Wednesday, March 11, 2009

TONIGHT ... assessment meeting at Government Center

Democracy in action will be evident tonight in Augusta County as residents speaking up about their real estate assessments turn out for the Board of Supervisors meeting at the Government Center on Rt. 11 in Verona at 7 pm (click here for map).

One anonymous county landowner said the citizens elected the public officials and trusted them to do the right thing, but that now it was time to do something. A group got together and approached Augusta Citizens Against Unfair Assessments with money to run quarter-page ads in both newspapers on Tuesday.

A community-driven petition drive saw citizens taking "roll back" petitions to their neighbors, friends, and businesses. Over 30 local businesses put petitions on display. While driving Augusta County collecting petitions the past several days, I discovered other locations that had not been listed ... Lacey Real Estate in Fishersville, Liberty gas station in Stuarts Draft, Tastee Freeze in Churchville, IGA in Craigsville, and Tastee Freeze in Craigsville. Citizen activist Jack Chandler put up an online petition that ended up with 800 names. D. Sherman Orst provided financial information. Numerous area residents, people I did not know, provided research on assessment numbers and financial stats.

Churchville attorney Francis Chester will turn in petitions with thousands of signatures asking the board to roll back assessments to 2005 values. A self-employed wool farmer who raises sheep and runs a wool mill at his Churchville farm -- one of only seven wool mills left in the nation -- Mr. Chester has persevered at a time when many American businesses have moved overseas. He employs local residents to work the farm, the wool mill, the outlet store, and in his law office. His farm also hosts an annual fall pumpkin festival as well as a spring wool fair. Descendant from generations of sheep herders in Italy, his work ethic keeps him working six days a week in his law office.

Supervisor Tracy Pyles has tried to find options to allow the board to give citizens a tax break. So far he has been alone in the venture.

Augusta Citizens Against Unfair Assessments (ACAUA) had 600 residents at their organizational townhall meeting on February 3 when Tracy Pyles and Francis Chester addressed the crowd. An unrest is out there. Folks are worried. Jobs are shaky ... businesses are cutting back ... many baby boomers who had saved for retirement have seen half their savings disappear ... others are on fixed incomes ... home prices have dropped.

Come out tonight and join your neighbors.

Together, Augusta ... we can make a difference!

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