Crabbing operation allowed to continue at East River Boatyard

Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Jun 30, 2010 - 04:27 PM

Mathews County Board of Supervisors decided during a meeting last Tuesday to allow three men to continue a crab shedding operation at the county’s East River Boatyard until Dec. 31. After that, the site will be closed and secured with gates.

The board visited the boatyard on June 16 as part of the reconvened May 26 board of supervisors meeting and deferred action to the June 22 meeting. The decision was made subsequent to reconvening after a discussion of the matter during closed session.

County administrator Steve Whiteway suggested to supervisors at the May meeting that they begin the redevelopment process at the boatyard by improving the bulkheads and applying for permits. He and county attorney Richard Harfst told supervisors that continued use of the boatyard as it exists is dangerous. In addition, supervisor Neena Putt questioned the idea that certain people could be allowed to use the property "without allowing John Q. Public to do it."

Under the purchase agreement with previous owner Irwin Victor, signed in 2004, the county allowed watermen John Horner, Donald White and Hart Hudgins to continue shedding crabs at the site until July 2009. The operation has continued until the present.

Supervisor Edwina Casey said the three men had the electricity reconnected at the site and were willing to sign a release of liability form so they could continue to use the building and dock. Harfst questioned how they were able to have the electricity reconnected when they don’t own the property. He has deemed the site an attractive nuisance, and said it has been posted with no trespassing signs.

Budget

Supervisors voted by a four-to-one margin, with Casey dissenting, to pay 5 percent of the share of the VRS retirement fund for employees hired after July 1, 2010, in keeping with the 5 percent currently being paid to employees hired before that date.

According to a memorandum by Whiteway, the county is obligated to continue paying the 5 percent for employees hired by June 30, but has the option to not pay that percentage in the future. He told board members that the surrounding counties and school systems had all chosen to pay the 5 percent to new employees.

Supervisor Janine Burns said she was "uncomfortable with having one group paid and another group not paid."

Putt said she had no problem keeping the 5 percent for all employees this year, but that "a lot of private industry is making their employees pick it up."

Casey said in a later interview that she voted against the measure because "I’m always looking for ways to save money."

"We need all the money we can get," she said, "but I don’t know where we’re going to get it from. Bad times."

At Whiteway’s recommendation, the board decided not to adopt the VRS’s Transitional Benefits Program resolution because it would cost the county extra money. However, board members agreed unanimously to run the VRS group long-term care insurance through the county’s payroll so employees wouldn’t have to send their payments in individually.

Supervisors approved the transfer of funds among categories in the budget in order to achieve a positive balance in each department for the fiscal year 2009-2010 budget that ended yesterday. Under state law, a positive balance must be achieved, either by appropriating additional funds or transferring funds among categories.

The board also agreed to pay outstanding claims for the remaining fiscal year by the end of the month and to appropriate FY 2010-2011 funds to the schools in a lump sum.

Finally, at the request of Mathews schools superintendent David Holleran, the board approved a resolution adopted by the school board to allow the schools to use the $128,000 from the state’s sale of 2010 Educational Technology Notes to purchase equipment and software that will help "achieve the goals of the Standards of Learning Web-based Technology Initiative."

Kennel fees

Supervisors had a lengthy discussion on kennel fees at its June 22 meeting.

Putt had asked staff to survey the surrounding counties to find out how much kennel owners pay for their licenses. During the meeting, she said a resident who had three neutered dogs and one dog that was not neutered had complained about having to pay as much for four dog licenses as someone who owns a kennel would pay for up to 20 dogs.

"Maybe it should be more equitable," Putt said, suggesting the fee for a kennel license be raised. Currently, a kennel in Mathews can have up to 20 dogs for a fee of $25, while a one-year license for a single dog costs $5 if the animal is spayed or neutered and $10 if it isn’t.

Whiteway said he had checked with the Humane Society to see if hunting dogs end up costing them more, and said he had found that hunting dogs get away more often than household pets.

No action was taken on the matter, but Casey said on June 29 that so few residents have kennel licenses that increasing the fee wouldn’t bring much revenue into the county anyway.

Other news

Supervisors unanimously approved two requests for private fireworks displays on July 4 and several applications related to Market Days for activity permits for road closures, use of school buses, and a banner placement.

Department reports

—Mathews schools Superintendent Dr. David Holleran reported that he had conducted 16 interviews for two open positions in the schools and had hired a guidance counselor and a music teacher.

—Planning director John Shaw said that a Hazard Mitigation Plan had been completed for the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission. The next step, he said, is for each locality to adopt the plan.

All suggested changes have been made to the county’s draft comprehensive plan, said Shaw, and it will be submitted to the planning commission for review and a public hearing in July or August. In addition, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at Gloucester Point has presented the county with its final draft of a Shoreline Management Study that might not be adopted by the county but could be used as a tool.

—Sheriff Danny Howlett reported that a recent marijuana arrest had revealed an elaborate drug facility that wasn’t obvious from photos shown in news reports. He said the successful joint operation had been conducted without the friction often seen between government agencies.

"I’ve got a whole lot of marijuana now," said Howlett jokingly. "The (drug) dog does not like that shed at all."

Mental health is becoming "a terrible financial issue" for the sheriff’s department, said Howlett. He said that temporary detention orders are only good for four hours and require an appearance before a magistrate to be extended. It’s hard to find available beds in mental facilities, he said, and he recently had two deputies accumulate 24 hours while working a case.