Commission.

Debbie Donehey to the Fire Levy Board.

Ron Frazier to the Agricultural & Forestal Districts Advisory Committee.

Keir Whitson to the Rappahannock River Basin Commission (alternate: Chris Parrish).

Keir Whitson to the Rappahannock County Planning Commission. 

Chris Parrish to the Rappahannock/Shenandoah/Warren Regional Jail Authority Board.

Chris Parrish to the Rappahannock County Community Policy and Management Team.

Christine Smith to the Rappahannock County Recreational Facilities Authority.

Christine Smith and Ron Frazier to the Rules Committee (alternate: Keir Whitson).

Christine Smith and Ron Frazier to the Public Safety Committee.

Christine Smith and Ron Frazier to the Building Committee.

Here’s what else you need to know about Monday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors.

Dark skies, signs and minutes

A diverse range of issues arose during the public comment period, beginning with a concern about the Black Kettle Commons.

Torney Van Acker, member of the Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection and the Recreational Facilities Authority, approached the microphone to inform the board that the Black Kettle Commons project in the Town of Washington could be “a potential light source that, if it is not done properly, could jeopardize our certification as a dark sky park and undermine the work that RLEP has done across the county.” 

(During his subsequent presentation on the project, Chuck Akre addressed this concern and said his Black Kettle project team would be happy to work with RLEP to help preserve the county’s dark skies.)

Next, after reading aloud the section of county code that stipulates temporary political signs must be removed within 15 days after an election, Stonewall-Hawthorne resident Tom Pellikan stated that “this is an ordinance that’s not enforced.”

“It’s unenforceable,” Frazier replied, “because the Supreme Court unfortunately has a little bit more authority than we do.”

“I hate to interrupt all this,” Smith said, “but this is not a question-and-answer period.”

After a minute of interruptions and raised voices, Pellikan yielded the floor. 

Ron Makela spoke next to request that the supervisors work to approve their meeting minutes in a more timely fashion. “You have on your agenda today minutes to be approved in the consent agenda that go back to July … how can you approve them? You probably don’t even remember what you did at that meeting six months ago. There’s no excuse,” he said.

Last, Page Glennie stood up to address the enforcement of the governor’s mask mandate, paid EMS staffing in the county and the Black Kettle Commons. “I refuse to wear a mask to government meetings,” Glennie said. “The county requiring individuals claiming medical reasons for not wearing the mask [to obtain approval from the] VDH exceeds your authority … I strongly recommend the Board rescind the requirement for VDH justification and state that the county accepts the medical reason [mask] exemption.”  

‘Protocol was followed’

Prompted by a complaint from a constituent alleging that “protocol wasn’t followed” during the processing of Rappahannock County’s mail-in ballots, Ron Frazier asked election officials Kim McKiernan and Denise Chandler to deliver a short report regarding the 2020 general election. 

According to Frazier, his constituent “remarked they had no idea when the preprocessing was done” and asked, “why wouldn’t the preprocessing be done in front of witnesses?”

McKiernan, Rappahannock County’s voter registrar, assured Frazier that both political parties were notified in advance of the preprocessing sessions. “The political party that observes absolutely every step of this election … attended two of the preprocessing events but not the third. I don’t know why,” she said.

For the 2020 election, the Virginia General Assembly authorized sworn election officials to preprocess mail-in ballots in order to manage the unprecedented amount of election mail. 

McKiernan explained to the Board that the procedure involves an election official opening the exterior postal envelope, inside which the voter would have placed yet another sealed envelope (“envelope B”) containing the secret ballot. 

Then, she explained, “the election official takes envelope B and checks to make sure the address written on there matches the address on the label that we created when we processed the [voter’s] application … then that person slits open Envelope B, takes the ballot out — it’s still folded — and puts it in a plastic tote to maintain the privacy of the vote.”

“After all of those envelopes have been processed,” McKiernan continued, “the ballots get unfolded and fed into the optical scanner … it’s a very thorough and tedious process.”

Black Kettle boundary line adjustment

Landowner Chuck Akre presented his Black Kettle Commons project to the board, asking for their support in securing a boundary line adjustment to bring his property fully into the Town of Washington. 

Though Akre’s parcel situated between Route 211, Leggett Lane and Warren Avenue is partially inside the town boundary, the Washington council stated it will not provide water and sewer hookups to the county portion of the property, hence the request for the boundary adjustment.

“We asked the town mayor as well as the town council specifically if they would do that and they said they would not,” Akre said. “The property cannot be developed without sewer and water, just to be clear.” 

Supervisor Whitson said a follow-up presentation from the town mayor and a member of the town council might be prudent “to understand where they’re coming from.”

The supervisors also discussed the possible benefit to the county of collecting tax revenue from the property if and when it is developed. 

Other actions

The Board presented resolutions in recognition of Chris Bird for his service on the Board of Zoning Appeals and David Konick for his service on the Board of Zoning Appeals and the Planning Commission.

Supervisors postponed action on appointing new members of the Library Board of Trustees until applicants could be present to answer questions. 

Ira Holland was appointed interim representative of the Department of Juvenile Justice on the county’s Community Policy and Management Team. 

Tiffany Matthews of the Wakefield district was also appointed to the CPMT as the parent representative.

Richard Loth of the Hampton district was appointed to serve on the Agricultural & Forestal Advisory Committee.

The Board unanimously approved updates to the county’s Fire and Rescue EMS Services Agreement per the Fire Levy Board’s recommendations.

Supervisors authorized the purchase of a new radio for one of the Flint Hill Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department’s tankers. The radio’s estimated cost is $4,006. Funding will come out of the Fire Service Fund Contingency Budget.

A special use permit to operate a country inn at Chancellor’s Rock Farm in Flint Hill was unanimously approved.

An amendment to the zoning ordinance was approved, adopting a floodplain overlay district in compliance with FEMA guidelines.

Amendments to Chapter 22 of the county code were unanimously approved, bringing the county code into harmony with state code. Chapter 22 relates to Fire Companies and Rescue Squads.


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